USS Henry W. Tucker (DD/DDR 875) was named in honor of Pharmacist's mate
third class Henry Warren Tucker, United States Naval Reserve. He was born in
Birmingham, Alabama on 5 October 1919. He enlisted in the USNR on 24 June 1941.
Tucker was called to active duty in July 1941, and was assigned to the US Naval
Hospital in Pensacola Florida. On 15 January 1942, he was transferred aboard the
tanker, USS Neosho (AO 23) for sea duty. The NEOSHO had just survived the Pearl
Harbor attack despite being berthed on “Battleship Row”.
For next five months NEOSHO fueled fighting ships all over the Pacific.
On 7 May 1942, five
months to the day after
the crushing attack at
Pearl Harbor, in the
company of the Destroyer
USS Sims (DD 409), she was to meet the carriers of
her task force a few hundred miles off the Australian
coast. Captain Phillips had received a coded message
that the Japanese were near at hand in heavy force.
What the Captain could not know for radio silence was
that the battle of the Coral Sea was here and now, and
his ship was between the opposing fleets.
The Imperial Japanese Navy was at the peak of its success. The United States was striving desperately to regroup
and regain the advantage. The USS Neosho (AO 23) steamed restlessly, her men alert for the sudden deadly
appearance of the flashing wing displaying the fire-like sun symbol. And it came...
During the opening phase of the battle of the
Coral Sea, Japanese naval forces launched an
aerial attack on what they believed was the main
U.S. battle force. What the Japanese found
instead was the NEOSHO and the destroyer USS
Sims (DD 409) waiting for a fueling rendezvous.
Facing a 60-plane attack, the fate of the two
American ships was never in doubt. SIMS
exploded and sank immediately with a loss of 237
men, almost the entire crew. Despite its cargo of
burning aviation gas and fuel oil, the NEOSHO
managed to remain afloat for a while because
some of the fuel tanks were empty and their
buoyancy kept the oiler afloat.
Neosho’s position when she was attacked
was determined later as Longitude 158º03E,
NEOSHO attempted numerous maneuvers but
could not avoid what was inevitable. She was hit,
and hit again. Fires blazed uncontrolled. Burning
and immobilized, the Neosho began listing sharply
in the choppy seas. She heeled slowly. Her life
was ebbing as the Pacific waters invaded her.
Afraid that NEOSHO would capsize, Captain John Phillips ordered the crew to prepare to abandon ship. NEOSHO’s
decks were canting perilously, and men scrambled in desperation to free the life rafts.
Dozens of men immediately jumped into the water. Many of those drowned while others piled into the three
motorized whaleboats that slowly circled the ailing ship. Dozens more clambered onto life rafts that slowly began
drifting away from NEOSHO. Most of those men were never seen again.
THE MAN - PAGE 1 OF 3
INTRODUCTION - THE MAN - PhM3 Henry Warren Tucker 1919 – 1942
More men jumped. Still others fell. The surrounding waters were turmoil of burning oil, debris, and shouting,
struggling humanity. Many men were afflicted with searing burns received on board or in the water, suffering
With complete disregard for his own life, Henry Tucker swam between the various life rafts, carrying tannic acid in
his hands to treat the burns of the injured men. He
braved the dangers of exposure and exhaustion to
continue his task, helping the injured to boats, but
refusing a place for himself.
The Japanese imperial forces took this photo of
NEOSHO during their attack. It has since been
released and is now posted on Wikipedia.
The next morning, the men on the motor
whaleboats went back aboard the immobilized
NEOSHO, now listing at 30 degrees with the
starboard rail underwater, and Captain John Phillips
did a head count. Of the 293 men onboard the ship
before the attack, 20 men were confirmed dead and
158 men were missing, many of whom were on the
rafts that had drifted away from the ship.
Despite the battering it had suffered, NEOSHO
refused to sink, buoyed by her partly emptied
tanks. The deck of the listing ship, however, was a
mess. Half of the men were burned or wounded and almost everyone was covered with black oil. The men patiently
waited in the hot sun for three days without knowing what had happened in the battle. They had almost decided to
abandon NEOSHO when an Australian aircraft participating in the search flew overhead, signaling: "Do you need
help?" Captain Phillips signaled his response: "What do you think?"
NEOSHO’s location was transmitted and the next day, on 11 May, the 123 men remaining on the badly listing but
still afloat NEOSHO were rescued by the destroyer, USS Henley (DD 391). After the surviving 123 men were
safely aboard the Henley, the destroyer tried to sink NEOSHO so that the Japanese wouldn't find her. The ailing
tanker was stubborn, though, and it took two torpedoes followed by 146 shells to put her under. Finally she began
to sink, stern first, and many of NEOSHO's crewmen wept from the deck of HENLEY as they watched their beloved
tanker sink beneath the waves.
Five days later, another destroyer, USS Helm (DD 388), picked up four more survivors of the attack several miles
away. These were the only survivors of those 68 Neosho crewmen who had jumped into rafts and lashed them
together shortly after the attack. Two of those rescued died shortly after.
Henry Tucker was one of many subsequently reported as missing in action and it is believed he lost his life in his
loyal and courageous devotion to duty. Those who survived and were rescued shared their stories of the brave
efforts by Henry Tucker to treat the suffering of as many men as he possibly could. His valorous actions enhance
and sustain the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
For his actions during this attack and the subsequent sinking of NEOSHO, Henry Warren Tucker was posthumously
awarded the Purple Heart and the Navy Cross, one of the highest tributes that can be paid by his country.
THE MAN - PAGE 2 OF 3
INTRODUCTION - THE MAN - PhM3 Henry Warren Tucker 1919 – 1942
The Navy Cross Henry Warren Tucker The Purple Heart
The Navy Cross citation reads as follows:
"For extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line
of his professionalism following the attack on USS Neosho by
enemy Japanese aerial forces on 7 May 1942.
With complete disregard for his own life, Tucker swam between the
various life rafts carrying tannic acid in his hands to treat the
burns of the injured men. He hazarded the dangers of exposure
and exhaustion to continue his task, helping the injured to boats
but refusing a place for himself. Tucker was subsequently reported
missing in action and it is believed he lost his life in his loyal and
courageous devotion to duty. His valorous actions enhance and
sustain the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
For the President
Secretary of the Navy
FROM THE FILES OF JIM ALVAREZ, GMG1 USN (RET.)
SERVICE YEARS 1969-1991
If you didn't know the Tucker was the First US Navy Ship to fire into South Viet Nam (NGFS) and was also involved in Operation
Red Dragon. There were many other Destroyers and a few cruiser including the USS New Jersey who went up to North Viet Nam
and fired into Haiphong Harbor and the big smoke containers were used to place a smokescreen so that the North would not be able
to fire back or see who was firing into the Harbor area.
Of course the bigger guns were further away and hit into the downtown area of Haiphong and killed many. This was the biggest battle
that the Tucker was involved, but there is more history to the ship.
She was also involved in the Apollo Program and had a rig on the Fantail to pick up the capsule. Also in May of 1969, the Tucker was
sent up to North Korea to help search for a down EW-121 US Navy Spy Plane which was shot down by the North Koreans. The ship
found 3 bodies and they were placed into the refers until the ship returned back to Sasabo, Japan where the bodies where taken away
by NIS and Depart of Defense Medial for proper ID's and then shipped home for proper burial.
Since I didn't come onboard until June 15, 1969, I was Highline from the USS Troloya OE-62 and the Tucker was sent into Da Nang
for NGFS and I spend my fire 4th of July in Da Hang Harbor firing in support of American Forces fighting in that area. The ship was later
sprayed with gallons of Agent Orange as a US Air Force 130-A flew out of Da Nang Air Base and released many gallons of Agent Orange
on the deck and I remember having to go out there along with the rest of the crew to clean up the oil and Agent Orange.
9 members of the crew were hurt and 6 received stitches' from cutting themselves. Since I was by then placed as the new Weapons
Yeoman since I was the only one who could type and had trained in Office procedures, they liked the way I typed the report and how
fast I could type them with very few mistakes. I was also the Ship's Photographer and help with the Crews Book.
After we got back from Japan, I was sent home on leave and within 10 days I was called back to the Tucker which was now stationed
in San Diego and flew back from Texas and received orders to report to New Constriction to Bremerton, Washington Navy Ship Yard
to Commission the USS Lockwood DE-1064 a Knox Class Destroyer Escort that was the new ASW Ships to be place into service.
I made a few more tours on her back to Viet Nam and then was sent to El Paso, TX to the Naval Reserve Center where I went to UTEP
The Tucker was also involved in many other operations that including going into Cambodia, but as were headed there, a
Thai Fishing Boat was flagging us down and I was the After Lookout and reported the boat coming at us. The ship when into GQ
and the Gunner's Mate's manned the .50 Cal Machine Guns, but when I told the Bridge that the boat was a Fishing boat flying
the Thailand Flag and that they had a fisherman needing medical attention.
As the ship come up, they brought the wounded fisherman on board and later we found out that he was stabbed by another fisherman
with a string rey tip and stabbed the fisherman with it several times. He was treated and the fisherman didn't have any money, so they
gave us many fish in payment and had to tell them that we didn't need anymore fish. Those pictures I took and were placed in the
Cruise Book. We did come into the water of Combodia, but we never fired any rounds there.
We were later sent back up to Qun Tri area and fired many other rounds at the DMZ area before being sent to the Phillipines to
rearm and some much needed rest after being on the Gun Line for 7 weeks.
Some of the others who were on the Tucker before me could help you with the events prior to when I was sent there. I took many
notes in my journal and recored most of the stuff from so many shipmates, but those tapes were lost when I moved from NAS New
Orleans to Long Beach to the USS Racine LST-1191. She was the worst duty I had ever had next to Recruiting.
Many of the members of the Tucker are sick from the Effects of Agent Orange. I have been trying to help as many
Veterans as possible for them to get there C&P. But at the present the Tucker has been listed as the Blue Water Navy, though
we were in anchored in Da Nang many times and also had to tie to the pier in Cam Ram Bay because the ship was involved in
very rough waters and the after King Post broke and 19 members of the crew were hurt and 12 needed medical care and one
needed to have his arm placed in a cast. SN Collins from the Deck Force.
We pulled into Cam Ram Bay and tied to the pier for about 14 hours and loaded up with fuel, water, food, Ammo and much
needed Mail. By getting water from the pier, this puts the ship in danger to where the water we got was contaminated with Agent
Orange, but the VA at times is still trying to see if the Tucker was in the Brown Water Navy because several ship have already
been put there and those members of those ship are now getting Compensation and Pension from the effects of Agent Orange.
I'm one of them. I am 100% from many Service Connected Injuries and since I was a Gunner's Mate, the many oil, greases,
and paints plus the effect of Asbestoses also. I have had over 39 operations since I left the Navy on Oct 31, 1991 and will
be having yet another operation on my left elbow since my bones have becoming brittle because of the effects of Agent Orange.
I did 3 tours of South Viet Nam and many other places where I was sprayed or given meds to stop being sick from Anthrax.
USS Henry W. Tucker
Displacement: 2,425 tons
Speed: 35 knots
Armament: 6 5"/38, 8 40mm., 2x5 21" torpedo tubes
Power Source: High-pressure super-heated boilers, geared turbines with twin screws, 60,000 h.p.
29 May 1944
Consolidated Steel Corp.
12 March 1945
First Commanding Officer:
Comdr. Bernard H. Meyer
Radar Picket Destroyer
18 March 1949
15 March 1963
3 December 1973
San Diego, CA
> Aided in post-World War II occupation of Japan and repatriation of Japanese nationals
> Patrolled Pacific Ocean in connection with US atomic tests
> Hit by six enemy shells on 28 June 1951 as she steamed into Korea's Wonsan Harbor (two men injured and extensive damage to radar gear)
> Awarded seven battle stars for her participation in the Korean conflict
> First US ship to provide naval gunfire support against enemy targets in Vietnam on 16 May 1965