The USS Hickman County’s career began as LST-825, a tank landing ship. Construction began in Evansville, Indiana, on October 2, 1944 by Missouri Valley Bridge & Iron
Company. Lt. Henry V. Hartsell took command for her commission on December 8.
Service in World War II and Korea
The LST-825 sailed out of Seattle on February 26, 1945, set for the Pacific campaign. The ship arrived in Okinawa on April 21 where she off-loaded troops and cargo. She joined a convoy bound for Iwo Jima at the end of July. After Japan’s surrender, the LST-825 delivered occupation troops and cargo to Tokyo. On November 16, she joined the Magic Carpet fleet in Guam, taking 514 enlisted men stateside. West Coast tactical missions preceded the ship’s decommissioning in Oregon on May 22, 1946, and she was assigned to the Pacific Reserve Fleet.
The ship saw a return to service with a call to arms. The landing ship was recommissioned for Korean War service on November 3. Cargo and other operations shuttled her between the West Coast and Hawaii until June 11, 1951. She next participated in joint maneuvers with the Republic of South Korea and transported POWs to Japan. She returned to San Diego on March 5, 1953. The U.S. Navy honored Hickman County with two battle stars for her Korean War service.
After spending the first half of 1954 off the coasts of Korea and Japan, the ship sailed for French Indochina on August 11 where she assisted North Vietnamese refugees in their flight from communist rule. The LST-825 received the Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation for her contribution to the massive operation.
Her San Diego stint began in November 1954. The Navy redubbed her the USS Hickman County on July 1, 1955. She was decommissioned for the second time on September 20, 1955. The Navy recommissioned Hickman County on March 22, 1962, assigning her to LST Reserve Squadron 2. The landing ship undertook tactical training until called to service in 1965 during unrest in the Dominican Republic. The ship supported U.S. peacekeeping troops until December 1965.
In February 1966, the Hickman County set course for the Western Pacific and Vietnam War operations. She participated in 10 campaigns between May 6, 1966 and November 3, 1969. On November 26, after being decommissioned for the third and final time, the Hickman County was transferred to the Philippines and renamed RPS Cagayan (LT-97). The Navy removed her from its register on September 15, 1979.
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.