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USS Marion County (LST-975)

The USS Marion County (LST-975) was an LST-511 Class tank landing ship built in 1944 that saw service in World War II and the Korean War. It was designated the USS Marion County on July 1, 1955, in honor of counties in seventeen U.S. states, including Arkansas.

LST-975 was one of a class of vessels—called Landing Ship, Tank—created to carry tanks, wheeled and tracked vehicles, artillery, construction equipment, and supplies during military operations along coastal areas. Called “Large Slow Targets” by their crews, they were designed as shallow-draft vessels; when carrying a 500-ton load, LST-975 drew only three feet eleven inches forward and nine feet ten inches aft. They carried pontoons amidships that could be used to create causeways when they had to debark their cargos from deeper water, but they were capable of dropping their forward ramps directly onto a beach.

LST-975’s keel was laid down on December 1, 1944, by the Bethlehem-Hingham Shipyards, Inc., at Hingham, Massachusetts, and the ship was christened by Alice J. Varian and launched on January 6, 1945. LST-975 weighed 1,625 tons, was 328 feet long and fifty feet wide, and could reach speeds of 11.6 knots. It carried a crew of thirteen officers and 104 men, and it could transport sixteen officers and 147 soldiers. LST-975 was armed with two twin 40mm guns, four single 40mm guns, and twelve single 20mm guns. The vessel was commissioned on February 3, 1945, under the command of Lieutenant David S. Stanley.

LST-975 had its shakedown cruise (a test of the ship’s performance) in Chesapeake Bay, then left New York for the Pacific on March 27, arriving at Pearl Harbor on May 1. After undergoing amphibious exercises, it picked up 119 men and a load of equipment at Seattle, Washington, on June 13, delivering them at Okinawa on August 17. Embarking Marines and their gear at Saipan, LST-975 dropped them off as occupation troops at Nagasaki on September 24. It then took the Fifty-Second Field Artillery Battalion aboard in the Philippines and carried them to Matsuyama on October 25. It returned to the Philippines on November 6 and operated there until being decommissioned at Subic Bay on April 16, 1946, and turned over to the army.

After the Korean War broke out, LST-975 was assigned to the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) on July 1, 1950, with a civilian Japanese crew. The U.S. Navy recommissioned it on August 28 under the command of Lt. Arnold W. Harer. It underwent training in Japan, then took part in the Inchon landing on September 15, landing on Red Beach and taking aboard wounded marines after delivering its cargo. One sailor was wounded by North Korean mortar fire. LST-975 remained at Inchon until moving to Wonsan on October 25, then conducted supply runs into spring 1951. The vessel sailed to San Diego, California, on May 26, 1951, returning to Korea for another deployment in March 1952 before returning to the United States in late October. LST-975 earned six battle stars for Korean service.

In June 1953, LST-975 was dispatched to the Arctic Circle to supply U.S. Army bases on the Distant Early Warning Line, then was sent to Japan in November for amphibious training, including a mock landing at Iwo Jima March 23–26, 1954. Returning to San Diego on May 20, the vessel performed two years of coastal training. It was designated the USS Marion County on July 1, 1955. After conducting training exercises in Hawaii and the Philippines, the Marion County was sent to Portland, Oregon, and decommissioned on May 10, 1956. It operated under the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) until September 26, 1957, when it was placed in that organization’s “ready reserve” fleet at Suisun Bay, California.

The USS Marion County was returned to the U.S. Navy on October 21, 1960, then transferred to the Republic of Vietnam under the Military Assistance Program on April 12, 1962, where it served as the Cam Rahn (HQ-500). The vessel was struck from the navy list on June 1, 1963. After Saigon fell on April 29, 1975, the Cam Rahn escaped to the Philippines. It was transferred to the Philippine navy on November 17, 1975, serving as the Zamboanga Del Sur (LT-86). It was later decommissioned and sold for scrap. The former USS Marion County was in the breaker’s yard in Navotas, Philippines, in July 2015.

For additional information:
“LST-975 Marion County.” Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. https://www.hazegray.org/danfs/amphib/lst975.txt (accessed June 13, 2018).

Rottman, Gordon L. Landing Ship, Tank (LST) 1942–2002. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing Co., 2005.

“USS Marion County (LST-975).” NavSource.org. http://www.navsource.org/archives/10/16/160975.htm (accessed June 13, 2018).

Mark K. Christ
Little Rock, Arkansas

Last Updated 6/13/2018

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