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USNS Ponchatoula (T-AO-148)
USNS Ponchatoula (T-AO-148) at sea
USNS Ponchatoula (T-AO-148) at sea
Name: USS Ponchatoula
Ordered: 28 January 1952
Builder: New York Shipbuilding, Camden, New Jersey
Laid down: 1 March 1954
Launched: 9 July 1955
Commissioned: 12 January 1956
Struck: 31 August 1992
Honors and
12 campaign stars (Vietnam)
General characteristics
Class & type: Neosho-class oiler
Displacement: 11,600 long tons (11,786 t) light
38,000 long tons (38,610 t) full
Length: 655 ft (200 m)
Beam: 86 ft (26 m)
Draft: 35 ft (11 m)
Propulsion: 2 geared turbines
2 boilers
2 shafts
28,000 shp (20.9 MW)
Speed: 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)
Capacity: 180,000 bbl (29,000 m3)
Complement: USS : 324
USNS : 106 Civilian mariners, 21 Navy
Armament: • 2 × single 5"/38 caliber dual purpose guns
• 6 × twin 3"/50 caliber dual purpose guns

USS Ponchatoula (AO-148) was one of six Neosho-class fleet oilers built for the United States Navy, in service from 1956 to 1992, and named for the Ponchatoula creek which rises in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, and flows into the Natalbany River, west of Ponchatoula, Louisiana. She was the second U.S. Naval vessel to bear the name. Ponchatoula was laid down at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey, on 1 March 1954, launched on 9 July 1955, sponsored by Mrs. I. N. Kiland, and commissioned on 12 January 1956 with Capt. William R. Wilson in command.

Service history[edit | edit source]

After fitting out at Philadelphia, Ponchatoula, the sixth of a class designed to combine speed and large cargo capacity for rapid underway replenishment over extended operational periods, got underway for the Pacific. Arriving at Long Beach, California, on 10 March, she underwent shakedown and training exercises off the California coast and in September deployed to the Far East. En route she assisted SS Venus, a Panamanian merchantman lying helpless on the fringes of two typhoons. Taking Venus in tow on the 26th, Ponchatoula was relieved of her tow on the 28th, and continued on to Sasebo to join the 7th Fleet.

Rotated regularly to the western Pacific, Ponchatoula was homeported at Pearl Harbor in early 1958 and received her introduction to support under hostile conditions while operating with 7th Fleet units during the Quemoy-Matsu Crisis in the fall of that year. Support for experimental operations highlighted 1962 as she provided POL (petroleum, oil, lubricants) services to Joint Task Force 8 engaged in "Operation Dominic I" (the Christmas Island nuclear test series), then operated with Project Mercury recovery ships during the Sigma 7 splashdown. Repeating that support with ' in 1963, she shifted to combat operations in October 1964 and deployed to the South China Sea to refuel ships employ the coast of Vietnam. After 279 refuelings, she returned to Hawaiian waters. In June 1965 she participated in recovery operations for Gemini 4, then deployed again to Vietnam. In December she interrupted operations there to support the recovery ships for Gemini 6 and Gemini 7 and in April 1966 returned to Hawaii after having set a new record in the Pacific Fleet by bringing 503 ships alongside, 464 of which she refueled. Deployed to WestPac again in November 1967, she pumped over 74 million US gallons (280,000 m3) of fuel through her hoses before returning home in June 1968. In October she again joined ships in the Pacific splashdown area, this time to recover Apollo 7, the first U.S. three-man flight.

USNS Ponchatoula in 1991.

By 8 December, Ponchatoula was back in the Philippines, whence she got underway for "Yankee Station" in the Gulf of Tonkin on the 15th again to replenish ships operating in support of Allied operations in Vietnam. Ponchatoula earned twelve battle stars for Vietnam War service. In July 1969, she returned home and into 1970 remained in Hawaiian waters.

In 1972 she refueled USS Berkeley (DDG 15) homebound from the Vietnam War.

Decommissioned in the 1980s, Ponchatoula was placed in service with the Military Sealift Command (MSC) as USNS Ponchatoula (T-AO-148). Ponchatoula was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 31 August 1992; her title was transferred to MARAD on 1 May 1999 for lay-up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet, Suisun Bay, Benicia, California. MARAD listed Ponchatoula still at Suisun Bay in February 2007.

USS Ponchatoula (AO-148).jpg

References[edit | edit source]

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

See also[edit | edit source]

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