USS Saginaw (LST-1188)

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The USS Saginaw in 1987
United States
Name: USS Saginaw (LST-1188)
Namesake: Saginaw River [1]
Builder: National Steel and Shipbuilding Company
Cost: 15 July 1966
Laid down: 24 May 1969
Launched: 7 February 1970
Sponsored by: Wife of R. James Harvey
Commissioned: 23 January 1971
Decommissioned: 28 June 1994
Struck: 28 June 1994
Homeport: Little Creek, Virginia (former)
Fate: Sold to Royal Australian Navy as HMAS Kanimbla
Status: Scrapped
General characteristics
Class and type: Newport class tank landing ship
  • 5,190 long tons (5,273.3 t) (light),
  • 8,792 long tons (8,933.1 t) (full)
Length: 522 ft (159.1 m) overall, 500 ft (152.4 m) at the waterline.
Beam: 70 ft (21.34 m)
Draft: 19 ft (5.79 m)
  • 6 diesel engines, 16,000 brake horsepower, two shafts, Twin Controllable Pitch Screws
  • Bow Thruster – Single Screw, Controllable Pitch,
Speed: 20+ knots (37+ km/h)
Capacity: 19,000 sq ft (1,765 m2), capacity of 29 tanks or 30 AAVs.
Troops: Marine detachment: 360 plus 40 surge
Complement: 14 officers, 210 enlisted

USS Saginaw (LST-1188), a Newport-class tank landing ship of the United States Navy was the second ship of that name. Saginaw was named after the Saginaw River,[1] a river in mid-Michigan. The ship was decommissioned in Little Creek, Virginia on 29 August 1994 and at the same ceremony transferred to the Royal Australian Navy.


Saginaw was laid down on 24 May 1969 by the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, in San Diego. She was launched on 7 February 1970, sponsored by Mrs. James Harvey, wife of the Congressman from the Eighth District of Michigan (which included Saginaw), and commissioned at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard on 23 January 1971, with Commander G. P. Brown in command.

The new tank landing ship (LST) completed fitting out, took on ammunition at NWS Seal Beach, California, and got underway from San Diego on 4 March 1971, bound for the east coast. On her first day out, her lookouts sighted a mechanized landing craft, LCM(6)-805, adrift at sea. The LST took the drifting craft in tow, and later, turned her over to the Point Defiance (LSD-31). Then, Saginaw proceeded via Acapulco, Mexico, and the Panama Canal, to NAB Little Creek, Virginia, her home port, arriving on 26 March.

Early in April, while preparing for shakedown, the ship tested a new concept for her class by hoisting a major self-contained medical unit (MUST) on her tank decks. This was done to evaluate the feasibility of setting up complete hospital facilities on her deck after off-loading her troops, vehicles, and cargo. She got underway on 19 April for Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for shakedown, which lasted until her return to Little Creek on 8 June. Various types of training and post-shakedown availability kept her busy through the end of the year.

On 16 January 1972, Saginaw weighed anchor to participate in Operation "Snowy Beach" with Amphibious Squadron 8 at Reid State Park Beach, Maine. On 28 January, she completed the exercise and began preparations for overseas movement. On 23 February, she embarked marines at Morehead City, North Carolina, and sailed for the Mediterranean. She arrived at Rota, Spain, on 5 March, and changed operational control to the 6th Fleet on the following day. For the next five months, Saginaw sailed the length of the "middle sea," participated in six amphibious exercises at various points across the Mediterranean, and visited ports along the way, from Spain to Turkey. She left the 6th Fleet in early August, and returned to Morehead City on 21 August. After disembarking Marines there, she entered her home port on the next day. After a 30-day standdown period, she resumed normal operations out of Little Creek for the remainder of the year.

Saginaw made two voyages to Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, in January and early February 1973, to transport Marines to and from exercises held on that island. On 22 March, she deployed to the Caribbean for two months as a unit of the Caribbean Amphibious Ready Group. She returned to Little Creek on 18 May to regroup and replenish prior to her second deployment to the Caribbean. On 5 July, she resumed operations in the Caribbean until 24 August when she re-entered Little Creek. She remained in that area until 26 November, when she put to sea to join other elements of the United States and Canadian navies in CAUSEX, a convoy protection ASW exercise. Saginaw returned to Little Creek on 6 December, and remained in port for the duration of 1973.

Saginaw spent the first four months of 1974 in local operations out of Little Creek and in preparations for deployment to the Mediterranean. On 10 May 1974, she embarked Marines at Morehead City, then got underway for Rota, Spain. She arrived in Rota on 20 May, and through June, cruised the Mediterranean as a unit of the 6th Fleet.

In the fall of 1977, Saginaw escorted the damaged submarine USS Ray back to CONUS after participation in Exercise Display Determination, a major NATO Amphibious exercise in the Mediterranean, returning to the US in 1978.

In January 1979, Saginaw deployed to the Caribbean for operations with the Amphibious Squadron Four. In June of the same year, she participated in the inter-fleet transfer of USS Pegasus (PHM-1); escorting USS Pegasus from Rodman, Canal Zone to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Saginaw deployed to the US Sixth Fleet in September 1979 with Amphibious Squadron Four and returned to the US in February 1980.

In May 1980, Saginaw participated in Solid Shield. On her way home she was diverted to the Florida Straits to take part in Cuban Refugee Operations, rescuing some 300 people. Also in 1980 Saginaw participated in Readex 2–80 and NATO exercise Teamwork 80.

USS Saginaw, Beirut 1982

On 24 June, during the Lebanese civil war, 800 civilians were evacuated from Juniyah, Lebanon by MARG 2–82 ships. On 28 August and 29 September, Saginaw entered Beirut harbor to provide vehicles and personnel for the Multi-National Force. For her participation in Lebanese operations Saginaw received three awards: the Navy Unit Commendation, the Navy Expeditionary Medal, and the Humanitarian Service Medal.

In early 1983, Saginaw participated in Cold Winter 83. The latter part of 1983 found Saginaw busy preparing for her first Operational Propulsion Plant Examination (OPPE) as well as participation in Readex 2–83. In February 1984, Saginaw departed Little Creek for a seven-month deployment with MARG 2–84 and Teamwork 84. These exercises began with a 30 plus ship ocean transit and ended with a mock-up reinforcement of NATO forces in Norway. On April 1984, Saginaw arrived in the Mediterranean and found herself again involved in operations off the Lebanese coast. The remaining four months of the cruise were spent providing security for the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.

1985 proved to be a busy year for Saginaw. Prior to a June deployment, Saginaw underwent an Operational Propulsion Plant Examination, Amphibious Refresher Training, and participated in Operation Solid Shield 85. On 14 June, Saginaw commenced the six-month UNITAS XXVI / WATCC 85 deployment, making port calls through South America and West Africa. Saginaw arrived home in December, and commenced a much needed drydocking and Phased Maintenance Availability in January.

During September 1986, the ship underwent a highly successful INSURV. October saw the ship undergo Intermediate Refresher Training in GTMO where an OPPE (Operational Propulsion Plant Examination) certification was achieved. After GTMO, Saginaw completed a successful Amphibious Refresher Training. It was during AMPHIBREFTRE that she received the highest grades by an LST ever recorded.

In late spring of 1987, Saginaw again deployed to the 6th and 7th fleets with MARG 3–87. Steering in both the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean, Saginaw participated in amphibious exercise Eastern Wind 87 and Bright Star 87. Ports visited included Mombasa, Kenya; Alexandria, Egypt; and Naples, Italy. During this cruise, Saginaw suffered a main space fire in engine room No. 1 (Main Control). Saginaw returned to Little Creek, and entered Jonathan Shipyards for extensive repairs.

In 1988, Saginaw participated in Teamwork 88 with NATO forces. Following the exercise Saginaw conducted a port visit in Ronne, Denmark on the island of Bornholm. Saginaw was the 1st U.S. Naval ship to visit Bornholm in 26 years.

Saginaw finished 1988 at Jonathan Shipyards in a Phased Maintenance Availability. Following PMA, Saginaw began an extensive work-up schedule to prepare for her fall Mediterranean deployment as part of MARG 1–90. This included a Damage Control Training deployment to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, followed by an OPPEE in which Saginaw earned a "clean sweep". The MARG 1–90 deployment included many Joint Amphibious Exercises. Saginaw participated in exercises with troops from the countries of Spain, Tunisia, France, and Egypt.

In 1990, Saginaw completed a successful Supply Management Inspection, Operational Propulsion Plant Examination, and INSURV inspection, before seeing duty in both Operation Desert Shield, and Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf. In August 1990, Saginaw left Little Creek, VA. en route to the Persian Gulf, and entered the Gulf area on 14 Sep, as part of the amphibious force in the area with a full complement of Marines from Camp Lejuene 2nd Mar Div and 3/2. During her stay, she visited ports in Oman, and the United Arab Emirates before the commencement of the ground war. During the hostilities, Saginaw participated in several practice landings just south of Kuwait City, Kuwait.

Saginaw left the Persian Gulf after cessation of hostilities on 24 March 1991. After which, she entered dry-dock for much needed repairs. In the spring of 1991, it was decided that most of the U.S. LSTs were no longer needed by the Navy, and were to be decommissioned and sold to other countries.

In March 1992, the next six-month Mediterranean Deployment commenced, and Saginaw as part of MARG 2–92 with a full crew of approx 14 officers and 210 enlisted, plus several platoons of US Marines with Humvees, Amtraks, Amphibious assault vehicles, etc. The ship participated in numerous amphibious training exercises with forces from Spain, France, Greece, Turkey, and others while also conducting operations in the Adriatic supporting US involvement in the former Yugoslavia. After deployment the ship entered into an expedited turn around of industrial work, training, inspections and pre-deployment preparations. Saginaw completed a successful Supply Management Inspection and INSURV inspection. This training also included a Damage Control Training deployment to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and a complete Amphibious Refresher Training period off the coast of Virginia and North Carolina. Late in this aggressive work up period, on the eve of the Operational Propulsion Plant Examination, the decision to sell the ship to the Australians in a "hot-ship" transfer was approved. The ready crew and ship were told to stand down from deployment preparations and begin training a full Australian crew in LST operations and maintenance. After several months of much Congressional and State Department activity, the ship was decommissioned in Little Creek, Virginia on 29 August 1994 and at the same ceremony transferred to the Royal Australian Navy. In Australia, the ship was converted into an Amphibious Troop Transport to meet the needs of the Australian Navy's mission.


Saginaw was sold to Australia for use as a transport, and was renamed HMAS Kanimbla (L 51). The ship was decommissioned in November 2011 and in October 2013 arrived in New Orleans for scrapping by Southern Scrap Recycling.[2]


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