Charles Kleinsmith, born 28 September 1904 in Zionville, Pa., enlisted in the Navy 26 October 1922 as an apprentice seaman. Until honorably discharged 5 October 1926 as Fireman Second Class, he served on board several ships, including Wyoming (BB-32) and Maryland (BB-46). Kleinsmith reenlisted 20 December 1928, and during the next 11 years he had duty on board Milwaukee (CL-5), Cincinnati (CL-6), Portland (CA-33), and Honolulu (CL-^8). He reported on board Saratoga (CV-3) 27 December 1939 and transferred to Yorktown (CV-5) 31 October 1940. During the Battle of Midway 4 June 1942, Kleinsmith maintained auxiliary power on Yorktown after an intense enemy bombing attack extinguished the fires in all boilers but one. Despite the stifling fumes, intense heat, and imminence of explosion, he performed courageously, enabling the fighting carrier to attain speed necessary for launching plances to oppose a Japanese aerial torpedo attack. At the end of the attack, Chief Water-tender Kleinsmith was missing and presumed dead. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.
The name Kleinsmith was assigned to DE-376 on 31 May 1944, but construction of the ship was canceled 6 June 1944.
(APD-134: displacement 1,450 tons; length 306'; beam 36'10" ; draft 13'6" ; speed 23.6 knots; complement 204; armament 1 5-inch gun, 6 40mm machine guns, 6 20 mm machine guns, 2 depth charge tracks; class Crosley)
Originally designated DE-718, a Rudderow-class destroyer escort, Kleinsmith was redesignated as high-speed transport APD-134 on 17 July 1944; launched 27 January 1945 by Defoe Shipbuilding Co., Bay City, Mich.; sponsored by Mrs. Mary Agnes Kleinsmith; and commissioned at New Orleans 12 June 1945, Lt. Comdr. Alden J. Laborde in command.
After shakedown out of Guantanamo Bay, Kleinsmith arrived Norfolk 21 July. Departing 4 August for the Pacific, the high-speed transport steamed via San Diego and Pearl Harbor and reached Buckner Bay, Okinawa, 1 October. She operated between Okinawa and the Japanese home islands until 21 February 1946; then she sailed from Sasebo via the Marshalls and Pearl Harbor, arriving San Francisco 24 March with 118 returning veterans embarked. Departing 10 April, she proceeded via the Panama Canal to the East Coast, arriving Norfolk 1 May.
Based at Norfolk and Little Creek, Va., during the next six years, Kleinsmith operated along the coast from Labrador to Venezuela, conducting numerous amphibious and antisubmarine exercises with boats from Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic fleet. In addition to landing troops, the high-speed transport also served as an amphibious command ship; helping coordinate the complex operations required to put specialized troops ashore. Many of those operations took place in the West Indies, where she operated out of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guantanamo Bay. During one such cruise, Kleinsmith embarked an Underwater demolition Team (UDT) at Little Creek to participate in the filming of "The Frogmen," a Hollywood film chronicling the adventures of Navy divers during the Pacific War. Departing Norfolk on 3 January 1951, the warship stopped at Key West, Fla., and Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, before commencing ten days of filming between 15 January and 6 February. According to the command historian, "Dana Andrews and Richard Widmark helped make the old 'klinker-dinker' a movie star."
Returning from the Caribbean 13 February 1951, Kleinsmith departed Little Creek 5 March on the first of seven deployments to the Mediterranean. Arriving Gilbralter 15 March with UDT personnel embarked, she deployed with 6th Fleet units and participated in amphibious training exercises ranging from Oran, Algeria, to ports in France and Italy and then Phaleron Bay, Greece. She departed Gilbralter 26 June for the United States, arriving Little Creek 6 July.
Following overhaul, and refresher training and local operations, the warship departed Norfolk on 19 July 1952 for another four-month deployment with the 6th Fleet, visiting Cherbourg, France, and Lisbon, Portugal, before returning to Norfolk via Guantanamo Bay on 4 September. The high-speed transport then settled in for almost two years of exercises and training operations off the east coast.
Her third cruise began on 7 August 1954 when Kleinsmith got underway for a long deployment in the Mediterranean, visiting ports as far apart as Cartagena, Spain, and Istanbul, Turkey. The destroyer returned to Norfolk on 29 June 1955, thence resuming amphibious and antisubmarine training Returning to Little Creek 29 January 1955, Kleinsmith along the Atlantic seaboard. She remained off the east coast through 1956 and therefore did not participate in the Suez crisis of 29 October - 3 November, when 6th Fleet ships helped evacuate American citizens from Egypt, Israel and Syria after Britain, France and Israel temporarily sezed the Suez Canal in a vain attempt to prevent its' nationalization by the Arab nationalist Egyptian government of Gamal Abdel Nasser.
On 9 January 1957 Kleinsmith departed for duty with the 6th Fleet, mainly conducting crisis response patrols in the unsettled eastern Mediterranean that spring. Following Egyptian-sponsored unrest in Amman, King Hussein of Jordan asked for American assistance, a request answered with the deployment of 6th Fleet warships off the Levantine coast in April. Kleinsmith remained there until the crisis ebbed, before departing Rhodes, Greece, 18 May and returning to Little Creek on 1 June.
Two months later, after increasing Soviet military aid shipments for the Syrian Army provoked tensions between Turkey and Syria, Kleinsmith sailed once again for the Mediterranean, arriving Palermo, Sicily, on 15 September. She again conducted contingency operation patrols in the eastern Mediterranean until late October when she sailed for home at the end of what was her last 6th Fleet deployment, arriving at Little Creek on 17 November.
Although Kleinsmith did not participate in the Lebanon landing on 15 July 1958, as she was training in the West Indies that summer, the high-speed transport put her amphibious skills to good use on 24 October when she rescued 56 U.S. citizens and 3 foreign nationals at Nicaro, Cuba, where they were endangered by military operations between the Cuban Army and the Castro rebels. The following year the warship cruised to the Great Lakes via the newly opened St. Lawrence Seaway between 27 May and 3 August 1959.
With the Navy's decision to provide high-speed transports to allied navies as part of the Military Assistance Program (MAP), Kleinsmith departed Little Creek on 1 May 1960 for the Pacific. Steaming via San Diego, Pearl Harbor, and Guam, she arrived Tsoying, Taiwan on 15 May. Kleinsmith decommissioned 16 May 1960 and was transferred the same day to the Nationalist Government of the Republic of China. She served in the Taiwanese Navy as Tien Shan (APD-215) for over 30 years until finally disposed of in 1993.
Updated 22 May 2007