The U.S.S. Washtenaw County (LST 1166) was commissioned in 1953 in New Orleans, Louisiana. She is a 384-foot, 1156 class Landing Ship Tank. The U.S.S. Washtenaw County was originally assigned to the Atlantic Fleet for Mediterranean operations. In the early 1960's she was transferred to Pacific Command's 7th Fleet serving Landing Ship Squadron 9 with her new homeport in Yokasuka, Japan.
She saw service during the Vietnam War from 1963 to the end of the conflict in 1972. During her tours in Vietnam, she served as a multi-faceted mission launch service and support vessel serving the U.S. Navy Mobile Riverine Force (Brown Water Navy), U.S. Army 9th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Special Forces, U.S. Navy Sea Wolves, and South Korean Ground Force deployment.
She delivered Army personnel of the 9th Infantry Division, supported navy Mobile Riverine Force by providing a launch platform for Patrol Boats, Landing Craft, Helo-Gunship and Medivac operations, and US Navy Seal Special Operations.
On February 9th, 1972 the Washtenaw County was decommissioned as the LST 1166 and was transferred to "In Service Special" as MSS-2 (Mine Sweeper Special). Pursuant to the Paris Peace Accords, she was used to prove to the North Vietnamese Government that the channels were free of mines. Her compartments below the water line were filled with foam to provide floatation in the event of accidental mine detonation. The U.S.S. Washtenaw County (MSS-2) was finally decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Register on August 30th, 1973.
During her service with the United States Navy she earned 13 Battle Stars, 2 Presidential Unit Citations, 2 Navy Unit Citations, 4 Meritourious Unit Commendations, the Combat Action Ribbon, the National Defense Service Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
Unconfirmed reports indicate that the Washtenaw was then taken over by the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) and given an alias name and home port in order to haul war materials to Iraq. She was then "sold" to, El Centro Americano, a Panamanian cargo company for commercial service. This company was reportedly a front company for the C.I.A., where the LST was used in operations in aid of Nicaraguan Contras.
After her unconfirmed service with the C.I.A. she was then used to haul cargo between Taiwan and Singapore.
During a trip to Hawaii she broke down and was towed to Portland, Oregon for much needed repair. In the early 80's during a cold spell near Christmas her pipes froze, causing a leak, and she sank. With all the foam in place she only went down 3 feet. She was then purchased by a ship buyer with intentions of using her as a food processor in Alaska. He sold Washtenaw to friends who owned a tug boat company in Portland and they proceeded to refloat her, rebuild the engines, and start on a restoration.
The USS Washtenaw County (LST 1166) is currently being maintained in Rainier, Oregon by the AFMM for a future restoration project.
In addition to the restoration of the USS LCI 713; the AFMM is restoring the USS Washtenaw County (LST 1166) in order to preserve the ship for future generations to learn of the contributions of the Amphibious Fleet in Vietnam.
For a more in depth photographic study of the USS Washtenaw County, please visit the website developed by 1166 veteran, Robert Coombs at www.lst1166.com.
Recently the USS Whitfield County (LST 1169), another 1156 class vessel, has met her sad ending as she was intentionally sunk by the Greek Navy in order to create a coral reef in the Aegean Sea. To see photos of this proud 1156 class LST in her final moments CLICK HERE.
The AFMM has hosted reunions for the USS Tom Green County and the USS Washtenaw County veterans. If you are interested in holding a reunion aboard the LST 1166, please CONTACT US.
If you were a member of the 1166 crew and would like information on
other crew members or future reunions, please CLICK HERE to contact the crew roster.
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