A Ship of the Force
USS Terrebonne Parish
First in New LST Development
By Rick Erisman, RM3, Ship's Historian
USS Terrebonne Parish (LST 1156) Association
First of the new-type LSTs to be constructed
following the end of World War II the USS LST 1156's keel was laid
January 2, 1952 at Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine.
The ship was launched August 9, 1952 under the sponsorship of Miss
Anne Lambert McCrea, daughter of Rear Adm. John M. McCrea, USN,
Commandant First Naval District, Boston.
Pursuant to orders of Chief of Naval Operations
letter OP-4351JH, Serial 32743 dated February 25, 1952, Captain
Spiller representing Adm. McCrea, read Navy Department Orders directing
Lt. Cmdr. Henry L. Porter, former Shore Patrol Officer for the Norfolk
area, to place the ship into commission on Friday, November 21,
1952 while she was moored starboard side to the South Pier at Bath
Iron Works, Bath, Maine.
Commission Pennant, Ensign and Union Jack were
hoisted and two blocked. The Admiral's flag was broken at the truck.
At 1049 pursuant to orders of Chief of Naval Personnel letter Pers-B1114-MOB-1
dated May 17, 1952, Lt. Cmdr. Porter accepted command of the USS
Lt. Cmdr. Porter stated that, "the 1156
can carry a quarter of a mile of vehicles, has a laundry that can
get clothes back in one day, an all-electric galley that is so well
ventilated you never smell what you are cooking and feeds 600, a
dishwasher good enough for an APA which washes, sterilizes and dries,
a deep fat fryer, the only one in the Amphibious Force, and small
reading lamps on the crews bunks." In addition, the 1156 class
had equipment for making seawater potable at the rate of 12,000
gallons a day, compared to the 300 gallons a day of the wartime
She was the first of fifteen of the LST 1156
class built under the FY52 program, so that became the class name.
At least the first few of the LST 1156 class suffered badly from
hull vibration. BuShips' preliminary design section blamed the Gibbs
& Cox stern, which was later described as cheap and easy to
build, but prone to vibration. The engineering officer of LST 1156
was enthusiastic about his controllable-pitch propellers and considered
his plant very reliable. Lt. Cmdr. Porter acknowledged the slamming
problem, which was similar to that of earlier LSTs.
She was 384 feet in length and had a beam of
55.6 feet. She was propelled by four 1500 horsepower diesel engines,
and when fully loaded displaced 5800 tons. Her twin reversible-pitch
propellers were a major design change, which increased her speed
and maneuverability. They enabled her to shift from full speed ahead
to full speed astern, without stopping her engines, by flipping
a lever on her bridge console. She had a turntable just inside her
bow door which enabled vehicles to hit the ramp at full speed, going
forward, stop on the turntable which reversed direction, then back
into position which reduced combat loading time. She had a ramp
between the main and vehicle decks. In addition to a crew of 10
officers and 150 enlisted men the ship had accommodations for 350
embarked troops and carried three-twin 3-inch 50 caliber gun mounts
for both air and surface defense.
On her first voyage south, Lt. Cmdr. Porter was
quickly educated about LST 1156's maneuverability on the torturous
Kennebec River. Occasionally the steering engine went out, leaving
her with a useless rudder especially at bends of the river or at
an island. However, with improvised steering by going ahead on one
propeller and astern on the other, he was able to avoid any unscheduled
landings. It developed that paint inadvertently sprayed on electrical
contacts in the steering mechanism had created the problem.
Her primary mission was to load, transport and
land assault forces with their equipment and supplies, and to re-embark,
transport and offload them upon completion of their ashore employment.
To this end the ship's employment was based upon a continuing requirement
to maintain full qualifications in her primary mission areas as
well as to provide services to the Fleet Marine Force.
Her secondary mission was varied. It included
anti-air warfare and capabilities for evacuation of personnel and
cargo during an emergency or national disaster.
Following trials and shakedown, LST 1156 received
post-shakedown alterations at the Norfolk Navy Yard before commencing
operations and training exercises while home ported at Little Creek,
Virginia with Amphibious Forces Atlantic Fleet on September 14,
1953. The extensive tests and trials disclosed various defects including
excessive hull vibration, which necessitated extensive underwater
LST 1156 entered the Norfolk Navy Yard in January
1954 for modification of her stern and for conversion to an LST
Flotilla Flagship in August 1954, which involved the installation
of a great quantity of new communications equipment. The ship was
designated as the flagship of LST Division 21 and Squadron 2 of
LST Flotilla 2.
January 24, 1955 LST 1156 deployed with other
LSTs for training cruise to Havana, Cuba. She returned to Havana
March 7-18, 1955 with reserve-enlisted personnel.
In the mid-1950’s LST 1156 was highlighted twice
on the original “Today Show” hosted by Dave Garroway in New York.
The first time was during a mock assault landing exercise on Onslow
Beach, NC. The second time was entering New York City and standing
off while the USS Saratoga (CVA 60) was leaving New Jersey.
In the spring of 1955 off the Island of Vieques,
Puerto Rico, LST 1156 participated with an amphibious assault group
that provided naval support for the filming of the color movie “Away
All Boats”. It was based on the novel by Kenneth M. Dodson. It starred
Jeff Chandler who portrayed a tough Navy Captain aboard the “USS
Belinda” (USS Sanborn (APA 193) in the Pacific Campaign during World
War II 1943-1945.
LST 1156, its LCVPs and embarked Marines from
Camp Lejeune played a supporting role and can be seen in all of
the amphibious assault scenes. Much of the action included amphibious
exercises and landings, massive explosions, numerous Japanese air
and sea attacks and plenty of naval ship and Marine operations.
Lt. Cmdr. J.A. Williams was the commanding officer during the filming.
The film was released nationwide August 16, 1956.
Named for a Louisiana Parish
On July 1, 1955 LST 1156 was named Terrebonne
Parish for a parish in Louisiana, incorporated in 1822, and located
in the Mississippi Delta region. Terrebonne Parish became the name
of the LST 1156 class. Her mottos were the, “Can do Ship,” and “Ready
for Sea.” Lt. Cmdr. James A. Williams, USN, was the commanding officer.
The ship visited New Orleans on August 6 to receive representatives
from her namesake parish. Parish representatives presented her with
a sample of resources from the parish. 15,000 people visited the
ship. The Second Annual Reunion of the USS Terrebonne Parish (LST
1156) Association was held in Houma, Louisiana in April 2003.
In February 1956 USS Terrebonne Parish made her
first deployment across the Atlantic Ocean to Portugal and Morocco
with a Battalion of Seabees. After her return she made a Caribbean
cruise, conducting amphibious exercises and visiting various ports
From April to June1956 USS Terrebonne Parish
was dry-docked and later moored to receive her first regular overhaul
at the Charleston, S.C. Naval Shipyard.
In September 1957 USS Terrebonne Parish reported to the Sixth Fleet
for her first Mediterranean cruise, conducting training exercises
and visiting foreign ports of call. From May to June 1958 she returned
to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and Drydock for overhaul.
“Summer Incident” is an official U.S. Navy film
showing the preparations for and the landing of Marines in Beirut,
Lebanon during the July-October 1958 MidEast Crisis to guarantee
its sovereignty and protect U.S. civilians there. Amphibious Squadron
4 in transit to the U.S. was ordered to proceed back. The carrier
USS Essex (CV 9), in Athens, Greece, was ordered to patrol the eastern
Mediterranean, along with other Sixth Fleet amphibious ships including
USS Cambria (APA 36) and USS Terrebonne Parish (LST 1156). The 2nd
Battalion, 2nd Marines were in the initial landing. Aircraft from
Essex provided reconnaissance and air support for the landing, which
unopposed, was successful.
From June 16, 1959 to August 6, 1959 USS Terrebonne Parish participated
in the Operation Inland Seas Cruise, becoming one of the first United
States warships to transit the new St. Lawrence Seaway, which was
dedicated June 26. July 9, 1959 was the first time in Wisconsin’s
history that her Governor had reviewed U.S. Navy ships in an inland
state in Milwaukee’s harbor.
Task Force 47, which visited 28 ports in seven
states on the Great Lakes, consisted of 8,000 sailors and 1,092
Naval Academy and NROTC midshipmen. 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines consisted
of 1,500 troops. Amphibious demonstration landings were conducted
in five cities to give citizens the opportunity to view Atlantic
Fleet units at close range.
In June 1960 USS Terrebonne Parish received her
third regular overhaul at the Charleston Naval Shipyard.
September 26, 1961 the T-5 tanker USNS Potomac
which carried aviation gasoline and JP-5 jet fuel exploded and burned
at the Aviation Fuel Terminal docks in Morehead City, North Carolina.
USS Terrebonne Parish was one of eight ships to provide men and
equipment for fire fighting operations on the water. The fire was
not considered extinguished until October 1, five days after it
Participates in Cuban Missile Crises
In October 1962 USS Terrebonne Parish operated
with the Atlantic Fleet Amphibious Force through December and played
a key role during the Cuban Missile Crisis Contingency. She was
part of a naval cordon that “quarantined” the island. That crisis
was probably the closest the nation came to World War III and its
potential nuclear showdown.
Russian archives available after the end of the
Cold War indicate that Premier Khrushchev ordered four submarines
from the Northern Fleet into the Caribbean. Each one carried a single
nuclear-armed torpedo to seek out and destroy U.S. Navy ships that
participated in the blockade. However, only one of the four submarines
was able to get close to the battle group. The skipper of that submarine
was influenced by the “Nuclear Taboo” and decided against following
During the spring of 1963 USS Terrebonne Parish
was in Jacksonville, Florida for her regular overhaul at Rawl’s
Brothers Shipyard. Here she received a new tripod mast and upgraded
In July 1964 USS Terrebonne Parish visited the New York World’s
During the October 1964 Exercise Steel Pike in
Huelva, Spain, Terrebonne Parish became the first LST to “marry”
to an 18-section causeway for landing her embarked vehicles.
Two pontoon causeways, 175 feet long, could be
carried on each of the ship’s sides. She could run up on the beach,
lower her ramps and discharge her vehicles onto dry sand.
When she could not come all the way to the beach,
causeway sections were launched, connected together, and the wheeled
vehicles could drive over them to the beach.
In March 1965 Terrebonne Parish received an extensive
four-month overhaul at the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard at Baltimore,
In January 1966 at San Juan, Puerto Rico, Terrebonne
Parish's engineering department developed a locking device for the
sand flaps on her bow doors, to keep them secure while underway.
Tests proved that these new devices were very efficient. As a result
of these tests and practical installation, this modification was
approved for use on all LSTs.
On July 29, 1967 during her 7th Mediterranean
cruise, over 100 volunteers from Terrebonne Parish's ship's company
and embarked Marines were organized into firefighting teams and
went ashore at Taormina, Sicily to successfully assist in battling
a raging brush fire which threatened to sweep down out of the foothills
and engulf the town of Giardini. The fire fighting teams had a great
deal of difficulty fighting the fire because of the steepness of
the hill. With the help of backfires, they got the fire under control.
The mayor of Giardini presented commanding officer, Lt. Cdr. A.W.
Lumbert, USN, a silver medal in appreciation for the crew’s unselfish
USS Terrebonne Parish conducted nine deployments
to the Mediterranean and twelve Caribbean cruises, with periodic
overhauls, and numerous amphibious exercises during her commissioned
service. Among them were LANTFLEX, DIVEX, FLOTEX, TRAEX, DIVEX,
MARLEX and NARMID 1955; TRAEX 1956; NATO and CARIBEX 1957; LANT
PHIBEX 1958; TRALEX 1959; CARIBEX 1960; PHIBEX 1961; NATO 1962;
MEDLANDEX (US-Spain) 1963; STEEL PIKE (Spain) and NATO EVEN BET
1964; FAIRGAME FIVE (Franco-American) 1967; ESCORT TIGER, VERITAS,
ESCORT VENUS, EXOTIC DANCER, BASCOLEX, and ESCORT LION 1970; PHIBLEX
and BITA GRANDE (US-Panama) 1971.
In addition she received numerous special awards
and commendations for her amphibious capabilities. USS Terrebonne
Parish received the National Defense Service Medal and four Armed
Forces Expeditionary Medals (AFEM) during the following Caribbean
deployments: 15 Nov.-16 Dec. 1962 CUBA (24 Oct. 62-31 Dec. 62);
16-18 Mar. 1966 DOMINICAN REPUBLIC; 31 May-08 Jun. 1966 DOMINICAN
REPUBLIC; and 10 Aug.-06 Sep. 1966 DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (18 Apr. 65-21
Other ship’s awards received were the Battle
Readiness Plaques 1956 & 1957; Engineering Red "E"
1958; Deck Seamanship 1966; Assault Boat Coxswain, Deck "E"
and Battle Efficiency White "E" 1970; Communications Green
"C" 1966, 1967 and 1971; Operations Green "E"
1970 and 1971; Supply Red "S" 1959, Supply Blue "E"
1970 and Supply White "E" 1970 awards.
Between 1955 and 1971 Terrebonne Parish was one of the "workhorses"
of the Amphibious Force. Nine deployments to the Mediterranean and
twelve to the Caribbean had thoroughly proven her capabilities in
transporting troops and material quickly and effectively to foreign
shores. With the choice of using direct beaching or transporting
pontoon causeways, her versatility was increased, which made LST
1156 an integral part of all amphibious operations. However, as
a tank landing ship her main armament was her cargo of assault troops,
vehicles and equipment.
On February 21, 1971 during her ninth and final
deployment to the Mediterranean, Terrebonne Parish received a personal
notification from CINCLANTFLT, Adm. Duncan, in Athens, Greece that
recent reductions in the budget have severely curtailed U.S. Navy
operating funds, and have resulted in retirement of several ships
from the active force. She was among those selected for inactivation
and possible sale or loan at Little Creek. Adm. Duncan stated, "I
know that inactivation of Terrebonne Parish is disappointing to
you, and will be equally disquieting to the officers and men of
Ship Transfers to Spanish Navy
On October 29, 1971, USS Terrebonne Parish (LST
1156) was decommissioned and transferred to the Spanish Navy and
renamed Velasco (L 11). SN (L 11) was commanded by Lt. Cmdr. Juan
A. Viscasillas. Lt. Cdr. Mark V.V. Nelson, USN, was the ship's last
commanding officer. December 10, 1971, following six weeks of USN
Liaison Assistance from a Mobile Training Team, which consisted
of former LST 1156 personnel, SN (L 11) departed the Naval Weapons
Station, Yorktown, Virginia for Spain. The Government of Spain decommissioned
Velasco in 1980 and used her as a training hulk for the Special
Operations Unit at La Carraca, Cadiz. The Spanish Government scrapped
her in 1994.
Commanding Officers of the USS Terrebonne Parish
from 1954 to 1971:
- Lt. Cmdr. Henry L. Porter, USN
- Lt. Cmdr. James A. Williams, USN
- Lt. Cmdr. Rex Harbart, USN
- Lt. Cmdr. Charles C. Dusek, USN
- Lt. Cmdr. Joseph E. Sullivan, USN
- Lt. Cmdr. H.F. Munnikuysen, USN
- Lt. Cmdr. Michael F. Durkin, USN
- Lt. Cmdr. N.W. Schoonover, USN
- Lt. Cmdr. Adam F. Panarese, USN
- Lt. Cmdr. William C. Clermont, USN
- Lt. Cmdr. A.W. Lumbert, USN
- Lt. Cmdr. Frank L. Edmunds, Jr., USN
- Lt. Cmdr. Mark V.V. Nelson, USN
2001 Ship’s Association Formed
The USS Terrebonne Parish (LST 1156) Association
was organized in 2001. It has a paid membership of approximately
157, which includes former officers and crewmembers, in addition
to former Marine Corps personnel, and associate members from the