USS Lee County (LST-888)
The USS Lee County (LST-888) was a tank landing ship built in 1944 that saw service in the Pacific Theater of World War II. It was designated the USS Lee County on July 1, 1955, in honor of counties in five U.S. states, including Arkansas.
LST-888 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-888 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-888’s keel was laid down on August 11, 1944, by the Dravo Corporation of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the ship was launched on October 14, 1944. LST-888 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 men, and could transport sixteen officers and 147 soldiers. LST-888 was armed with two twin 40mm guns, four single 40mm guns, and twelve single 20mm guns to fend off attacking aircraft. It was commissioned at New Orleans, Louisiana, on November 13, 1944, under the command of Lieutenant Walter V. Harlin. Other commanders of LST-888 were Lt. John G. Burney Jr. from November 28, 1945, to January 1946; Lt. (junior grade) Ernest W. Hasemeyer from January to June 1946, and Lt. (junior grade) Hugh C. McLaughlin from June to September 2, 1946.
LST-888 had its shakedown cruise (test of the ship’s performance) and training off Panama City, Florida, and then departed New Orleans on December 14, 1944. Arriving at Pearl Harbor on January 16, 1945, it took on troops and vehicles and sailed for the Philippines on January 27, arriving at Leyte Gulf on February 25. The vessel set out for the invasion of the Ryukyu Islands on March 19 and arrived in the Kerama Retto Islands on March 26, just fifteen miles west of Okinawa, where it unloaded its cargo and passengers at Geruma Shima and Tokashiki Jima. It earned one battle star for activities during World War II.
After the attack on Okinawa began on April 1, LST-888 sailed for Ulithi on May 29 and commenced supply runs to Okinawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Guam, performing for the duration of the war. On September 22, 1945, it moved to Sasebo, Japan, and worked out of there and Nagasaki to supply U.S. occupation forces for the next six months. LST-888 departed for the United States, arriving at San Francisco, California, on May 27, 1946. It moved to the East Coast in July and performed coastal operations out of Little Creek, Virginia.
LST-888 was decommissioned at Charleston, South Carolina, on September 2, 1946, and towed to Cove Springs, Florida, as part of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. It was designated the USS Lee County on July 1, 1955, before being struck from the navy list and approved for disposal on September 21, 1960. Gulf Tampa Drydock, Inc., of Tampa, Florida, purchased the USS Lee County on April 18, 1961, and it was towed for scrapping on May 11.
For additional information:
“LST 888 Lee County.” https://www.hazegray.org/danfs/amphib/lst888.txt (accessed December 4, 2018).
Rottman, Gordon L. Landing Ship, Tank (LST) 1942–2002. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing Co., 2005.
“USS Lee County (LST 888).” NavSource Online. http://www.navsource.org/archives/10/16/160888.htm (accessed December 4, 2018).
Mark K. Christ
Little Rock, Arkansas
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