The USS Holmes County, originally known simply as the LST-836, was a 1,600 ton LST-542 class ship built at Ambridge, Pennsylvania, and commissioned November 25, 1944. She was named for counties in Ohio, Florida, and Mississippi.
Service in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam
The LST-836’s first assignment took her to the Canal Zone where she delivered a load of ammunition and building supplies. After a stop in San Diego she continued on to Hawaii to train and then transport troops to the Marshall Islands. There, she prepared for deployment to Okinawa, arriving on April 18, 1945, well after the initial landings. The ship spent the rest of the war shuttling troops and cargo throughout the Pacific, and was then assigned to occupation forces in the Japanese home islands.
She arrived back in the United States in January 1946 and was decommissioned in July. Recommissioned in 1950 for duty in Korea, the LST-836 arrived at Yokosuka in March 1951. For eight months she ferried troops and cargo into the combat zone. Following overhaul stateside, the ship operated in support of hydrogen bomb testing in the Marshalls. After a brief stop in San Diego, she sailed back to the Far East.
The ship remained in Asia following the signing of the truce, carrying supplies to the U.N. peacekeeping units on the peninsula. In the years between 1954 and 1959, the LST-836 made three cruises to Westpac. She was renamed the USS Holmes County on July 1, 1955. In late 1959 she underwent a FRAM overhaul and was then transferred to the Pacific Amphibious Force. She spent the next five years engaging in exercises off the West Coast and Hawaii.
On October 11, 1965 the landing craft departed homeport for duty in Southeast Asia. Arriving at Da Nang November 22, she operated in the battle area for three months. Steaming for home on March 29, 1966, she made it to San Diego on May 26. Four months later she was part of Operation Baseline, a large Pacific Fleet exercise.
The landing ship won a total of four Battle Stars for her service, one for WW II and three for Korea. The Harris County was decommissioned on July 1, 1971. She was transferred to the Singaporean Navy and renamed the RSS Endurance. On December 5, 1975, she was officially sold to Singapore. She was decommissioned for the final time in 1999 and now serves as a floating defense barricade at Changi Naval Base.
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.