Neches I AO-5
(AO-5: dp. 5,723;1. 475'; b. 56'; dr. 26'6"; s. 14 k.; cpl. 144; a. 2 5", 2 3")
The first Neches (AO-5) was laid down 8 June 1919 by the Boston Navy Yard, launched 2 June 1920, sponsored by Miss Helen Griffin, daughter of Rear Admiral Robert Griffin; and commissioned 25 October 1920, Comdr. H. T. Meriwether USNRF, in command.
Originally classified as Fuel Ship No. 17 through 1920, Neches was assigned to Boston, Mass. until 3 March 1922. During service with the Atlantic Fleet, she performed fleet fuel duties along the East Coast, participated in tactical exereises, carried mail, and towed targets. She also made several trips to Port Arthur, Tex. for fuel oil and gasoline.
She fueled at Fall River, Mass. in early March 1922 and then steameA for Norfolk Va. She next got underway for her new home yard at Mare Isiand, Calif., and thence to San Diego her new homeport, whence she operated as a fleet oiler. She unAerwent overhaul eommeneing 1 May 1926 at Mare Island during which a new hydraulic gasoline stowage system was installed. During the ensuing 15 years Neches was a busy ship. She participated in and helped develop fleet taeties, fueled the fleet, and supplied oil and gasoline to bases in the Canal Zone, Caribbean, and Hawaii.
The oiler was underway from San Diego to Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked that base. She arrived 10 December 1941, rapidly off-loaded and hurriedly returned to San Diego in order to take on more cargo for Pearl Harbor.
Neches steamed from Pearl Harbor late in the afternoon of 22.January 1942, headed for the western Pacific. Shortly after midnight, the watch discerned a possible submarine at a range of about 1,000 yards and immediately took evasive action. At 0310 there was a heavy thud amidships, probably a dud torpedo
At 0319 a torpedo struck the oiler on the starboard side abaft the engine room. The explosion caused extensive flooding in the engine room spaces, although water did not reach the fire room. At 0328 the submarine was sighted to port just before another torpedo struck the port side. Both 5-inch guns took the submarine under fire and continued firing until 0335 when the list to starboard made it impossible to depress the guns sufficiently.
Neches slowly settled forward and the list to starboard increased steadily. She sank at 0437, with a loss of fifty-seven men.