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

 

A county in southwestern Virginia.

 

(LST-575: dp. 2,080 (f.); l. 328'0"; b. 50'0"; dr. 11'2"; s. 10.0 k.; cpl. 151; trp. 340; a. 8 40 mm., 8 20 mm.; cl. LST-542)

 

LST-575 was laid down on 3 May 1944 at Evansville, Ind., by the Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Co.; launched on 9 June 1944; sponsored by Mrs. E. L. Cochrane; and commissioned at New Orleans on 30 June 1944, Lt. Patrick R. Shea, USNR, in command.

 

On 5 July, LST-575 got underway for St. Andrews Bay, Fla. The new tank landing ship conducted her shakedown there, in the ensuing fortnight—two weeks of "beaching, retracting, firing, towing, and fueling"— before she moved to Gulfport, Miss., where she took on board a tank deck cargo of quonset hut sections and iron pipe. Returning to New Orleans soon thereafter, LST-575 underwent some structural modifications and received a coat of "moonlight" camouflage like that used in the Pacific. Then, after loading LCT-793 on her main deck, LST-575 set out for Cuba, on 7 August, and reached Guantanamo Bay a week later.

 

On the 17th, LST-575 sailed for the Canal Zone in Convoy GS (Guantanamo to Canal Zone) 85 and transited the Panama Canal on 23 August. While most of the original convoy pushed on for Pearl Harbor, the LST, with Army Air Force personnel embarked, turned northward and arrived at San Diego on 5 September.

 

After provisioning and receiving voyage repairs, LST-575, accompanied by LST-677, got underway on the 9th for the Hawaiian Islands. Arriving at Pearl Harbor eight days later, LST-575 discharged her tank deck cargo before she shifted to West Loch one week later, where she shifted her ballast until she listed enough to slip LCT-793 into the water.

 

Having safely launched her landing craft, LST-575 spent the ensuing weeks conducting several training exercises, including a three-day cruise to Maui. Later in the training, the LST practiced loading LVT's (landing vehicle, tracked) and troops.

 

However, it soon became evident that changes were afoot for the ship and her crew, once she moored back at the Waipio Point Amphibious Base and began conversion to a new, special type of support ship—a self-propelled floating barracks—a "mother ship" for small ships and craft utilized in amphibious operations.

 

As part of the metamorphosis, two quonset huts were erected on the main deck, one for officers' quarters and the other for a bakery. Large showers and heads were installed on the former tank deck for the use of transient personnel. Four shore-type salt-water evaporators were installed forward on the main deck to distill the tons of water required by small craft and ships. In addition, bunks were mounted in tiers of four on the after end of the tank deck—accommodation for 196 men —and additional bunks were added to the crew's quarters, while on the forward part of the tank deck, 16 shore-type refrigeration units were installed for storing fresh and frozen provisions. In short, the ship was equipped with all of the necessities to enable the ship to function as a tender to small craft.

 

The idea—converting LST's to floating barrack-type vessels—came from Capt. Stanley Leith, operations officer on the staff of Vice Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, Commander, Amphibious Forces, Pacific, who had suggested it to the admiral. To many, the ships' initial designation—LST(M), or, simply, a modified LST—came to stand for "mother ship." It was perhaps that concept that caused the crew of LST-575 to give her the nickname "Mammy Yokum" after a famous cartoon character of the day.

 

By 15 January 1945, LST(M)-575 had completed her conversion and emerged with her nickname boldly painted on her conning tower. She immediately entered a floating drydock where dock workers scraped her bottom and gave her a coat of camouflage paint. In the ensuing week, she took on board provisions and ammunition and embarked the men and equipment of Standard Landing Craft Unit (SLCU) 40. As if that were not enough, two army pigeon lofts—complete with feathered and cooing occupants and their caretakers— were placed on board. With loading completed late on the afternoon of 27 January, LST(M)-575 sailed for the Philippines. After a 29-day passage, via Eniwetok, Ulithi, and Kossol Roads, the LST made port at Leyte on 25 February.

 

Occasional air raid alerts at Leyte interrupted the ship's loading of fuel and provisions, but eventually the task was completed, as the ship prepared for her first major operation. She departed Leyte with a large convoy on 19 March, bound for Okinawa.

 

During the voyage, while underway in spite of roughening seas, LST(M)-575 fueled and watered PC's, PCS's, and SC's. On the morning of 26 March, the convoy arrived at Kerama Retto—a group of islands 15 miles southwest of Okinawa itself. Throughout that day—the first day of the landings—LST(M)-575 stood by while boats and LVT's churned shoreward under the protecting guns of the supporting heavy units. As the Army troops captured the important outlying islands of Kerama Retto, LST(M)-575 stood out to sea on night-retirement, but returned with the daylight and anchored within the southwestern edge of the island circle. Using the modified LST as a base, SLCU-40 commenced operations of a boat pool for that area.

 

On the morning of the 28th, LST(M)-575 sailed around Kerama Retto and anchored inside the northern entrance to the anchorage there, being among the first ships to enter and, according to the ship's commanding officer, the first to assume permanent anchorage. The ship would remain at Kerama Retto for the next three and one-half months, providing fuel, water and provisions, and even medical assistance, to ships ranging from escort carriers to submarine chasers. On occasion, the ship handled as many as 28 landing craft per day, and the ship's supply department dispensed between 250 and 350 tons of fresh and dry provisions monthly. The ship loaded similar tonnage from refrigerator ships at night. All this work took place despite frequent "flash red" alerts and kamikaze attacks on ships in the Kerama Retto area.

 

In the early weeks of the campaign, the ship's berthing capacities were taxed to the limit. The SLCU-40 boat pool remained on board for the entire time, a group frequently enlarged by boat crews from other ships in the anchorage. Moreover, ships whose galleys had been destroyed or damaged by kamikaze attacks sent parties of their men on board LST(M)-575 for the priceless privilege of eating a hot meal. Sometimes, the ship's cooks fed as many as 750 men daily.

 

While the ship was performing her vital service function at Kerama Retto, she was reclassified from LST(M)-575 to APB-41 and given the name Wythe, effective 31 March 1945. Ultimately, in mid-July, Wythe shifted to Buckner Bay, Okinawa, and SLCU-40 went ashore to base. The barracks ship functioned in her original capacity there—an existence hampered by two typhoons: one in late July and one in early August— through the end of the war with Japan in mid-August.

 

After serving as administrative flagship for Commander, Naval Forces, Ryukyus—berthing and messing 140 men into late August 1945—Wythe sailed for Jinsen (now Inchon), Korea, to serve as part of the occupation forces in that area, taking part in Operation "Campus." Dropping anchor in Jinsen harbor on 12 September, Wythe supported the 7th Amphibious Force beach party and spent two weeks in that port before she shifted to Taku, China, where she berthed and fed the men from a boat pool there.

 

Wythe subsequently shifted to Tsingtao, China, and performed similar, but vital, support duties into the spring of 1946, alternating her duties at Tsingtao and Jinsen. On 14 April 1946, in company with her sister-ship Yavapai (APB-42), she sailed for Panama and, proceeding via Okinawa and Pearl Harbor, transited the Panama Canal between 9 and 11 June. Wythe ultimately arrived at New Orleans on the 16th.

 

Wythe's active days were numbered. She reported to Commander, Texas Group, 16th Fleet, on 14 October 1946, and was subsequently inactivated. Placed in reserve at Orange, Tex., on 29 May 1947, and simultaneously decommissioned there, Wythe remained in reserve until she was struck from the Navy list on 1 May 1959. Her stripped hulk was sold for scrap to the Marlene Blouse Corp. on 10 September 1959.

 

LST(M)-575 earned one battle star for her World War II service during the Okinawa campaign