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Mississinewa I (AO-59)


A river in the state of Indiana.


(AO‑59: displacement 7,136 (light); length 553'0"; beam 85'0"; draft 29'10"; speed 18.0 knots; complement 298; armament 1 5-inch, 4 3-inch, 8 40 millimeter, 8 20 millimeter; class Cimarron; type T3‑S2‑A1)

The first Mississinewa (AO‑59) was laid down on 5 October 1943 at Sparrows Point, Md., by the Bethlehem‑Sparrows Point Shipyard, Inc., under a Maritime Commission contract (M.C. Hull 725); launched on 28 March 1944; sponsored by Miss Margaret Pence; and commissioned on 18 May 1944, Capt. Philip G. Beek, USNR, in command.

Mississinewa began her wartime service 18 June 1944. Having completed shakedown in Chesapeake Bay, she sailed for Aruba, Netherland West Indies, to take on her first cargo. Filling her cargo tanks 23 and 24 June she continued on to the Pacific, arriving at Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, on 10 July. As a unit of Service Squadron (SerRon) 10, she then steamed to Eniwetok where she first fueled ships of the Third Fleet. On 25 August she got underway for Manus where she supplied fuel and stores and delivered mail to ships of TF 38, the fast carrier force, 32 and 31 during the assault and occupation of the Palaus. Returning to Manus 30 September, she replenished her tanks and again headed north to refuel TF 38 as that force struck at Japanese shipping and shore installation in the Philippines, on Taiwan, and in the Ryukyus in preparation for the Philippine campaign. On 19 October, having emptied her tanks into ships scheduled to take part in the landings at Leyte, she sailed to Ulithi, her new base. Thence in early November Mississinewa sailed on her last fueling‑at‑sea assignment, returning on the 15th.

The next day she replenished her cargo tanks, filling them almost to capacity with 404,000 gallons af aviation gas, 9,000 barrels of diesel oil, and 90,000 barrels of fuel oil. Four days later, 20 November, she lay still anchored in berth No. 131. At 0547, shortly after reveille, a heavy explosion rocked the oiler. Massive flames immediately burst from midship forward. Fanned by a light wind, the fire spread aft quickly. A few minutes after the first explosion, the fires reached the after magazine and another explosion, heavier than the first, tore through the ship. The ship was abandoned and soon enveloped in flames over 100 feet high. At about 0900 the ship slowly turned over and disappeared. Fifteen minutes later the fire on the water was out and Ulithi anchorage was again quiet. Postwar inquiry found that Mississinewa, with 60 of her complement, was the first victim of the kaiten, the Japanese manned torpedo.

Mississinewa received four battle stars for her World War II service.

Updated, Robert J. Cressman

31 October 2023

Published: Tue Oct 31 22:12:51 EDT 2023