USS Jerome County LST-848
The LST-848 was launched in December 21, 1944, and sponsored by Mrs. F.D. Porter. The tank landing ship was built by the American Bridge Co., of Ambridge, Pennsylvania, in November 6 and was commissioned on January 20, 1945, with Lt. R.P. Bentley as her commander.
Service in World War II
After her shakedown cruise off the coast of Florida, the LST-848 left New Orleans on her way to the Pacific. She arrived in Kalua Harbor, Hawaii, on April 9, and participated in naval exercises for the next six weeks before departing for the Marianas. The LST-848 arrived in Guam on June 11, where her primary assignment was to provide transport for troops and equipment between Okinawa and the Marianas. This lasted until the end of the war. Afterwards, the LST-848 was assigned to transport troops between Japan and the Philippines, giving support to the American contingents still in the Pacific.
In December, she left Japan and arrived back to US waters on February 11, 1946. She was decommissioned on August 10 after completing operations up and down the West Coast. On July 1, 1955, during her stay with the Pacific Reserve Fleet, the LST-848 was renamed the USS Jerome County. On December 7, 1959, the Jerome County was re-commissioned and placed under Lt. Kenneth H. Ruecker’s command. On May 14, 1960, she arrived at Midway Island to participate in mid-Pacific missile operations, returning to San Diego in late October of the same year.
The Jerome County engaged in several amphibious training exercises during 1961, until she was called to participate in Operation Dominic and set sail for the Pacific in January 1962. During this operation, she was tasked with charting and communications duties for the US nuclear tests. This lasted only until August, and afterwards she operated along the West Coast until 1965.
Action in Vietnam
On August 10, 1965, the Jerome County departed for Southeast Asia to assist the South Vietnamese government against the Communist threat from the North. She arrived in Chu Lai on September 11 and gave US operations in Asia support until she returned to the San Diego in December of that year.
She took another tour of duty in 1966, arriving in South Vietnam on April 8. She then proceeded to shuttle ammunition, supplies and equipment for US operations until she left Subic Bay on the September 1. She was back in San Diego by October 13, 1966, and resumed her operations along the West Coast.
After the War
Though the crew of the Jerome County prepared for another deployment in 1969, the ship was instead transferred to the South Vietnamese Navy. In 1970, she was redubbed the RVN Nha Trang, but became part of the Philippines’ Navy after the war. It is unclear what her final fate was, but she is believed to have been disposed of in 1992. For her service in the U.S. Navy, the Jerome County received a Presidential Unit Citation, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, and five battle stars for the Vietnam conflict.
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.