(AO-1: dp. 4,990; l. 475'7"; b. 56'; dr. 10'; s. 14 k.; cpl. 150; a. 4 4"; cl. Kanawha)
A river in southwest West Virginia formed by the confluence of the New and Gauley Rivers at Gauley Bridge, W.Va. The Kanawha empties into the Ohio River at Point Pleasant, W. Va.
The third Kanawha (AO-1) was laid down 8 December 1913 by the Mare Island Navy Yard, San Francisco, Calif.; launched 11 July 1914; sponsored by Miss Dorothy Bennett; and commissioned 5 June 1915, Lt. Comdr. Richard Werner, USNRF, in command.
Kanawha cleared San Diego 9 June 1915 and arrived Newport, R.I., for service with the Atlantic Fleet. During the following year the oiler made seven trips to Port Arthur, Tex., for fuel oil and gasoline. On 11 October 1916 Kanawha was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. Then, in addition to her fueling duties, she participated in tactical exercises, carried mail, and towed targets.
After America entered World War I, the oiler was assigned to Commander, Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet, as an escort for the first A.B.F. sent to France. Kanawha cleared New York 17 June 1917 and crossed the submarine-infested Atlantic, arriving St. Mazarie 2 July. She returned to New York 10 August for repairs before sailing again 23 September. The oiler cruised in Atlantic waters until 1 November supplying fuel oil to the cruiser force and escorting convoys to Europe. Kanawha returned to Philadelphia for repairs, then joined NOTS 8 January 1918. For the rest of the war, the oiler, ignoring torpedo warnings, carried fuel oil from Halifax to United Kingdom and French ports. Kanawha arrived New York 1 May 1919 from her final cruise; she was detached from NOTS 12 May for reassignment to the Atlantic Fleet.
The oiler departed Port Arthur, Tex., 24 July and arrived San Pedro 9 August. From 1919 to 1929, Kanawha, with the exception of three cruises to Port Arthur to supply units and ports along the Atlantic coast, operated in the Pacific. In addition to servicing ships, the oiler participated in the Army-Navy maneuvers in Hawaii during April 1925. She then accompanied the Battle Fleet on a goodwill cruise to Australia and New Zealand before resuming coastal fueling operations 25 September 1925. Kanawha decommissioned at Puget Sound Yard 18 December 1929.
She recommissioned 5 June 1934 and cleared Bremerton 21 June for her base at San Pedro. For the following 6 years she cruised along the West Coast supplying oil and gasoline to ports in the Canal Zone, the Caribbean, and Hawaii. In 1941 Kanawha widened her operations, sailing east to Midway and Wake Islands and as far north as Alaska. The oiler was at Mare Island undergoing overhaul at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Kanawha departed San Pedro 21 March 1942 with a convoy loaded with supplies for Hawaii. She continued convoy runs from California to Pearl Harbor until 18 May when she arrived Tongatabu for fueling operations in the South Pacific. Throughout the summer she cruised to New Caledonia, Espiritu Santo, and Efate, providing fuel for destroyers and transports en route to the Pacific campaigns. The oiler departed Pago Pago 12 October and put into San Franciso 29 October for repairs and overhaul.
Kanawha resumed fueling operations upon her return to Pago Pago 13 February 1943. For the next 2 months she serviced ships engaged in the struggle in the Solomon Islands.
On 7 April a group of enemy "Vals" slipped through fighter defenses and zeroed in on Kanawha as she awaited an escort in Tulagi Harbor. At 1502, shortly after clearing the harbor, the slow and vulnerable oiler came under bomb attack. The first five planes hit an oil tank under the bridge, causing fires to spread rapidly along the deck. Lt. Comdr. Bock ordered the ship abandoned to minimize danger to his crew from burning oil on the surface. After rescue operations were underway, volunteers returned on board and extinguished fires amidst exploding ammunition. The tug Rail towed Kanawha on the west side of Tulagi where she was beached shortly before midnight However, she slid off into deep water and sank before daybreak 8 April. Nineteen of her crew were lost.
Kanawha received one battle star for World War II service.