USS St. Francis River (LSMR-525)
The USS St. Francis River (LSMR-525) was an LSMR-501 Class landing craft medium (Rockets) that was built in 1945 and saw service in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. LSMR-525 was designated the USS St. Francis River on October 1, 1955, in honor of the St. Francis River, which flows through Missouri and Arkansas, and another river of the same name in Maine.
The USS St. Francis River was one of a class of ships designed to provide fire support for combat operations ashore. The vessel weighed 520 tons, was 203.5 feet long and 34.5 feet wide, and could reach speeds of 13 knots. It was armed with one five-inch gun, four 4.2-inch mortars, and two 40mm antiaircraft guns. Ten rocket projectors were continuously fed, with each firing thirty pin-stabilized five-inch rockets per minute, allowing a barrage of 300 rockets per clip from all ten projectors. The USS St. Francis River carried a crew of 143 sailors.
The keel for LSMR-525 was laid down at Houston, Texas, by the Brown Shipbuilding Company on May 19, 1945. The vessel was launched on June 16 and commissioned on August 14, but with the end of World War II, it was ordered to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet on October 25 and berthed at Green Cove Springs, Florida, after being decommissioned on March 28, 1946.
LSMR-525 was recommissioned on September 16, 1950, to serve in the Korean War and participated in the blockade of the strategically important North Korean port of Wonsan, firing rockets on enemy positions on July 17, 1951, and continuing fire-support missions there into the fall months. The vessel sailed back to San Diego, California, in December and operated on the West Coast through 1952. LSMR-525 returned to Korea on March 24, 1953, and aided in the defense of the island of Sok-to off the Korean coast.
The ship returned to San Diego after the hostilities ended with the signing of an armistice by the United States, North Korea, and China on July 27, 1953. It sailed back to Korean waters, however, on September 20, 1954, conducting routine operations before covering the evacuation of Chinese Nationalists from the Tachen Islands that were soon occupied by Chinese communist troops in February 1955. The vessel returned to the United States and was named the USS St. Francis River on October 1, 1955. Again decommissioned on November 21, the St. Francis River joined the Pacific Reserve Fleet’s Columbia River Group.
With the outbreak of hostilities in Vietnam, the USS St. Francis River was recommissioned once more on September 18, 1965, and sailed for Japan on February 8, 1966, for its new home port of Yokosuka, Japan, from which it would operate during the Vietnam War. The St. Francis River arrived at Da Nang, South Vietnam, on April 19 and supported U.S. and South Vietnamese land forces along the coast and Mekong Delta. The ship provided fire support there through 1969, being reclassified as an Inshore Fire Support Ship on January 1, 1969.
The USS St. Francis River was struck from the navy list on April 17, 1970, and in November of that year sold to the Nissho-Iwai American Corporation of Sasebo, Japan, for scrapping. The vessel had earned three battle stars in Korea and ten campaign stars in Vietnam.
For additional information:
Blackman, Raymond V. B., ed. Jane’s Fighting Ships, 1954–55. Whitby, ON: McGraw-Hill Canada, 1955.
“LSMR-525 St. Francis River.” Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. https://www.hazegray.org/danfs/amphib/lsmr525.htm (accessed June 13, 2018).
“USS St. Francis River (LFR-525).” NavSource.org. http://www.navsource.org/archives/10/06/06525.htm (accessed June 13, 2018).
Mark K. Christ
Little Rock, Arkansas
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