LST-1170 was laid down on 21 April 1953 by the Christy Corp., Sturgeon Bay, Wis., launched on 22 May 1954; sponsored by Mrs. Joseph McCarthy; and commissioned on 15 December 1954, Lt. Comdr. Max Wells in command.
The new tank landing ship joined the Atlantic Fleet at her home port, Little Creek, Va., in January 1955. Following shakedown and type training, the ship was named USS Windham County (LST-1170) on 1 July 1955 and spent much of that month and August in more training exercises. She then helped to support Operation “Caesar”, an underwater surveillance project, which lasted through the end of the year.
On 21 February 1956, the ship reported to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for overhaul and conversion.
From January to mid-March 1957, Windham County operated off the Virginia capes area. On 14 March, after a brief stop at Davisville, R.I., Windham County proceeded to the Caribbean for operations off Barbados. Upon returning to Little Creek on 1 April 1957, she operated from home port until 2 May, when she was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea for a tour of duty with the 6th Fleet. During the cruise, she made stops at Tangier, Morocco; Spain; Malta; Italy; and Gibraltar. She returned to Davisville on 1 October; then headed for Little Creek, arriving there on 18 October 1957. She got underway for the Caribbean on 14 November for a fortnight of exercises. After returning to Little Creek on the 26th, she ended the year, 1957, undergoing routine upkeep.
In January 1958, Windham County transited the Panama Canal and arrived at San Diego on the 27th. Following some four months of operations on the west coast, she sailed for the Western Pacific (WestPac) on 6 June, touched at Pearl Harbor, and arrived in Yokosuka, Japan, for a six-month deployment. While lifting Marine Corps units and cargo, she visited Kure, Kobe Yokohama, and Sasebo, Japan, Subic Bay, Philippines Okinawa, Formosa, Korea, and Hong Kong.
Windham County returned to San Diego on 10 December 1958. The ship engaged in three full-scale amphibious exercises the first half of 1959. She then operated along the southern California coast until 28 November when she headed north and arrived at San Francisco on 1 December 1959.
Following a two-month overhaul, Windham County returned to San Diego and spent the late winter and early spring in intensive refresher training. The ship prepared for a change of her home port from San Diego to Yokosuka, where she was to become a unit of LST Division 92 of Landing Ship Squadron 9. On 16 June, the ship departed San Diego; and she arrived at Yokosuka on 19 July. In September, she received notice that she would participate in a United Nations troop lift from Malaya to the Republic of the Congo. On 4 October 1960, the ship arrived at Port Swettenham Malaya, where she embarked 300 Malayan troops. The ship then steamed for 27 consecutive days before arriving at Matadi, Republic of the Congo, on 31 October having crossed the Indian Ocean, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and navigated the Congo River. The ship departed Matadi on 31 October and arrived at Capetown, South Africa, on 11 November. She then visited Singapore and Hong Kong before returning to Yokosuka on 20 December 1960.
On 4 January 1961, Windham County stood out to sea to carry Marine Corps troops from Iwakuni, Japan, to Cubi Point, Philippines. During February, the tank landing ship carried another group of marines from Okinawa to Numazu, Japan. On 24 March, she began a period of shuttling marines and equipment between Yokosuka and Okinawa which lasted until early in May The ship then participated in SEATO Operation “Pony Express” on North Borneo. Upon the completion of this mission, she returned via Subic Bay to Yokosuka where she arrived on 9 June.
On 1 August, the ship entered the Ship Repair Facility, Yokosuka, for an overhaul. Beginning on 23 October, she conducted a three-week underway training period, and, on 20 November, she commenced two weeks of amphibious training with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force; then spent the remainder of the year at Yokosuka undergoing upkeep.
The ship sailed on 25 January 1962 for Numazu Japan, to take on marines and took them to Okinawa before visiting Hong Kong and Subic Bay. Shortly thereafter, the ship took part in SEATO Operation “Tunlungan” at Mindoro, Philippines, and then re-embarked participating troops for transport to Naha and Iwakuni, Japan.
Windham County visited Bangkok, Thailand, in June 1962 and in late July went to Inchon, Korea, to pick up Army troops bound for Pohang, Korea. Upon completion of that task, she returned to Yokosuka. Runs to Numazu and Naha with troops in October preceded her return to Yokosuka for upkeep. December 1962 brought her independent ship’s exercises and marine troop lifts from Numazu to Naha.
On 3 January 1963, Windham County got underway for Hong Kong, where she served as a station ship and did much to promote the “People to People” program. She returned to Yokosuka in February but left on 2 March to lift marines to Taiwan and then spent the rest of the month and most of April in upkeep in Yokosuka. From May through September, Windham County underwent an overhaul which began in Sasebo and was completed at Yokosuka. October and November were devoted to underway and refresher training. On 5 December 1963, the ship headed for Okinawa for type training and a troop lift back to Japan. After unloading her passengers at Numazu, she returned to Yokosuka on 18 December for an inspection and upkeep holiday period.
Windham County sailed on 2 January 1964 for Korea to participate in Operation “Firehouse”, a cold weather amphibious assault conducted at Chumunjin. Late in January she returned to Yokosuka for upkeep and left on 26 February to take part in Operation “Backpack,” a joint American-Taiwanese practice amphibious assault which took place at Che Cheng, Taiwan. She returned to Yokosuka on 26 March 1964 and, from April until June, conducted lifts and training exercises which took her to Taiwan; Iwakuni, Japan; Okinawa; and Hong Kong. On 17 June, Windham County took on Korean Army students and carried them to Pusan to observe a demonstration of amphibious and beachhead staging techniques.
On 21 July 1964, the ship got underway for operations in Okinawan waters. While these exercises were still in progress, the Gulf of Tonkin incident occurred and necessitated a rapid buildup of Americans in South Vietnam and in nearby waters. The ship loaded marines and proceeded to the South China Sea, where she remained on station from 16 August to 28 September and spent 56 continuous days at sea. Windham County returned to Yokosuka on 19 October. She visited Beppu, Japan, from 19 to 23 November and participated in a variety of ” People-to-People” activities. The ship proceeded to Iwakuni Japan, for special operations which kept her busy until shortly before Christmas 1964, when the ship returned to Yokosuka for upkeep.
During January 1965, the LST was in Yokosuka for upkeep and type training. On 6 February, she left for training at Poyang, Korea, but was diverted to Okinawa on 8 February in a general alert of 7th Fleet forces. From March through May, she was involved in shuttles of personnel and cargo from Okinawa to Danang, Vietnam. On 31 May 1965, she returned to Yokosuka for upkeep. Windham County departed Yokosuka on 23 June and participated in various lift operations between Okinawa and Vietnam. Beginning on 5 September, she commenced an overhaul at Yokosuka.
Leaving the yard on 12 October 1965, Windham County was engaged in personnel- and cargo-carrying missions along the coast of Vietnam before returning to Yokosuka on 10 December for upkeep. Windham County departed on 6 January 1966 for Naha, Okinawa, and carried out numerous shuttles along the Vietnam coast. She arrived in Yokosuka on 5 June for hull repairs and, on 1 August, commenced regular yard overhaul in Yokosuka. The ship began sea trials on 7 December 1966 and ended the year with type training and upkeep.
Refresher training occupied January 1967, and the ship sailed on 15 February for almost two months of operations off the coast of Vietnam. On 15 April, Windham County headed for Okinawa and arrived at Naha on 20 April. She returned to Yokosuka on 24 April but, after a month of upkeep, got underway again on 26 May to resume transport duties off Vietnam. Windham County returned to Yokosuka on 20 July and entered normal upkeep. She departed on 9 August and, during the period of 19 August through 4 September, was involved in Operation “Schoolhouse Lift”, delivering prefabricated structures to small villages throughout the Philippines.
On 4 September, the ship departed Manila and proceeded to Danang. Upon completion of several missions, she received upkeep in Subic Bay. After departing that base on 4 October, she returned, via Okinawa, to her home port for a short upkeep period. The ship departed on 29 October and headed back to Vietnam. She stopped briefly at Naha en route and also was diverted from her planned course to evade Typhoon “Emma” but finally reached Danang on 9 November. From the 10th to the 15th she supported Operation “Badger Hunt” and then moved to Duc Pho to conduct salvage operations for Clarke County (LST-601) and Iredell County (LST- 8391. After the latter ship had been pulled free, Windham County escorted the damaged LST to Danang. She then returned to Duc Pho to provide a ready helicopter for subsequent operations. During the remainder of her deployment to Vietnam, she spent most of her time carrying troops, equipment, and mail to support operations ashore. On 27 December, she was detached from these duties and proceeded to Japan.
The ship arrived in Yokosuka on 5 January 1968 and commenced a period of upkeep and inspections. Windham County got underway for Kaohsinng, Taiwan, on 29 January to support “Former Champ,” a joint United States-Chinese amphibious exercise. While in Taiwan, she also participated in amphibious Exercise “Final Round”. Upon completing these, she headed for Yokosuka on 5 April and arrived there on 10 April. She promptly began a cycle of upkeep, type training, and inspection.
On 6 June, the ship left Yokosuka to return, via Okinawa, to Vietnam to serve as a support ship for Task Group (TG) 117.2 in the Mekong Delta. She arrived at Wunder Beach, Vietnam, on 17 June and unloaded 152 jeeps there before moving on to Vung Tau which she reached on the 20th and began almost two months of duty supporting riverine operations. On 15 August 1968 she set out for Thailand. After a five-day visit to Bangkok, the ship headed for Japan. However, Typhoon “Wendy” prevented the ship from stopping at Okinawa, and she proceeded to Yokosuka for a period of upkeep, arriving on 24 August. She again departed Yokosuka on 3 October to return to Vietnam. After several months of action, she reported to Subic Bay on 14 November for upkeep. She left the Philippines on 5 December and arrived at Yokosuka on 13 December 1968.
After a period of upkeep and inspections, Windham County departed Yokosuka on 10 March 1969 for Vietnam. She spent the remainder of March, April, and the first part of May operating in the Mekong Delta. She departed on the 10th and returned, via Subic Bay and Hong Kong, to Yokosuka on 1 June 1969. She left Japan on 23 July and set a course for Vietnam. Windham County began 1970 in preparation for overhaul at Yokosuka. That renewal effort was completed on 7 April. She sailed on the 13th for Korea to take part in Operation “Golden Dragon”, a joint American-Korean amphibious exercise. She returned to Yokosuka on 5 May 1970 for upkeep and training. She left Yokosuka on 30 May and proceeded to the Philippines, arriving at Subic Bay on 13 June 1970 to begin exercises and upkeep After a brief trip to Hong Kong, the ship returned to Yokosuka on 20 August 1970. From August through early December, the ship was involved in shuttles between Okinawa and Japan and routine upkeep and inspection. On 12 December, Windham County got underway for Vietnam.
She remained in the combat zone for the rest of 1970 through 23 February 1971, when she was relieved and returned to Yokosuka, arriving on 12 March 1971. During the period from 12 March through 29 July, Windham County was involved in routine shuttles between Okinawa, Numazu, Subic Bay, and Yokosuka. On 29 July 1971, she arrived back in Vietnam and engaged in various operations off the coast. On 7 September 1971, she was relieved and returned to Yokosuka, arriving there on the 27th to begin a period of restricted availability. Beginning on 9 November, she made several shuttles to Okinawa and Numazu and went to Hong Kong in early November. She was relieved on 17 December and returned to Yokosuka on 23 December 1971 to finish the year in holiday routine.
Windham County departed in early February 1972 to resume her shuttle operations between Japan and Okinawa to Vietnam. In October, she visited Singapore and Bangkok; and, in November, she stopped in Hong Kong and Taiwan and then returned to Yokosuka in December 1972.
An intensive period of preparation for transfer to the Turkish Navy began. Windham County was decommissioned on 1 June 1973 and turned over to the Turkish Navy. She was renamed TCG (Turkish Republic Ship) Ertuprul and assigned Turkish hull number L401.
She is the second ship to bear this name, the first being a Turkish Navy training vessel that was lost at sea with great loss of life in 1889 near Oshima Island southern Japan, in a violent storm.
Awards earned during the Vietnam War: Combat Action Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation, (3) Navy Unit Commendations, (4) Meritorious Unit Commendations, RVN Gallantry Cross with Palm, RVN Civil Action Medal, First Class, with Palm, RVN Campaign Medal with 60’s device and the Vietnam Service Medal with (10) Battle Stars.
Read a first person historical account by Doug Hurst HERE.