USS KASKASKIA (AO27) HISTORY
The Esso Richmond was launched 29 September
1939 by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., Newport News,
VA. sponsored by Mrs. Joseph P. Kennedy. Acquired by the Navy from Esso
Oil Company 22 October 1940, and commissioned 29 October 1940, as the USS Kaskaskia (AO27),
Commander U.S. Gregory in Command.
The Auke Visser web site has photos and more information on the history
of the Esso Richmond, the launch
and the sale
to the Maritime Commission.
The USS Kaskaskia (AO27) was named after a river in Illinois.
Kaskaskia received nine Battle Stars for World War II, and seven Stars
for Korean Service.
The USS Kaskaskia (AO27) cleared Boston 19 November 1940 for Pearl Harbor, arriving 3 January 1941. She transported oil between West Coast ports and Pearl Harbor, making six cruises before 7 August, when she made an oil run to Johnston Island. The oiler returned to Mare Island 10 September for overhaul and repairs. In San Francisco when the Japanese made their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, USS Kaskaskia (AO27) immediately began preparations to join the Service Force in the Pacific.
Sailing from San Diego 6 January 1942, USS Kaskaskia (AO27) commenced fueling operations en route before arriving Pago Pago 20 January. For the next 6 months, she operated out of Noumea refueling the ships engaged in the violent struggle to stem the Japanese advance. The oiler arrived Kodiak, Alaska, 3 July with a cargo of oil and fuel to be used in the Aleutian Islands campaign. She returned to Wilmington, California loaded oil and aviation gasoline and continued oil runs to Alaskian ports until she steamed to Noumea late in March, 1943. USS Kaskaskia (AO27) supplied many ships, increasing the mobility of the fleet during the successful campaigns in the South Pacific.
The USS Kaskaskia (AO27) returned to San Pedro, CA 28 July 1942 for repairs before resuming her duties at Pearl Harbor 21 September. She transported oil between California and Hawaii until she sailed 25 November to support the Gilbert Islands campaign. Returning to Pearl Harbor 10 December, the oiler resumed her cruises between San Pedro, California and Hawaii.
As the Navy pushed relentlessly toward Japan, Kaskaskia departed Pearl Harbor 16 January 1944 to support operations in the Marshall Islands. After the navy had captured the Kwajalein and Majuro Atolls, USS Kaskaskia (AO27) supported carrier task forces during their devastating raids on the Truk, the Marianas and Palaus in February and March.
The oiler continued fueling operations in the Marshall Islands area until she cleared Majuro 6 June 1944 to fuel destroyers and destroyer escorts in the invasion of Saipan. Throughout June and July the USS Kaskaskia (AO27) remained on hand, assisting the fleet to take Saipan, Guam, and Tiwan - important supply areas in the future campaign for the Philippines.
As the Navy fought toward the Philippines, Admiral Nimitz decided to take the Palau Islands as a staging area for aircraft and ships during the invasion of Leyte. The USS Kaskaskia (AO27) departed Manus 4 September 1944 with a task group bound for an assault on Peleliu. She operated in the Palau area until returning Manus 8 October. Her stay was a brief one, however, as she sailed 10 October for Leyte. Prior to the actual landings, she fueled units of the fleet, continuing this vital duty until a beachhead had been established. The oiler returned Ulithi 23 October and made another fueling run to the Philippine area early in November.
After an overhaul at San Diego December 1944 through February 1945, USS Kaskaskia (AO27) arrived Kwajalein 11 March to service the fleet. The oiler cleared Utilthi 30 March for the fueling area off Okinawa, the last major step before the Japanese homeland itself. Once again the oilers, the unsung heroes of the war, stood by refueling the many ships engaged in the irresistible assault from the sea on Okinawa.
The USS Kaskaskia (AO27) was relieved of fueling duties off Okinawa only to be summoned for another important service. She departed Utilthi 3 July 1945 to refuel units of the carrier task forces, launching raids on the Japanese Islands of Honshu and Hokkaido. When the enemy capitulated, USS Kaskaskia (AO27) steamed into Tokyo Bay 10 September with ships of the Occupation Forces. She continued refueling operations in Japan, China, and Formosa for an entire year before arriving San Pedro, CA, 28 September 1946.
Between 1947 and 1950, she ferried oil and aviation gasoline from the West Coast to the Far East and naval bases in the mid-pacific. When communist troops invaded South Korea, the United States accepted the challenge and order its forces to defend the heavily mined waters off Wonsan, fueling ships blockading and bombarding the key port.
During December, 1950 she arrived off Hungnam to service ships engaged in evacuation operations in that area. Through-out the harsh winter months, USS Kaskaskia (AO27) continued vital fueling missions between Japan and Korea. During the U.N. counteroffensive in the spring of 1951, she also stood by for fueling operations. The oiler returned to Long Beach, CA on 27 August 1951 for overhaul and operations along the Pacific Coast.
She sailed for the second Korean tour January 1952, arriving Sasebo on the 22nd to refuel the ships engaged in the Korean conflict. In addition to services in Korea, she also supplied units in Japan, Okinawa and Formosa before returning Long Beach, CA 31 July 1953. Overhaul and training proceeded her third Korean deployment from 27 December to July, 1953. On this tour she supported ships engaged in fire support operations. Returning home 17 August 1953. The USS Kaskaskia (AO27) underwent overhaul; she then sailed again for the Far East 4 January 1954, operated out of Sasebo and returning San Francisco 12 October. Following coastal operation, the oiler was placed out of Commission in reserve 8 April 1955.
USS Kaskaskia (AO27) was transferred to MSTS 8 January 1957, and operated in that capacity with a Navy crew until 21 October 1957, when she was decommissioned and was turned over to the Maritime Administration 10 December. Kaskaskia was struck from the Navy List 2 January 1959.
The Berlin Crisis of 1961 necessitated the reactivation of ships and USS Kaskaskia (AO27) was reinstated 8 September. Following overhaul and alterations, she recommissioned at Hoboken, N.J. 6 December 1961, Captain John D. Howell in command. After shakedown operations in the Caribbean, the oiler arrived Mayport, FL, 1 May 1962. Throughout the summer, she engaged in exercises off the Florida Coast, and sailed to the Azores to participate in Project Mercury, (manned orbital flights.) She was in company with the Kearsage during the latter's recovery of Astronaut Walter Schirra 2 October 1962, demonstrating the large role of the Navy in space operations.
USS Kaskaskia (AO27) returned to Mayport 22 October 1962 and 2 days later sailed to participate in the Cuban quarantine. President Kennedy ordered the blockade when the Soviet Union tried to plant offensive missiles only 90 miles from the United States. The naval pressure persuaded the Soviet Union to withdraw the missiles, easing the crisis. The oiler returned to operations out of Mayport 21 November.
She cleared Mayport 5 February 1963, for a six month Mediterranean cruise to refuel ships of the 6th Fleet, then resumed refueling exercises off Florida for the rest of the year. During 1964 USS Kaskaskia (AO27) engaged in fueling operations and exercises off Florida and in the Caribbean, constantly seeking improved methods to increase the mobility of the Fleet.
On 6 January 1965, USS Kaskaskia (AO27) sailed for another 6th Fleet deployment. While she was operating in the Mediterranean, her crew worked day and night delivering over 19,000,000 gallons of fuel to 169 ships.
USS Kaskaskia (AO27) returned to Mayport, FL 7 June 1965. She operated primarily along the Atlantic Coast and in the Caribbean into 1967. Highlights of this period were service to ships patrolling off the coast of riot-torn Santo Domingo in the summer of 1965 and participation in the recovery team for an unmanned Apollo space flight in February of 1966.
USS KASKASKIA (AO27): DP. 7,256 (LT.); l 553'; b. 75': dr. 32'4"; s.18k.; cpl.272; a.25", 23"; Class T-3 Tanker
The November 1993 edition of the USS Kaskaskia Blast reported “Saga of the USS Kaskaskia (AO27), September 17, 1970, towed from Philadelphia, PA by a Japanese ocean going tug named the “Daisey” to a scrap yard at Kaohsiung, Taiinan, arriving there 20 December 1970 and scrapped by ship breakers. The Kaskaskia was a T-3 class tanker.”
The November 2010 Universal Ship Cancellation Society Log (www.uscs.org) containes a history of the USS KAskaskia which is reprinted here with permission.
The Auke Visser web site has additional early photos of the USS Kaskaskia as the ESSO Richmond and during fueling operations in the 1940's.
A list of all of the USS Kaskaskia (AO27) Commanding Officers can be found here.