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  USS Kanawha AO-1
Fleet Oiler

5,723 Tons
475' 7" x 56' 3" x 26' 8"
2 x 5"/38 DP guns
2 x Twin 40mm AA guns
2 x Twin 20mm AA gun

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USN c1943

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USN April 7, 1943
Ship History
Built by Mare Island Navy Yard at Mare Island. Laid down December 8, 1913 as "Fuel Ship No. 13". Launched on July 11, 1914 as USS Kanawha. Commissioned June 5, 1915 in the U.S. Navy (USN) with Lieutenant Commander Richard Werner in command. On July 17, 1920 designated fleet oiler AO-1. On December 18, 1929 decommissioned and placed into the reserved fleet. On June 5, 1934 recommissioned and during October 1939 underwent a conversion at Philadelphia Naval Yard.

Wartime History

During World War II departed for the South Pacific (SoPAC). In During December 1942 under the command of Commander Gilbreth Cross John. During 1943 under the command of Lieutenant Commander Brainard Norton Bock. Nicknamed "The Fat Lady" by her crew.

Norman S. Voehl
"I was a crew member of the USS Kanawha AO-1, from 10 January 1942 until 7 April 1943."

Sinking History
On April 7, 1943 refueling ships in Tulagi Harbor, during Operation I-Go targeted by Japanese aircraft and attacked by D3A2 Val dive bombers escorted by A6M Zeros. , the ship was hit by a bomb dropped by a Val dive bomber that caused the ship to burn. Aboard, 19 men were killed in the explosion and fire. On April 8, 1943 at 4:00am Kanawha sank off the southern tip of Tulagi Island. Kanawha received one battle star for her World War II service.

During the attack, 19 men were killed by the explosion and fire including:
WT2C Paul Ahlfinger, 3602301 USN (MIA / KIA) TX declared dead April 8, 1944
Lt. John W. Beedon, O-088110 USN engineering officer (MIA / KIA) NY declared dead Oct 8, 1944
MM2C Ralph E. Bell, O-3559842 USN (MIA / KIA) CA declared dead Oct 8, 1944
CWT George Lee Dalthorp, 3160154 (MIA / KIA)
CCM Harry Raymond Eames, 1348960 (MIA / KIA) CA declared dead April 7, 1943
BMKR2C Lloyd C. Fawl, 3601180 USN (MIA / KIA) CA declared dead April 8, 1944
EM3C Herbert Miller Griffith, 6331142USNR (MIA / KIA) CA declared dead April 7, 1943
F1c Paul Glenn Hough, 6230466 USNR (MIA / KIA) IN declared dead April 8, 1943
F2c Delmar Joseph Johnson (MIA / KIA)
MMC Tarpley Johnson, 2675221 USN (MIA / KIA) CA declared dead April 8, 1944
F1c Francis John Lipinski, 3824120 USN (MIA / KIA) CA declared dead April 8, 1944
MM2c Leslie Bennett Marshall, 3824120 USN (MIA / KIA) CA declared dead April 8, 1944
CMM Neil McKeller, 2866186 (MIA / KIA) NC declared dead April 8, 1944
MM1c Newton Bruce Muller, 3210384 (MIA / KIA) CA declared dead April 8, 1944
WT2c Gene Harding Spillman (MIA / KIA) Alameda, CA
EM1c Charles Edward Stuart (sp?) (MIA / KIA)
MM1c Frank Samuel Veml (sp?) (MIA / KIA)
EM3c Elbert Wood, 6684986 (MIA / KIA) IN declared dead April 8, 1944
MM1c Henry John Zimmerman, 3371767 (MIA / KIA) MS declared dead April 8, 1944

Kanawha is upright on the bottom on a gently sloping sea floor bottom at a depth of 200'. The shipwreck is accessible by SCUBA divers.

The nineteen crew that died in the bombing went down with the ship. They were officially declared dead on both April 7, 1944 (actual date of death) or April 8, 1944 (a year later). Each earned the Purple Heart, posthumously. All nineteen are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

Ahlfinger also has a memorial marker at Faulkenberry Cemetery in Groesbeck, TX at section H.

Bell also has a memorial marker at El Reno Cemetery in El Reno, OK at 1st addition, block 22, lot 4.

X Attack of I-Operation by Richard Dunn
Navy Source USS Kanawha AO-1 (photos)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Paul Ahlfinger
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - John W. Beedon
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Ralph E. Bell
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - George L. Dalthorp
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Harry R. Eames
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Lloyd C. Fawl
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Herbert Miller Griffith
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Paul Glenn Hough
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) does not list Delmar Joseph Johnson
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Tarpley Johnson
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Francis John Lipinski
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Leslie Bennett Marshall
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Neil McKeller
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Newton Bruce Muller
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Gene Harding Spillman
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Charles Edward Stuart (sp?)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Frank Samuel Veml (sp?)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Elbert Wood
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Henry John Zimmerman
FindAGrave - WT2 Paul Frank Ahlfinger Jr (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Paul Frank Ahlfinger Jr. (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Lt John W Beedon (ship photo)
FindAGrave - MM2 Ralph E Bell (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Ralph E. Bell (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - George Lee Dalthorp (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - Harry R. Eames
FindAGrave - Lloyd C. Fawl
FindAGrave - Herbert Miller Griffith
FindAGrave - Paul Glenn Hough
FindAGrave - Delmar Joseph Johnson (body lost at sea)
FindAGrave - Delmar J Johnson (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - Tarpley Johnson
FindAGrave - Gene Harding Spillman
Thanks to Neil Yates / Tulagi Dive for additional information

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Last Updated
June 16, 2021



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