USS Colleton (APB-36)

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USS Colleton (APB-36) with Armoured Troop Carriers in Vietnam, circa 1968
Colleton with Armoured Troop Carriers in Vietnam, 1968
Career (USA)
Name: USS Colleton (APB-36)
Awarded: 17 December 1943
Builder: Boston Naval Shipyard
Laid down: 9 June 1945
Launched: 30 July 1945
Acquired: 27 September 1946
Commissioned: 28 January 1967
Decommissioned: December 1969
Struck: 1 June 1973
Honors and
Seven battle stars, Combat Action Ribbon, (2) Presidential Unit Citations, (2) Navy Unit Commendations, the RVN Gallantry Cross with Palm, RVN Civil Action Medal, First Class, with Palm, RVN Campaign Medal with 60's device and the Vietnam Service Medal
Fate: Sold for scrap, 1 August 1974
General characteristics
Class & type: Benewah-class barracks ship
Displacement: 2,189 tons (light) 4,080 tons (full)
Length: 328 ft (100 m)
Beam: 50 ft (15 m)
Draft: 11 ft (3.4 m)
Speed: 12 knots
Complement: 193
Armament: Two 3"/50 slow fire gun mounts, two quad 40 mm gun mounts, ten 7.62 mm MGs, eight 0.50 cal MGs

The USS Colleton (APB-36), was a Benewah-class barracks ship. Colleton’s keel was laid on 9 June 1945, launched on 30 July 1945 and delivered on 27 September 1946. She was berthed at Boston, Massachusetts in the custody of the United States Maritime Commission. After extensive conversion beginning in the Summer of 1966, which included a helicopter landing pad, she was commissioned 28 January 1967 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, with Lieutenant Commander F. R. Banbury in command.

The Colleton arrived in Vung Tau, Vietnam on 2 May 1967 for duties in the Mekong Delta under Commander River Assault Flotilla One (TF117). Elements of River Assault Squadron Eleven, and the US Army's 4 Battalion, 47th Infantry, 2nd Brigade, of 9th Infantry Division embarked on 2 June 1967. During the remainder of the year, operations began taking the Mobile Riverine Force (MRF) further west in the Mekong Delta towards Cambodia, creating longer and delayed aeromedical evacuation support for the assault craft and embarked US Army units of the MRF.

It was determined that the MRF needed a larger medical treatment and patient holding capacity and as a result, the Colleton was refitted at U.S. Naval Base Subic Bay, Philippines, in December 1967 and January 1968. The refit expanded the sick bay facilities from one level to two levels and installed a rampway system connecting the levels. (Levels are "decks" above the main deck.) The O-3 level was the Helo deck and litter storage (port side aft of the helo deck). The O-2 level, connected to the helo deck by a ramp, contained a 6-litter triage, X-ray, blood bank and autoclave. Casualties could also be brought onboard using a hoist for patient transfers from small craft. Another ramp lead from the O-2 level to the O-1 level that contained a two-tabled operating room, recovery rooms, medical supply and storage, 18 bed ward, pharmacy and single chair dental clinic. Arriving in Vietnam just days before the Tet Offensive, the Colleton handled 890 combat casualties from 29 January 1968 – May 1968, admitted 134 patients to the ship's ward, and evacuated 411 after emergency life-saving treatment and stabilization had been received.

Although there were four APB’s assigned to the Mobile Riverine Force of Vietnam, only the Colleton was refitted to provide expanded medical treatment and holding capability. Although her medical staff did not consist of a full-time surgeon, the Colleton served in conjunction with other hospital ships serving further off coast including the Repose (AH-16) and Sanctuary (AH-17).

Colleton was decommissioned December 1969 in Bremerton, Washington, stricken from the Naval Vessel Register 1 June 1973, and sold to American Ship Dismantlers, of Portland, Oregon for $172,226.62 in 1 August 1974.