USS Ponchatoula (AO-148) (Non-retention)
The USS Ponchatoula, the sixth tanker in the Neosho-class of fleet oilers, was laid down in Camden, New Jersey, by the New York Shipbuilding Corp. on March 1, 1954. The ship was launched on July 9, 1954 and it was commissioned on January 12, 1956. Although the Ponchatoula was a support vessel rather than a combat ship, it came equipped with two five-inch guns and 12 rapid-fire three-inch anti-aircraft guns mounted in several gun tubs. Ponchatoula had a very long and distinguished career. In addition to serving the majority of its career in Southeast Asia, from 1963 through 1967, it assisted in a number of historic recovery operations for the Projects Mercury and Gemini spaceflights. During the spring of 1966, Ponchatoula set a Navy record by refueling hundreds of vessels. Although Ponchatoula continued to serve successfully in the Western Pacific, newer and more modern fleet oilers were being added to the Navy's Pacific Fleet. After 43 years of service, Ponchatoula was removed from the Navy's active duty fleet on August 31, 1992. On May 1, 1999, the Navy transferred the ship to the Maritime Administration's National Defense Reserve Fleet at Suisun Bay, in Benicia, California.