The LST-819, later rechristened the USS Hampshire County, was an LST-542-class tank landing ship. She was constructed by the Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Company, based in Evansville, Indiana. She was launched in October 21, 1944, and commissioned in November, Lieutenant George Ryerson placed in command.
Service in World War II and Korea
The LST-819 was loaded with cargo after her shakedown off Florida, and by December 18 was on her way to the Pacific by way of New Orleans. She made a quick stop at San Diego and Pearl Harbor, and then proceeded to Tulagi, landing on February 23, 1945. The LST-819 was then used to transport ammunition for the Okinawa invasion over the Pacific for the next month.
She unloaded her cargo even under heavy attacks from the enemy’s air force. She stayed around the island of Okinawa for three weeks as the Japanese tried to repel the American invasion. Her transport and cargo operations would last throughout the rest of the war, usually in the area of Okinawa. She worked with the American forces in Japan until she finally set sail to return to the United States in November. By January 6, 1946, the LST-819 had arrived in San Francisco, back in US waters. She was decommissioned in Astoria, Oregon, and became part of the Pacific Reserve fleet.
Recommissioned for the Korean conflict on September 8, 1950, the LST-819 now had Lt. J.H. Burch as her commander, and arrived in Yokosuka on January 17, 1951. She transported troops and vehicles between Japan and Korean ports from February to June, and made a return trip six months later. She returned to the US in October 1952.
After the War
From August 1953 to June 1954, the LST-819 continued her cargo transport duties, albeit under quieter conditions. She was decommissioned in June 24, 1955, only to be re-commissioned for the Vietnam War on July 9, 1966. During her short period in reserve, she was renamed the USS Hampshire County. She arrived in Danang on November 8, 1966, and stayed active in Operation Market Time in a combat support role until 1967.
The Hampshire County received five battle stars: one for World War II and four for the Korean Conflict. She was decommissioned for a final time in 1970 and sold five years later. She ended up in commercial service in Greece under the name Petrola 142 until 1983. In 1995, she was brought to Turkey to be scrapped.
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.