USS St. Louis (LKA-116)
USS St. Louis (LKA-116) in 1976
|Name:||USS St. Louis|
|Ordered:||11 June 1965|
|Builder:||Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co.|
|Laid down:||3 April 1968|
|Launched:||4 January 1969|
|Commissioned:||22 November 1969|
|Decommissioned:||2 November 1992|
|Class and type:||Charleston-class amphibious cargo ship|
|Displacement:||18,465 tons (full load)|
|Length:||576 ft (176 m)|
|Beam:||82 ft (25 m)|
|Draft:||26 ft (7.9 m)|
|Speed:||20 knots (37 km/h)|
|Complement:||50 officers, 592 men|
She was laid down as AKA-116 on 3 April 1968 by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Newport News, Virginia; redesignated LKA-116 on 1 January 1969; and launched on 4 January 1969. She was sponsored by the Honorable Leonor K. Sullivan, Representative from the 3d District of Missouri and commissioned on 22 November 1969 at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, CAPT John W. Klinefelter in command. USS St. Louis (LKA-116) was decommissioned on 2 November 1992 in Sasebo, Japan. From Sasebo the ship was towed to Pearl Harbor, HI, where she was kept in mothballs.
Initial trials and training
Following commissioning, St. Louis was outfitted at Norfolk; and, on 3 February 1970, commenced trials. On 6 February, she was ready for sea and sailed for Long Beach, California, her home port. While en route, she conducted underway training for her crew, visited Fort Lauderdale, Florida, transited the Panama Canal and arrived at Long Beach on 28 February ready for two months of intensive training in battle organization and amphibious operations.
St. Louis spent May and June in post-shakedown availability and the greater part of July in provisioning preparatory to her first deployment with the fleet. Late in July, she conducted her first dependents' cruise to familiarize the families of her crew members with her operations and capabilities. She got underway on 1 August with units of Amphibious Squadron 11 for Pearl Harbor.
St. Louis, with the squadron, reached Pearl Harbor on 6 August, refueled, and sailed on the 8th for Vietnam. On 16 August, she was detached to proceed to Subic Bay and finally rejoined her squadron at Danang on 21 August. After offloading Marines and their equipment, she then proceeded to Buckner Bay, Okinawa, returned to Long Beach to transport a World War II midget Japanese submarine to the submarine base at Pearl Harbor; and anchored again in Danang Harbor on 11 October. After completion of a large redeployment operation involving over 2,000 Marines and 22,000 tons of equipment in the Quang Nam province, St. Louis visited Hong Kong and then moved to Subic Bay in the Philippines to participate in large scale amphibious landing exercises during November and December.
St. Louis completed the amphibious exercise in early January, spent 15 days in upkeep in Subic Bay, then headed north again for two months of shuttling men and cargo between Vietnam, Okinawa, and Japan. She departed from Yokosuka on 20 March 1971 and entered Long Beach on the 31st. After a month and a half stand down period in Long Beach and three more weeks of local operations and upkeep there, she returned to Vietnam, arriving in Danang on 24 June. She visited Hong Kong, 28 June to 3 July, then returned to Long Beach on 19 July. St. Louis remained on the west coast for the remainder of 1971 and for the first three months of 1972. During this period, she was engaged in refresher training, amphibious exercises, and upkeep.
On 31 March 1972 St. Louis headed out of Long Beach Naval Shipyard back to the picket line off the coast of South Vietnam, participating in the defense of Quang Tri during the Easter Offensive on 24 May 1972. The St. Louis offloaded South Vietnamese Marines and US Navy SEAL squads during this assault, earning a campaign star, and later, in the 1990s, the Combat Action Ribbon. After seven months of transporting men and cargo between various bases in the western Pacific, she returned to Long Beach on Veterans Day 1972. She spent the rest of 1972 and all of 1973 on the west coast. She visited Acapulco, Mexico, in February, participated in DSRV operations in May and visited Portland, Oregon, in June for the annual Rose Festival. She finished out 1973 with availability periods, refresher training, and amphibious exercises. In mid-January 1974, St. Louis stood out of Long Beach to return to the western Pacific. As of May 1974, she was in port at Subic Bay, P.I.
USS St. Louis participated in "Operation Eagle Claw" in 1980, the Iran hostage rescue mission. She and her Mike 8 Boats were at full battle ready positions and a contingent of Special Forces Marines were on board.
Operations brought her within 20 miles of Iran. Crew members witnessed flyovers of Iranian Air Force A-6 Intruders with missiles under the wings. There were also several incidents of chemical attack warnings as some of these aircraft were seen to be releasing an aerosol agent of some sort over the vessels in the vicinity of the beachhead. Some have speculated this was either mustard gas or some other chemical agent. Many veterans of this operation have had long term symptoms of nerve agent poisoning but the Veterans Administration does not acknowledge this.
When St. Louis returned to her home port of 32nd Street Naval Station San Diego, CA she received an overhaul and then changed home port to Sasebo, Japan where she remained doing Humanitarian Aid missions until she was decommissioned in 1992.
St. Louis would spend most of 1990 in repair and upkeep period. In May 1991, the St. Louis would participate in Operation Sea Angel in Chittagong Bangladesh after a powerful tropical cyclone struck the Chittagong district of southeastern Bangladesh killing at least 138,000 people and leaving as many as 10 million homeless. On May 13, 1991, Seventh Fleet ordered the USS St. Louis under the command of Capt. John W. Peterson, to proceed from Subic Bay in the Philippines to Naha, Okinawa Japan. At Naha, the St. Louis would load 28 reverse osmosis water purification units ( ROWPUs) each weighing more than 5 tons for use in the relief effort. The amphibious cargo ship St. Louis departed Okinawa on May 19 and arrived 10 days later on May 29, off the coast of Chittagong, Bangladesh.
After the St. Louis was release from their duties from a successful operation. Early on the 8th the St. Louis weighed anchor and steamed for Phuket, Thailand, where her crew was granted liberty in weeks. The St. Louis arrived in Phuket, Thailand on June 11 and would depart on June 15th. As the St. Louis left Phuket her tasking again was changed. On orders from the Seventh Fleet, the St. Louis was to make the best possible speed to Subic Bay in the Philippines. There the St. Louis would provide humanitarian assistance to the naval base and nearby Cubi Point Naval Air Station during Operation Fiery Vigil after the volcanic eruption of Mount Pinatubo, followed by several days of torrential rains and severe earthquakes.
St. Louis was involved in exercises off Pohang, Korea and Okinawa, Japan in 1991 and 1992. In May 1992, the St. Louis would make her final voyage to liberty ports Penang, Malaysia, Singapore, the St. Louis crossed the equator on May 19, 1992 at latitude 00.00 and longitude 106.01 East after departing Singapore. The St. Louis would make its way to Pattaya, Thailand and finally Hong Kong before departing one last time for Sasebo, Japan where the St. Louis was station. St. Louis was taken out of commission and put in reserve on November 2, 1992. As of July 30, 2001 she was berthed at the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility, Middle Loch, in Pearl Harbor.
St. Louis earned two battle stars for service in the Vietnam War. St. Louis earned two Battle E Awards during pacific theatre operations in 1981 and 1982.
- Naval Historical Center: USS St. Louis VI
- NavSource Online: AKA / LKA-116 St. Louis
- Naval Vessel Register entry for St. Louis
- fas.org: LKA-113 Charleston class
- USS St. Louis Commemorative Site
- Military.com: USS St. Louis
- 51 Years of AKAs
- (http://www.marines.mil/Portals/59/Publications/ANGELS%20FROM%20THE%20SEA%20-%20RELIEF%20OPERATIONS%20IN%20BANGLADESH%201991%20PCN%2019000316400_2.pdf referring to: Angels from the sea:Relief Operations in Bangladesh, 1991