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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
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Henrico

 

A county in Virginia.

 

(APA-45: dp. 8.100 (It.) ; l. 492'; b. 69'6" : dr. 26'6" ; s. 16 k.; cpl. 479 ; a. 2 5", 8 40mm.; cl. Bay field; T. C3-S-A2)

 

Henrico (APA-45), originally Sea Darter, was launched 31 March 1943 under Maritime Commission contract by Ingalls Shipbuilding Co., Pascagoula, Miss.; sponsored by Mrs. W. D. Pelan; acquired 23 June 1943; and commissioned next day for transfer to her conversion yard, Bethlehem Steel Co., Hoboken, N.J. Decommissioned 8 July 1943, Henrico was converted into AP-90 and recommis-sioned 26 November 1943, Comdr. J. H. Willis in command.

 

Following shakedown training in Chesapeake Bay, the attack transport remained to train Army combat teams before departing Norfolk for New York 2 February 1944. Arriving next day, Henrico embarked troops and sailed for Scotland 11 February. Arriving the Firth of Clyde 22 February, the ship began strenuous amphibious training in preparation for the invasion of Normandy.

 

Henrico embarked her invasion troops 26 May at Portland, England, and sailed 5 June as a part of Rear Admiral Hall's Omaha Beach Assault Force. On the following day, the world's greatest amphibious invasion took place. Henrico landed her troops in the first assault wave in the face of heavy seas and strong enemy fortifications. As the tempo of fighting increased, the ship received casualties from the beaches, returning to Portland later on D-day. As the all-important assault area was secured and the advance began, Henrico stood by for shuttle duty, finally sailing for the Firth of Clyde 19 June.

 

With the liberation of France underway, the transport sailed 4 July 1944 to the Mediterranean for the invasion of the southern coast of France. Arriving 16 July at Naples, Henrico took part in amphibious rehearsals before departing 13 August from Oastellamare for the invasion area. She landed her troops at Bale de Pompelonne against light opposition and departed the next day for Oran, Algeria. For the next 2 months she brought troops and cargo into the beach area and on her last shuttle brought English and Polish repatriates to Naples.

 

Henrico sailed from Naples 17 October 1944, arriving Boston 8 November to prepare for duty in the western Pacific. She departed Norfolk with troops and replacement boats 13 December, steaming via the Panama Canal and San Diego to Pearl Harbor, where she arrived 23 January 1945. Five days later she sailed for the Philippines, arriving Leyte 21 February after stops at various Pacific bases. In the Philippines the ship engaged in amphibious exercises leading to the invasion of Okinawa, last operation on the long island road to Japan itself.

 

The veteran ship was assigned to the Kerama Retto attack group under Rear Admiral Kiland, and began the landing 26 March. The important islands, needed as a base for the invasion of nearby Okinawa, were secured 30 March. Henrico retired at night during the operation, and Japanese air attacks were nearly constant. While retiring 2 April, the ship was attacked by a fast suicide bomber diving out of a cloud formation. Although Henrico quickly brought guns to bear, the plane crashed into the starboard side of the bridge, her bombs exploding below. The ship lost power but her well-trained fire parties soon brought the flames under control. Forty-nine officers and men were killed in this attack, including Henrico's captain, her embarked division commander, and the two troop commanders. Her executive officer took command, however, and brought the ship to Kerama Retto. She sailed under her own power for San Francisco 14 April and arrived 13 May, having contributed much to the decisive compaign in the Pacific.

 

Henrico sailed from San Francisco Bay 1 September with replacement troops for the Philippines. She continued to serve the "Magic Carpet" fleet assigned to return the thousands of American soldiers from the Pacific, until May 1946. She sailed 25 May from Pearl Harbor to take part in the atomic tests at Bikini—Operation "Crossroads." For the next 3 months Henrico supported these vital scientific experiments, returning to San Francisco 29 August 1946. After operations on the West Coast, she sailed 6 February 1947 for a cruise in the western Pacific, returning in July. From 6 July 1948 to 25 February 1949 the ship operated in the Tsingtao, China, area in support of American troops.

 

Early in 1950 Henrico took part in amphibious exercises in the Caribbean, returning to San Diego 8 April 1950. Soon afterward peace was shattered by the invasion of South Korea, and Henrico was immediately called back to the western Pacific. As Korean and American ground troops struggled to stem the Communist advance, Henrico and other ships embarked the 1st Marine Brigade and sailed 12 July for Korea. She developed mechanical trouble which forced a return 2 days later, but skillful repair work had her at sea again 18 July and by 2 August she was with the original formation as they steamed into Pusan with the vitally needed troops.

 

In the early stages of the Korean Conflict, Henrico played an important part. She landed troops at the decisive Inchon beachhead 15 September 1950, one of the most brilliantly executed amphibious operations in history; and, as United Nations troops swept northward, she sailed to various ports deploying and supplying the soldiers. In November Chinese troops made their appearance on a massive scale, and by December U.N. ground units in the Wonsan-Hungnam area were cut off. During December Henrico and other ships evacuated thousands of soldiers from the two ports to stabilize the lines farther south. Command of the sea had again, as so many times in history, meant the critical difference.

 

The veteran attack transport arrived Seattle 22 March 1951, and after repairs and amphibious exercises sailed again for Korea 16 October 1951. During this second tour she carried troops to strategic points on the coast, and took part in amphibious operations for training purposes. She arrived San Diego 26 July 1952, and in September returned to Pearl Harbor for repairs and training.

 

Henrico sailed again for Korean waters 7 March 1953. resuming the important job of redeploying troops along the coasts and to Japan. During July and August she operated between Pusan and Japan, and joined in the transfer of prisoners following the armistice agreement. For her outstanding performance during the first months of the conflict, Henrico was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation.

 

Arriving San Francisco 24 August 1953, the attack transport engaged in coastal training operations for the next year. She sailed for another tour in the Far East 24 October 1954, and participated in an amphibious training exercise in December. As war over the Tachen Islands threatened in February, Henrico and other naval units moved in 8 February 1955 to evacuate Nationalist Chinese troops. After arriving Keelung, Formosa, 13 February; she carried troops between the Philippines and Hong Kong before returning to San Diego 22 April 1955.

 

Hereafter the ship deployed annually to the western Pacific with the 7th Fleet to engage in amphibious warfare training exercises in Korea, in Okinawa, and in the Philippines, contributing to the combat readiness of both United States Marines and the troops of SBATO members.

 

Henrico was diverted to the Caribbean Sea 27 October 1962 after deployment of communist missiles in Cuba brought a swift and strict American quarantine of the island. Henrico arrived on the scene 5 November. Her embarked Marines provided part of a ready force to supplement the naval blockade if this proved necessary. When the missiles were removed, the crisis subsided, and Henrico departed the Caribbean 6 December for San Diego, Calif., arriving 15 December.

 

The ship resumed amphibious training duties on the West Coast until 16 December 1964, when she deployed again with the 7th Fleet in the western Pacific. Loading a Marine Battalion Landing Team at Okinawa, the ship departed 11 January 1965 for Hong Kong, arriving 14 January. On 20 January she commenced special operations in the South China Sea as the 7th Fleet joined in the intensive buildup of strength in southeast Asia.

 

In an impressive display of mobile power, Henrico disembarked her Marines at Da Nang, South Vietnam, in early March, returned to Okinawa for a second landing team which reached Da Nang 15 April. By 21 April, the ship embarked a third landing team bound for Chu Lai, South Vietnam. Offloading these troops 7 May, Henrico made a fourth passage to Okinawa to return with the headquarters unit of the 3d Marine Division, which arrived in Chu Lai 21 May.

 

Following her performance off South Vietnam, the ship sailed from Yokosuka, Japan, 28 May for San Diego, arriving 16 June. During the next 13 months Henrico operated out of San Diego along the coast of Southern California, conducting squadron exercises and supporting amphibious training operations. After embarking Marines at San Diego, she sailed for the Far East 27 July, and debarked her passengers at Da Nang a month later. During the next 7 months she carried troop reinforcements and replacements from Okinawa and the Philippines to American bases in South Vietnam. In addition she ranged the coastal waters of Vietnam from the demilitarized zone to the Mekong Delta, supporting important amphibious assaults against Viet Cong coastal strongholds. She departed Vietnam late in March 1967 and returned to San Diego the following month. Maintaining her readiness in support of amphibious assult operations, Henrico into mid-1967 remained ready to resume her important duty as part of America's powerful naval force in the Far Bast.

 

Henrico earned three battle stars for World War II service and nine for Korean War service. She won a Navy Unit Commendation in Korea.