15 February 2009

Hillsborough's 21,000 Ton War Hero

Much has been written about our state's famous namesake battleship, New Jersey. She is the most decorated battleship in naval history, having participated in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Lebanese Civil War of 1983/1984.

Less is commonly known about Hillsborough Township's own namesake warship, the USS Neshanic (AO-71), one of five Chiwawa Class oilers named for rivers with Native American names. Oilers are used for refueling and for transporting petroleum products.

Built in 1942 at the Bethlehem Shipyard in Sparrows Point, Maryland, the USS Neshanic was commissioned on 20 February 1943 and saw service in the Pacific during World War II.




Neshanic's most meritorious moment came on 18 June 1944 off of Saipan. For about two hours that afternoon, Neshanic and other support ships were under continuous Japanese air attack. At 4:42 P.M. she took a direct hit from a 100 pound bomb, which landed on the cargo deck, but luckily did not pierce the deck through to the fuel tanks.

Thirty-three crew members were injured fighting the ensuing fires, which were quickly brought under control. Neshanic then exacted her revenge - gun crews were able to bring down two Japanese planes.

The USS Neshanic received nine Battle Stars for service in the war before being decommissioned on 19 December 1945. She was later sold to the Gulf Oil Corporation, sailing as the SS Gulfoil, and then in 1958 was sold to the Pioneer Steamship Company and converted to a straight deck bulk carrier.

In 1962 she was sold to the Oglebay Norton Company and renamed SS Middletown.




Neshanic was later sold to Liberty Steamship Company and renamed SS American Victory.



As of 2007, Hillsborough's 21,000 ton war hero was still afloat, sailing the Great Lakes cargo routes.

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