Pecos I (AO-6)
A river in New Mexico and Texas.
(AO-6: displacement 14,800; length 475'7"; beam 56'3"; draft 26'8"; speed 14 knots; complement 317; armament 4 5-inch, 2 3-inch)
The first Pecos (AO-6) was laid down as Fuel Ship No. 18 on 2 June 1920 at Boston, Mass., by the Boston Navy Yard; reclassified AO-6 on 17 July 1920; launched on 23 April 1921; sponsored by Miss Anna S. Hubbard, daughter of Como. Thomas L. Swann; and commissioned on 25 August 1921.
During the two decades before the United States entered World War II, Pecos carried fuel to ships of the fleet wherever needed, operating in both Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Pecos was in the Philippines supporting the ships of the Asiatic Fleet. She departed Cavite Navy Yard 8 December 1941 for Borneo and reached Balikpapan on the 14th. After filling up with oil and gasoline, the tanker pushed on to Makassar in the Celebes, Netherlands East Indies where she refueled American warships fighting to slow the explosive advance of Japanese forces in the southwest Pacific. She departed Makassar for Darwin, Australia, 22 December.
She headed for Soerabaja, Java early in 1942 where she fueled Allied ships until departing 3 February after a Japanese air raid there had made that base untenable. Tjilatjap then became the oiler's base until her cargo fuel tanks were empty. She then got underway late in February toward India to refill. On the 27th, off Christmas Island, when the oiler was about to take survivors of Langley (AV-3) from destroyers Whipple (DD-217) and Edsall (DD-219) when Japanese planes attacked . After fighting off the raiders, the three ships steamed south out of range and completed the transfer on 1 March.
At noon that day, planes from Japanese carrier Soryu attacked Pecos and struck again an hour later. Finally at midafternoon, a third strike sent the veteran oiler to the bottom.
Whipple raced to the scene and rescued 232 survivors.
Pecos was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 8 May 1942.
Pecos was awarded one battle star for her World War II service.
More detailed history in preparation.
Robert J. Cressman
30 November 2015