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Home > Family History > USS Neosho > The Battle of the Coral Sea > Other Ships > USS Helm


The U.S.S. Neosho at Coral Sea

The U.S.S. Helm (DD-388)




Four days after the tanker U.S.S. Neosho and destroyer U.S.S. Sims were attacked by Japanese dive-bombers, 123 men still clung to the listing deck of the ailing tanker.  That afternoon, the destroyer U.S.S. Henley found the Neosho, transferred the survivors on board, and headed for Brisbane, Australia.


Meanwhile, the search continued in the Coral Sea for the 158 men who had drifted away from the Neosho on life rafts shortly after the attack.  These men most likely would have been rescued that day or the next if the correct coordinates had been transmitted to the U.S. Pacific Fleet -- however, they were not, and the search was focused in an area about 40 miles from the Neosho.  Because of this error, almost all of the men on these life rafts perished.


On the morning of May 16, a full nine days after the attack, the destroyer U.S.S. Helm spotted a life raft from the U.S.S. Neosho floating in the Coral Sea.  Miraculously, four survivors were aboard the small raft.  Shortly after the Neosho had been attacked on May 7, 68 men had climbed into four life rafts and lashed them together.  During the next nine days, all but four of these men perished from thirst and exposure; some, nearly delirious, drank seawater and died quickly.  I've posted the Report of the U.S.S. Helm at Coral Sea describing the rescue of the four men.  


Shortly after the men were rescued by the U.S.S. Helm, one man, named Kenneth Bright, died aboard the Helm.  Several days later, another, named Thaddeus Tunnel, died in a hospital in Brisbane, Australia.  The only two survivors of the original group of 68, William Smith and Jack Rolston, returned to the U.S. and lived for many more years.


Here are some photos of the U.S.S. Helm:


USS_Helm_DD-388_and_Blue_DD-387_Christening_May_1937.jpg (115961 bytes)    USS_Helm_ca_1937-39.jpg (44825 bytes)    USS_Helm_From_Above_Feb_1942.jpg (106449 bytes)


Right:  Five days after 123 men were rescued from the listing Neosho, the destroyer U.S.S. Helm discovered four men in a raft.  These were the only survivors from a group of 68 men who had drifted away from the Neosho shortly after the attack on May 7. 

The Helm's whaleboat is on the left, and the Neosho's raft is on the right, partly submerged, one stacked upon another for added buoyancy.  The four men had floated in the Coral Sea for nine days without food or water and were all in critical condition.  Sadly, shortly after being rescued, two of the four men died.




Table of Contents:

U.S.S. Neosho  (AO-23)

U.S.S. Neosho (AO-23) Home Page


Specifications of the U.S.S. Neosho

The Four U.S.S. Neoshos


Photo Gallery of the U.S.S. Neosho


The Pearl Harbor Attack  (December 7, 1941)

Prelude to War:  Conflict in the Far East

Bill Leu's Early Years

The U.S.S. Neosho at Pearl Harbor

Bill Leu Interview:  Pearl Harbor Attack

U.S. Navy Action Report:  U.S.S. Neosho


The Battle of the Coral Sea  (May 1942)

The Battle of the Coral Sea:  Summary

Battle Action:  April 30 - May 4, 1942 

Battle Action:  May 5 - May 7, 1942

Battle Action:  May 8, 1942

The U.S.S. Neosho at Coral Sea

May 7, 1942:  The Attack

May 8, 1942:  Waiting For Rescue

May 9, 1942:  Fading Hope

May 10, 1942:  Neosho Sighted

May 11, 1942:  Rescue

List of Survivors & Casualties

The Battle of the Coral Sea  (May 1942 - cont.)

Bill Leu Interview:  Battle of the Coral Sea

U.S. Navy Action Reports:  Coral Sea

Action Report of the U.S.S. Neosho

Action Report of the U.S.S. Sims

U.S.S. Helm Report

Other Ships at Coral Sea

The U.S.S. Sims (Neosho's Escort)

The U.S.S. Henley (Neosho's Rescuer)

The U.S.S. Helm (Rescued Life Raft)

Coral Sea Scrapbook

S.F. Examiner Article, July 10, 1942



President Bush's Speech at Pearl Harbor

Seattle Times:  Bill Leu at Pearl Harbor

Obituary of Captain John S. Phillips


U.S.S. Neosho Veteran's Forum


Sources & Further Information

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