A county in southwestern South Carolina. The county seat also bears the same name, Bamberg. Established on 25 February 1897, the county also bears the name of one of the prominent old families in the area, as well as a former province in Germany.
(LST 209: dp. 4,080 (f.); l. 328'0"; b. 50'0"; dr. 14'1"; s. 11.6 k. (tl.); cpl. 119; trp. 147; a. 7 40mm., 12 20mm.; cl. LST 1)
LST 209 was laid down on 7 September 1942 at Seneca, Ill., by the Chicago Bridge and Iron Co.; launched on 29 May 1943; sponsored by Mrs. C. A. Dalton; placed in reduced commission at her builder's yard on 4 June 1943; placed in full commission at New Orleans on 10 June 1943, Lt. Frank J. Oberg, USNR, in command.
After shakedown training in the Chesapeake Bay, LST 209 departed American waters on 4 August 1943, and steamed via the strait of Gibraltar, for the Mediterranean coast of North Africa. On her arrival at Oran, Algeria, the ship received orders to proceed to Bizerte, Tunisia, where she exchanged ships' companies with LST 378 on 25 August. Originally slated to sail for Algiers to load LST spare parts for shipment to the Far East, LST 209 instead received orders to Sicily, due to the critical need for LSTs to carry equipment to the Italian front. In the months that followed, the tank landing ship conducted four trips between Catania, Sicily, and Taranto, Italy, before she returned to Algiers for further assignment.
In convoy with 10 other tank landing ships, LST 209 departed the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal and headed for India. After arriving at Calcutta during the latter part of November, she loaded 14 M 3 “General Lee” tanks on 3 December and embarked 67 men of the British 14th Army before departing on 5 December, with LST 208 and two British motor gunboats, bound for Regu Creek, near Arakan, Burma. Although LST 208 ran aground on the run in, LST 209 beached successfully at 2324 on 6 December. She completed unloading the tanks within 30 minutes, retracted, and reached Calcutta in the afternoon of 9 December.
A week later, LST 209 received orders to proceed to the British Isles. Departing Colombo on 28 December, the ship reached the Welsh port of Milford Haven on 12 February 1944 and, after a week of operational training, was drydocked at Cardiff. She next underwent additional training, including beaching exercises on the south coast of England. After shifting thence to Roseneath, Scotland, LST 209 received an armament conversion alongside destroyer tender Melville (AD 2), losing her single 3 inch gun and receiving several 40 millimeter Bofors and 20 millimeter Oerlikon antiaircraft guns.
On completion of that refit, LST 209 sailed for Harwich, England, to train for the invasion of France. She embarked various troops embarked during this period, including elements of the famed British 8th Army "the Desert Rats," the troops she carried to the continent on D-Day, 6 June 1944. After beaching on the British "Gold" Beach that day, LST 209 shuttled between French and British ports for the remainder of June to support operations in France.
Reconfigured in July to lift railway cars in her capacious tank deck, LST 209 carried out this task between Southampton and Cherbourg until November 1944. From then until the German capitulation, the tank landing ship transported troops between various English ports and Le Havre and Rouen, France, and Ostend, Belgium.
Following the end of the war with Germany, LST 209 received orders to return to the United States on 14 June 1945. Reaching Norfolk on 1 July 1945 with PT 460 as cargo and former USAAF prisoners of war as passengers, LST 209 shifted from the Tidewater area of Virginia to New York where she unloaded the motor torpedo boat. She then headed back to New Orleans, whence her voyages had commenced two years before. At Mobile, work began to update her to the configuration of the improved LST-542 class, but the end of the war prompted a cancellation of some of the alterations originally planned.
When the amended refitting had been completed by the Alabama Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Co., she proceeded to New Orleans for inspection. LST 209 then carried out shakedown training out of Galveston, Tex., before returning to New Orleans in mid October 1945. Sent to the St. John's River in Florida., the tank landing ship reported to the inactive fleet on 28 October 1945 and was decommissioned and placed in reserve on 27 June 1946. The ship was placed in service as USNS T LST 209 on 19 June 1951 with a civilian crew and assigned to the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS), Atlantic. She participated in Project "Bluejay" that JuIy, a cold weather exercise that took place in Arctic waters. While she was at sea, participating in these evolutions, it was decided that the ship be reassigned to the Atlantic Fleet with a military crew when released by MSTS from her present employment. Released from MSTS service upon her arrival at Norfolk on 5 August 1951, LST 209 shifted from there to Charleston, S.C., where she was formally turned over to the Commander, Mine Force, Atlantic, on 11 August 1951. She was then placed in commission on 24 August 1951, Lt. John E. Cridland in command.
As the flagship for the Commander, Mine Squadron (MinRon) 4, LST 209 resumed active operations in November 1951 after receiving such repairs and alterations as were necessary to enable her to function as a mine squadron flagship. These changes did not alter her basic tank landing ship lines. Clearing Charleston on 8 November, LST 209 took part in amphibious exercises off Onslow Beach, functioning as flagship and control ship for minesweeping operations. In the course of these evolutions, she became one of the first LST's to operate helicopters from her main deck
For the next half decade, the ship operated with the mine force, based at Charleston, S.C. Her tank deck was altered in 1953 to allow the ship to function as a support vessel for MSC(0) type minesweepers. During this period, LST-209 was named Bamberg County on 10 July 1955. Decommissioned again at Green Cove Springs, Fla., on 10 December 1956, Bamberg County never again saw active service with the Navy. Deemed "unfit for further naval service" on 28 October 1958, her name was struck from the Navy list on 1 November 1958. Sold to Tolchester Lines, Inc., of Arlington, Va., soon thereafter, she was acquired by the Dravo Corp. of Pittsburgh, Pa., on 23 February 1961 for use at that firm's Baton Rouge, La., facility.
Bamberg County (LST 209) earned one battle star for her World War II service,
Robert J. Cressman
2 March 2006