Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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Casa Grande (LSD-13)


Casa Grande, a dwelling near Coolidge, Ariz., was built by the Ancestral Puebloan Hohokam culture in the 13th century C.E., and is now Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.

(LSD-13: displacement 4,490; length 457'9"; beam 72'2"; draft 18'; speed 15 knots; complement 326; armament 1 5-inch, 12 40-millimeter, 16 20-millimeter; class Casa Grande)

Casa Grande (LSD-13) was authorized as a British Mechanized Artillery Transport (BAPM-5) under the Lend Lease Act and to be named Portway (F.144) in the British Royal Navy; reclassifed to a dock landing ship (LSD-13) on 1 July 1942; awarded on 10 September 1942, to Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Newport News, Va.; laid down as British dock landing ship Spear on 11 November 1943; renamed Casa Grande during construction; launched on 11 April 1944; sponsored by Mrs. G. Delapalme; and commissioned on 5 June 1944, Lt. Cmdr. Fred E. Strumm, USNR, in command.

Sailing from Hampton Roads, Va., on 19 July 1944, Casa Grande was delayed at Balboa, C.Z. for repairs en route to Pearl Harbor, T.H., where she arrived on 21 August. Here she offloaded landing craft brought from the east coast, and loaded men and equipment for the invasion of Yap [Waqab] in the Carolines. Upon her arrival at Eniwetok in the Marshalls on 25 September, however, she was ordered to Seeadler Harbor, Manus in the Admiralties to prepare for the Leyte operation. Assigned to the Southern Attack Force, she entered Leyte Gulf uneventfully, and took part in the initial assault on 20 October. Her men worked at fever pace under enemy air attack as they launched their landing craft and serviced other small craft engaged in this triumphant return to the Philippines, and on 22 October, she withdrew for Hollandia, New Guinea. During the next month, she made two voyages from New Guinea to Leyte, ferrying reinforcements, and evacuating casualties.

December 1944 found Casa Grande preparing for the second of the massive operations in the Philippines, and on 31 December she sailed in Task Force 79's Attack Group Baker for Lingayen Gulf. First enemy contact came at sunset on 8 January 1945, as a small but determined group of Japanese kamikaze suicide planes attacked. Mitsubishi A6M2 Navy Type 0 carrier fighter Model 21s and Yokosuka D4Y1 Type 2 carrier bombers savaged the U.S. ships including Kitkun Bay (CVE-71), but Casa Grande came through unscathed, and joined in driving away the scattered individual enemy aircraft which pushed the attack onward.

Although sporadic attacks by Japanese aircraft and small ships tried to disrupt the landings, the long months of detailed planning bore fruit as Casa Grande and the others of her group carried out their landing assignments smoothly on 9 January 1945. She continued to operate in support of the invasion, plying between Lingayen, Leyte, and Morotai until 30 January. Casa Grande next cruised among the Solomons to load marines, landing craft, and tanks for Operation Iceberg—the invasion of Okinawa in the Ryūkyūs. She cleared Ulithi in the Carolines on 26 March, and arrived off Okinawa at dawn of 1 April. Landing equipment and troops under the first of the kamikaze attacks which were to bathe the Okinawa operation in blood, she moved to Kerama Retto on 4 April to operate a small boat repair shop there until 3 June, when she sailed for a minor overhaul at Leyte.

Through July 1945, Casa Grande sailed between ports of the South Pacific and Philippines transporting men and landing craft, and on 23 July she sailed for dry-docking at San Francisco, Calif. Between 12 September 1945, when she returned to Honolulu, and 20 April 1946, when she berthed at San Francisco, Casa Grande supported occupation and redeployment operations in' the western Pacific. She ferried landing craft and motor torpedo boat squadrons, calling at ports in the South Pacific, China, Japan, Korea, Okinawa, the Philippines, and Alaska. On 14 May 1946, she left San Francisco for Norfolk, Va., where she was decommissioned and placed in reserve on 23 October 1946.

Casa Grande was recommissioned on 1 November 1950 and based at Norfolk. Exercises off the east coast, and supply missions to Newfoundland and Greenland, as well as amphibious training in the Caribbean, formed the pattern of her operations through 1960. She voyaged to the Mediterranean for service in the Sixth Fleet more than once. She sailed for the first such deployment on 20 April 1953, and on 13 August, was dispatched to the Greek Ionian Islands to aid victims of earthquakes. At Cephalonia she established a beach center for medical supplies and provisions, and sent parties in to the mountains to deliver supplies and bury the dead. When Casa Grande sailed from Cephalonia a week later, she left behind a hospital corpsman, as well as details of marines who began rebuilding homes and roads. Thus she played an outstanding role in the humanitarian services for which the United States Navy has become known in the most remote corners of the earth.. She returned to Norfolk from this cruise on 28 October 1953. Her next deployment to the Mediterranean carried her to a variety of training exercises and port calls (29 July 1959–9 February 1960). On her return to home she cruised off the east coast in amphibious exercises and participated briefly in Project Mercury space operations. Casa Grande sailed for Sixth Fleet duty in November and finished 1960 in the Mediterranean.

Casa Grande was decommissioned and placed in the Maritime Administration's National Defense Reserve Fleet on 6 October 1969, and on 11 October 1976, stricken from the Naval Vessel Register. She was sold for $270,000 to Baxter Shipping, Inc., of Burbank, Calif., on 6 April 1992.

Casa Grande received three battle stars for her World War II service.

Published: Mon Apr 06 13:45:00 EDT 2020