USS White River (LSMR-536)
The USS White River (LSMR-536) 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-536 was designated the USS White River on October 1, 1955, in honor of rivers in seven states, including Arkansas.
The USS White 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 White River carried a crew of 143 sailors.
The keel for LSMR-536 was laid down on June 9, 1945, by the Brown Shipbuilding Company in Houston, Texas. The vessel was launched on July 14 and commissioned on November 28 under the command of Lieutenant John M. Cates. It sailed to Charleston, South Carolina, for final outfitting and had shakedown training (a test of the ship’s performance) at Little Creek, Virginia, in January 1946. With World War II over, LSMR-536 was sent to Green Cove Springs, Florida, where it was decommissioned on July 31 and made part of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet.
After the Korean conflict began, LSMR-536 was recommissioned on September 16, 1950, under Lieutenant Henry O. Bergkamp. After again doing shakedown training at Little Creek, the ship headed west for duty with the Pacific Fleet, arriving at San Diego, California, on March 24, 1951. Following fourteen months of amphibious support training, it left San Diego on May 12, 1952, for the Far East. From a base at Sasebo, Japan, LSMR-536 arrived in Korean waters on July 16 and patrolled of Ch’o-do Island until August 15, when it returned to Japan. After conducting landing exercises and operating along the Japanese coast until mid-November, LSMR-536 returned to Ch’o-do, performing night illumination fire until mid-December.
The vessel operated in Japanese waters until January 18, 1953, then sailed back to Ch’o-do and began patrolling between there, Taenchong Do, Paenguyong Do, and Kirin Do. It sailed for the United States in late February, passing through Midway and Pearl Harbor before arriving at San Diego on March 24. LSMR-536 underwent an overhaul and trained on the West Coast for eleven months before setting out for the Far East on February 10, 1954. It operated in Korean and Japanese waters for around nine months before returning to the West Coast on November 7, 1954. It spent 1955 doing amphibious training out of San Diego and was named the USS White River on October 1, 1955. After returning to the Far East for training operations during 1956, the White River was decommissioned at San Diego on September 7 and placed in the Pacific Reserve Fleet’s San Diego Group.
As the Vietnam War intensified, the White River was moved to Long Beach Naval Shipyard for modifications and was recommissioned on October 2, 1965, under Lieutenant William C. Carlson. Leaving San Diego on February 8, 1966, the vessel rejoined the Seventh Fleet and, after drills and training, arrived off the coast of Vietnam on May 25. For the next three months, the White River provided fire support for U.S. and South Vietnamese forces before sailing to the Philippines and Japan, returning to Vietnam in late September. Its second tour of duty in the hostile zone ended on November 8, and after refitting in Japan it was back on duty in Vietnamese waters on February 11, 1967, again providing fire support for land forces. The White River had four more tours of duty in Vietnam in 1967, interspersed with voyages to the Philippines and Japan for repairs and refurbishment.
The White River made four deployments to Vietnam out of Yokosuka, Japan, in 1968. Redesignated LFR-536 as an Inshore Fire Support Ship on January 1, 1969, the White River saw no Vietnam action that year. An inspection of the White River found many deficiencies in the veteran vessel, and it was struck from the navy list on May 22, 1970. It was sold that November to the Nissho Iwai American Corporation of New York for scrapping. The USS White River earned two battle stars in Korea and campaign stars for Vietnam service.
For additional information:
Blackman, Raymond V. B., ed. Jane’s Fighting Ships, 1954–55. Whitby, ON: McGraw-Hill Canada, 1955.
“LSMR-536 White River.” Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. https://www.hazegray.org/danfs/amphib/lsmr536.htm (accessed December 4, 2018).
“USS White River (LFR-536).” NavSource.org. http://www.navsource.org/archives/10/06/06536.htm (accessed December 4, 2018).
Mark K. Christ
Little Rock, Arkansas
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