TWO SHIPS NAMED
The first USS PONCHATOULA was a Sequatchie Class Auxiliary Oiler Gasoline (AOG-38). Displacement was 2,700m/t; Overall length 2206"; Beam 37; Draft 131"; Speed 10 knots; Crew Members Assigned 62; Armament (1) 3", (2) 40mm deck guns. She was built by East Coast Shipyards, Inc., in Bayonne, NJ and launched 30 July 1944. Sponsored by Miss Cynthia Tenety; delivered to the Navy 30 September 1944 and commissioned 6 October 1944 with Lt. W.G. Peyton in command.
Following shakedown, PONCHATOULA departed the east coast on 13 December 1944, took on oil in the Netherlands West Indies and continued on to San Diego. On 19 January 1945 she headed for Pearl Harbor, whence she shuttled gasoline to Canton Island in February. In March, she sailed for Ulithi with a cargo of aviation gasoline and diesel fuel and in May crossed the remaining distance to Okinawa in convoy, anchoring off the Hagushi beaches on the 16th. Assigned to shuttle oil and gasoline from larger tankers to the fleets smaller ships, she shifted to le Shima on the 19th and to Kerama Retto on the 29th. Remaining in the area through the end of the World War II, PONCHATOULA continued her shuttle service until 14 December 1945 when she got underway for the United States and deactivation.
Decommissioned at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, CA on 24 April 1946.
PONCHATOULA was struck from the Navy list 31 May 1946 and transferred to the Maritime Commission for further disposal 9 September 1946.
PONCHATOULA earned one battle star during World War II.
The second USS PONCHATOULA was a Neosho Class Auxiliary Oiler (AO-148) Displacement was 38,000m/t; Overall length 655; Beam 86; Draft 35; Speed 20+ knots; Crew Members Assigned 324; Armament (2) 5", 12 3" deck guns. She was built by the New York Shipbuilding Corp., Camden, NJ and launched 9 July 1955. Sponsored by Mrs. I.N. Kiland and commissioned 12 January 1956 with Capt. William R. Wilson in command.
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 in Long Beach 10 March, she underwent shakedown and training exercises off the California coast and in September deployed to the Far East. Enroute 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 since that time, 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 the that year. Support for experimental operations highlighted 1962 as she provided POL services to Joint Task Force 8 engaged in operation "Dominic", the Christmas Island nuclear test series, then operated with Project Mercury recovery ships during the "Sigma Six" splashdown. Repeating that support with "Faith Seven" in l963, she shifted to combat operations in October 1964 as she deployed to the South China Sea to refuel ships employed off the coast of Viet Nam. 279 refuelings later, she returned to Hawaiian waters. In June 1965 she participated in recovery operations of Gemini Four, then deployed again to Viet Nam. In December she interrupted operations there to support the recovery ships for Gemini Six and Seven and in April 1966 returned to Hawaii having set a new record in the Pacific Fleet by bringing 503 ships alongside, 464 of which she refueled. Deployed to West Pac again in November 1967, she pumped over 74 million gallons of fuel through her hoses before returning home in June 1968. In October she again joined the ships in the Pacific splashdown area, this time to recover Apollo 7, the first U.S. three-man flight.
By 8 December, PONCHATOULA was back in the Philippines, whence she got underway for Yankee Station in Tonkin Gulf on the 15th to again replenish ships operating in support of Allied operations in Viet Nam. In July 1969, she returned home and into 1970 remained in Hawaiian waters.
In mid 1970s upon completion of her usual WestPac deployment, she returned to the United States via the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Suez Canal, Mediterranean Sea, and Atlantic Ocean under the command of (then CAPT. later ADM) Leon F. "Bud" EDNEY, who decommissioned the ship April 1, 1992.
PONCHATOULA was immediately transferred to the military Sealift Command as T-AO-148, and served throughout the Pacific Ocean area until she was again transferred to the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration May 1, 1999. She is now moored in the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet in Benicia, CA.
NOTE - The information listed above concerning the USS PONCHATOULA (AOG-38) and the USS PONCHATOULA (AO-148) was researched, and written by Mr. Bernard McMurray of Ponchatoula, LA. He has given the USS PONCHATOULA Shipmates Association permission to print it for distribution to members of the Association.