The name given to the eastern and southeastern ranges of the Appalachian Mountains that extend south from a point near Harper’s Ferry, W. Va., across Virginia and North Carolina into northern Georgia.
(LCC-19: displacement 17,100 (full load); length 620'; beam 102'; draft 29'; speed 20 knots (trial); complement 1,469; armament 2 3-inch; class Blue Ridge)
The third Blue Ridge (AGC-19) was laid down on 27 February 1967 by the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard; redesignated LCC-19 on 1 October 1968; launched on 4 January 1969; sponsored by Mrs. Gretchen T. Byrd, the wife of Senator Harry F. Byrd, Jr., of Virginia; and commissioned on 14 November 1970, Capt. Kent J. Carroll in command.
After completing her outfitting, the amphibious command and control ship departed Philadelphia on 11 February 1971 to begin a voyage that would combine shakedown training with a move to her new home port, San Diego, Calif. However, her route to San Diego was unusual for, instead of transiting the Panama Canal, it took her around the entire continent of South America and through the treacherous Strait of Magellan. Along the way, she stopped at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Lima in Peru, the western coast of the Panama Canal Zone, and Acapulco in Mexico before arriving at San Diego on 9 April 1971. Local operations, primarily command post exercises and refresher training, occupied the ship through the summer. In mid-September, she participated in a major amphibious exercise, ROPEVAL WESTCO. On 11 October, the ship entered the Long Beach Naval Shipyard for post-shakedown availability. After post-repair trials in early December, she stood down for holiday leave and upkeep.
On 7 January 1972, Blue Ridge set sail from San Diego on her first deployment to the western Pacific. After stops at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and Guam in the Marianas, she headed for the Philippines, entered Subic Bay, on 29 January and relieved Eldorado (LCC-11) as the 7th Fleet Amphibious Force flagship. Exactly a month later, she departed Subic Bay and arrived at Okinawa on 2 February. Port visits to Sasebo, Singapore, Subic Bay, and Hong Kong followed. The ship returned to Okinawa on 20 March and embarked Brigadier General E. J. Miller, USMC, in preparation for a joint United States-South Korean amphibious operation: "Golden Dragon."
About this time, the tempo of operations of North Vietnamese ground forces in South Vietnam increased, necessitating the amphibious command ship's presence in Vietnamese waters. Accordingly, she departed Okinawa on 5 April and, for the next 15 weeks, operated in the Gulf of Tonkin as the flagship of both Commander, Task Force (TF) 76 and of Commander, Task Group (TG) 79.1. While serving as command ship for 7th Fleet amphibious forces fighting to recapture Quang Tri province from North Vietnamese troops, she participated in both the Song Thanh and Lam Son series of amphibious operations. On 27 June, while engaged in Operation "Song Thanh 8-72," the ship dueled with shore batteries sited on Tiger Island located offshore near the demilitarized zone. For that action, her crewmen received the Combat Action Ribbon.
Blue Ridge completed her missions in the Gulf of Tonkin on 18 July and shaped a course for Subic Bay where she arrived two days later. On the 25th, she headed for the Ryukyu Islands and arrived at Okinawa on 28 July. On 2 August, the staffs of TF 76 and TG 79.1 transferred from Blue Ridge to Paul Revere (LPA-248). The amphibious command ship put to sea on 3 August for the return voyage to the United States and entered port at San Diego on the 18th.
FolIowing post-deployment standdown, Blue Ridge resumed local operations in the southern California operating area early in October. On 6 December, she began a restricted availability at San Diego that lasted until late January 1973. At the end of a month of operations along the southern coast of California, she departed San Diego on 24 February bound for her second tour of duty with the 7th Fleet. She stopped overnight at Pearl Harbor on 2 and 3 March and then continued her voyage to Okinawa where she arrived on 15 March. There, Blue Ridge relieved Paul Revere as flagship for the Commander, Amphibious Group 1. Her second deployment to the Far East consisted entirely of peacetime operations because the United States had ceased involvement in the Vietnamese civil war the previous January. For the most part, she made port visits to various oriental ports and participated in multi-lateral amphibious exercises, most frequently with forces of South Korea and the Philippines. Early in July, however, she did venture into Vietnamese waters to deliver equipment needed by the Americans engaged in Operation "Endsweep," the clearing of American mines from North Vietnamese waters. Concluding the deployment, she departed Okinawa on 8 October; reached San Diego on the 23d; and, after post-deployment standdown, resumed operations along the California coast.
Blue Ridge served in California waters through the end of 1973 and during the first nine months of 1974. On 18 October, she stood out of San Diego on her way to the Orient for the 3d time. En route, she made the customary stop at Pearl Harbor before continuing on to Yokosuka, Japan, where she arrived on 6 November and embarked the staff of the Commander, 7th Fleet Amphibious Force. The deployment lasted well into 1975 and consisted mainly of amphibious exercises with units of allied military forces and goodwill calls at various ports. Once again, however, events forced a return to Vietnam in April 1975 when she went to the aid of refugees fleeing that nation. Following that mission of mercy, she arrived back at Subic Bay on 5 May and turned over the task of being flagship for the 7th Fleet Amphibious Force to Denver (LPH-9). Two days later, Blue Ridge put to sea, bound for San Diego, and moored at the California port on the 22d.
After post-deployment standdown, the ship resumed local operations and continued that employment unti1 1 November when she entered the Long Beach Naval Shipyard for her first regular overhaul. She concluded repairs on 30 June 1976 and arrived back at San Diego on 2 July. Blue Ridge spent July, August, and most of September engaged in refresher training and in preparations for her next deployment with the 7th Fleet. Then, on 25 September, she stood out of San Diego and pointed her bow westward. Following the usual Pearl Harbor stop, she arrived at Kwajalein, Marshall Islands, on 10 October. There, she once again became flagship for the 7th Fleet Amphibious Force. On 12 October, the command ship departed Kwajalein bound for Australian waters to participate in the multi-national amphibious exercise, Operation "Kangaroo II." She concluded that operation with a week-long port visit at Sydney, Australia. On 6 November, she departed Sydney and set a course for Okinawa. During the passage, she passed through the "Slot" in the Solomon Islands and paid tribute to those who died in those historic waters during the struggle for Guadalcanal in World War II.
Blue Ridge arrived at Okinawa on 19 November and began the second phase of the deployment. She conducted port visits and training evolutions until 16 February 1977 when she departed Okinawa bound for home. On 8 March 1977, the ship steamed into San Diego harbor. Local operations occupied her time through the summer of 1977. On 24 August, however, she pointed her bow westward again and headed for the Far East. Blue Ridge arrived at Okinawa on 17 September and resumed duty as the flagship for the 7th Fleet Amphibious Force. After a little more than two months of amphibious exercises and port visits, she concluded her brief fifth tour of duty with the 7th Fleet on 31 October when she departed Keelung, Taiwan, to return to the United States. On 15 November, the ship moored at San Diego and began the usual post-deployment leave and upkeep period.
Normal west coast operations, broken by a restricted availability in February and March of 1978, followed. That employment occupied the ship until August. On the 3d, she headed west once more and arrived at Okinawa on the 28th. The brief 1978 deployment brought more port visits and amphibious exercises. Blue Ridge concluded that deployment back at San Diego on 6 November and, after post-deployment standdown and a readiness exercise, began a restricted availability on 8 January 1979. Repairs lasted until the end of March at which time she resumed operations out of San Diego.
On 2 July, the ship stood out of San Diego bound for her new home port, Yokosuka, Japan. She arrived at her destination on the 17th. Since that time, Blue Ridge has operated out of Yokosuka. The Far East remained her sphere of operations into 1981.
Blue Ridge (LCC-19) earned two battle stars for service in the Vietnam conflict.
Raymond A. Mann
27 January 2006