The USS Lawrence County, a tank landing ship, was named for counties in eleven states. Originally known as the LST-887, she was built in 1944 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and commissioned in November at New Orleans. She sailed from New Orleans to San Diego in December to unload her cargo, and then sailed up the coast to Seattle where she loaded equipment and Army engineers bound for Pearl Harbor.
Service in World War II and Korea
In March 1945, the LST-887 joined the Southern Defense Group and headed for the invasion of Okinawa. After unloading her troops, she stayed in the area as smoke cover during enemy air raids and made cargo runs between Okinawa and Kerama Retto. During the attack, she helped stop three Japanese airstrikes.
During the remainder of the war, the landing ship made several transports, from the Carolines to Guadalanal to Guam to Saipan, moving troops, fuel, vehicles and other supplies. In January 1946, the LST-887 brought soldiers home to San Francisco. She then sailed up the coast to Portland, Oregon where she was decommissioned on July 23, 1946, and placed in the Pacific Reserve Fleet.
The LST-887 was recommissioned in November 1950 in Bremerton, Washington, and was sent back to Japan in March 1951 where she made cargo and training runs. In September, the ship began taking troops and supplies to American forces in South Korea. She went back to Korea from Japan in December on another supply run and spent a few weeks along the west coast of Korea before her return trip to San Diego. She returned to the Japanese Islands in August 1952 for more supply runs and in December, carried troops and equipment from Yokosuku and Otaru to Pusan. She continued these runs to Inchon and Koje Do until heading back to California in April 1953.
After the War
In March 1954, the ship returned to Japan and Korea as support for the American troops. She took part in the “Passage to Freedom” in August and September, moving refugees to the new Republic of South Vietnam. Between March 1955 and May 1957, she continued with supply runs in the Far East, after which she was officially renamed the USS Lawrence County.
The next two years the Lawrence County sailed out of San Diego for American bases in the Pacific, making passenger and supply runs, training and, in 1958, gave logistics support for nuclear tests. She was decommissioned in March 1960 then sold in December to Indonesia.
For her service in World War II and Korea, the Lawrence County earned four battle stars.
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.