History of The USS Iredell County (LST-839)
April 18, 1999
LST-839 was laid down by American Bridge Co., Ambridge, Pa., 25 September 1944; launched 12 November 1944, sponsored by Mrs. Arthur Lehner; and commissioned at New Orleans, La., 6 December 1944, Lt. Waldo F. McNeir in command.
After shakedown off the coast of Florida, LST-839 loaded Army troops and cargo and departed New Orleans for the Pacific 9 January 1945. Steaming via the Panama Canal, Pearl Harbor,. and Eniwetok, she reached Saipan 10 March. There she prepared to support the invasion of Okinawa; and, after embarking Seabees and loading construction equipment, she sailed 12 April for that strategic island, which lay at the gateway to the heart of the Japanese Empire.
The campaign was well underway when LST-839 reached Kinmu Wan, Okinawa, 17 April. Despite heavy enemy air raids, she debarked troops and discharged cargo, then returned to Saipan 21 April to transport additional troops. During the 4 remaining months of the war, she shuttled troops and equipment among the Marianas, Philippine, and Okinawa staging areas for the possible invasion of Japan. The enemy’s acceptance of Allied peace terms precluded an invasion, and the landing ship then operated between the Philippines and Japan, transporting occupation forces until mid-November.
Arriving Guam 12 November, LST-839 embarked 500 veterans of the Pacific fighting and sailed 17 November for the United States. Steaming via Pearl Harbor, she reached San Francisco 28 December. She sailed for Astoria, Oregon, 25 January 1946, decommissioned at Vancouver, Wash., 24 July; and entered the Pacific Reserve Fleet. While berthed in the Columbia River, she was named USS Iredell County (LST-839) 1 July 1955.
Iredell County recommissioned at San Diego, Calif., 18 June 1966. Completing training, Iredell County sailed to join the 7th Fleet 3 September 1966. En route to Japan with her first cargo since 1945, she called at Pearl Harbor and her new homeport of Guam Exchanging cargo at Iwakuni, Japan, on 12 October, Iredell County departed for Danang, Vietnam, arriving 21 October. She shuttled petroleum, building materials, rations, troops and equipment between Danang and Chu Lai, 65 miles to the south. Iredell County transported more than 7,361 tons of cargo and made 12 landings. She sailed to Guam 15 November 1966. In response to the American effort to protect and defend the independence and integrity of South Vietnam from external Communist aggression, she continues to serve the Pacific Fleet and participate in the vital peacekeeping operations currently underway in the turbulent and troubled Southeast Asia.
Awards earned during the Vietnam War: Combat Action Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation, Navy Unit Commendation, 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 (9) Battle Stars.
John R. Swofford’s recollections of his time on the Iredell County
I served on the Iredell County (LST-839) as an EM2. In November 1969 the USS Caddo Parrish (LST-515) was scheduled to be turned over to the Philippine Navy. She was in pretty poor condition. On the other hand, the 839 was well maintained and in good operating condition. A decision was made to swap crews; the Caddo Parish crew would take over the Iredell County and the 839 crew was honored to sail the 515 back to the Philippines. However, a couple of the Iredell County crew opted to stay on board the 839 and remain in Vietnam. The remainder were of us were anxious to get back to Subic Bay. We successfully brought the 515 into to Subic, turned the ship over to the Philippine Navy and were placed in transit awaiting new orders. I remained in Subic pending the arrival of my new ship, the USS Current (ARS-22), out of Pearl Harbor. Once she arrived I went right back to Vietnam. After arriving back on station we received a distress call from the Iredell County around 0100 hours. She had gone aground in the Delta. The USS Current arrived the next day to find the Iredell County sitting high and dry on a sand bar. I never thought I would see that ship again. I had a great XO on the USS Current. He was aware that the Iredell County was my old ship and permitted me to go with the launch and visit some of my old ship mates that remained with her. We eventually pulled the 839 off the sand and she went on her way.