History of The USS Wexford County (LST-1168)
April 18, 1999
Thanks to Steve Snyder for the photos
LST-1168 was laid down on 27 February 1952 by the Christy Corp., Sturgeon Bay, Wis., launched on 28 November 1953; sponsored by Mrs. Philip K. Wrigley and commissioned on 15 June 1954, Lt. Comdr. Victor Vansant in command.
Following commissioning, LST-1168 was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet with a home port at Norfolk, Va. She spent the remainder of 1954 in training, shakedown, upkeep, and independent ship exercises.
On 14 February 1955, she departed Norfolk for a three-month tour of duty in the Caribbean, operating from the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. While in the Caribbean, the ship visited San Juan and Ponce, Puerto Rico; and St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. Upon returning to Norfolk in May, she engaged in exercises and spent the summer of 1955 on reserve cruises and midshipmen training exercises. The tank landing ship received the name USS Wexford County (LST-1168) on 1 July 1955.
In late 1955, Wexford County entered the shipyard at Philadelphia for overhaul and remained there into April 1956. She completed overhaul and arrived back at Little Creek on 4 April. The ship then participated in east coast operations until July, when she deployed for the Caribbean. After stops at Vieques and Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, she returned briefly to Little Creek, then set out for the west coast via the Panama Canal. Wexford County arrived at Long Beach, Calif., on 2 September 1956 and spent the year conducting routine operations off the California coast.
In January 1957, the ship reported to Long Beach for overhaul and remained there until April. She departed for San Francisco on 4 April and entered an upkeep period which lasted until 20 June. She returned to San Diego on 22 July 1957, where the tank landing ship continued operations along the California coast.
Wexford County departed for Pearl Harbor and her first deployment to the western Pacific on 23 January 1958 en route to Yokosuka, Japan. From Yokosuka, the ship made stops in Hong Kong; Sasebo Japan, and Inchon, Korea. On 24 June 1958, she left for San Diego and arrived there on 18 August. After several months of activity, she went into upkeep on 5 December at Long Beach.
On 29 January 1959, Wexford County departed for Yokosuka again via Hong Kong and Okinawa. She arrived at Yokosuka on 24 March 1959. The ship made several shuttles between Yokosuka and Sasebo, Japan and Naha, Okinawa. She left Yokosuka for San Diego, arriving there on 7 June 1959. The remainder of the year was spent in exercises off the coast and routine upkeep.
During the next several years, Wexford County was involved in numerous routine operations along the California coast. A highlight of these years was a deployment to Guam, for which she departed San Diego on 2 January 1962. After steaming 5,480 miles, she arrived on 23 January. The ship conducted operations for reconnaissance and installation of weather stations in the eastern Caroline Islands. The ship returned to San Diego on 1 September 1962. On 10 July 1963, she commenced overhaul at Bethlehem Steel, Long Beach, Calif., which lasted through late November.
The first two months of 1964 found Wexford County engaged in training. She was in a restricted availability status during March and April 1964. In May, she participated in Exercise “Pine Tree”, in which Wexford County served as a secondary control ship. During July 1964, the ship was in type training. This was followed by Exercise “Sea Bar”, held near Fort Lewis, Wash., in conjunction with the United States Army. In this exercise, Wexford County acted as primary control ship. Returning to San Diego in mid-September, Wexford County entered upkeep for several weeks. She then took part in amphibious exercises with Marine forces. Upon completion of various training exercises, the ship entered a holiday upkeep period.
In early 1965, Wexford County took part in Operations “Bubble Ops” and “Silver Lance”, which were at that time the largest peacetime amphibious operations ever conducted in the Pacific. Shortly after, she departed for Okinawa and Yokosuka, Japan. Following a brief stay, the ship sailed in early May for San Diego. During June and July 1965, she carried out local operations. In August, Wexford County again deployed for the western Pacific and spent September in Danang Vietnam. Subsequent stops were made in Chu Lai and Qui Nhon, Vietnam; and Hong Kong. In December 1965, Wexford County returned to San Diego for the duration of the year.
Wexford County was involved in local operations for the first four months of 1966 and provided services for the Amphibious School, Coronado, Calif. In late April, the LST steamed to Newport, Oregon, to participate in that community’s Loyalty Day celebration. On 1 May 1966, Wexford County returned to San Diego. On 12 July, she arrived at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard for overhaul. The ship returned to San Diego on 9 November and began underway and refresher training on 27 November. This training period ended on 16 December 1966.
Amphibious training for the tank landing ship commenced on 16 January 1967 and continued through 27 January. She briefly returned to Long Beach for further repair; then continued on to Hawaii to participate in landing exercises on Molokai and to lift Marine forces to San Diego. In June 1967, Wexford County sailed to San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle to embark Marine troops bound for training at Camp Pendleton, Calif. She participated in various operations during July; and, in late August, she repeated her stops along the west coast to return Marine units to their respective home ports.
After returning to San Diego in September, Wexford County began a tender availability period. Amphibious exercises and deployment preparations lasted through October. In early November 1967, the ship sailed for Vietnam by way of Pearl Harbor and Yokosuka. In December, Wexford County reached Vietnam and assumed her duties.
On 4 January 1968, Wexford County arrived in Subic Bay to off-load cargo and departed on 14 January to return to Vietnam. She remained on station until 13 March, at which time she left for Subic Bay, arriving there on 16 March. She returned to Vietnam, via Hong Kong, on 5 April to rejoin forces off Vietnam.
Wexford County left Vietnam in early May and returned to San Diego via Taiwan, Yokosuka, and Pearl Harbor. She arrived in San Diego on 26 June 1968, after approximately seven and one-half months overseas. For the next two months, the ship was in a restricted availability status.
On 28 August, the ship got underway for South Bend, Wash., to help celebrate the city’s Labor Day festival. She returned to San Diego on 6 September. Throughout September and October, Wexford County carried out operations along the California coast. On 15 November 1968, she entered drydock at San Diego.
Wexford County got underway on 12 January 1969 with a task group headed for Mazatlan, Mexico, arriving on 18 January. She spent two weeks there involved in various training exercises. In February and March, Wexford County was again in San Diego for routine maintenance. She departed for exercises at Treasure Island, Calif., on 14 April. She sustained heavy damage to a main engine and spent May undergoing repairs at San Diego.
A midshipmen cruise occupied the months of June and July. August and September 1969 were devoted to exercises, and Wexford County spent the rest of the year in overhaul at San Diego.
The yard period ended on 20 February 1970. Inspections, training, and preparations for deployment occurred from March through May, and, on 2 June 1970, the ship left for Pearl Harbor and Guam. Wexford County reached Guam on 25 June, and, after taking on new cargo, she left for Subic Bay, Philippines, and then to Vietnam. After unloading a construction battalion and their equipment, she departed for Hong Kong, arriving there on 30 July.
From 2 September 1970 through early November Wexford County was involved in numerous troop lifts, cargo transports, and exercises between Okinawa and Yokosuka and Numazu, Japan. On 2 November, she detached and began the voyage back to San Diego via Subic Bay; Guam; Ponape, Caroline Islands, and Pearl Harbor. She arrived at San Diego on 22 December 1970.
Wexford County spent the year 1971 in preparation for transfer to Spain. The ship was decommissioned on 29 October 1971 and transferred to the Spanish Navy that same date where she served as Martin Alvarez (L 12) into 1980.
Awards earned during the Vietnam War: Combat Action Ribbon, Meritorious Unit Commendation, RVN Gallantry Cross with Palm, RVN Campaign Medal with 60’s device and the Vietnam Service Medal with (6) Battle Stars.