The USS Washtenaw County

This post is a bit tangential to infrastructure but I thought it an interesting enough story to tell anyways. And since the name of our fair county is mentioned, this is as good an excuse as any to continue.

There was/is actually a ship in the U.S. Navy named after our county. Landing Ship Tank (LST) #1166 the USS Washtenaw County was laid down in 1951 in Sturgeon Bay Wisconsin, launched in 1952 and then commissioned in 1953. Below is a photo of her from an exercise in South Korea in 1962.

lst-1166_and_lst-1165

Courtesy of Wikipedia/US Navy

Serving in the Pacific, the Washtenaw County eventually saw extensive service in Vietnam transporting troops and supplies. The LST’s and other small ships like her were the heavy lifters of close-in Naval efforts during the Vietnam War with their shallow drafts and large cargo capacity.

Here is a cool aerial shot underway. #1166 is just visible on the bow.

1016116612

Courtesy of Wikipedia / US Navy

In 1968 she was in the Mekong Delta supporting the Mobile Riverine Force as shown below. The Hueys on the deck are pretty cool.

1016116602

Courtesy US Navy / navsource.org

After that it was continued service in the western Pacific until 1973 when she was turned into a minesweeper to help clear Haiphong Harbor in North Vietnam as a part of Operation “End Sweep”. After that the Washtenaw County was decommissioned and sold.

 

1016116605

“Washtenaw County” is barely visible under the 2 on the Stern (courtesy US Navy / navsource.org)

The next 30 to 40 years were spent in commercial service before she ended up in the Columbia River near Portland, Oregon (as of 2003) being restored by a non-profit to be turned into a museum ship.

It’s apparently been a slow process with scrappers, lack of funding and hazmat remediation slowing the process down. The name Washtenaw County has been painted on her again at least.

1016116614

courtesy navsource.org / Erik Martin

Here she is as a rusting hulk in 2016 – not the best representative of our County in the Pacific Northwest.

1016116626

courtesy of navsource.org / Harvey Golden

She’s pretty easy to find on Google Maps, just west of the Lewis and Clark Bridge on the south bank of the Columbia.

USSWashtenawCounty

I hope the Washtenaw County has better days ahead of her. It would be cool to visit her in Portland if she’s ever fixed up.

If you would like to read more about the USS Washtenaw County, Wikipedia and Navsource.org both have great “bio” pages about the ship with much more detail than I’ve presented here. There is also http://www.lst1166.com/ which has a bunch of great information (and many more photos of the ship). If you’re in Ann Arbor, the Washtenaw County Courthouse has a permanent display about LST 1166 as well.

If you’re in Muskegon and want to actually visit a preserved Landing Ship Tank, you can visit the World War 2 era LST 393It’s a bit older than the Washtenaw County but gives you a great sense of what life on an LST was like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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