USS Cossatot (AO-77)

aka: USNS Cossatot

The USS Cossatot was a tanker in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Named for the Cossatot River in southwestern Arkansas, the USS Cossatot served in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of war.

The Cossatot, which was a Type 2-SE-A1 tanker, served as a fleet oiler, supplying fuel and other necessities to ships at sea. It was constructed in Chester, Pennsylvania, by the Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. Originally laid down as the Fort Necessity, the ship was launched on February 28, 1943, and then transferred to the navy on March 17, 1943. Commander P. G. Beck served as the first captain of the ship when it was commissioned on April 20, 1943, in Norfolk, Virginia. Upon its commissioning into the navy, the ship was renamed the Cossatot.

The ship was loaded with fuel oil, gasoline, and kerosene in Texas before crossing the Atlantic during the summer of 1943, refueling convoy escorts during the voyage. The Cossatot arrived in Casablanca, Morocco, and then returned to Virginia. Over the next year, the Cossatot escorted seven more convoys to North Africa. On December 28, 1944, the ship moved to the Pacific Ocean with a load of fuel from Aruba. On January 20, 1945, the Cossatot arrived at Pearl Harbor.

Joining the Fifth Fleet near Saipan on February 12, the Cossatot supported operations in that area until March 3, when the ship moved to Ulithi. From March 13 until April 12, the ship operated off Iwo Jima while United States forces took the island. On April 16, the Cossatot moved with the fleet to Okinawa, where the ship supported operations to take the island.

On April 28, 1945, the ship was attacked by a kamikaze suicide plane, which the crew shot down before it could strike. The Cossatot returned to Ulithi on May 4 to refill its tanks of fuel. The ship used Ulithi as a base for the remainder of the war and supported fast carrier Task Force 38 until September 2, 1945. The Cossatot received two battle stars for service during the war.

The Cossatot continued to operate in the Pacific Ocean, even after the end of the war. It arrived at Okinawa on September 21 to supply ships tasked with occupying Japan. The ship returned to the United States on November 25, 1945, arriving in San Francisco, California. Decommissioned on March 7, 1946, the Cossatot was transferred to the Maritime Commission on October 28, 1946. In February 1948, the ship was transferred to the Military Sea Transportation Service, and on October 1, 1949, began active service in the Military Sealift Transportation Command as the USNS Cossatot.

The Cossatot continued its service until 1974, when it was laid up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet. Struck from the Naval Register on September 18, 1974, the ship was sold for scrap the next year.

The USS Cossatot is the only ship in the U.S. Navy ever to be named for Arkansas’s Cossatot River.

For additional information:
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Vol. 2. Washington DC: Navy Department, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Naval History Division, 1963.

David Sesser
Henderson State University


    I was wondering how ships are named by the U.S. Navy and found out that different classes have different protocols. Oilers, like the Cossatot, are named for rivers with Native American names. It looks like the navy got this one wrong since the name Cossatot stems from a French word. Just a thought.

    Jeffrey Williams Sherwood, AR