The LST-1096 tank landing ship was initially only known by its designation, but was later renamed for counties in Missouri, Michigan, Illinois, and Alabama. She was laid down by Machinery Company and Jeffersonville, Indiana, on November 27, 1944. She was launched in January of the next year and commissioned in February under the command of Lieutenant Lester W. Sperberg.
Service in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam
The LST-1096 prepared for duty in the Pacific region after shakedown off of Florida. The ship carried ammunition and pontoons in the first part of March and sailed to the Panama Canal on March 11. She continued sail to the Marianas and Marshalls and to the Western Carolines, arriving at Ulithi in May. For two months, the ship supported the operations in the Ryukyus, and on July 1, she sailed for the Philippines. Towards the end of the month, she went to Luzon in order to prepare for additional amphibious operations but as a result of the Japanese surrender, the LST-1096 came back to Okinawa.
She continued on with additional occupation duties and in November carried supplies and troops to Okinawa from the Philippines. In December the ship carried returning passengers, veterans, and heavy equipment, which included one tank landing craft ship, and arrived at San Francisco in the middle of January 1946. She was deactivated and went to Astoria, Oregon, in May. On August 24, she was decommissioned and berthed with the Reserve Fleet, continuing on there until the decade’s end.
When the Korean War heated up, the tank landing ship was again activated as a part of the strong build up of American naval forces and military. On October 3, the LST-1096 was recommissioned and, after training in San Diego, set sail for Hawaii, Japan, and Korea. After the 1953 truce, she continued ferrying POWs for a few months, and then returned to San Diego. In 1955, she was renamed the USS St. Clair County.
In 1966, the ship was called to duty once more in Vietnam, where she carried cargo, personnel, and vehicles between ports across the Western Pacific. She continued in this capacity until 1969, when she returned to the U.S. For her service in three wars, the ship was awarded one battle star for World War II, three for Korea, and two for Vietnam.
After the War
The St. Clair County was decommissioned on September 26, 1969, at Bremerton, Washington. She was struck from the Navy list in 1975 and sold to a business based in Singapore, though she sailed under a Greek flag with the new name of Petrola 145. She was finally scrapped in 1988.
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.