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USS Neosho Oiler (AO-23) At Pearl Harbor

a large ship in a body of water

USS Neosho Oiler (AO-23) has an interesting story. She was completed on July 7, 1941 – just 4 months before the attack on Pearl Harbor – and was giving the vital task of carrying aviation fuel from the west coast ports of the United States to Pearl Harbor.

The USS Neosho Oiler as on one such mission of carrying aviation fuel and arrived in Pearl Harbor on December 6, 1941, the day before the Pearl Harbor attack. She discharged a full cargo to the Naval Air Station on Ford Island and prepared for her return passage the next day.

The morning started with an alert that the Japanese were attacking. Commander John S Phillips, the captain of the USS Neosho Oiler, get her started and maneuvered safely through the Japanese fire, which was concentrated on the battleships. The guns on the USS Neosho fired away throughout the attack, splashing one enemy plane and driving off others. Three men aboard the Neosho were wounded, but the ship and her crew survived by relocating to a safer area of the harbor.

Had it not been for Japan’s Vice Admiral Chūichi Nagumo’s controversial decision to halt the third wave of attacks – attacks that would have targeted oilers – Neosho may have not have survived.

Still, as fate would have it, the USS Neosho Oiler was sunk during the Battle of the Coral Sea 6 months later, on May 11, 1942.

Learn about the Pearl Harbor history with these photos of the USS Neosho Oiler:

USS Neosho Coral Sea
The USS Neosho refueled the carrier Yorktown and heavy cruiser Astoria in the Battle of the Coral Sea, then retired from the carrier force with a lone escort, the destroyer Sims. The next day Japanese attacked the Neosho and sunk the Sims. Neosho was a victim of 7 direct hits and a suicide dive by one of the Japanese bombers, leaving her on fire and in danger of breaking into two. Still, the seamanship of the 123 crew members managed to keep Neosho afloat for four days before they were rescued by the destroyer Henley.