USS Monroe County (LST-1038)
The USS Monroe County (LST-1038) was an LST-542 Class tank landing ship built in 1944 that saw service in the Pacific Theater of World War II. It was designated the USS Monroe County on July 1, 1955, in honor of counties in seventeen U.S. states, including Arkansas.
LST-1038 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-1038 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-1038’s keel was laid down on October 29, 1944, by the Dravo Corporation of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was launched on January 6, 1945. LST-1038 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-1038 was armed with two twin 40mm guns, four single 40mm guns, and twelve single 20mm guns. The vessel was commissioned at New Orleans, Louisiana, on February 5, 1945, under the command of Lieutenant Julius Wolf.
LST-1038 had its shakedown cruise (a test of the ship’s performance) in the Florida Gulf, then picked up its pontoons at Gulfport, Mississippi, and a load of ammunition at Mobile, Alabama. The vessel sailed for the Pacific on March 15, 1945, arriving at Ulithi on May 4. On May 16, it began distributing ammunition to U.S. ships operating in the Ryukus, leaving on June 10 to perform similar duties for vessels around Okinawa. LST-1038 sailed to Leyte on July 6 to await further orders.
On September 2, LST-1038 sailed to Luzon to pick up the XI Army’s headquarters staff, taking them to Wakayama, Japan, on September 25 for occupation duty. The vessel transported other troops from the Philippines and Okinawa to Japan, then in December and January performed duties at Saipan, Tinian, and Guam. On February 2, 1946, LST-1038 sailed to the Russell Islands to help break down navy bases there. It earned one battle star for World War II service.
The ship was sent back to the United States, joining the Third Naval District and, for the next three years, served as a training vessel for naval reservists in the New York area. It was decommissioned in 1949, and assigned to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet at Green Cove, Florida. The ship was designated the USS Monroe County on July 1, 1955. Struck from the Navy list on November 1, 1958, the Monroe County’s ultimate fate is unknown.
For additional information:
“LST-1038 Monroe County.” Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/amphib/ (accessed June 13, 2018).
Rottman, Gordon L. Landing Ship, Tank (LST) 1942–2002. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing Co., 2005.
“USS Monroe County (LST-1038).” NavSource.com. https://www.navsource.org/archives/10/16/161038.htm (accessed June 13, 2018).
Mark K. Christ
Little Rock, Arkansas
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