USS Jefferson County (LST-845)
The USS Jefferson County, originally LST-845, was a tank landing ship that served the U.S. Navy in the Far East after World War II and during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. It was renamed the USS Jefferson County on July 1, 1955, in honor of counties of that name in twenty-five states, including Arkansas.
LST-845 was one of a class of vessels created to carry tanks, wheeled and tracked vehicles, artillery, construction equipment, and supplies during military operations along coastal areas. Called “Large Slow Targets” by their crews, they were designed as shallow-draft vessels, though LST-845 could transport cargos from 1,600 to 1,900 tons. They carried pontoons amidships that could be used to create causeways when they had to debark their cargos from deeper water, but they were also capable of dropping their forward ramps directly onto a beach.
The vessel’s keel was laid down on October 23, 1944, by the American Bridge Company of Ambridge, Pennsylvania. The ship was launched on December 7, 1944. LST-845 weighed 1,625 tons, was 328 feet long and fifty feet wide, and could reach speeds of 11.6 knots. It carried a crew of thirteen officers and 104 enlisted men and could transport sixteen officers and 147 soldiers. LST-845 was armed with two twin 40mm guns, four single 40mm guns, and twelve single 20mm guns to fend off attacking aircraft. It was commissioned on January 1, 1945, under the command of Lieutenant C. E. Lowe.
After a shakedown cruise (a test of the ship’s performance), LST-845 left New Orleans, Louisiana, on February 7 and, going by way of the Panama Canal, loaded cargo at San Diego and San Francisco, California, before sailing for Hawaii on March 15, reaching Maui on March 24. The vessel was beached during a training exercise on April 6 when heavy seas broached it, causing extensive damage to the hull. LST-845 was towed to Pearl Harbor for repairs, which were completed by July 27.
LST-845 transported occupation troops from Hawaii and the Philippines between August 29, 1945, and January 20, 1946. From May 30 to September 3, 1946, it served in China in support of Chinese Nationalist troops in their unsuccessful fight against Communist forces. It returned to the United States on December 15 and spent the next two years performing amphibious training exercises along the West Coast and making supply runs to Alaska and islands in the mid-Pacific.
With the onset of the Korean War, LST-845 sailed for Korea on August 10, 1950. After taking on troops at Kobe, Japan, on September 6, it participated in the Inchon landings, moving soldiers and supplies. After China entered the war, it helped evacuate troops from northern Korea to Pusan, and it brought cargo from Japan to South Korea in early 1951. LST-845 returned to the United States for an overhaul and to conduct training operations, then sailed back to Korea for operations from May 26, 1952, to February 4, 1953, before returning for more training along the California coast. LST-845 earned five battle stars for service in Korea.
LST-845 left San Diego on January 25, 1954, for a third deployment with the Seventh Fleet, performing amphibious operations training and running cargo from Japan to Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Inchon. On August 14, 1954, it sailed to Haiphong, North Vietnam, to support operation “Passage to Freedom,” moving refugees and supplies to the south, completing the deployment in October. After returning to San Diego on December 12, LST-845 was renamed the USS Jefferson County on July 1, 1955.
After conducting training along the California coast until August 13, 1957, the Jefferson County sailed east to run supplies and conduct additional amphibious training in Okinawa, Hong Kong, and the Philippines, returning to San Diego on April 1, 1958. It sailed for the Marshall Islands on October 9 to help set up U.S. Air Force bases, returning to home base on March 4, 1959. After another run to Japan for training exercises from October 1, 1959, to April 12, 1960, the USS Jefferson County sailed back to San Diego on May 5 and was decommissioned on November 28 and placed in the Pacific Reserve Fleet. It was struck from the navy list on February 1, 1961, and sold to Zidell Explorations, Inc., on August 22, 1961, for scrapping.
For additional information:
“LST 845 Jefferson County.” https://www.hazegray.org/danfs/amphib/lst845.htm (accessed July 13, 2018).
Rottman, Gordon L. Landing Ship, Tank (LST) 1942–2002. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing Co., 2005.
“USS Jefferson County LST 845.” NavSource Online. http://www.navsource.org/archives/10/16/160845.htm (accessed July 13, 2018).
Mark K. Christ
Little Rock, Arkansas
Last Updated: 02/10/2020