History of The USS Westchester County (LST-1167)

December 22, 1998


Photo courtesy of Al Festag

Photo courtesy of Al Festag

LST-1167 was laid down on 11 January 1952 by the Christy Corp., Sturgeon Bay, Wis.; launched on 18 April 1953; sponsored by Mrs. Robert E. Wood; and commissioned on 10 March 1954, Lt. Comdr. Leamond F. Lacy in command.

The tank landing ship departed New Orleans on 8 April 1954 and reached the Naval Amphibious Base at Little Creek, Va., on 14 April. The remainder of the year was spent in amphibious warfare exercises in the Chesapeake Bay.

On 14 February 1955, LST-1167 sailed from Little Creek to embark 205 marines and equipment for exercises in the Caribbean. These exercises were repeated in April, and the ship returned to Little Creek on 6 May 1955. On 1 July, LST-1167 was named USS Westchester County (LST-1167). Westchester County spent the remaining months of 1955 engaged in operations along the east coast with the majority of the time being spent in local training.

After loading marines and equipment at Morehead City, N.C., the tank landing ship sailed for exercises in the Caribbean on 11 January 1956. She returned to Norfolk on 6 February and made another training cruise to the Caribbean from 20 February to 24 March. Upon returning to Little Creek, Va., the ship conducted local operations until the Fourth of July which she spent at Yonkers, N.Y. She visited Trenton, N.J., and Washington, D.C., then went into overhaul on 21 September at the Brewer Dry Dock Company of Staten Island, N.Y. After a two-month yard period, the ship conducted local operations to finish out the year.

On 28 February 1957, Westchester County embarked personnel and equipment at Morehead City, N.C., and sailed to the Caribbean for amphibious training exercises, returning to Norfolk on 13 May. She conducted local operations until 28 August when she sailed for a Mediterranean deployment, joining the 6th Fleet at Messina, Sicily, on 16 September. The ship conducted exercises off Turkey, Greece, and Spain. On 4 November, the ship departed Alicante, Spain, for Little Creek, Va., where she spent the remainder of the year in local operations.

Westchester County began the year 1958 departing Norfolk for San Francisco via the Panama Canal. She arrived at the San Francisco Naval Shipyard on 31 January for overhaul which was completed on 2 April. The ship put to sea from San Diego on 7 June for her first tour of duty in the Far East. She reached Sasebo, Japan, on 6 July for amphibious warfare maneuvers and assault landing practice in Buckner Bay, Okinawa, Subic Bay, Philippines, and Tsoying, Taiwan, where she engaged in joint operations with Chinese Underwater Demolition Teams embarked. She returned to San Diego on 10 December 1958 and there finished the year.

The first eight months of 1959 were spent in amphibious training along the California coast. On 24 August, Westchester County embarked marines and vehicles for Kaneohe, Hawaii, and amphibious landings. On 6 October, she returned to California, off-loaded the marines and returned to San Francisco. On 30 November, Westchester County entered the Todd Shipyard, Alameda, Calif., for overhaul until 12 February 1960.

She resumed her training schedule out of San Diego until 1 August 1960 when she shifted to Port Hueneme to load cargo and take on fuel. The next day, she set course for her new home port of Yokosuka, Japan, via the Hawaiian Islands and Okinawa. The ship beached at Numazu, Japan, on 6 September 1960 to commence a series of large scale amphibious exercises with SEATO forces. From 1 to 31 December, Westchester County underwent overhaul at the Yokosuka Naval Base.

The year 1961 was spent making logistic runs between Subic Bay, Philippines, Okinawa, and North Borneo. Westchester County spent November and December 1961 in upkeep at her home port.

Westchester County got underway on 18 January 1962 for sea trials and refresher training. On 10 March, she rendezvoused with other units of the Pacific Fleet and departed for Mindoro, Philippines, for amphibious warfare maneuvers. The ship returned to Yokosuka, Japan, on 20 April and resumed a normal training schedule. The communist threat in Vietnam interrupted this training period, and, on 13 May, Westchester County was underway for Subic Bay, Philippines, with a combat load of marines.

On 16 June 1962, the tank landing ship returned to Yokosuka, Japan, for upkeep and in-port training. She then conducted operations at Keelung, Taiwan, Subic Bay, Philippines, Bangkok, Thailand, and Naha, Okinawa. During October, the ship participated in amphibious Exercise “Lone Eagle.” This exercise was delayed in Okinawa due to the Cuban crisis, which put United States ships on a world-wide alert. On 12 November, Westchester County returned to her home port of Yokosuka, Japan, where she spent Christmas. On 28 December 1962, she departed for a New Year’s visit to Tokyo, Japan.

The year 1963 began with a cold weather operation in Korea which commenced on 16 January. Westchester County spent the time until 24 May shuttling marine personnel and equipment to Naha, Okinawa; Tsoying, Taiwan, and Numazu, Japan, with interspersed upkeep periods at Yokosuka, Japan. On 24 May, she sailed from Naha, Okinawa, to transport Korean soldiers from Pusan to Pohang, Korea. After a brief upkeep at Sasebo, Japan, Westchester County took part in Operation “Flagpole”, a joint amphibious exercise with the Republic of Korea Navy and Marines which concluded on 29 June. July and August were spent in upkeep at Yokosuka, followed by Exercise “Bayonet Beach” on 5 September at Tong Po Pi, Korea.

Westchester County returned to Yokosuka on 19 September for inspections and amphibious training. On 7 October, the ship sailed for Okinawa where she sustained damage to her bow ramp which required repairs at Sasebo, Japan, until 29 October. After a brief Marine lift to Okinawa, Westchester County returned to Yokosuka on 9 November for regular overhaul. The ship went into dry-dock on 27 December 1963 and thus ended the year.

Westchester County remained in dry-dock until 31 January 1964 and underwent sea trials, refresher training, and amphibious refresher training at Yokosuka, Japan, until 8 May. She departed Yokosuka on 19 May for Naha, Okinawa, and the first of many Marine lifts between Okinawa, Japan, and the Philippines which occupied the ship until 9 August.

At that time, due to the Tonkin Gulf crisis, Westchester County departed Naha, Okinawa, for extended operations off Vietnam in the South China Sea. She returned to Subic Bay, Philippines, on 2 October and began a series of Marine lifts between Naha and Buckner Bay, Okinawa; Tsoying, Taiwan; and Yokosuka, Japan. On 19 November, the ship returned to Yokosuka, Japan, and underwent upkeep and underway training until 24 December when she visited Tokyo, Japan. Westchester County departed Tokyo on 28 December 1964 and returned to Yokosuka.

Westchester County started 1966 with two marine lifts between Okinawa and Japan. February was spent at Okinawa; and, on 3 March, the ship transported marines and vehicles to Subic Bay, Philippines. Between 17 March and 16 April, the tank landing ship completed two Marine lifts to Danang, South Vietnam. On 29 April, she departed Buckner Bay, Okinawa, for the first amphibious landing at Chu Lai, South Vietnam. This operation was the largest in the Pacific since the Korean War. From 11 May to 24 May, the ship made two turnaround trips between Naha, Okinawa, and Chu Lai.

Following upkeep at Yokosuka, Japan, Westchester County spent the period from 22 June to 16 August making marine lifts to Danang and Chu Lai, South Vietnam. She returned to Yokosuka for upkeep until 30 September when she transported marines from Naha, Okinawa, to Numazu, Japan, for cold weather operations.

1167bAfter reloading at Yokosuka, Westchester County transported Korean troops from Pusan, Korea, to Qui Nhan South Vietnam. From 7 to 21 November she joined in Operation “Blue Marlin”, making two landings at Tam Ky, South Vietnam. These landings were followed by stops at Cam Ranh Bay, Phan Rang, and Danang, South Vietnam. She arrived at Yokosuka, Japan, on 16 December and spent Christmas at her home port. On 26 December, she put to sea to load cargo at Iwakuni, Japan, arriving on the 28th and departing for Naha, Okinawa, the next day. On 31 December 1966, she arrived at Naha and there celebrated the New Year.

During 1966, Westchester County served extensively in carrying cargo to the Republic of Vietnam in support of American forces ashore. On 24 January, the ship joined in Operation “Double Eagle”, an amphibious assault at Cap Mai, Vietnam. From February through out August, Westchester County transported troops and equipment to Qui Nhon, Chu Lai, and Danang, Vietnam. This duty was interspersed with port visits to Hong Kong and repairs at Subic Bay and Yokosuka.

On 1 September 1966, Westchester County anchored at Vung Tau, Vietnam, to begin operations as the support ship for Operation “Market Time”. Until 4 October, the ship steamed continuously on station off the Ca Mau Peninsula; refueling, replenishing, and serving as a base for the boats and crews who patrolled the coast of Vietnam to prevent infiltration by sea. After returning to Yokosuka, the ship spent the period from 16 October through 31 December undergoing upkeep interspersed with a short training visit to Okinawa and port visits to Keelung, Taiwan, and Hiroshima, Japan.

1167aFrom 3 January to 16 March 1967, Westchester County transported troops and supplies between Okinawa and Vietnam. The tank landing ship went into overhaul on 16 March at Yokosuka, Japan, followed by refresher training which lasted through 6 August. Westchester County spent the remaining months of 1967 carrying marines and equipment between Yokosuka, Okinawa, and Vietnam. The LST served as a Mobile Riverine Force support ship in the Mekong Delta from 24 October through 31 December 1967.

Westchester County spent the early weeks of 1968 continuing service as a Mobile Riverine support ship. On 26 January, the tank landing ship began a series of lifts from Okinawa, Japan, and the Philippines to Vietnam. She underwent repair availability and training exercises from 16 July through 22 September.

1167bThe tank landing ship resumed duty with the Mobile Riverine Force on 22 September. Tragedy struck on 1 November while Westchester County lay anchored in the vicinity of My Tho, Vietnam. Two giant underwater explosions ripped Westchester County, killing 26 men. The enemy mines had been attached to the hull about amidships on the starboard side causing ruptured berthing compartments and fuel and storage tanks. The day following the explosion, the entire Mobile Riverine Force moved from My Tho to Dong Tam. After beaching at Dong Tam for temporary repairs, she returned to Yokosuka, Japan, via Subic Bay, Philippines, on 26 November. Westchester County went into dry-dock at the United States Naval Ship Repair Facility where it remained until 5 February 1969.

Upon completion of refresher training and upkeep, the ship got underway on 10 March 1969 for Operation “Market Time” off the Vietnam coast. From 5 July through 23 August, Westchester County joined in the first phase of Vietnam troop withdrawal. The remainder of 1969 was spent carrying personnel and equipment from Korea, Japan, and Okinawa to Vietnam with intermittent periods of repair and liberty.

The beginning of the 1970’s found Westchester County operating off the northern coast of Vietnam. During February, she conducted troop and equipment withdrawal from South Vietnam, then underwent restricted availability at Yokosuka beginning on 4 March.

April through July were spent transporting personnel and cargo from Japan and Okinawa to Vietnam. On 2 August, she relieved Washoe County (LST-1165) off the Ca Mau peninsula for Operation “Solid Anchor”, which consisted of fueling boats and helicopters. Nine of Westchester County’s sailors received the Combat Action Ribbon when they withstood enemy small arms and rocket fire while transiting the Bo De River.

Following a restricted availability at Yokosuka which commenced on 30 October, Westchester County made stops at Cam Ranh Bay, Danang, Hong Kong, Okinawa, and Iwakuni, Japan, before departing on 17 November for a vehicle lift from Chinhae, South Korea, to Okinawa. Westchester County spent the first half of December involved in landing rehearsals and gunnery exercises. She then transited to Singapore to enjoy a Christmas visit. The ship closed out the year en route to Subic Bay, Philippines.

During January 1971, Westchester County sailed between Hong Kong and Subic Bay, Philippines. On 2 February, she departed Subic Bay en route to the Gulf of Tonkin in support of “Lam Son III,” the Cambodian operation which lasted until 7 March. After restricted availability and training at Okinawa and Yokosuka, the ship returned to Vietnam on 21 June and continued operations.

From 6 August through 1 September, Westchester County assumed the administrative duties as SOPA (senior officer present afloat) in Hong Kong. Following restricted availability at Yokosuka, the ship lifted personnel and equipment of an Army security agency for transit to Pusan, Korea, and returned them to Okinawa on 6 December. During this period, she transported marines from Japan to Okinawa, departing Okinawa on 24 November to spend Thanksgiving at Yokosuka. Following the off-load of Army personnel on 6 December, Westchester County returned to Yokosuka for the holiday season, arriving on 10 December.

Westchester County completed a restricted availability on 17 January 1972 and set out for a lift to Subic Bay, Philippines. The tank landing ship spent February at Subic Bay undergoing repairs and local operations. After SOPA duties at Hong Kong from 15 to 31 March, the ship resumed personnel and cargo transits to the Gulf of Tonkin, Vietnam, until 30 August 1972. During this period, the tank landing ship underwent a seven week restricted availability followed by refresher training at Yokosuka, Japan.

From 7 September through 1 October 1972, Westchester County operated in logistic support of Mine Flotilla 1. She returned to Yokosuka on 16 October for availability and inspection. The ship made a brief transit to Okinawa, departing on 30 November. She returned to Yokosuka on 5 December 1972 and enjoyed the Christmas holidays while in upkeep status.

On 27 January 1973, with the signing of the Vietnam Cease Fire in Paris, the ship was underway for Subic Bay, Philippines, to transport mine counter-measures equipment and Commander, Mine Flotilla One to the Gulf of Tonkin. Due to a breakdown in the cease-fire negotiations, the tank landing ship was ordered to a rendezvous point near Danang. Departing the vicinity on 3 March, she continued to work in support of Operation “End Sweep”.

After availability and shore bombardment exercises at Subic Bay which commenced on 14 March, Westchester County returned to Vietnam in support of Operation “End Sweep” which was completed on 18 July. The ship made stops at Subic Bay, Philippines, and Okinawa before finally arriving at Yokosuka, Japan, on 30 July.

Westchester County was decommissioned on 30 August 1973 and arrived at the Inactive Ship Facility, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Wash., on 30 November of that year. On 27 August 1974, she was turned over to the Turkish Navy and commissioned as Serdar (L-402).

Awards earned during the Vietnam War: Combat Action Ribbon, (4) Navy Unit Commendations, (2) 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 (16) Battle Stars.