USS Orange County: A Sinking Feeling : If Only 1068 ‘Had Fought Like Hell’
After studying a request by local congressmen to name a fighting ship after Orange County, a spokesman for the secretary of the Navy said Thursday that the name already has been used for a vessel built during World War II.
The ship, an LST (landing ship, tank), is no longer in service, but if it “had fought like hell” during the war, it would lend weight to the congressmen’s request for another Orange County, said Arthur Baker, special assistant to the Navy secretary.
Unfortunately, the war was virtually over by the time the ship, then known merely as LST-1068, made it to the Western Pacific. The 4,080-ton-displacement, 328-foot-long vessel, which was designed to transport troops and vehicles and deposit them on beaches, was christened at Hingham, Mass., on March 27, 1945, according to Navy records.
“What she mostly did was just a lot of hauling around between various ports in the Far East until being decommissioned on Aug. 9, 1946,” said Raymond Mann, a Navy historian.
LST-1068 was recommissioned on Sept. 8, 1950, to serve in the Korean War, but she “doesn’t appear to have been involved in any of the major amphibious operations. She was carrying troops and supplies between Japan and Korea,” Mann said.
Ordered back to the West Coast a year after the truce, she was assigned to the reserve fleet, commonly known as the “mothball” fleet.
On July 1, 1955, every existing LST, virtually all of them in mothballs, was named after a county in the United States, apparently a public relations move by the Navy. Mann said his records do not specify the reason for the mass naming. “When you look at documents, you don’t see a lot of the machinations behind them,” he said.
LST-1068 was named USS Orange County after every Orange County in the nation. According to Navy records, there are eight: one each in California, Florida, Indiana, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Vermont and Virginia.
On Sept. 27, 1957, little more than two years later, the vessel was struck from the Navy register, a formal action taken when a ship is to be disposed of.
On June 18, 1958, the USS Orange County was sunk as a practice target at an unspecified location. “She apparently was being kept around for the purpose of sinking her,” Mann said.
“That doesn’t make the citizens of Orange County feel any better, I’m sure,” Baker said.
He said that Navy Secretary John F. Lehman Jr. had received the letter from Orange County’s congressional delegation requesting a new USS Orange County but that Lehman has not yet replied.
“The status is that it (christening a new Orange County) might happen, but we’re not in a position to say at this time, and we might not be in a position for several years,” Baker said.
“But they don’t want it to happen until 1989, anyway,” the year of Orange County’s centennial, Baker added.