U.S.S. Neosho:  Veteran's Forum


This section is devoted to the men who served on the U.S.S. Neosho (AO-23).  I posted this section in 2004 when I created this section of my website devoted to the U.S.S. Neosho, though I continue to update it over time.  I'm also including here stories about veterans who served on the destroyer U.S.S. Sims (DD-409), the Neosho's valiant escort during the Battle of the Coral Sea. 


Approximately 293 men were serving on the U.S.S. Neosho during the Battle of the Coral Sea.  Of these, only 111 survived the attack by Japanese dive bombers on May 7, 1942.  The fatality rate of the U.S.S. Sims was even higher, with only 14 of the 252 men surviving the attack.  Altogether, 124 men aboard the Neosho and Sims survived the attack while 423 men perished.


I've compiled stories about Neosho veterans and have posted them below.  If you know a veteran who served on either the U.S.S. Neosho (AO-23) or the U.S.S. Sims (DD-409) and would like to share their story, please contact me and I'll be happy to post it here.


On separate pages, I've posted in-depth stories and photos about the following Neosho veterans:

Stories About U.S.S. Neosho Veterans

  • December 7th marks the anniversary of Pearl Harbor and my great-uncle, Lorenza McNair (1921-2005), was in the military during this time of war.  I’d always heard from my mother that after he returned, he told the family that if they had any questions about what happened, they’d better ask then because he was never going to talk about it again.  To the best of my mother’ s knowledge, he never did.  - Taneya.

  • My brother, Audress Casey Dunn, Fireman 2nd Class, was killed aboard the Neosho during the Coral Sea Battle.  He was from Mounds, Illinois.  As I understand, his battle station was in the ammunition lockers for the three-inch 50-caliber AA guns.  I saw him once after he was assigned to the Neosho, his only berth.  Those poor sailors were worked to the bone delivering aviation fuel to Pearl before the war.  His hands were so grimy he couldn't get them clean from boiler work and not even time for a shore haircut.  - Ralph Dunn, formerly S1CL USNR

  • I am interested in the USS Neosho because my mom's other brother died in the attack in the Coral Sea.  His name was Frank Allen Scarborough and he was aboard the 68-man life raft that was lost.  The weird thing is that my grandmother (Dolly Scarborough) received a letter from a woman in Australia telling her that Frank and another man "washed ashore" and she was taking care of them.  My grandmother died shortly after (my mom was only 7 at the time) but my father (who knew my mother as a child) had heard the story also.  - Susan Doris

  • My uncle, James William Hardwick, known as JW, was a Seaman 2nd Class on the USS Neosho and served on her the entire time from when they took possession at the US Naval Receiving Station at Puget Sound until her demise in the Coral Sea.  I even have letters he wrote from the Receiving Station.  He was listed as MIA and no one heard anything about him after the day they were attacked.  I can't tell you how many times I wished he would have survived the war.  I would have really liked hearing his stories but I guess it wasn't to be.  I was told by my dad (his brother) that his battle station was on a forward gun.  That's about all I know.

I have a great desire to find out as much as I can about my Uncle JW.  His name is inscribed on a monument in the Philippines.  I intend to try and get a copy of his navy records.  I just finished copying all his letters and cards he sent home during World War II to preserve them.  - Jeff Hardwick

  • My father, Tony Bustos, was on the Neosho and survived.  If he was in water for a long period of time (e.g., a swimming pool) he would start to smell oil.  Also, he could not eat canned pears.  They reminded him of eating while they were floating.  He said that they would dive under the water and swim into the ship to try and get food and supplies, and ended up with a lot of canned pears.  - Jim Bustos

  • My first cousin, Wallace F. (Frank) Quillin, Seaman 1st class, was a survivor, not only of the Neosho, but of the Arizona.  Here is his story:  Frank survived the attack on the Arizona by being on shore-leave that Sunday morning in order to go to church services on the island.  When he returned to the beach after church, he found it under attack and his ship sinking.

He was reassigned to the Neosho and told of his escape from the ship during the Coral Sea battle.  The Neosho was on fire and sinking.  The boys onboard were diving or jumping into the burning oil covering the water.  Some of the boys were injured in the attack and bleeding as they bailed out into the shark-infested waters.  Their screams as they were attacked by sharks rang in the ears of their escaping shipmates, who were helpless to try and rescue them.


Frank was one of the lucky ones who was unhurt and was quickly picked up by another American ship.  He did sustain some hearing loss as a result of getting oil in his ears.  After the war, he arrived back in the states in California, where he married and settled down.  He was originally from Florence, Alabama, where his mother (my aunt) Cora Quillin lived for many years.  Frank's name appears in the National Park Service historical statistics as a survivor of the Arizona.  - Nancy (Mrs. James) Clem

  • I was in the navy during Vietnam and served aboard the Gearing Class Destroyer, "Henry W. Tucker" (DD-875).  Henry W. Tucker was a Pharmacist's Mate aboard the USS Neosho and died while swimming from life raft to life raft, giving first aid at the time of her sinking, until he just disappeared.  The Tucker also has a website and every two years has a reunion.  I have been to two reunions and they were wonderful experiences.  The Tucker was a very tight and proud ship and served admirably in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.  - John Gross

  • I am the great niece of Clifford Christopher Tatge, the young second class seaman and radio operator on the tanker Neosho that was attacked by the Japanese in the Coral Sea battle.  Christopher was the youngest of seven brothers and sisters.  Being a minor, his parents had to consent for him to enlist in the navy.  Christopher was visiting his sister's home in California on December 7th, 1941 when he heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor.  He was carrying the signed papers around in his pocket and that very day he mailed his papers in.

My mother has a copy of a letter that Christopher had typed (not written) to my mothers' parents (her father was Christopher's brother).  The letter is dated April 2, 1942 and in the letter he mostly talks about the family, his motorcycle that he missed (he said upon his return he was going to "ride the wheels off of it"), and the 16 pounds he had put on since he had been in the navy.  Apparently his parents came to California to see him off on his tour as he briefly mentions their visit.  The only thing he mentions about the ship is that he is a radio operator on the ship and he liked it fine.  - Dalyne Easley

  • On your list of survivors you list Loren B. Parkhurst.  This was my father.  He was 19 at the time and a Fireman Third Class.  My father was in the boiler room when the ship was hit.  He told the tale of having to stay put in a listing, sinking ship.  He said they thought she was going down at the time, until the steam lines finished spilling out steam.  Of the crew in the boiler room he said the only deaths were two guys who panicked and tried to make it through the steam.  His best friend from boot camp was Vernon Zeddies, killed in action that day.  Dad stayed in contact with Vernon’s parents and they were like grandparents to me.  The bonds that were made between them faded only in death.  I am in contact with Vernon’s brother via email to this day.  - Loren Parkhurst

Survivor Contact List for the U.S.S. Neosho

  • If any Neosho survivor should remember Herbert L. Bennett (Fireman 1st Class on AO-23, later served on USS Neosho (AO-48), died in 1990), please contact his son, Bruce Bennett.

  • If any survivor should remember Harry F. Bradshaw (Bud) who served on the USS Neosho please contact his sister Marian Bradshaw.  He had been stateside on leave and hitched a ride back to Pearl Harbor on the Neosho and arrived on Dec. 6, 1941.  He did not have time to rejoin his ship, the Arizona, before the attack December 7.  He remained on the Neosho until it was lost in the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942 when he was reported Missing in Action.  We have never known exactly what happened to him.

  • My uncle was Robert Lee Peterson, Seamen Second Class, and just 17 and joined the navy and was one of the many killed on the Neosho.  He was from a small town (Broadland, Illinois) the son of Grover and Mamie Peterson, brother to five other siblings.  There was also another Peterson who served alongside my uncle.  Until the day my grandmother passed in 1990 she always believed Robert was not dead and that it had been another Peterson on the Neosho.  If there is anyone who is yet alive and remembers my uncle could they please contact me, Connie (Peterson) Ruggles.


Table of Contents:

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

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


SECTION 1:  Background

Specifications of the U.S.S. Neosho

Photo Gallery of the U.S.S. Neosho

The Four U.S.S. Neoshos


SECTION 2:  Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941)


Prelude to War:  Conflict in the Far East

Bill Leu's Early Years

The U.S.S. Neosho at Pearl Harbor

Interview of Bill Leu:  The Attack on Pearl Harbor

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


SECTION 3:  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 Ordeal of the U.S.S. Neosho

May 7, 1942:  The Japanese Attack

May 8, 1942:  Waiting for Rescue

May 9, 1942:  Fading Hope

May 10, 1942:  Neosho Sighted

May 11, 1942:  Rescue

The Battle of the Coral Sea (continued)

List of Survivors and Casualties

U.S.S. Neosho:  Survivors and Casualties

U.S.S. Sims:  Survivors and Casualties

Interview of Bill Leu:  The Battle of the Coral Sea

U.S. Navy Action Reports:  Battle of the Coral Sea

Action Report of U.S.S. Neosho

Action Report of U.S.S. Sims

Action Report of U.S.S. Helm

Other Ships at the Battle of the 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)

Battle of the Coral Sea Scrapbook

Honolulu Newspaper:  May 8, 1942

S.F. Examiner Article:  July 10, 1942


SECTION 4:  Aftermath


President Bush's 1991 Speech at Pearl Harbor

Seattle Times Article:  Bill Leu at Pearl Harbor

John S. Phillips, Captain of the U.S.S. Neosho

>  U.S.S. Neosho Veteran's Forum

Fireman Third Class, Bill Leu

Jack Rolston and the Tragic "Raft of 68"

Storekeeper Third Class, Earl Couse

Pharmacist's Mate Third Class, Henry Tucker

Links, Sources and Further Information

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