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Home > Family History

 

Family History

 

 

If you've been reading my website, you know that I'm a genealogy buff.  In fact, one of the main reasons that I decided to quit my job in Portland in 2001 was to travel around America so I could research my family's roots.  I compiled much of what I learned during my journey and put it into this section.  I'll be adding information to this section as time permits, so check back soon.  Here's what I've got so far:

 

General

 

My Father's Side

My Dad's ancestors included some of the earliest settlers of North America, arriving in Massachusetts in the 1620s.  Here are some of their stories:

 

My Mother's Side

My Mom's ancestors were mostly from Norway and Germany who emigrated to the U.S. in the late 1800s and became pioneers, homesteading on the Midwestern prairies.  Here are some of their stories:

 

World War II

My Dad's brother Bill joined the U.S. Navy in 1941 at age 19 and signed onto the Navy oil tanker U.S.S. Neosho (AO-23).  This ship, the largest tanker in the world at the time, had a fascinating history.  Bill was on the Neosho at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 during the Japanese attack and watched the assault while manning the Neosho's forward gun.  Six months later, the Neosho was furiously attacked by Japanese dive-bombers during the Battle of the Coral Sea.  Bill and 122 other men clung to the deck of the listing tanker for five days until they were rescued by an American destroyer.

 

Not many people know about the Neosho so I've put together a section describing this ship.  I've posted its fascinating story, several photos and battle maps, and audio and video recordings of Bill's description of the battles at Pearl Harbor and the Coral Sea.   It all starts on my U.S.S. Neosho Home Page.

 

Bill_Leu_in_Sailor_Uniform.jpg (26022 bytes)    Neosho_in_1939_-_600x400.jpg (28043 bytes)   

Above left:  Fireman 3rd Class, Bill Leu, soon after he enlisted in the Navy in 1941.

Above center:  The U.S.S. Neosho (AO-23) in Norfolk, Virginia on August 7, 1939, about three months after it was launched.  This was just after it was commissioned by the U.S. Navy.  For a supersized photo, click here.

Above right:  One of the maps I've drawn to illustrate the Battle of the Coral Sea, in May of 1942.

 

Table of Contents:

U.S.S. Neosho  (AO-23)

U.S.S. Neosho (AO-23) Home Page

 

Specifications of the U.S.S. Neosho

The Four U.S.S. Neoshos

 

Photo Gallery of the U.S.S. Neosho

 

The Pearl Harbor Attack  (December 7, 1941)

Prelude to War:  Conflict in the Far East

Bill Leu's Early Years

The U.S.S. Neosho at Pearl Harbor

Bill Leu Interview:  Pearl Harbor Attack

U.S. Navy Action Report:  U.S.S. Neosho

 

The Battle of the Coral Sea  (May 1942)

The Battle of the Coral Sea:  Summary

Battle Action:  April 30 - May 4, 1942 

Battle Action:  May 5 - May 7, 1942

Battle Action:  May 8, 1942

The U.S.S. Neosho at Coral Sea

May 7, 1942:  The Attack

May 8, 1942:  Waiting For Rescue

May 9, 1942:  Fading Hope

May 10, 1942:  Neosho Sighted

May 11, 1942:  Rescue

List of Survivors & Casualties

The Battle of the Coral Sea  (May 1942 - cont.)

Bill Leu Interview:  Battle of the Coral Sea

U.S. Navy Action Reports:  Coral Sea

Action Report of the U.S.S. Neosho

Action Report of the U.S.S. Sims

U.S.S. Helm Report

Other Ships at Coral Sea

The U.S.S. Sims (Neosho's Escort)

The U.S.S. Henley (Neosho's Rescuer)

The U.S.S. Helm (Rescued Life Raft)

Coral Sea Scrapbook

S.F. Examiner Article, July 10, 1942

 

Aftermath

President Bush's Speech at Pearl Harbor

Seattle Times:  Bill Leu at Pearl Harbor

Obituary of Captain John S. Phillips

 

U.S.S. Neosho Veteran's Forum

 

Sources & Further Information

The day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, my father, who was 18, tried to enlist with the U.S. Navy.  Since my Dad had just started college, the Navy recruiter suggested that he finish two years of school first and then enroll in the Navy's new V-12 Officer Training Program.  My father entered the V-12 program in 1943 and a year later became one of the first Navy SEALs. 

 

In July of 1945, my father was sent to China where he fought the Japanese with a unique but little-known American outfit known as SACO.  My father, an Ensign and later a Lieutenant Commander, engaged in guerilla warfare against the Japanese and was placed in charge of training 1,200 Chinese guerilla troops at SACO's main base near Chungking. 

 

SACO was the first and only American military unit ever completely integrated into a foreign military force.  Unfortunately, due to wartime secrecy, not much was published about this highly-effective and fascinating group of 2,500 Americans, so I put together this section describing them.