USS NEOSHO AO143
HISTORY OF THE USS NEOSHO AO143
"The Best Damn Oiler in the Navy"
A HISTORY OF THE U.S.S. NEOSHO (AO-143 and USNS NEOSHO T-AO 143)
Neosho Class Fleet Oiler
The fourth Neosho was laid down 15 August 1952 by the Fore River Shipyard, Bethlehem Steel Co., Quincy, Mass., named Neosho 29 September 1953, launched 10 November 1953, and commissioned 24 September 1954.
Neosho, first of a class designed to combine speed and large cargo capacity for underway replenishment, reported at Norfolk for duty in the Atlantic Fleet 8 December 1954. A unit of SERVLANT, she operated along the East Coast and in the Caribbean until 7 September 1955, when she got underway for her first Mediterranean deployment. Since that initial deployment, Neosho rotated regularly between the 6th and 2nd Fleets.
By 1967 she had taken part in over 2,500 replenishments to transfer more than 640 million gallons of petroleum products under both normal and crisis operational conditions. In the fall of 1956, during her second 6th Fleet deployment, she supported units of that fleet as they stood by in case they were called on to intervene in the Suez War and the tense period which followed.
In the fall of 1962 she provided logistical support to the ships enforcing the Naval Quarantine of Cuba, and, less than three years later, in 1965, serviced Atlantic Fleet ships as the stood by off Hispanola during the political turmoil festering in the Dominican Republic.
As calendar year 1978 began, U.S.S. Neosho was in a holiday leave and upkeep period, moored at Naval Station, Norfolk, VA., in a RAV status with Norfolk Shipbuilding and Drydock, Inc.
The RAV was successful in correcting many long-standing deficiencies in the engineering plant. Additional problems with the low pressure drains occurred on 2 January, but were repaired within two days.
On 5 January a conference was held on board U.S.S. Vulcan (AR-5), commander Service Group Two's flagship, to formulate plans for Neosho's decommissioning and transfer to the Military Sealift Command. With a tentative transfer schedule worked out, attention again shifted to the engineering plant.
With the plant in order, it became possible to operate the ship's generators for the first time in several months. Testing of the generators revealed severe adjustment problems with the governors controlling the steam turbines which powered the generators. Technical representatives from Naval Sea System Command were called in, but they were unable to adjust the governors; without paralleling the generators they would be unable to properly power the ship for underway operations.
After spending most of January trying differing adjustments to the generators and governors, it was decided to send the governors back to the manufacturer for overhaul. During the week of 24 January the governors were removed and sent to the manufacturer's plant.
The tortous rate of progress made with the generators was not indicative of activity elsewhere aboard. On January repairs and tests were completed to rig 11, which had been badly damaged during South American operations in 1977.
By the time February was half over, the generator governors had been returned. After reinstallation, operational testing of the generators began. By the end of the month, the generators had been paralleled and were supporting the ship's electrical load.
With the last major obstacle surmounted, Neosho was ready to go to sea. On 1 March the ship shifted from Norfolk Naval Station to Craney Island Fuel Terminal in order to onload DFM and JP-5.
On 2 March the ship got underway from Craney Island, behind schedule due to problems with the steering gear. Rather than go to sea with unreliable steering, Neosho moored at Norfolk Naval Station until repairs could be effected. Upon correction of the steering problem later that day, the ship sailed on overnight sea trials. No problems were experienced, and Neosho returned to port the next day.
After a weekend in port, Neosho again sailed on 7 March, this time in support of SUBASWEX 3-78. Few underway replenishments were scheduled, and the tedium of the cruise was relieved by a port visit to Bermuda from 22 March to 25 March. On the afternoon of 26 March 1978, Neosho received alongside and refueled her last customer ship as a United States oiler. The distinction went to the U.S.S. Caron (DD 970).
Neosho arrived back in Norfolk on 28 March, and anchored in an ammunition anchorage. Preparations for decommissioning and transfer to the Military Sealift Command went into full swing the next day when all ammunition and pyrotechnics remaining on board were off-loaded onto barges from the ammunition depot at Yorktown. On 30 March, the ship weighed anchor and moved to the Craney Island Fuel Terminal.
Off-loading of cargo fuel was begun on 3 April, almost immediately, unfortunately problems developed. Many of the liquid cargo valves, which had not received maintenance since the last overhaul in 1970, would not seal properly, and it became necessary to use air-powered pumps to empty several of the tanks. On 7 April, tank mucking (a process of shovelling and wiping up the sludge at the bottom of the tank) commenced with a JP-5 tank.
By 10 April tank mucking had begun in earnest, but was nearly a week behind schedule. However, by utilizing all available personnel and by using firehoses to wash sludge into pockets where it could be pumped out, the men in the tanks made up the lost time and finished all mucking on time on 18 April. On 19 April Neosho shifted berths back to Norfolk Naval Station. The next day an independent industrial chemist inspected the ship and found her not to be gas-free as required. On 21 April fuel lines and hoses which contained fuel fumes were flushed with water, and several tanks were prepared for recleaning.
While attempts to gas-free the ship continued, Military Sealift Command sent representatives to the ship to thoroughly load test all replenishment rigging. On 24 Arpil mount 31 was removed from the ship, followed by mount 36 the next day, thereby achieving a major step in the demilitarization.
During the week of 1 May 1978, representatives of the Naval Air Engineering Center at Lakehurst, New Jersey inspected the ship's helicopter facility in order to determine what work needed to be done during the upcoming overhaul and conversion.
Meanwhile, the continuing attempts to certify the ship as gas-free, "safe for hot work," were meeting with little success and it was decided that a return to Craney Island was necessary in order to thoroughly complete the process. The ship proceeded to Craney Island on the morning of 5 May, and work begun immediately. By this time, many of Neosho's crewmen had been transferred in anticipation of de-commissioning, so the work which fell to those who remained aboard required an all-out, all hands effort.
The crew responded to the challenge and after much hard work, the ship was certified gas-free to the satisfaction of the Military Sealift Command, and sailed for Bayonne, New Jersey on the morning of 17 May. Throughout the period at Craney Island, decommissioning preparations continued, and large quantities of material which would not be required by MSC were transferred. Upon arrival in Bayonne on 18 May, the major work project became the preparation of the ship for the turnover ceremony scheduled for 25 May.
Since the period originally allocated for this purpose had been absorbed by the additional unscheduled tank cleaning efforts, all hands were again called upon to assist in the difficult task of repairing the ship for the ceremony in the less than a weeks' time. The response was as had come to be expected from the Neosho crew and on 25 May, the ship stood sharp in appearance and ready to assume her new role.
The turnover ceremony commenced at 1400 local time on 25 May 1978, and less than an hour later, the U.S. Neosho ceased to be an active commissioned ship of the United States Navy. In her place stood the United States Naval Ship Neosho, in service rather than in commission under her new merchant marine master, but nevertheless expected to return to the fleet after her conversion to pick up and carry on the proud tradition established by her United States predecessor.
--- Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships with thanks to the Naval Historical Center, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.
Posted by Stevean Irving
Jul 13 2006 02:19:26:000PM