The USS Luzerne County, originally known as the LST-902, was an LST-542 class tank landing ship that carried vehicles, cargo, and troops. Named after Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, this naval vessel was built in Pittsburgh in November 1944, launched in December, and commissioned in January 1945.
Service in World War II and Vietnam
After training near the Florida coast, the ship arrived at Maui in the Hawaiian Islands in March 1945. Having brought troops and cargo to Pearl Harbor, the LST-902 journeyed to the Western Pacific in June to carry troops and cargo to Okinawa in July. She was stationed in Saipan until the Japanese surrendered and then sailed to Luzon in the Philippines to transport hundreds of war veterans from Guam to the United States. The ship was overhauled in San Francisco in December before she traveled to Oregon and Washington. She was decommissioned in Oregon in August 1946 and placed in reserve.
After being recommissioned in January 1952 and completing training in San Diego, the LST-902 delivered supplies to American military stations in Korea. In May 1953, she began transporting marines to Japan. After an overhaul, the ship continued transporting supplies to Okinawa, South Korea, and Japan. In October, the vessel carried French military personnel and equipment from North Vietnam to Saigon before returning to Japan in December. Leaving Tokyo Bay in January 1955, the vessel returned to San Diego. After being renamed the USS Luzerne County, she was deactivated and overhauled in Seattle, Washington, and decommissioned in November.
Recommissioned in March 1963, the ship completed training in San Diego before heading for Little Creek, Virginia, in June to train reserve units. In 1965, she participated in calming a crisis of political unrest in the Dominican Republic. The ship journeyed to Norfolk, Virginia, to board peacekeeping troops to be delivered to Puerto de Andres in May and then returned to Virginia. Further assignments included bringing troops from North Carolina to Santo Domingo and Puerto Rico.
In January, the ship aided military stations in Southeast Asia. Cargo was also carried from an American merchant freighter to Bangkok, Thailand, before sailing to Sasebo, Japan, for overhaul. In July, she continued supply duties to South Vietnam; however, the vessel returned to Sasebo for repairs after sustaining damage while aiding an American merchant ship at Triton Island. Transporting supplies to Vietnam continued until 1970.
The USS Luzerne County was decommissioned and removed from the Naval Register in August 1970. She earned two battle stars in the Korean War and 10 campaign stars in Vietnam, but her fate since the decommissioning is unknown.
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 to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.