Updated February 10, 2007
Photo Courtesy of Doug Lindsey
History of The USS White River (LSMR-536) & (LFR-536)
Departing Houston on 3 December 1945, LSMR-536 made a three-day stop at Galveston before continuing on to Charleston, S.C., where she completed outfitting. She stood out of Charleston on 8 January 1946. Following shakedown training out of Little Creek, Va the ship headed south to Florida on 7 February, arriving at Green Cove Springs on 10 February, where she was placed in reserve. On 31 July, she was decommissioned and berthed at Green Cove Springs in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet.
Recommissioned on 16 September 1950, Lt. Henry O. Bergkamp, USNR, in command, LSMR-536 completed outfitting at Savannah, Ga., and, on 20 November, got underway for shakedown training out of Little Creek. She ultimately departed the waters of Chesapeake Bay on 1 March 1951 for duty with the Pacific Fleet. She transited the Panama Canal on 14 March and arrived in San Diego, Calif., ten days later. There, she became a unit of LSMR Division 3 and spent the next 14 months practicing her amphibious support role off San Clemente Island.
On 12 May 1952, LSMR-536 departed San Diego in company with LSMR-527 and three large landing support ships, and the formation steamed by way of Pearl Harbor and Midway, reaching Yokosuka, Japan, on 19 June. Later, she shifted to Sasebo to prepare for her first deployment in the combat zone off the Korean coast. She embarked upon that cruise in mid-July and arrived off Cho Do, an island off the western coast of Korea in the southern portion of the Korea Bay, on the 16th. She patrolled on station at that location until 15 August when she headed back to Japan.
After visits to Sasebo and Yokosuka, LSMR-536 conducted landing exercises at Chigasaki late in September 1952. She returned to Yokosuka and Sasebo, between which ports she made runs during October and most of November. On 27 November, the ship cleared Sasebo to return to the vicinity of Cho Do. That assignment, consisting mostly of night illumination fire, lasted until mid-December when she headed back to Japan. LSMR-536 remained at Sasebo from 19 December 1952 until 18 January 1953. She returned briefly to Cho Do on 20 January and then began patrolling Taenchong Do, Paengnyong Do, and Kirin Do.
LSMR-536 returned to Yokosuka on 13 February 1953 and remained there until the 24th when she got underway to return home. Steaming by way of Midway and Pearl Harbor, the warship arrived in San Diego on 24 March. Following training operations off San Clemente Island, she was overhauled at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. All told, she remained on the west coast 11 months, departing from San Diego to return to the western Pacific on 10 February 1954.
After pausing en route at Pearl Harbor and Midway, LSMR-536 reached Yokosuka on 11 March 1954. Though the ship returned to the Korean coast periodically during her second tour of duty with the 7th Fleet, combat operations played no part in her activities, because hostilities had been effectively ended by the armistice of 19 July 1953. She concluded her first peacetime deployment to the Far East when she reentered San Diego on 7 November 1954. She spent the year 1955 engaged in operations out of San Diego, primarily amphibious training off San Clemente Island. On 1 October 1955, she was named White River.
Diego on 4 January 1956 and
arrived at Yokosuka on
6 February. She participated
in a large-scale
amphibious maneuvers at Iwo Jima later
that month and then returned briefly to Yokosuka before heading home on 3
March, arriving back in San Diego on 31
March to resume local
operations. On 7 September 1956, she was decommissioned
and berthed with the San Diego Group, Pacific
White River arrived off the I Corps zone of operations on 25 May 1966 and immediately began gunfire support missions for Operation Mobile. Two days later, she concluded her support of Mobile and shifted to support for the 2nd Division of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) operating near Quang Ngai. She continued to support that unit intermittently for the next two months, interrupting this duty only to provide gunfire and rockets for three other operations: Oakland; Deckhouse III, an amphibious landing; and Franklin. At the conclusion of the latter operation, she headed—via Subic Bay and Hong Kong —for Yokosuka where she remained until 16 September.
After another stop at Subic Bay, White River returned to the Vietnamese coast at the end of September 1966 to continue gunfire support for the troops ashore. During the next two months, she provided call fire in the northern portion of the II Corps operational zone. On 30 November, she terminated her second tour of duty in Vietnamese waters and headed, via Okinawa, to Yokosuka where she spent the remainder of the year in upkeep.
White River departed Japan once more on 23 January 1967. Again, she stopped at Subic Bay, first to load ammunition and then to complete some maintenance work. She returned to the coast of the I Corps tactical zone on 9 February and began delivering gunfire for marines ashore engaged in Operation Desoto. She concluded that assignment on 11 February, refueled at Danang, and got underway to support Operation Deckhouse VI, an amphibious operation which was conducted by the Special Landing Force near Sa Huyen in the southern reaches of the I Corps tactical zone as an extension of the Desoto operation which had been temporarily halted during the Tet holidays. She finished her part in Desoto-Deckhouse VI operations on 23 February and headed for Subic Bay where she rearmed and conducted upkeep from 24 February to 2 March. White River returned to the Vietnamese coast on 13 March and resumed shore bombardment duties in support of Operation Beacon Hill, a combined helicopter- and waterborne-amphibious assault conducted near Dong Ha. On 23 March, released from the Beacon Hill operation, she rearmed at Cam Ranh Bay, then proceeded to the III Corps tactical zone to provide gunfire support for operations near the Rung Sat Special Zone.
Carronade (IFS-1) on 2 April 1967White River
returned to Yokosuka on 17 April after
a four-day stop at Keelung, Taiwan, en route. She
made necessary repairs at Yokosuka and
then headed back to Vietnam on
29 May. Following ammunition
replenishment at Subic Bay, the warship arrived off the
I Corps tactical zone on 11 June and
conducted shore bombardments
there and in the II Corps zone until 21
July when she departed Vietnamese
waters to return to Subic Bay
for upkeep. White River returned to
the Vietnamese coast at the
beginning of August and stayed
there until 23 August. The ship then returned
to Yokosuka at the end of the month,
arriving there on 8 September and remaining until 16 October for
repairs. She began her last 1967 tour
of duty off the Vietnamese coast on 31 October. It lasted until 27
December and consisted almost entirely of gunfire support for forces
operating in the II Corps tactical
zone. At it's conclusion, she
returned to Subic Bay for upkeep.
The following month (June 1969), White River saw assignment to the
naval gunfire support units for only four days, but she "displayed accurate
marksmanship during one day of particularly impressive shooting..." On 16
June 1969, while operating in support of the 2nd ARVN Division eight miles
northeast of Quang Ngai, she bombarded a Viet Cong assembly area, flushing
out a squad of VC who soon began setting up weapons to return fire.
White River observed a 20-foot surface
burst some 2,000 yards off the bow, and numerous rounds of light weapons
fire that all missed their mark. With the coaching of an airborne spotter,
the inshore fire support ship directed a ten-minute barrage of .30- and
.50-caliber, 40 millimeter, and rocket fire onto the enemy, who broke and
took cover leaving 11 of their number dead behind.
White River continued to pound the area until inclement weather
forced the spotter to head for home. In addition to the 10 enemy corpses
counted, the ship had destroyed 13 structures and 10 bunkers and damaged a
further 21 structures and 11 bunkers, triggered three secondary explosions
and started nine secondary fires. White River
reprised her bombardment the next day (17 June) and accounted for another
two VC dead.
Ultimately, deemed "unfit for further naval service" on 8 May 1970, White River was decommissioned at Yokosuka on 22 May 1970. Her name was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register that same day (22 May 1970), and she was sold in November 1970 to the Nissho-Iwai American Corp. of New York City for scrapping.
White River was awarded two battle stars for her service in the Korean War (as LSMR-536) and seven for her service during the Vietnam War (as White River), in addition to a share of the commendation awarded Inshore Fire Support Division 93 by Secretary of the Navy Paul R. Ignatius in recognition of its "exceptionally meritorious service in support of friendly forces in the Republic of Vietnam..." between 19 April 1966 and 31 May 1967.
Awards earned during the Vietnam War: Combat Action Ribbon, (3) Navy Unit Commendations, Meritorious Unit Commendation, 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.
Click HERE to view a group of photos that Ray Harvey, crewmember on the USS Clarion River (LSMR-409), took of the USS White River (LSMR-536).
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