The USS Tom Green County was a tank landing ship commissioned by the United States Navy in 1953. She began her service as part of the Amphibious Forces of the Atlantic Fleet. However, within her first year, the Tom Green County was reassigned to the Pacific Fleet. During her voyage from San Diego to Japan, the ship was diverted into Task Force 98, which operated in Southeast Asia. She participated in “Operation Passage to Freedom” carrying refugees from northern Vietnam to two southern Vietnamese port cities, Tourane and Saigon. Following this mission, the Tom Green County resumed her course to Japan. She arrived in December of 1954.
Tom Green County’s next major duty occurred in 1955 and involved the evacuation of civilians, troops, munitions and vehicles from the Tachen Islands to Formosa. After this, the Tom Green County returned to San Diego. For the next several years, she was occupied with local operations, a four month overhaul, and training exercises in Japanese waters. In 1960, she was designated the flagship of Landing Ship Division 92 and her home port became Yokosuka, Japan.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Tom Green County was on alert. She traveled to Naha in October of 1962, where marines and their munitions were loaded on to the vessel. Once the crisis ended, the Tom Green County returned to Yokosuka and her typical activities. She continued to do so until the United States became involved in the conflict in Vietnam.
Service in the Vietnam War
In early 1966, the Tom Green County served in two Operations: “Piranha” and “Double Eagle”. The second involved amphibious landing under enemy fire. The Tom Green County continued to participate in combat operations, including “Operation Beacon Torch”, “Operation Beaver Track”, “Operation Bear Chain”, and “Operation Kangaroo Kick”. For her service during this period, she was given the Meritorious Unit Commendation. During a deployment in March 1968 in the Mekong Delta, the Tom Green County endured nine hits from enemy rifles. Later that year, she received seven hits from Viet Cong rocket launchers. In early 1969, the ship came under enemy assault once again, which caused significant damage and wounded several men. Following this, the Tom Green County returned to Yokosuka for a prolonged period of repairs.
In June of 1969, the ship returned to Vietnam. For the next five months she served as a supply base and transport. The Tom Green County returned home to the United States at the end of 1971. In 1972, her service to the United States ended and she was transferred to the Spanish Navy, where she served until 1989.
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.