Navy Veterans

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 by David W Asche

 

I have done a lot of poking around trying to learn stuff about the ships we have sailed or served on, or just wanted to know more about. This one I am writing about now is just
one of those ships that I had a small part in working on in this ship's long history. I found the information on it in various ways, and from various people. Some were not aware of my research and even then, I was not aware of my findings until a lot of it was linked up and looked at more carefully.

LST-975 was laid down in Hingham, Massachusetts on December 1, 1944 by the Bethlehem-Hingham Shipyards and was launched on January 6, 1945 sponsored by Miss Alice J. Varian and was commissioned February 3, 1945 with Lt. David S. Stanley in command.

After shakedown in Chesapeake bay, LST-975 departed New York 27 March 1945
for the Pacific, via the Panama Canal, arriving in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii 1 May for amphibious warfare exercises in the Maui area. She steamed for Seattle, Washington arriving 13 June to embark 119 Army troops and equipment. Sailing on 28 June via Hawaii, Eniwetok, and Saipan, she arrived at Okinawa on 17 August, 2 days after the Japanese capitulated.

On the 23rd, she got underway for Saipan to embark men and equipment of
the 2nd Marine Division for the occupation of Japan. LST-975 reached
Nagasaki 24 September and began unloading. Two days later she continued
on to the Philippines, arriving in San Pedro Bay, Leyte Gulf, 7 October.

LST-975 again got underway for Japan 6 days later, embarked men and equipment
of the Army's 52nd Field Artillery Battalion at Mindanao en route, and arrived at Maysuyama 25 October to disembark passengers and cargo. She returned to the Philippines from Honshu the 29th, mooring at Manila 6 November. The ship spent the next 5 months conveying troops and equipment between the war-torn ports of the Philippines until she decommissioned in Subic Bay, Luzon, 16 April 1946 and was turned over to the Army for operations in the Far East.

She was still in service there when at 0400 on June 25, 1950 the North Korean People's
Republic Army struck south across the 38th Parallel. On 27 June, President Harry S. Truman ordered American naval and air support of the Republic of Korea. That afternoon the Security Council called upon all members of the United nations to assist in repelling the North Korean attack.

With the need for shipping for an immediate large-scale lift of troops and supplies, LST975 was assigned to MSTS 1 July to be manned by a Japanese civilian crew. On 28 August she recommissioned at Yokosuka, Japan, Lt. Arnold W. Rarer in command. 

After training in Kobe, Japan, LST-975 joined the Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet, and
arrived off Inchon, Korea, 15 September for supply duty through the landings 15 to 17 September, and into the middle of October.

That first day she was repeatedly harassed by sniper fire as she beached on Red beach: a mortal shell wounded one man. While she unloaded during the next few days, Marine casualties were brought on board for medical care by Surgical Team 3. Completing unloading by the 17th, she spent the next month on ship-to-shore supply operations.

On 15 October the tank landing ship departed Inchon for Wonsan, arriving the 25th, 5 days after the original landings. The difficulties of land transportation on the peninsula repeatedly emphasized the key importance of seaborne supply. LST-975's supply runs lasted into the middle of 1951.

She departed Yokosuka, Japan, 1 May for the west coast, arriving in San Diego, California the 26th. She operated along the west coast for the next 8 months before returning to the Far East.

LST-975 arrived off Yokosuka 11 March 1952. She again supported the deterrent efforts of the U.N. Forces in Korea from 4 April during protracted armistice negotiations until departing 20 October for the west coast. 

LST-975 operated on the west coast for the next year. On 19 June 1953, she sailed via Seattle, Washington and Point Barrow, Alaska to resupply DEW radar stations along the Arctic Circle. On 25 August she departed Seward, Alaska to resume operations out of San Diego until 19 October when she got underway for another cruise to the Far East.

Following arrival at Yokosuka 13 November, the tank landing ship spent nearly 5 months in amphibious warfare training. From 23 to 26 March 1954, she participated in a simulated assault landing on Iwo Jima -nearly a decade after the World War two operation 19 February 1945, arduously fought  but gloriously finished by the American Navy and Marines.

Returning to the west coast, the LST arrived San Diego 20 May for two years coastal duty. Renamed USS Marion County 1 July 1955, she departed San Diego for training exercises off Hawaii and the Philippines.

After a stay in the Long Beach, California area from 14 April to 5 May, Marion County sailed for Portland, Oregon arriving May 9. The next day she decommissioned and was turned over to MSTS. The ship operated in the Pacific until 26 September 1957 when she entered MSTS "ready service" fleet at Suisun Bay, California. Marion County remained there until 21 October 1960 when she was returned to the Navy account to be placed in temporary custody of the Maritime Commission. On 12 April 1962 Marion County was transferred under the Military Assistance Program to the Republic of Vietnam. Struck from the Navy list 1 June 1963, she became HQ 500 "Cam Ranh" on 17 December 1963.

Her service in Vietnam included duty up the rivers and along the coast, resupplying RVN troops and equipment. During a two week stretch in February-March 1972, the HQ
500 Cam Ranh was moored portside to the USS Hector (AR-7) off of Vung Tau, where two new steel anchors were cast and many other jobs were completed to repair and modify the ship to further continue her services. This is where I had my small part in her history.

With the fall of South Vietnam to the communist invasion, the HQ 500 was loaded with fleeing refugees and set out across the South China Sea for the Republic of the Philippines. There, the ship was handed over to the Philippine Navy and it became a part of that navy on 17 November 1975 and was re-named BPR Zamboanga Del Sur, LT-86. The ship is still in service to this day and still doing its job.(2010)

With all the ships that have come and gone in this man's Navy, we can sure have a couple that stand out from all the rest. Even a lowly LST, LARGE SLOW TARGET, or whatever you call 'em, can be a good famous ship if it gets the chance!

 

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