USS Eldorado (AGC-11)
|Builder:||North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, Wilmington, North Carolina|
|Launched:||26 October 1943|
|Acquired:||1 February 1944|
|Commissioned:||25 August 1944|
|Decommissioned:||8 November 1972|
|Struck:||16 November 1972|
|2 battle stars (WWII)
8 battle stars (Korea)
10 campaign stars & Meritorious Unit Commendation (Vietnam)
|Fate:||Sold by Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service (DRMS) for scrapping, 1 December 1976|
|Class & type:||Mount McKinley-class amphibious command ship|
|Displacement:||7,234 long tons (7,350 t)|
|Length:||459 ft 2 in (139.95 m)|
|Beam:||63 ft (19 m)|
|Draft:||28 ft 3 in (8.61 m)|
|Speed:||16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph)|
|Armament:||2 × 5"/38 caliber guns (2×1)|
USS Eldorado (AGC-11) was a Mount McKinley-class amphibious force command ship, named after a mountain range in Nevada. She was designed as an amphibious force flagship, a floating command post with advanced communications equipment and extensive combat information spaces to be used by the amphibious forces commander and landing force commander during large-scale operations.
Eldorado was launched on 26 October 1943 as Monsoon by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company in Wilmington, North Carolina, under a Maritime Commission contract, sponsored by Mrs. P. A. Peeples; transferred to the Navy on 1 February 1944; converted by Bethlehem Steel Corporation in Brooklyn, New York; and commissioned on 25 August 1944, with Captain Jesse Wallace in command.
Eldorado sailed from Naval Station Norfolk on 15 September 1944 and arrived at San Diego on 29 September to embark Rear Admiral Lawrence F. Reifsnider who broke his flag as Commander, Amphibious Group 4. In November, Eldorado sailed to Pearl Harbor and there became flagship for Vice Admiral Richmond K. Turner, Commander, Amphibious Forces, Pacific.
After rehearsal landings in Hawaii, the command ship sailed on 27 January 1945 for the Marianas and further preparations for the assault on Iwo Jima. She also carried General Holland Smith, USMC, and his staff, and Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal and his party when she sailed from Saipan on 16 February for Iwo Jima. From 19 February to 9 March, Eldorado lay off Iwo Jima, her distinguished passengers directing operations ashore and afloat. She served as headquarters for war correspondents, and broadcast directly from the beachhead to the people at home through her facilities. One of these was Joe Rosenthal who took the famous Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima photo. Through the critical period of this bloody and arduous operation, she carried out her duties as flagship and operations center with effective thoroughness.
Arriving at Guam on 12 March 1945, Eldorado embarked Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner, USA, Commanding General of the 10th Army, then after rehearsals at Leyte in the Philippines, hove to off the Hagushi Beaches, Okinawa, for the initial invasion landings on 1 April. Here she carried out with equal distinction the same type of duties she had performed at Iwo Jima. Since both the Commander, Air Support Control Unit, and the Force Fighter Director Officer were embarked, Eldorado's combat information center was the central unit in the air defense against the day and night air raids. General Buckner and his staff debarked on 18 April to establish headquarters on the island itself, and until the ship's departure on 18 May, she was visited by several distinguished guests, including Admirals Chester W. Nimitz, William F. Halsey, Jr., and Raymond A. Spruance, and the noted war correspondent Ernie Pyle.
Alternately at Pearl Harbor and at west coast ports, Eldorado continued to serve as flagship for succeeding amphibious commanders in the Pacific. There were two exceptions: From April to September 1947 and again from January to July 1949, she flew the flag of Commander, Naval Forces, Western Pacific, and cruised to Chinese waters. During the second tour, she departed Shanghai only a short time before that city fell to the Communists.
With the outbreak of the Korean War Eldorado was ordered to the Far East. As flagship for Rear Admiral Lyman A. Thackrey, Commander, Amphibious Group 3, she acted as standby for USS Mount McKinley (AGC-7) during the invasion of Inchon, Korea, and coordinated and controlled the logistics operations. In October 1950, she moved to Riwon to support the continued northwest advance of United Nations troops. Returning to Japan in November, she was ordered again to Inchon to direct the evacuation. She was at Inchon again in the spring and summer of 1951, and in June hoisted the flag of Vice Admiral Ingolf N. Kiland, Commander, Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet. She was visited by Generals Matthew B. Ridgeway and Van Fleet, and the commanding generals of the British troops and Turkish Brigades during her stay at Inchon, and sent the first pictures of the s:Korean Armistice Agreement talks to the outside world.
Returning to the States, Eldorado became flagship for Rear Admiral W. E. Moore, Commander, Amphibious Group 1, in October 1952, and sailed for the Far East where Admiral Moore assumed command of TF 90's amphibious forces. During this tour she assisted the Japanese Government during the floods at Fukuoka, and directed Operation Big Switch, the transportation of Chinese and Korean prisoners of war from the camps at Cheju Do and Koje-do to the port of Inchon for repatriation.
Eldorado returned to the west coast in the fall of 1953, and continued to serve as flagship for Amphibious Group 1, now commanded by Rear Admiral Lorenzo S. Sabin, Jr., until June 1954, then embarked Vice Admiral Thomas G. W. Settle, Commander, Amphibious Forces, Pacific, until August. On 15 February 1955 she sailed for Keeling, Formosa, where she operated as flagship for Vice Admiral Alfred M. Pride, Commander, 7th Fleet, until 17 August. She returned to San Diego for amphibious exercises, and on 13 December Rear Admiral George C. Towner broke his flag on board as Commander, Amphibious Group 3 and Eastern Pacific.
In the summer of 1956, Eldorado sailed to arctic waters with Army officers embarked, to resupply bases at Wainwright, Alaska, and Point Barrow, Alaska. From December 1956 to January 1957, she was flagship for Vice Admiral Carl F. Espe, Commander, Amphibious Forces, Pacific, and during the next month, for Vice Admiral Robert L. Dennison, Commander, United States First Fleet. From June 1957 through 1960, she served as flagship for four successive commanders of Amphibious Group 1, Rear Admirals Frederick C. Stelter, Jr., Charles K. Duncan, Charles O. Triebel, and Charles C. Kirkpatrick. The only interruption to this service was in October and November 1958, when she served Vice Admiral John Sylvester, Commander, Amphibious Forces, Pacific, as flagship.
In addition to operations along the west coast from her home port at San Diego, Eldorado took part in Arctic supply operations once more in the summer of 1957, and cruised to the Far East from January to May 1958, and again from December 1959 into 1960. During the second of these, as flagship, Eldorado participated in exercise "Blue Star," a joint Navy-Marine and Nationalist Chinese Navy-Marine amphibious operation off southern Taiwan. In April and May Eldorado visited ports in Indonesia and Australia, participating in Australia's 18th annual celebration of the Battle of the Coral Sea before returning to San Diego on 31 May where she remained. She was the flagship for the eight week expedition for the 5th MEB during the Cuban Missile Crisis and then participating in local operations through 1962.
Eldorado served as flagship for the Commander Amphibious Forces Pacific Fleet in rotation with USS Estes (AGC-12) and Mount McKinley during the Vietnam War. In 1967 her crew earned the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation for her role in twelve amphibious assaults in Vietnam in conjunction with the Amphibious Ready Group and the Marine Special Landing Force.
In January 1969, Eldorado's designation was changed to LCC-11.
During her decommissioning in November 1972, she was berthed adjacent to the USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) at the 32nd Street Naval Station in San Diego and transferred much of her equipment to her successor prior to scrapping.