USS Lawrence County (LST-887)
The USS Lawrence County (LST-887) was an LST-542 Class tank landing ship built in 1944 that saw service in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. It was designated the USS Lawrence County on July 1, 1955, in honor of counties in eleven U.S. states, including Arkansas.
LST-887 was one of a class of vessels—called Landing Ship, Tank—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; when carrying a 500-ton load, LST-887 drew only three feet eleven inches forward and nine feet ten inches aft. They carried pontoons amidships that could be used to create causeways when they had to debark their cargos from deeper water, but they were capable of dropping their forward ramps directly onto a beach.
LST-887’s keel was laid down on August 27, 1944, by the Dravo Corporation of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the vessel was launched on October 7, 1944. LST-887 weighed 1,625 tons, measured 328 feet long and fifty feet wide, and could reach speeds of 11.6 knots. It carried a crew of thirteen officers and 104 men, and could transport sixteen officers and 147 soldiers. LST-887 was armed with two twin 40mm guns, four single 40mm guns, and twelve single 20mm guns. It was commissioned at New Orleans, Louisiana, on November 7, 1944, under the command of Lieutenant Loring O. Chandler of the U.S. Coast Guard.
LST-887 underwent a shakedown cruise (a test of the ship’s performance) off St. Andrews Bay, Florida, then headed for the West Coast on December 10. After dropping off a load of cargo at San Diego, California, on December 31, it sailed for Seattle, Washington, to take on a load of U.S. Army engineers and equipment, dropping them off at Pearl Harbor on February 22, 1945. After loading a Seabee detachment, LST-887 sailed for the western Pacific on March 4. After reaching the Marianas, the vessel left on March 26 for the invasion of Okinawa as part of the Southern Defense Group of the Southern Attack Force.
The ship hit beach Orange I on Okinawa on April 12, then for the next two weeks shuttled cargo and provided smoke cover for U.S. ships during Japanese air attacks. On April 12, LST-887’s 40mm and 20mm guns shot down a kamikaze plane that was aiming for the merchant ship SS Minot Victory. From mid-April to early June, the vessel operated in the Caroline, Admiralty, and Russell Islands before returning to Okinawa on June 26 with 4,400 drums of gasoline. After picking up a load of tanks and amphibious vehicles and taking them to Guam on July 10, LST-887 conducted supply and ferry runs until Japan surrendered in August. The vessel dropped off occupation troops at Nagasaki on September 24, then sailed to the Philippines to pick up additional troops to deliver to Japan. It returned to Manila on December 9 to take on a load of home-bound troops, arriving at San Francisco, California, on January 30, 1946. LST-887 sailed to Oregon in early April and was decommissioned at Portland on July 23, going into the Pacific Reserve Fleet’s Columbia River Group at Astoria.
LST-887 was recommissioned at Bremerton, Washington, on November 3, 1950, under Lieutenant Walter T. Babcock for service in the Korean War. After reaching Yokosuka, Japan, on April 26, 1951, it underwent several months of training and, in September, began ferrying supplies between Japan and South Korea. After delivering a load of troops at Inchon on December 28, it operated along the Korean coast until returning to Yokosuka on January 17, 1952, and then sailing for the United States, arriving at San Diego on March 8. LST-887 sailed east again on August 25 and operated between Japan and Korea through April 1953, again returning to San Diego on May 16. After hostilities ceased on July 27, LST-887 sailed to Korea to pick up troops, bringing them back to San Diego on October 12. The vessel had earned one battle star in World War II and three in the Korean War.
After an overhaul and additional training, LST-887 was sent back to Japan on May 3, 1954, operating between there and Korea until August 17, when it was sent to Vietnam as part of “Operation Passage to Freedom.” The vessel made four runs from Haiphong to Nha Trang and Tourane between August 30 and September 20, carrying French troops and equipment from the north to South Vietnam. It was back in San Diego by November 7.
The vessel was designated the USS Lawrence County on July 1, 1955. The Lawrence County would have two more deployments to the Far East between March 1955 and May 1957, then would conduct cargo runs and training exercises at U.S. bases in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Alaska. Between May 21 and June 18, 1958, the Lawrence County provided logistical support for nuclear tests. Returning to San Diego on July 19, the ship operated there until sailing for Oregon on February 24, 1960.
It was decommissioned on March 22 and again put in the Columbia River Group of the Pacific Reserve Fleet. The Lawrence County was struck from the navy list on November 1, 1960, and sold to the Indonesian navy a month later through the Foreign Assistance Sales Program. It served Indonesia as the Tandjun Nusanive (LST-1) until 1974.
For additional information:
“LST-887 Lawrence County.” Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. https://www.hazegray.org/danfs/amphib/lst887.txt (accessed June 13, 2018).
Rottman, Gordon L. Landing Ship, Tank (LST) 1942–2002. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing Co., 2005.
“USS Lawrence County (LST-887).” NavSource.org. https://www.navsource.org/archives/10/16/160887.htm (accessed June 13, 2018).
Mark K. Christ
Little Rock, Arkansas
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I was seventeen and eighteen while aboard LST-887 in part of 1956, 1957, and part of 1958. The total number of tests we were involved in was eleven at Eniwetok. I know because I counted them. I’m now eighty-one years old.