The USS Westchester County, LST 1167, was named for a county in Southeastern New York State. She displaced 2,590 tons light, 5,800 tons loaded; 384' in length at the waterline; width (beam) 56'6"; maximum draft 17'; speed 14.5 knots; her average complement (crew) 153; and armament 3 twin 3"/50 caliber MK33 rapid fire naval guns. She was built from plans for the LST 1156 (Terrebonne Parish) class of US Navy Warship.
The keel for the LST 1167 was laid down on 11 January 1952 by The Christy Corporation; Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. She was launched on 18 April 1953. Sponsored by Mrs. Robert E. Wood, who may have been a wonderful woman to put her soul into this ship and this ship had soul and character.
After "Fitting Out" and "Sea Trials" in Lake Michigan she was prepared for her transit through the Chicago canals and rivers to New Orleans and reassembly and final fitting out. LST 1167 was commissioned on 10 March 1954, Lt. Commander Leonard F. Lacey at the command. LST 1167 departed New Orleans on 8 April 1954 and reached the Naval Amphibious Base at Little Creek, Virginia on 14 April. The rest of 1954 was spent in amphibious warfare training exercises in the Chesapeake Bay.
On 14 February 1955, LST 1167 sailed from Little Creek to embark 205 Marines and equipment for exercises in the Caribbean. The exercises were repeated in April and the ship returned to Little Creek on 6 May 1955. On 1 July 1955, LST 1167 was named USS Westchester County. "WESCO" spent the remaining months of 1955 engaged in operations along the East Coast with the majority of the time being spent in local training.
After loading Marines and Equipment at Morehead City, NC, the "Tank Landing Ship" sailed for exercises in the Caribbean on 11 January 1956. She returned to Norfolk, Virginia on 6 February and made another training cruise to the Caribbean from 20 February to 24 March.
Upon returning to Little Creek, Virginia, the ship conducted local operations until the Fourth of July in which the Westchester County spent in Yonkers, Westchester County, New York. She then made port calls at Trenton, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., before going into overhaul on 21 September at the Brewer Bay Dock Company of Staten Island, N.Y. After a two month yard period, WESCO conducted local operations for the remainder of 1956.
On 28 February 1957, the Westchester County embarked personnel and equipment at Morehead City, North Carolina and sailed to the Caribbean for Amphibious training exercises, thence returning to Norfolk on 13 May. She conducted local operations until 28 August when she sailed for a Mediterranean Deployment, joining the 6th Fleet at Messina, Sicily on 15 September. WESCO conducted exercises with Turkey, Greece and Spain. On 4 November she departed Alicante, Spain for Little Creek and conducted local operations for the remainder of the year.The Westchester County began the year 1958 departing Norfolk for San Francisco via the Panama Canal. She arrived at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco on 31 January for overhaul, which was completed on 2 April. The ship put to sea from San Diego on 7 June for her first tour of duty in the Far East. She reached Sasebo, Japan on 5 July for amphibious warfare maneuvers and assault landing practice in Buckner Bay, Okinawa, Subic Bay, Philippines and Tsoying, Taiwan where she engaged in joint operations with Chinese Underwater Demolition Teams embarked. She returned to San Diego on 10 December 1958 and finished the year there.
The first eight months of 1959 were spent in amphibious training along the California coast. On 24 August, the Westchester County embarked marines and vehicles for Kaneohe, Hawaii, and amphibious landings. On 6 October, she returned to California, off-loaded the marines and returned to San Francisco. On 30 November, WESCO entered the Todd Shipyard, Alameda, California for overhaul until 12 February 1960.
She resumed her training schedule out of San Diego until 1 August 1960 when she sailed to Port Hueneme to load cargo and take on fuel. The next day, she set course for her new home, port of Yokusuka, Japan, via the Hawaiian Islands and Okinawa. The ship beached at Numazu, Japan on 5 September 1960 to commence a series of large scale amphibious exercises with SEATO forces. From 1 to 31 December, WESCO underwent overhaul at Yokusuka Naval Base.
The year 1961 was spent making logistic runs between Subic Bay, Okinawa and North Borneo. The WESCO spent November 1961 in upkeep at her home port.
The Westchester County got underway on 18 January 1962 for sea trials and refresher training. On 10 March, she rendezvoused with other units of the Pacific Fleet and departed for Mindoro, Philippine, for amphibious warfare maneuvers. The ship returned to Yokusuka Japan on 20 April and resumed a normal training scheduled. The communist threat in Vietnam interrupted this training period and on 13 May, WESCO was underway for Subic Bay, with a combat load of marines.
On 15 June 1962, the tank landing ship returned to Yokusuka, for upkeep and in-port training. She then conducted operations at Keelung, Taiwan; Subic Bay, Bangkok, Thailand and Naha, Okinawa. During October, the ship participated in the amphibious exercise, "Lone Eagle". This exercise was delayed in Okinawa due to the Cuban crisis, which put United States ships on a worldwide alert. On 12 November, the WESCO returned to her home port of Yokusuka, where she spent Christmas. On 28 December 1962, she departed for a New Year's visit to Tokyo, Japan.
The year 1963 began with a cold weather operation in Korea, which commenced on 16 January. The Westchester County spent the time until 24 May shuttling marine equipment to Naha, Tsoying and Numazu with interspersed upkeep periods at Yokusuka. On 24 May, she sailed from Naha to transport Korean soldiers from Pusan to Pohang, Korea. After a brief upkeep at Sasebo, Japan, the Westchester County took part in Operation "Flagpole", a joint amphibious exercise with the Republic of Korea Navy and Marines which concluded on 29 June. July and August were spent in upkeep at Yokusuka, followed by exercise "Bayonet Beach" on 5 September 63 Tong Po Pi, Korea.
The Westchester County returned to Yokusuka on 19 September for inspections and amphibious training. On 7 October, the ship sailed for Okinawa where she sustained damage to her bow ramp which required repairs at Sasebo until 29 October. After a brief Marine lift to Okinawa, WESCO returned to Yokusuka on 9 November for regular overhaul. The ship went into dry-dock on 27 December 1963 and thus ended the year.
Westchester County remained in dry-dock until 31 January 1964 and underwent sea trials, refresher training and amphibious refresher training at Yokusuka, Japan, until 8 May. She departed Yokusuka on 19 May for Naha, Okinawa, and the first of many Marine lifts between Okinawa, Japan and the Philippines which occupied the ship until 9 August.
At that time, due to the Tonkin Golf crisis, Westchester County departed Naha, Okinawa for extended operations off Vietnam in the South China Sea. She returned to Subic Bay, Philippines on 2 October and began a series of Marine lifts between Naha and Buckner Bay, Tsoying and Yokusuka. On 19 November, the ship returned to Yokuska and underwent upkeep and underway training until 24 December when she visited Tokyo. Westchester County departed Tokyo on 28 December 1964 and returned to Yokusuka.
Westchester County started 1965 with two marine lifts between Okinawa and Japan. February was spent at Okinawa and on 3 March the ship transported marines and vehicles to Subic Bay. Between 17 March and 15 April, the tank landing ship completed two Marine lifts to Da Nang, South Vietnam. On 29 April, she departed Buckner Bay for the first amphibious landing at Chu Lai, South Vietnam. This operation was the largest in the Pacific since the Korean War. From 11 May to 24 May, the ship made two turnaround trips between Naha and Chu Lai.
Following upkeep at Yokusuka, Westchester County spent the period from 22 June to 15 August making marine lifts to Da Nang and Chu Lai. She returned to Yokosuka for upkeep until 30 September when she transported marines from Naha to Numazu for cold weather operations.
After reloading at Yokusuka, Westchester County transported Korean troops from Pusan, Korea to Qui Nhan, South Vietnam, from 7 to 21 November, she joined in Operation "Blue Marlin," making two landings at Tam Ky, South Vietnam. She arrived at Yokusuka on 16 December and spent Christmas at her home port. On 26 December, she put to sea to load cargo at Iwakuni, Japan, arriving on the 28th and departing for Naha, Okinawa, the next day. On 31 December 1965, she arrived at Naha and there celebrated the New Year.
During 1966, the WESCO served extensively in carrying cargo to the Republic of Vietnam in support of American forces ashore. On 24 January, the ship joined in Operation "Double Eagle", an amphibious assault at Cap Mai, Vietnam. From February through August, WESCO transported troops and equipment to Qui Nhon, Chu Lai, and Da Nang, Vietnam. This duty was interspersed with port visits to Hong Kong and repairs at Subic Bay and Yokusuka.
On 1 September 1966, WESCO anchored at Vung Tau, Vietnam, to begin operations as support ship for Operation "Market Time". Until 4 October, the ship steamed continuously on station off the Ca Mau Peninsula refueling, replenishing and serving as a base for the boats and crews who patrolled the coast of Vietnam to prevent infiltration by sea. After returning to Yokusuka, the ship spent the period from 16 October through 31 December undergoing upkeep interspersed with a short training visit to Okinawa and port visits to Keelung, Taiwan, and Hiroshima, Japan.
From 3 January to 15 March 1967, WESCO transported troops and supplies between Okinawa and Vietnam. The tank landing ship went into overhaul on 15 March at Yokusuka, followed by refresher training which lasted through 5 August. The WESCO spent the remaining months of 1967 carrying marines and equipment between Yokusuka, Okinawa and Vietnam. The LST served as Mobile Riverine Force support ship in the Mekong Delta from 24 October through 31 December 1967.
The Westchester County spent the early weeks of 1968 continuing service as a Mobile Riverine support ship. On 26 January, the tank landing ship began a series of lifts from Okinawa, Japan and the Philippines to Vietnam. She underwent repair availability and training exercises from 16 July through 22 September.
The tank landing ship resumed duty with the Mobile Riverine Forces on 22 September. Tragedy struck on 1 November while Westchester County lay anchored in the vicinity of My Tho, Vietnam. Two giant underwater explosions ripped Westchester County, killing 25 men. The enemy mines had been attached to the hull about mid ship on the starboard side causing ruptured berthing compartments as well as fuel and storage tanks. The day following the explosion, the entire Mobile Riverine Force moved from My Tho to Dong Tam.
After beaching at Dong Tam for temporary repairs, she returned to Yokusuka via Subic Bay. On 26 November, Westchester County went into dry dock at the United States Naval Ship Repair facility in Yokusuka where she remained until 5 February 1969.
Upon completion of refresher training and up keep, the ship got underway on 10 March 1969 for operation "Market Time" off the Vietnam coast. From 5 July through 23 August, Westchester County joined in the first phase of Vietnam troop withdrawal. The remaining of 1969 was spent in Korea, Japan and Okinawa to Vietnam with intermittent periods of repair and liberty.
The beginning of the 1970's found Westchester County operating off the northern coast of Vietnam. During February, she conducted troop and equipment withdrawal from South Vietnam, then underwent restricted availability at Yokusuka beginning 4 March.
April through July was spent transporting personnel and cargo from Japan and Okinawa to Vietnam. On 2 August, she relieved the USS Washoe County off the Ca Mau peninsula for Operation "Solid Ancho", which consisted of fueling boats and helicopters. Nine of Westchester County's sailors received the Combat Action Ribbon when they withstood enemy small arms and rocket fire while transiting the Bo De River.
Following a restricted availability at Yokusuka which commenced on 30 October, Westchester County made stops at Cam Ranh Bay, Da Nang, Hong Kong, Okinawa and Iwakuni, Japan before departing on 17 November for a vehicle lift from Chinhau, South Korea, to Okinawa. Westchester County spent the first half of December involved in landing rehearsals and gunnery exercises. She then transited to Singapore to enjoy a Christmas visit. The ship closed out the year in route to Subic Bay.
During January 1971, Westchester County sailed between Hong Kong and Subic Bay. On 2 February, she departed Subic Bay in route to the Gulf of Tonkin in support of "Lamson III", the Cambodian operation which lasted until 7 March. After restricted availability and training at Okinawa and Yokusuka, the ship returned to Vietnam on 21 June and continued operations.
From 6 August through 1 September, the Westchester County assumed the administrative duties as SOPA (senior officer present afloat) in Hong Kong. Following restricted availability at Yokusuka, the ship lifted personnel and equipment of an Army security agency for transit to Pusan, Korea and returned them to Okinawa on 6 December. During this period, she transported marines from Japan to Okinawa, departing Okinawa on 24 November to spend Thanksgiving at Yokusuka. Following the off-load of Army personnel on 6 December, the Westchester County returned to Yokusuka for the holiday season arriving on 10 December.
The Westchester County completed a restricted availability on 17 January 1972 and set out for a lift to Subic Bay. The tank landing ship spent February at Subic Bay undergoing repairs and local operations. After SOPA duties at Hong Kong from 15 to 31 March, the ship resumed personnel and cargo transits to the Gulf of Tonkin, until 30 August 1972. During this period, the tank landing ship underwent a seven week restricted availability followed by refresher training in Yokusuka, Japan.
From 7 September through October 1972, Westchester County operated in logistic support of Mine Flotilla 1. She returned to Yokusuka on 15 October for availability and inspection. The ship made a brief transit to Okinawa, departing on 30 November. She returned to Yokusuka on 5 December 1972 and enjoyed the Christmas holidays while in upkeep status.
On 27 January 1973, with the signing of the Vietnam Cease Fire in Paris, the ship was underway for Subic Bay to transport mine counter-measures equipment and Commander Mine Flotilla One to the Gulf of Tonkin. Due to a breakdown in the cease fire negotiations, the tank landing ship was ordered to a rendezvous point near Da Nang. Departing the vicinity on 3 March, she continued to work in support of Operation "End Sweep."
After availability and shore bombardment exercises at Subic Bay which commenced on 14 March, the Westchester County returned to Vietnam in support of Operation "End Sweep" which was completed on 18 July. The ship made stops at Subic Bay, Philippines and Okinawa before finally arriving at Yokusuka, Japan on 30 July.
The Westchester County was decommissioned on 30 August 1973 and arrived at the Inactive Ship Facility, 30 November of that year. On 27 August 1974, she was turned over to the Turkish Navy and commissioned as Serdar (L402).
During her time of service, the USS Westchester County, LST 1167 earned 15 engagement stars for Vietnam service, the First Combat Action Ribbon for service in the Quemoy Straits, July 1958, plus three other combat action ribbons for service in Vietnam.
Bibliography: Dictionary of "American Naval Fighting Ships", Vol. VIII. James L. Mooney, Editor
Comments by Shipmates: VADM Joseph P. Metcalf (USN Retired); LCDR John W. Branin (Deceased), CDR Norman T. Hansen (USN Retired) and many of the shipmates who served under them.
USS WESTCHESTER COUNTY, LST-1167
|LCDR Leamon Lacey||4/53 - 6/55|
|LCDR Lane Clenedin||6/55 - 7/57|
|LCDR Frederick Staub||7/57 - 3/59|
|LCDR James Beaubof||3/59 - 7/60|
|LCDR Mitchell Karlowicz||7/60 - 8/61|
|LCDR Winston Briggs||8/61 - 12/62|
|LCDR James Patton||12/62 - 7/64|
|CDR Joseph Metcalf, III||7/64 - 12/65|
|CDR Norman Hansen||12/65 - 8/67|
|LCDR John W. Branin||8/67 - 8/69|
|CDR Joseph Lang||8/69 - 3/72|
|CDR Richard Holly||3/72 - 2/74|