(AO-47: dp. 6,013 (1.); l. 520'; b. 68'; dr. 30'; s. 17.4 k.; cpl. 285; a. 1 5", 4 3", 8 40mm.; cl. Mattaponi)
A river in Texas.
The second Neches (AO-47), ex-Aekay, ex-M. C. hurl 148 was laid down 12 June 1941 by Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Chester, Pa.; launched 11 October 1941; sponsored by Miss Barbara Vickery of Washington, D.C.; acquired by the Navy 20 July 1941; and commissioned 16 September 1942.
After shakedown off the Atlantic Coast she steamed for San Pedro, Calif. via the Panama Canal. Her first wartime operations took her to Guadalcanal, where she fueled various fleet units. From 28 November she serviced ships out of Noumea, New Caledonia. She shifted operations to Havannah Harbor, Efate Island, New Hebrides 22 January 1943, and then steamed for San Pedro, Calif. 6 March, arriving there the 21st.
Four days later she was enroute Pearl Harbor to deliver fuel, arriving 30 March. The next week she was back at San Pedro and, following a ten day availability there she got underway with Pennsylvania (BB-38), Nassau (CVE-16), and six screening destroyers enroute Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Arriving 1 May, she fueled thirteen ships before she steamed to the Puget Sound Navy Yard 9 May for two days of repairs. She then returned to Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
The oiler operated in Alaskan waters until late December, when she returned to San Pedro to take on fuel for delivery to Pearl Harbor. After a four day call at Pearl Harbor she steamed to Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands, where she provided fueling services for the next three months.
She was once again enroute San Pedro when, at 1815, 21 May, she struck a mine off the California coast. The explosion tore a 22’ by 15’ hole in her port side, necessitating a week of drydock repairs at San Pedro. Final repairs were completed in two months, and she was back at Pearl Harbor 27 July.
She then steamed in convoy to Eniwetok Atoll, where she anchored 10 August and commenced fueling operations. Through October she provided fueling services in the area of the Admiralty Islands. The oiler anchored at Ulithi 2 November and through that month provided services in the local atsea refueling areas. The month of December saw her servicing ships from her Ulithi anchorage.
By mid-January 1945 Neches was enroute Leyte Gulf and the South China Sea, where she fueled ships into February. She returned to Leyte 18 March and fueled transports in preparation for the invasion of Okinawa. Anchoring off Kerama Retto, 6 April, she set Condition I at 1545. When Japanese air raiders came in at 1630 her gunners opened fire, and after ten hours of intermittent air attack Neches gunners splashed a kamikaze off the starboard quarter. By mid-April Neches was again fueling ships out of her Ulithi anchorage.
When fleet units first bombarded the Japanese home islands 10 July, Neches was in waters off northern Japan. She steamed into Tokyo Bay 29 August, becoming the first oiler on the scene. Assigned duties there as station tanker, she fueled 120 ships through September. Departing for San Pedro 15 October, she arrived the 31st and underwent overhaul in the Naval Shipyard, Terminal Island, San Francisco, until the end of December.
Neches continued to operate with the Service Force, Pacific Fleet for the next two years. She was placed under administrative control of the Naval Transport Service in July 1947 and was shifted to MSTS two years later. During the post-war period she served as a point-to-point tanker, calling at Hawaii, the Philippine Islands, Japan, Southeast Asia, Arabia, Alaska, and the Canal Zone.
She decommissioned 10 July 1950 and was placed in the Pacific Reserve Fleet, San Diego Group. Recommissioned 3 January 1951 at Oakland, Calif., she operated as an MSTS tanker and served with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean. She again returned to the Pacific Reserve Fleet for inactivation at Stockton, Calif. in June 1955.
After extensive alterations to electronic and dock equipment, including the addition of five rigs for underway replenishment, Neches recommissioned 24 November 1961 at the Naval Supply Depot, Seattle, Capt. John R. Zullinger in command. She then rejoined the Service Force, Pacific Fleet, and was homeported in San Francisco.
The oiler commenced regular overhaul 6 May 1963, and through 1967 she deployed annually to WESTPAC and maintained herself in a state of readiness (luring training, upkeep, and leave periods in home waters). Her homeport has remained Hunters Point, San Francisco.
She steamed 21 September 1967 for underway replenishment service in WESTPAC, operating on Yankee Station and servicing Market Time craft in Southeast Asia. Her deployment lasted through 30 March 1968, when she tied up once again at San Francisco. Neches’ Yankee Station and Market Time operations had been punctuated by calls at Subic Bay, Sasebo, Kaohsiung, and Hong Kong.
Through September 1968 Neches operated off the West Coast, with a summer call at Portland, Oreg. for the Rose Festival. By the end of the first week of September she was underway for yet another seven month deployment to WESTPAC.
Neches received nine battle stars for World War II service.