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History of The USS Kemper County (LST-854)



LST-854, was laid down by the Chicago Bridge & Iron Co., Seneca, Ill., 30 August 1944; launched 20 November; sponsored by Mrs. M. A. Menkol; and commissioned 14 December, Lt. E. J. Robeson in command.

After shakedown off Florida, LST-854, departed New Orleans for the Pacific 16 January 1945. Steaming via the Panama Canal, the West Coast, and Pearl Harbor, she reached Ulithi, Caroline Islands, 1 April. There she prepared to support the invasion of Okinawa; then, with an Army Aviation Engineer Battalion on board, 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-854, arrived Nago Wan, Okinawa, 6 days later. Despite heavy enemy air raids, she unloaded troops and equipment, then returned Ulithi 5 May. During the remaining months of the war, she shuttled troops and equipment among the Philippines and Okinawa in preparation for a possible invasion of Japan. Following the end of World War II, she operated in the Far East, transporting occupation forces until November.

LST-854, arrived Seattle, Wash., 16 December, then after overhaul and training returned to the Far East 27 June 1946. From 1946 to 1949 she transported Navy and Marine Corps troops and cargo among Chinese ports and the Marianas. The veteran landing ship returned to the United States 6 June 1949, and decommissioned 21 October at Puget Sound Navy Yard.

After Communist aggression threatened the freedom of South Korea, the United States responded by sending American forces to aid the embattled country. To assist in the transportation of troops and cargo, LST-854 re-commissioned 20 November 1950; then, after training, she departed San Diego 17 March 1951. Three months later she commenced operations in the war zone, and from June to December operated between Japan and Korea. Her duties in Korea were transporting prisoners-of-war from Pusan to Koje Do, furnishing logistics support for troops at Koje Do, and rotating cargo and troops among Korean ports.

During early January 1952, LST-854 participated in the landing of the 40th Division at Inchon and provided refugees lifts along the Korean coast. Departing Yokosuka 25 February, the landing ship arrived San Diego 16 March. After overhaul and training along the West Coast, she was back in Japan 26 November. For the remaining months of the Korean conflict, LST-854 shuttled troops and cargo in support of U.N. forces engaged in fierce combat on the Asian mainland. Following the truce which ended hostilities, the veteran landing ship transported pro- and anti-Communist prisoners to await repatriation.

LST-854 returned San Diego 17 October and, following overhaul, performed training exercises along the West Coast. From May 1954 to May 1960, she sailed on four WestPac cruises in which she supported the 7th Fleet operating to protect U.S. interests in the event of reckless Communist attempts to upset the peace and stability of Asia. LST-854 was named USS Kemper County (LST-854) on 1 July 1955. After returning from her WestPac cruise 6 May 1960, USS Kemper County spent the next 5 years performing amphibious training exercises along the California coast and in the Hawaiian operating area.

Uss Kemper County and USS Benewah - Vung Tau - 1967

Uss Kemper County and USS Benewah – Vung Tau – 1967

As Communist aggression increased, the United States expanded efforts to protect the integrity and independence of the Republic of South Vietnam. To aid in the vast logistic demands created by the crisis, USS Kemper County departed San Diego 11 October 1965, arriving Subic Bay, Philippines, 12 November. Ten days later she arrived Da Nang, and operated along the coast of South Vietnam for the rest of the year. She operated primarily in the rivers of the Mekong Delta transiting enemy-controlled territory to carry supplies to the Vietnamese Army Headquarters Can Tho. Four times she ascended these streams as far as 90 miles inland. On 3 March 1966 she assisted tanker SS Paloma which lay burning and adrift in the Saigon River after a Viet Cong attack. On reaching the scene, she shelled the river bank from which the Communist attack had been launched while fighting the conflagration on the tanker.

During this deployment USS Kemper County carried over 10,000 tons of military cargo and vast quantities of food and clothing for the war-stricken civilian population of South Vietnam before returning to San Diego 28 May 1966. Her services won her the Battle Efficiency “E” of 1966. She operated off the West Coast into 1967 preparing for future action.

L8T-854 received one battle star for World War II service and five stars for service in the Korean conflict.

Awards earned by USS Kemper County (LST-854) during the Vietnam War: Combat Action Ribbon, (1) Navy 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 (6) Battle Stars.