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  USS Neosho AO-23
USN
Cimarron Class
Fleet Oilier

7,470 Tons
553' x 75' x 32' 4"
4 x 5" 38 cal DP guns
4 x 20mm AA

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USN August 7, 1939

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USN December 7, 1941

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IJN May 7, 1942
Ship History
Built by Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in Kearny, NJ. Laid down June 22, 1938 as  a Maritime Commission type (T3-S2-A1) tanker hull, under Maritime Commission contract (MC-6). Launched April 29, 1939 as USS Neosho (AO-23) as the second ship in the Navy named for the Neosho River in Kansas and Oklahoma sponsored by Mrs. Emory S. Land, wife of Rear Admiral Emory S. Land (Ret.), Chairman of the Maritime Commission. Commissioned August 7, 1939 in the U. S. Navy with Commander AV. E. A. Mullan in command. This ship had a fuel capacity of 146,000 barrels.

During October 1939, the ship began a preliminary conversion at Philadelphia Naval Yard. Then to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard to complete the conversion into a Cimarron Class Fleet Oilier completed July 7, 1941. Afterwards, Neosho began ferrying aviation fuel the west coast of the United States to Pearl Harbor. Known as "The Fat Lady" by her crew. On December 6, 1941 Neosho was inside Pearl Harbor delivering aviation fuel to NAS Ford Island.

Pearl Harbor Attack
On December 7, 1941 in the morning Neosho was still unloading fuel at the start of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Oahu. During the first wave attack, got underway by reversing and was photographed near USS California (BB-44) moving away from Battleship Row. Aboard, her anti-aircraft gunners opened fire and claimed one Japanese plane shot down. During the attack, three of her crew were wounded by strafing planes.

Afterwards, Neosho provided refueling for warships at sea. On May 1, 1942 in rough seas, refueled USS Yorktown (CV 5) ahead of the Battle of the Coral Sea. During the refueling, photographs documented waves were breaking over the deck.

Battle of the Coral Sea
On May 7, 1942 during the Battle of the Coral Sea Neosho was escorted by USS Sims DD-409 in the Coral Sea. At 7:22 the pair were spotted and shadowed by B5N Kate EI-302 and B5N Kate EI-306 that misidentified Neosho as an "aircraft carrier" and reported her position.

In response to this report, between 8:00am to 8:15am Zuikaku launched a strike force including A6M2 Zeros, 17 D3A Vals and 11 B5N Kates. Meanwhile, Shōkaku launched 9 Zeros, 19 D3A Vals and 13 B5N Kates. The strike force was under the overall command of Kakuichi Takahashi from Shōkaku who also led the dive bomber force. The Kate torpedo bombers were led by Shigekazu Shimazaki from Zuikaku.

Around 11:15am, Japanese carrier aircraft attacked in two waves. The first wave consisted of high level bombers and the second wave were D3A Val dive bombers. Within minutes,Vals from Shōkaku scored bomb hits that sank USS Sims DD-409. Meanwhile, D3A Vals from both Shōkaku and Zuikaku targeted Neosho and scored at least seven direct hits and eight near misses.

Aboard Neosho, her anti-aircraft gunners returned fire and claimed a dive bomber shot down. In fact, their gunfire damaged D3A Val pilot FPO2c Ishizuka Shigeo with observer FPO3c Masayoshi Kawagoe from Zuikaku but managed to release his bomb and pulled up and deliberately crashed jibaku (self-destruct) crashing into the side of the ship impacting near the no. 4 gun and starting a flash fire which spread across the starboard side. Aboard, Neosho was heavily damaged and on fire and began to list 30°  to starboard and lost power.

Aboard, twenty-one crew were killed during the attack including:
Yeoman Third Class Eugene H. Self, 6160121 (MIA / KIA)

Despite the damage, the oiler remained afloat due to the valiant efforts of the ship's repair party. Aboard, Chief Water Tender Oscar V. Peterson was wounded but managed to close bulkhead stop valves and in so doing received additional burns but saved the ship. On May 11, 1942 he died of his wounds and earned the Medal of Honor, posthumously.

Rescue
On May 11, 1942 a total of 109 survivors Neosho plus fourteen survivors of USS Sims (DD-409) were rescued by USS Henley (DD-391).

Sinking History
On May 11, 1942 Neosho was deemed to be non salvageable. At 2:28pm scuttled by gunfire from USS Henley (DD-391) with gunfire resulting in the damaged oiler to sink. For her World War II service, Neosho earned two battle stars.

Memorials
The crew killed in the attack were officially declared dead a year later on May 8, 1943. All are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.

References
NavSource USS Neosho (AO-23)

Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) - USS Neosho, Report of Pearl Harbor Attack
Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) - Coral Sea: Events of 7 May 1942
Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) - Battle of the Coral Sea 29 April–8 May 1942

delsjourney.com - The U.S.S. Neosho (AO-23)
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Eugene Hal Self
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Oscar V. Peterson died May 13, 1942
Aichi 99 Kanbaku 'Val' Units 1937–42 (2008) pages 65-67 (photos)

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Last Updated
May 11, 2021

 

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