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Guadalupe I (AO-32)


The first U.S. Navy ship named for a river in Texas.


(AO-32: displacement 7,256; length 552'; beam 75'3"; draft 31'6"; speed 18 knots; complement 285; class Cimarron)

Guadalupe (AO-32) was launched as SS Esso Raleigh on 26 January 1940 by Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Newport News, Va.; sponsored by Mrs. W. L. Inslee, wife of the late manager of the Traffic Division, Marine Department, Standard Oil of New Jersey; taken over by the Maritime Commission as MC Hull #12; acquired by the Navy on 1 June 1941; and commissioned on 19 June 1941, Comdr. Harry B. Thurber in command.

Six weeks of coastwise voyages carrying oil from Texas to New Jersey ended on 16 August as Guadalupe docked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Receiving as deck cargo six patrol torpedo boats later to form the famous squadron commanded by Lt. Comdr. John Bulkeley, Guadalupe sailed for the western Pacific three days later. After discharging cargo and oil at Pearl Harbor, Manila, and Cavite, the tanker returned to Norfolk on 13 November via San Diego. After America's sudden plunge in war, she put into Baltimore to be fitted with guns.

In January 1942 Guadalupe sailed to the Pacific, where she was to participate in virtually every major campaign of the long and bloody war. After months of developing techniques for fueling at sea, a science then in its infancy, Guadalupe sailed from Pearl Harbor on 2 June 1942 to refuel American ships participating in the Battle of Midway. Following that battle, Guadalupe sailed north to spend the rest of the summer supporting American forces in the Attu campaign.

As the United States launched its first offensive effort in the Pacific, Guadalupe sailed south to spend the final four months of 1942 fueling warships operating in and around Guadalcanal. The first half of 1943 saw her in overhaul in the United States and operating in the Aleutians, with two shuttle trips to Pearl Harbor with fuel and planes. Departing Pearl Harbor on 22 August, Guadalupe sailed to the central Pacific to support the Gilberts campaign, working with such famous fighting ships as Essex (CV-9), Independence (CVL-22), Washington (BB-56), Enterprise (CV-6), Lexington (CV-16), and Yorktown (CV-10). After a late winter overhaul, she returned to the Pacific theater in February 1944 operating in support of Vice Admiral Mitscher's carrier force during the Truk campaign. A short break at Pearl Harbor ended as Guadalupe sailed on 11 May to operate in support of the Fifth Fleet during the Marianas campaign. From there she sailed in late August to support Adm. Halsey's Third Fleet in action against the Japanese in the Palau and Philippine areas. One of her major tasks was refueling ships during the climactic Battle of Leyte Gulf.

On 29 December 1944, Guadalupe sailed from Ulithi with TF-38, then preparing for the invasion of Lingayen Gulf. Joining a fast carrier strike force under Admiral J. S. McCain, Guadalupe steamed through Luzon Strait into the China Sea on the night of 9 to 10 January 1945, concurrent with the first invasion waves on Lingayen Gulf. During the transit of the Strait, another tanker, Nantahala, collided with Guadalupe, putting a large hole in the bow. Jury-rigged repairs enabled Guadalupe to continue with the fast carrier group, which included Yorktown, Coicpens, and South Dakota, as they conducted strikes against Japanese positions on Formosa and along the China coast. This action diverted the enemy from the main action at Lingayen Gulf, and crippled his land-based air power.

A month's availability at Ulithi to repair her damaged bow ended in late February and Guadalupe again steamed for battle, this time operating in support of the Iwo Jima invasion. After two weeks, off Iwo Jima, from 24 February to 7 March, Guadalupe returned empty to Ulithi to prepare for her role in the bloody Okinawa campaign. Departing Ulithi on 25 March 1945, Guadalupe spent three weeks off Okinawa, returned to Ulithi for more fuel, and then spent another three weeks off Okinawa. As the fierce struggle raged for this rockbound island, last step before the Japanese home islands, Guadalupe operated through heavy weather and high seas to provide other services, as well as her normal duties of refueling the giant invasion fleet, largest ever assembled in the Pacific.

Okinawa marked the end of Guadalupe's service in the Pacific war. She sailed for the United States and overhaul on 24 May, and was two days out of Pearl Harbor on her way back to the struggle when the Japanese capitulation ended the long war on 15 August 1945. From Pearl, Guadalupe went to Jinsen, Korea, where she replenished ships of the Seventh Fleet occupying Yellow Sea ports. The tanker sailed for Okinawa on 22 October and remained there through 1945.

In the post-war period Guadalupe remained on duty in the Pacific, supplying vital fuel oil to American units in Japan, China, Korea, the Philippines, and scores of islands. Some of this fuel oil she picked up at Bahrein, Arabia, as she sailed from the Far East to Norfolk via the Suez and Gibraltar in 1948, returning over the same route.

When North Korean troops hurled themselves across the 38th parallel on 24 June 1950, Guadalupe was undergoing repairs at Long Beach, Calif. Sailing for the Pacific on 29 July, she spent three months shuttling fuel oil between Hawaii, Kwajalein, and Guam before joining the Seventh Fleet at Sasebo, Japan, on 1 December 1950. Operating with various ships of the fleet, Guadalupe visited Okinawa, Hong Kong, and Formosa (Taiwan) in addition to refueling American and United Nations ships in Korean waters. She also steamed along the Korean coast to support the siege of Wonsan harbor.

An uneasy peace settled over the war-torn peninsula in August 1953, while Guadalupe was undergoing overhaul in California, but she returned to the Pacific to support American forces on the Formosa Patrol and training operations. From that time, the tanker's year settled into a routine of six months deployment with the Seventh Fleet and six months operating out of Long Beach. In her Far East operations during the 1960s, Guadalupe visited Hong Kong, Manila, Tokyo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and Formosa.

Guadalupe was stricken on 15 May 1975.

Updated and expanded by Mark L. Evans

3 December 2015

Published: Thu Dec 03 10:25:25 EST 2015