The tank landing ship USS Iron County began her career as the LST-840. After being launched on November 15, 1944, she was commissioned on December 11 with Lt. David McC. Bon commanding. Once she was finished with her shakedown in Florida, she loaded cargo at Gulfport, Mississippi, and then again at San Francisco and Seattle. She headed out into the Pacific, and on March 24, 1945, she arrived at Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands.
Service in World War II
Final preparations were made in the Marshall Islands and the Caroline Islands before the landing ship left for Okinawa on April 12. The battle was well underway for this island, which was a strategic stepping stone to the Japanese homeland, when the LST-840 arrived on the 18th. After dropping her load of combat engineers and other equipment she returned to Ulithi on May 5.
For the duration of World War II, the LST-840 continued to shuttle troops and cargo to several staging areas all through the Pacific. Even after victory in Japan, she continued to operate in the area for the next three months in support of occupation forces. She departed on November 11 after embarking some 500 marines at Guam to return to the United States and Pearl Harbor. On December 15 she made her way to San Diego, where she would remain until she was decommissioned in Vancouver, Washington. On June 1, 1946, the LST-840 joined the Columbia River Group of the Pacific Reserve Fleet.
Action in Korea
On November 3, 1950, the LST-840 was called out of retirement to support the effort to stop Communist aggression against South Korea. From June to November of 1951 she served a vital role, shuttling cargo and POWs along the war-torn peninsula. After her tour in Korea the LST-840 returned to the U.S. for overhaul. She continued cargo duties in Alaska for the next six months before going to San Diego. March 13, 1953, marked the beginning of the second tour in Korea for the cargo ship. For her service in this conflict, the LST-840 earned three battle stars. She remained around the Inchon vicinity during her tour until the peace treaty in July and continued peacekeeping operations until November.
After the War
The landing ship soon returned to the Far East, ferrying French troops home from the Indochina War in 1954. The next year, she was renamed the USS Iron County and sent to Pearl Harbor to participate in various amphibious exercises. She returned to the U.S. west coast in 1957, and was decommissioned and struck from the Naval Register the following year. She was then transferred to the Chinese navy, serving under the name ROCS Chung Fu until 1997.
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.