The USS Epping Forest (LSD-4) was a 7,900 ton Ashland class dock landing ship named after the Virginia estate where George Washington’s mother was born. Built at Oakland, California, and originally classified as a mechanized artillery transport (APM), she was reclassified in 1941 and commissioned on October 11, 1943.
Action in World War II
The Epping Forest sailed from San Diego on January 13, 1944, carrying marines bound for training in the Hawaiian Islands. Having disembarked those troops, she then loaded for the assault on the Marshall Islands. She participated in the initial landings on Roi and Namur. Replenished at Funafuti, she continued to Tulagi to embark elements of the 1st Marine division. The men and equipment were landed at Emirau on March 20. For the next three weeks she carried reinforcements to Emirau from Guadalcanal.
In April the ship traveled to Finschhafen to prepare for the operations at Hollandia. Following the pre-invasion bombardment of Aitape, she launched her landing craft and reloaded at Finschhafen. She made several trips to deliver supplies to both Aitape and Hollandia. Her next assignment was to sail to Guadalcanal to pick up a marine contingent headed for Guam. Initial landings took place July 21. For the following month she shuttled troops and equipment from Guadalcanal to Manus.
The Epping Forest moved to the waters off Peleliu, where she repaired landing craft following the September 15 assault. The ship then steamed to Hollandia for staging and subsequently delivered engineers and their equipment to Leyte Gulf for the initial landings October 20. From then until December she transported men and gear between Hollandia and Leyte. In January of 1945, the ship launched boats for the landing at Lingayen Gulf, moving on to the invasion of Okinawa in April. The ship returned to the U.S. in July and was there when the war ended.
After the War
She delivered small boats to Bikini Atoll for the atomic bomb tests in June 1946 and was decommissioned in March 1947. Recommissioned in 1950, she served two tours in Korea. For the remainder of her career she deployed frequently to the Far East to operate with 7th Fleet. In the summer of 1954 she helped transport refugees from French Indochina as part of the “Passage to Freedom” mission. Changing homeport to Sasebo, Japan in 1960, she served as flagship for Mine Flotilla One. The ship earned a total of 13 battle stars for service, eight for World War II and five for Korea. She was decommissioned on November 1, 1968, and sold the next year for scrapping.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, some auxiliary vessels also posed a lasting health risk to soldiers serving on them. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were common, especially on older ships, because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with these ships should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.