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May6 - 9 2015
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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 LST 1156.

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 LSTs.

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.

Maiden Voyage

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 modifications.

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 of call.

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 the USS
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 started.

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 Khrushchev’s orders!

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 radio facilities.

In July 1964 USS Terrebonne Parish visited the New York World’s Fair.

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, Maryland.

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 service.

Deployments

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.

Special Awards

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 Sep. 66).

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.

Final Deployment

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 your command."

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 external community.

 

 
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