Photo Gallery of the U.S.S. Neosho (AO-23)



Above left:  The U.S.S. Neosho (AO-23) during construction in New Jersey in 1939.

Above right:  The U.S.S. Neosho in Norfolk, Virginia on August 7, 1939, about three months after it was launched.  This is just after it was commissioned by the U.S. Navy.



Above left:  The Neosho in New York harbor, shortly after the ship was launched in 1939.

Above right:  The newly-built USS Neosho in New Jersey in 1939.  At the time of its construction, the Neosho, at 553 feet in length, was the largest oil tanker in the world.



Above left:  My Uncle, Bill Leu, Fireman 3rd Class, in 1941.  Bill served on the Neosho during its entire active service, from July 1941 until it was sunk in May 1942.

Above center:  Captain John S. Phillips, commander of the U.S.S. Neosho.    

Above right:  The Neosho's Chief Water Tender, Oscar Verner Peterson.  For his valor during the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942, Peterson was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  During the battle he was working below decks and was badly injured.  Despite his wounds and working alone, Peterson closed several important valves but was severely burned in the process.  He died six days later on May 13, 1942, aboard the U.S.S. Henley, two days after the Neosho crew was rescued by the Henley.


U.S.S. Neosho at Pearl Harbor  (December 7, 1941)


Above left:  Ford Island at 7:55 a.m. on December 7, 1941, at the start of the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  A Japanese plane flies just above the U.S.S. Neosho (circled), which is docked at Ford Island.  A plume from a near-miss rises between the U.S.S. Oklahoma and U.S.S. West Virginia, moored astern of the Neosho.

Above right:  Battleship Row at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on the morning of December 7, 1941 moments after the Japanese attack began.  Several torpedo wakes and shock waves are visible in the water and the U.S.S. California (far right) is oozing oil.  The U.S.S. West Virginia has just been hit and the U.S.S. Oklahoma, behind it, is starting to list.  The U.S.S. Arizona (far left) would explode moments later, killing 1,177 men.



Above left:  The  U.S.S. Neosho (right) at about 8:30 a.m.  An awning, erected for Sunday morning services, covers the bow of the U.S.S. California (left), which is listing and straining at its lines.  The U.S.S. Oklahoma lies capsized behind the Neosho.  This was just before Captain John Phillips ordered the Neosho's lines cut.

Above right:  By 8:50 a.m., the U.S.S. Neosho (circled) was backing away from its berth and heading for Merry Point.  It had narrowly missed the overturned U.S.S. Oklahoma, which is visible.  Smoke is rising from several stricken battleships.  This photo was taken from the air control tower on Ford Island.



Above left:  By about 9:00 a.m., the Neosho (circled) was still backing but was beginning to swing its bow around.  Counter-flooding kept the U.S.S. California (left) from overturning and it settles in the mud.  The overturned U.S.S. Oklahoma and smoking U.S.S. Maryland lie behind the California. 

Above right:  This photo, taken in October 1941, six weeks before the attack, shows where the U.S.S. Neosho tied up at Merry Point (circled) during the Pearl Harbor attack.  It docked here behind the U.S.S. Castor (not shown) and waited out the attack.  The U.S.S. Neosho was the only ship moored on Battleship Row that morning not damaged.  Because of his quick action Captain Phillips received the Navy Cross, but the U.S.S. Neosho was now the only operational tanker in the mid-Pacific. 


U.S.S. Neosho at the Battle of the Coral Sea  (May 1942)


Above left:  The U.S.S. Neosho (right) refueling the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Yorktown in the Coral Sea, about May 2, 1942, preparing for the Battle of the Coral Sea.  This was five days before the Neosho was attacked and sunk by a swarm of Japanese dive bombers.

Above right:  The Neosho crew refueling the U.S.S. Yorktown in the Coral Sea.



Above left:  The Neosho crew scrambles to hang on while refueling the U.S.S. Yorktown.

Above right:  The U.S.S. Yorktown (right) and U.S.S. Neosho (center) from the rear of a U.S. torpedo bomber that had just taken off.  This was shortly before the Battle of the Coral Sea.  The small ship on the horizon to the right of the plane's tail fin is the destroyer U.S.S. Sims.  This may be the only photo ever taken that shows the U.S.S. Neosho and U.S.S. Sims together.



Above left:  This is the last known picture taken of the U.S.S. Neosho.  It was taken from a Japanese plane about 1 p.m. on May 7, 1942, after Japanese torpedo planes and dive bombers attacked the Neosho and sunk its escort, the destroyer U.S.S. Sims.  Despite a 30-degree list, the ship would continue to float for four days until the surviving 123 crewmen, including my uncle, Bill Leu, were rescued by the destroyer U.S.S. Henley on May 11.

Above right:  Five days after the U.S.S. Henley rescued the men on the Neosho, on May 16, the destroyer U.S.S. Helm discovered four men in a raft over 50 miles away.  These were the only survivors from a group of 68 men who had drifted away from the Neosho shortly after the attack on May 7.  The Helm's whaleboat is on the left and the Neosho's raft is on the right, partly submerged. 

The four men had floated on the raft for nine days without food or water and were in critical condition.  Shortly after being rescued, two of the four men died and the other two returned to the U.S.  In 2010, Jack Rolston, the last of these men, died in Missouri.  Jack sent me this photo in 2003 and wrote the word, "Me," which you can see above and to the right of his image, as he sat on the raft.  He was too weak to climb into the whaleboat and had to be carried aboard.



Above left:  In 2022, 18 years after I'd posted Jack's photo above, I found these two photos on the Internet, posted on the Naval History and Heritage Command website.  This was the first photo taken of the raft survivors by crewmen on the U.S.S. Helm.  I believe that's William Smith standing in the middle of the raft, the only reason the raft was spotted by the Helm.

Above right:  The photo of the rescued sailors.



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 (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"

Links, Sources and Further Information

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