USS Neosho (AO-23) was a Cimarron-class fleet oiler serving with the United States Navy, the second ship
to be named for the Neosho River in Kansas and Oklahoma. After surviving the Attack on Pearl Harbor,
Neosho operated in the South Pacific. During the aftermath of the Battle of the Coral Sea she was attacked
and set alight, but managed to keep afloat until rendezvousing with an American destroyer on 11 May 1942,
who sank her with gunfire after taking off the crew.
As the American and Japanese fleets sought each other out in the opening maneuvers of the climactic Battle
of the Coral Sea on 6 May 1942, Neosho refueled the carrier Yorktown and heavy cruiser Astoria, then retired
from the carrier force with a lone escort, the destroyer Sims.
Next day at 10:00, Japanese aircraft spotted the two ships, and believing them to be a carrier and her escort,
launched the first of two attacks which sank Sims and left Neosho—victim of seven direct hits and a suicide
dive by one of the bombers—ablaze aft and in danger of breaking in two. She had shot down at least three of
the attackers. One of her crewmen, Oscar V. Peterson, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his
efforts to save the ship in spite of his severe injuries suffered in the attack. Superb seamanship and skilled
damage control work kept Neosho afloat for the next four days. The sorely stricken ship was first located by
a RAAF aircraft, then an American PBY Catalina flying boat. At 13:00 on 11 May, the destroyer Henley arrived,
rescued the 123 survivors and sunk by gunfire the ship they had so valiantly kept afloat against impossible
odds. With Henley came word that the American fleet had succeeded in turning the Japanese back, marking
the end of their southward expansion in World War II.