LST-1165 was laid down on 1 December 1952 at Pascagoula, Miss., by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Corp.
Launched on 14 July 1953; sponsored by Mrs. Ralph K. James; and commissioned on 30 November 1953, Lt. Comdr. Robert R. Davis in command.
In January 1954, the tank landing ship joined the Atlantic Fleet and became part of the Atlantic Amphibious Force. After completing training in the vicinity of Hampton Roads in early spring, LST-1165 be came very active in naval reserve training and made cruises to Miami; Boston; New York; and Havana, Cuba.
During 1955, the ship participated in many Atlantic Fleet exercises which took her from Labrador to the Caribbean. She also took part in the filming of the motion picture “Away All Boats” at Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. On 1 July of that year, she was named USS Washoe County (LST-1165). On 5 November, the ship arrived at Little Creek, Va., where she spent the remainder of the year.
Washoe County completed underway preparations at Little Creek on 20 February 1956 and-after a brief stop at Morehead City, N.C.-sailed on 25 February for refresher training at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She con ducted exercises in the Caribbean until 29 April when she returned to Miami, Fla. For the next few months, Washoe County worked along the east coast taking part in various operations.
Washoe County departed Norfolk on 27 August and headed for the Mediterranean and her first tour with the 6th Fleet. She also visited ports in Spain, Morocco, France, and Tunisia before returning to Hampton Roads on 5 February 1957.
The next three months of 1957 found Washoe County operating in the Norfolk area. On 28 March, the ship headed for the Caribbean and operations at Barbados, St. Thomas, and Puerto Rico. She returned to Morehead City on 14 April and spent the remainder of 1957 in local operations in the Chesapeake Bay area.
Washoe County departed Little Creek on 6 January 1958, stopped briefly at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, then transited the Panama Canal, arrived at San Diego, Calif., on 27 January; and remained there for the next five months. On 10 June, the ship began supply runs to Seal Beach, Port Hueneme, and San Nicolas Island Calif.
Washoe County returned to San Diego on 26 June for a month’s rest before sailing for Pearl Harbor on 23 July. The ship returned to San Diego on 20 August 1958 and spent the rest of the year in operations off the California coast.
During the early months of 1959, Washoe County was at San Diego preparing for an upcoming Western Pacific (WestPac) deployment. She set course for Japan on 15 April and arrived at Sasebo on 7 May. Except for a visit to Hong Kong during June, the tank landing ship operated between Okinawa and Japan into the autumn. She returned to San Diego on 26 November 1959 and conducted local operations in waters off the California coast through the end of the year.
During the first half of 1960, Washoe County con ducted various operations along the west coast, including operations: “Swan Dive” off Cape Pendleton, “Bay Island” off Tacoma, Wash., with the Army and Air Force, and “Shark Bite” at San Francisco with Marine reservists. On 1 July 1960, the ship’s home port was changed to Yokosuka, Japan. One month later, she sailed for WestPac; stopped at Pearl Harbor, and arrived at Iwakuni, Japan, on 3 September. The ship spent September and October carrying Marine Corps troops and vehicles with stops in Naha and Buckner Bay, Okinawa, and Numazu, Japan. Washoe County completed a restricted availability on 17 October and, after a visit to Hong Kong, took part in Operation “Packboard” off Okinawa from 11 to 19 November. On 7 December 1960, the ship commenced an overhaul at Yokosuka which lasted into the new year.
Washoe County finished her yard work on 8 February 1961 and began training. She then made a visit to Tokyo and remained there until 22 March. The months of April and May were occupied with operations off Vietnam in the South China Sea, and she returned to Japan late in the spring for local operations. From 2 to 14 August, Washoe County participated in Operation “Sharp Edge” off Korea. The ship ended the year by taking part in Operation “Fiesta” at San Jose, Mindoro, Philippines, commemorating the 17th anniversary of the landing of United States forces in the Philip pines in World War II.
On 17 February 1962, Washoe County began her participation in the large-scale SEATO exercise “Tulungan” in the Philippine area which lasted through 20 April. The ship then devoted the remainder of the year to visiting the ports of Keelung, Taiwan; Subic Bay, Philippines, Hong Kong, and Beppu and Kyushu, Japan. During July and August, she joined in Operation “Seven Seas” off Korea. On 8 December 1962, the LST entered the shipyard at Yokosuka for an overhaul.
She devoted the major portion of 1963 to routine operations and training and from 12 to 30 June participated in her only operation of the year, Operation “Flagpole”. On 30 September, Washoe County rescued 15 men from the foundering Japanese fishing boat, Shoyo Maru No. 10, near Miyako Jima.
The year 1964 began with the tank landing ship moored at Yokohama. From 3 to 27 January, she underwent upkeep at Yokosuka. An administrative inspection of the ship held on 3 February was followed by preparations for the upcoming Exercise “Back Pack” which she conducted from 26 February to 16 March.
Washoe County lifted ammunition from Sasebo to Numazu, Japan, from 10 to 17 April. The ship participated in Operation “Ligtas” from 29 May to 8 June; then sailed to Hong Kong for a port visit. She spent July undergoing another physical security inspection plus sea trials.
During August and September, Washoe County conducted special operations in the South China Sea off the coast of Vietnam. Following routine operations and training, Washoe County visited Beppu, Japan, from 2 to 4 December and, after a force medical inspection and an operational readiness inspection, spent the Christmas holidays at Yokohama.
Washoe County spent the first three quarters of 1965 making shuttle trips between Okinawa, Japan, and Vietnam in support of American forces in Vietnam. The loads she carried during the year included Marine Corps, Naval Beach Group, Naval Beach Jumper, and Amphibious Construction Battalion equipment and personnel. Most of the year’s last quarter was devoted to a yard overhaul at Yokosuka which began on 16 September and ended on 10 December. On 27 December, the ship commenced refresher training which continued into 1966.
The ship departed Yokosuka loaded with pontoon barge sections destined for Danang, South Vietnam. Following a short stop in Okinawa, the ship arrived at Danang on 22 February. She then proceeded to Chu Lai and discharged the remainder of the cargo.
After hauling cargo to Danang, Chu Lai, Cam Ranh Bay, and Phan Rang, Washoe County joined with an amphibious ready group whose mission was to conduct an amphibious raid, Operation “Jackstay”, against Viet Cong southeast of Saigon. She served in a pioneering role as an advance base providing gunfire support arms, ammunition, rations, and water to assault boat groups.
Washoe County returned to Yokosuka on 28 May for a brief period of repairs and rehabilitation. On the 18th of June, the ship sailed for Okinawa to reload supplies; then made a visit to Hong Kong before resuming her duties as a cargo carrier along the Vietnamese coast.
In mid-August, she steamed through the Inland Sea of Japan and Shimonoseki Strait on her way to Korea. After a week of training with the Republic of Korea Navy, Washoe County returned to Iwakuni, Japan, and embarked marines and cargo. Before returning to Yokosuka at the end of October, the ship made two more lifts to Vietnam, carrying cargo to Chu Lai and Qui Nhon and returning equipment from Danang to Naha, Okinawa.
The year 1967 began with Washoe County in the port of Naha, Okinawa, loading cargo. She spent the month of January engaged in shuttle runs carrying cargo and personnel along the South Vietnamese coast and Okinawa and then enjoyed a rest and recreation visit to Hong Kong. The ship spent most of February conducting intra-coastal logistic support lifts along the South Vietnam coast. On 20 February, Washoe County participated in Operation “De Soto”, in which material was offloaded by Marine helicopters operating off the ship’s main deck. The operation was concluded on 8 March, and the tank landing ship underwent an upkeep period lasting from 20 March to 11 April.
From 15 April to 2 June 1967, Washoe County made shuttle runs with cargo and troops to Chi Lung, Tai wan; Danang and Chu Lai, South Vietnam, Naha, Okinawa, Yokosuka, Japan; and Inchon, Korea. The ship then returned to Yokosuka for upkeep from 7 to 22 June, during which time Washoe County became the flagship for Landing Squadron 9.
The crew enjoyed liberty at Hong Kong from 11 to 16 July; then debarked the commodore and his staff at Buckner Bay, Okinawa, and took Army personnel to Pusan, Korea, before returning to Yokosuka on 3 Au- gust for upkeep which was completed on 7 September. In mid-September, the ship arrived at Danang and participated in three major operations: “Fortress Sentry”, “Formation Leader” and “Badger Hunt” from 14 September to 2 December.
Washoe County retired to Subic Bay on 6 December and soon sailed to Okinawa for training exercises with marines. She returned to Yokosuka on 18 December for upkeep which lasted into 1968.
On 1 March 1968, Washoe County sailed for Danang, South Vietnam, in company with Terrell County (LST- 1167) and Westchester County (LST-1167), carrying causeway sections to be used at Wunder Beach, South Vietnam. The sections were splashed and moved into place on 17 March. While engaged in the causeway installation, Washoe County’s port shaft was damaged; and she underwent repairs at Subic Bay from 21 to 26 March. She then returned to Vietnam, but further problems with the port shaft developed, necessitating more extensive repairs at Subic Bay which lasted until 29 April. The ship then successfully completed sea trials and got underway for Japan and arrived at Yokosuka on 6 May.
Washoe County underwent upkeep at Yokosuka which was not finished until early June. On the 3rd, she began loading Marine equipment at Naha, and she delivered it at Subic Bay on the 8th. Following a visit to Hong Kong from the 14th to the 19th, she headed for South Vietnam. En route on 20 June, Washoe County embarked two injured personnel from the American freighter, SS John C., after that ship had run aground on the north reef of the Paracel Islands.
The next day, Washoe County returned to Danang and resumed duties with the amphibious ready group With the exception of upkeep from 10 to 20 July, the ship served in the combat zone continuously through July and much of August. On the 24th, Washoe County headed for her home port and arrived at Yokosuka on 12 September
Washoe County began her last deployment of 1968 off the coast of South Vietnam at the Ca Mau peninsula for Operation “Market Time” sealing off the coastline of South Vietnam and adjacent waterways from communist infiltration. From 27 October to 9 December, the tank landing ship functioned as an emergency helicopter landing pad in evacuating eight Navy and Coast Guardsmen wounded in action and the body of one Coast Guardsman who had been killed in action ashore. She also dispensed fuel, food, water, and ammunition to 134 patrol boats and fired 42 naval gunfire support missions.
Washoe County arrived back at Yokosuka on 19 December and celebrated the holidays in her home port.
Washoe County began 1969 preparing for the cyclical yard overhaul period which commenced on 19 January and continued through 10 April. From 20 April to 6 June, the ship conducted refresher training and amphibious refresher training. On 12 June, Washoe County got underway for the first deployment of the year as a support ship for Operation “SEAFLOAT/Tran Hung Dao III” in the Ca Mau peninsula of South Vietnam. “SEAFLOAT” was a floating advanced tactical support base primarily for psychological warfare missions conducted in the Cua Lon River at the southernmost tip of South Vietnam. During this period, Washoe County served as a helicopter platform and provided logistics and communications support
On 10 August, after 46 days on station, Washoe County sailed via Subic Bay to Hong Kong for a two-week assignment as station ship. She got underway on 4 September for Yokosuka but was diverted by a trip from Okinawa to Danang and finally arrived at her home port on 23 September. She remained there until 9 October when she transported a detachment of marines and equipment from Okinawa to Numazu, Japan.
Departing Japan on 28 October, the ship participated in Operation “Keystone Cardinal”, a major troop redeployment lift from Vietnam. During November, Washoe County steamed more than 7,000 miles bringing troops and equipment from Vietnam to Okinawa before returning to Yokosuka on 3 December for annual inspections and the holiday season.
The ship took station as a “SEAFLOAT” support vessel from 20 January 1970 to 12 March and again from 17 May to 2 August. Between these two deployments, Washoe County served as station ship in Hong Kong from 18 to 27 March 1970.
On 12 August, Washoe County arrived at Osaka, Japan, to enjoy four days at the World’s Fair, “Expo 70.” From 19 August to 19 September, the ship underwent upkeep at Yokosuka and then made a visit to Hong Kong.
After stopping at Chu Lai, Vietnam, and Subic Bay, Philippines, to load cargo on board, Washoe County headed for the California coast, via Pearl Harbor, arriving at San Diego on 10 November. The ship offloaded Marine cargo at Camp Pendleton on 13 November, then made a port visit to San Francisco.
On 24 November 1970, Washoe County arrived at Bremerton, Wash.; and, the following day, her status changed to “in commission, in reserve.” On 25 March 1971, the ship was decommissioned. She served with the Military Sealift Command from January 1973 until stricken from the Navy list on 1 November 1973. At that time, she was transferred to the Maritime Administration for layup at Suisun Bay, Calif., where she still remained into 1980.
Awards earned during the Vietnam War: Combat Action Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation, Navy Unit Commendation, (2) 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 (12) Battle Stars.