Survivors from The Battle of Coral Sea – USS NEOSHO (AO-23)

May 20th, 2005 by xformed

While checking the referring links, I followed one of the inbound search engine links back. They had come looking up “whaleboat.” One of the other links presented with one of my posts was to a 1st person story about the sinking of the USS NEOSHO (AO-23), a fleet oiler, at the Battle of Coral Sea in May 1942. for those without an understanding of the significance of that battle in WWII, it was the first time the US forces in the Pacific took offensive action against the Japanese. It was pretty much a draw, but it stopped the advance of the Japanese in the Pacific, and after that, we just kept pushing them back to their homeland.

I am always facinated by 1st person reports, and this link provides some good reading.

This quote is of particular interest, as there was some similar discussions on this topic when I spent the afternoon with Dick Rohde, regarding being in the rafts after the Battle Off Samar:

“Three whaleboats were put safely over the side of the tanker,” continued the sailor. “One of them took me and the other wounded from a raft and the other two boats were also rapidly filling with men.

“When it became apparent there wouldn’t be enough room for all the men struggling in the water. Lieutenant Bradford suddenly stood up and said:

‘I guess those of us not wounded will have to get off.’”

“Then he dived into the water.

“Several other uninjured men in our boat followed his example and we later learned that fifteen men in all had voluntarily quit the whaleboats to make room for the wounded. The lieutenant and two enlisted men of the fifteen survived.”

Read the link on the NEOSHO. It will give you an appreciation for the perils of the sea service, when you have a capable enemy to confront.

To get even more info on the story, this link will provide more detail on the NEOSHO, as well as having links to Bill Leu’s video interview (the person who did the 1st person report mentioned above)..

This entry was posted on Friday, May 20th, 2005 at 7:11 am and is filed under History, Military, Military History, Navy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

1 response about “Survivors from The Battle of Coral Sea – USS NEOSHO (AO-23)”

  1. xformed said:

    Manually entered based on this comment being left on a super secret test and development blog of mine that had this content also:

    Comment by: Larry Huffman


    I just wanted to thank you for this post. My wife’s great uncle was on the USS Neosho at the battle of Coral Sea. He was YM3 Richard Blood. He was one of the 68 men to get on the rafts, but was not one of the 4 to survive the 9 day ordeal, though we do not know how he perished specifically.

    Something that is of interest regarding the Neosho is that her skipper’s incident report, along with a couple of others, prompted the Navy to eventually change their abandon ship procedures.

    The procedure at the time of the battle was for the call to abandon ship to go out, and the crew would simply go. The captain (Captain John Phillips) in his report indicated that had there been an interim order to be given that was practiced by the men, the 68 may not have even left the ship at all.

    This incident did not cause the change alone, but the report of Capt Pjillips was taken into consideration when the policy was reviewed. What resulted was essentially what we have today in the modern Navy. The call is first to muster at abandon ship stations and make ready to abandon ship. This allows the command to have the crew ready to abandon ship in case there is imminent need, but still keeps them on the ship in case the threat passes or situations change. Of course, often a ship in combat did not have this window and they had to get off fast, but not always. In the case of the Neosho, the men who remained, were able to keep the ship afloat until rescue could arrive. There was not a need to abandon ship after all…but the Captain had no choice initially. He did not know they were going to be able to keep her up.

    Anyway…thanks for the post. I have read several histories of the battle of Coral Sea where the Neosho is left out of the narrative completely, and the USS Sims, the destroyer sunk as her escort, is merely mentioned as having ‘also been sunk’. The Neosho was a Navy ship, with an entirely Navy crew. 241 US sailors (I think that is the number) lost their lives on the Neosho of adrift at sea afterwards. To me, it is a grave error to leave this ship out of the accounts of battle simply because she was a tanker.

    Again, thanks for the account.

    Thanks, Larry to adding to the collective understanding of the event and the outcome of policy changes!

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