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Comstock (LSD-19)

1945–1970

The first U.S. Navy ship named for the Comstock Lode in Nevada, discovered in 1859 and one of the richest deposits of precious metals known in the world.

I

(LSD-19: displacement 4,490; length 457' 9"; beam 72' 2"; draft  18'; speed 15 knots; complement 326; troop capacity 240; armament 1 5-inch/38 caliber, 12 40 millimeter, 20 millimeter; class Casa Grande)

The first Comstock (LSD-19) was laid down on 3 January 1945 at Newport News, Va. by Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co.; launched on 28 April 1945; sponsored by Mrs. Daniel C. Park; and commissioned on 2 July 1945, Lt. Cmdr. John C. Rochester, USNR, in command.

Comstock’s insignia. (U.S. Navy Photograph, Naval History and Heritage Command, NH 71913-KN).
Comstock’s insignia. (U.S. Navy Photograph, Naval History and Heritage Command, NH 71913-KN).

Comstock sailed from Norfolk on 6 September 1945, transited the Panama Canal on 14 September, and after calling at Pearl Harbor en route on 28 September, reached Okinawa on 20 October supporting occupation activities of amphibious forces in China and Japan. She served in the Far East until May 1946 and then returned to the United States entering Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Wash., on 26 May for conversion to a mobile boat pool ship.

After operating along the west coast, Comstock trained in the Hawaiian Islands from July 1947. Between 28 November 1947 and 31 May 1948 she furnished boat pool services to Joint Task Force 7, participating in Operation Sandstone, a three-detonation atmospheric nuclear test series at Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands, on 15 April, 1 May, and 15 May. After calling at Yokosuka, Japan, she returned to San Francisco on 17 June. In October 1948 Comstock arrived at San Diego and in December 1948 got underway en route to Tsingtao [Qingdao], China via Pearl Harbor. Between December 1948 and May 1949, the ship furnished boat pool and motor pool services under Commander, Service Squadron Three at Tsingtao. From May 1949 through June 1950 Comstock operated throughout the Pacific making cargo lifts to Guam; Subic Bay, Philippines; Yokosuka, Sasebo, and Kobe, Japan; Pearl Harbor; and ports along the west coast of the United States.

In response to the North Korean invasion of South Korea on 25 June 1950, Comstock sailed for the Far East on 7 July 1950 and arrived at Sasebo on 12 August to support the United Nations’ operations in Korea. She joined in the initial invasion at Inchon, Operation Chromite, on 15 September, and remained there as a repair and salvage vessel until 4 October. She also saw action during the landings at Wonsan on 26 October.

U.S. Navy ships take on supplies while moored in Sasebo harbor, circa December 1950. The photograph was taken from Princeton (CV-37). Among the ships in the background are Mount Katmai (AE-16), in left center, and Comstock, at right. Aircraft on Princeton's deck are Douglas AD-4 Skyraiders. (U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Still Pictures Branch, 80-G-423620).
U.S. Navy ships take on supplies while moored in Sasebo harbor, circa December 1950. The photograph was taken from Princeton (CV-37). Among the ships in the background are Mount Katmai (AE-16), in left center, and Comstock, at right. Aircraft on Princeton's deck are Douglas AD-4 Skyraiders. (U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Still Pictures Branch, 80-G-423620).

In January 1951 Comstock reported to Commander, United Nations Blockading and Escorting Force for duty in support of minesweeping operations. Assigned as flagship of Commander, Mine Squadron (MinRon) Three, she provided counterbattery fire against Communist shore batteries and naval gunfire support and logistical support during minesweeping operations along the east coast of Korea. She also carried the Navy’s only Far East Small Boat Minesweeping Division. On 2 February she rescued the survivors of Partridge (AMS-31) which had been mined and sank. Comstock participated in the bombardment of the east coast of Korea near Wonsan, shelling a railroad bridge and enemy installations. On 20 May she furnished landing craft for the use of British Royal Marines in their commando raid 30 miles south of Chinnampo, North Korea.

Comstock underway on 20 May 1951 overseeing the minesweeping operations which preceded the Royal Marine assault at Chinnampo. (U.S. Navy Photograph, Naval History and Heritage Command, NH 107630).
Comstock underway on 20 May 1951 overseeing the minesweeping operations which preceded the Royal Marine assault at Chinnampo. (U.S. Navy Photograph, Naval History and Heritage Command, NH 107630).

On 15 June 1951, Comstock departed Japan bound for her home port, Long Beach, Calif., arriving in July. The ship returned to Korean waters on 22 October and remained there as flagship of Commander, MinRon Three through 28 December. In January 1952 the ship reported to Long Beach Naval Shipyard for regular overhaul and remained there until April. After her maintenance period the ship resumed operations in the western Pacific.

From July through October 1952, Comstock operated in Korean waters with MinRon Three and Minesweeping Boat Division One. In November and December the ship was underway en route to the United States and arrived at Long Beach on 18 December. During the remainder of 1952 and until the first week of March 1953, Comstock underwent maintenance availability and training under the operational control of Commander, Amphibious Force, Pacific Fleet.

On 7 March 1953 she sailed from California to the western Pacific, arriving in Japan the first week of April. From April to August, Comstock was under Task Force (TF) 90 on loan to TF 95 for operations including Marlex 20 and as flagship for Commander, MinRon Three and Commander, MinRon Seven during their operations off Wonsan. The dock landing ship departed the western Pacific on 7 August and arrived back at Long Beach in September. In October she went into the Long Beach Naval Shipyard for regular shipyard overhaul, repairs being completed in January 1954.

In March 1954, Comstock departed San Diego, Calif. for the western Pacific, arriving at Sasebo during the first week in April. From April through July, she operated in the Korea, Japan, and Okinawa areas on various landing exercises, including Marlex IV and Marlex V at Sokoho-Ri, Korea and Marlex I and Marlex II at Okinawa. On 14 August, under orders from Commander, Task Force 90, Comstock departed Yokosuka for Haiphong, French Indochina as part of the task force engaged in Passage to Freedom, the evacuation of Vietnamese civilians from Haiphong to South Vietnam. That operation was completed on 21 October and she returned to Yokosuka. On 7 November, the ship got underway from Yokosuka, bound for the United States by way of Alaskan waters. After stops at Kodiak and Whittier, Alaskan Territory, Comstock reached San Diego on 26 November.

In May 1955, she joined the Surface Support Unit for Operation Wigwam, an underwater atomic test off the coast of southern California. Later, in November, Comstock participated in Operation Pactralex 56L which was a joint naval, Marine, and air exercise. The dock landing ship lifted troops and their equipment in a Marine regimental landing team’s amphibious landing at Aliso Canyon, Calif. After completing that exercise, the ship went into the Long Beach Naval Shipyard for a regular overhaul in December.

On 15 March 1956 Comstock completed her yard overhaul period and returned to San Diego. Upon completing refresher training, she participated in local exercises prior to a return deployment to the western Pacific with Amphibious Squadron (PhibRon) Five in August. During her nine-month deployment, Comstock participated in Operation Beacon Hill at Dingelen Bay, Republic of the Philippines, the largest Pacific amphibious exercise since World War II. At the completion of her deployment, Comstock returned to San Diego in May 1957. Later, in July, the dock landing ship joined a task force commanded by Commander, Amphibious Group Three. Transiting to the Hawaiian Islands, the ship participated in Operation Tradewinds, another large scale amphibious exercise. Comstock returned to the U.S. in August 1957 and was involved in various operations prior to leaving on 16 November to participate in Operation Hardtack, a series of tests being conducted by the Atomic Energy Commission.

From her arrival in the Eniwetok Proving Grounds on 4 December 1957, Comstock labored in the build-up phase of Hardtack. In the process she visited Inchon; Sasebo; Eniwetok; Bikini and Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands; Nauru and Kapingamarangi in the Caroline Islands; and Johnston Island, Territory of Hawaii. On 1 May 1958, she departed Johnston Island and arrived at San Diego on 11 May. From 11 May through 25 June, the ship went through a leave and local operation period. On 25 June, she departed San Diego bound for San Francisco, Calif., where she arrived, two days later, on 27 June, to begin a yard overhaul period at Todd’s Shipyard, Alameda, Calif. Upon completion of which, she underwent refresher and amphibious training in the San Diego area during November and December 1958.

From April 1959, Comstock was again deployed to the western Pacific as part of the Seventh Fleet, primarily in support of the Navy’s obligations to the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and training USMC units in amphibious assault exercises. The ship returned to San Diego in November and remained in that area conducting local operations supporting amphibious training exercises through June 1960.

In June 1960, Comstock returned to the western Pacific as a unit of PhibRon One, Seventh Fleet. This cruise was highlighted by numerous port calls in support of the “People-to-People” Program; steaming between Okinawa and Japan in support of marine exercises; acting as the Primary Control Ship for a marine amphibious landing in Okinawa; and as a tour of duty as the station ship  at Hong Kong. During that deployment the ship completed all of her underway exercises as well as qualifying for the Red Engineering "E" and the Amphibious Assault Award. The ship returned to San Diego from her deployment three days before Christmas 1960. After a period of holiday leave and upkeep, the ship participated in local operations until March 1961 when she transited the Columbia River for overhaul in Portland, Ore., upon completion of which, she departed Portland on 31 March and participated in refresher training and local amphibious exercises during most of the summer and early fall of 1961.

On 16 October 1961, Comstock once more departed San Diego for the western Pacific, participating in Operation Silversword off Maui, Hawaii. The Navy’s amphibious force and the Marine air-ground units made an amphibious landing and she proved integral in coordinating the efforts of the units involved. After the exercise Comstock departed Pearl Harbor, then paused at Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines and Okinawa en route to Yokosuka where she arrived on 23 December. While deployed in the western Pacific as a unit of PhibRon One, Seventh Fleet, Comstock participated in Phiblex 2-62, an exercise conducted off the coast of Korea to improve the state of readiness in a cold weather environment, and SEATO Exercise Tulungan. Conducted during March 1962, Tulungan was a larger amphibious exercise than 1956’s Operation Beacon Hill, incorporating units from the Republic of the Philippines, Australia, and the U.S. Upon completing the exercise, the dock landing ship departed the western Pacific bound for San Diego, arriving there on 2 May. +

After returning home, Comstock participated in Falcon 62, a naval orientation cruise for Air Force Academy cadets from 11–14 June 1962. Afterward, the ship conducted independent exercises and type training with PhibRon One off San Diego. Excellent performance during the exercises (15-28 June) qualified her to display the Amphibious Assault insignia. On 5 July, she arrived at Seattle, Wash., to begin extensive Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM) II overhaul at the Puget Sound Bridge & Drydock Company. With the overhaul completed on 11 January 1963, the ship departed the yard bound for San Diego on 16 January. En route, she paused in San Francisco and onloaded an experimental assault landing craft for delivery to Camp Del Mar, Calif. Comstock arrived in San Diego on 20 January to begin a cycle of refresher training in preparation for another western Pacific deployment.

That training primarily included the conduct of amphibious operations, namely Exercise Steel Gate that landed marines on San Clemente Island in March 1963. On 26 March PhibRon One to which Comstock was assigned, deployed from San Diego for duty with the Seventh Fleet in the western Pacific, in relief of PhibRon Three. At the end of April the dock landing ship was at Subic Bay before moving to Yokosuka where she was moored on 31 May. During June PhibRon One conducted Exercise Flagpole, a regimental landing team exercise with units of the Third Marine Division and Republic of Korea marines on beaches south of Pohang, Korea. During July and August, Comstock moved to Okinawa and operated in the waters of the western Pacific. During September, she participated, as part of the joint amphibious task force, in Exercise Bayonet Beach, a battalion landing team-size amphibious exercise assault on beaches north of Pohang with units of the U.S. Army 7th Division. In October PhibRon Seven relieved PhibRon One in the western Pacific and Comstock returned to San Diego in November She remained there into the spring of 1964.

During March 1964 the dock landing ship spent time undergoing maintenance at the San Diego Marine Construction Company and was back at the San Diego Naval Station by the end of the month. Through July, the ship remained in that area preparing for another deployment to the western Pacific. In August and September Comstock participated with Phibron One in Exercise Sea Bar, a three battalion landing team-size amphibious exercise assault on Solo Point Beach near Fort Lewis, Wash. Later, into October, PhibRon One returned to southern California where it conducted Exercise Hard Nose, a brigade-size amphibious assault exercises at Camp Pendleton, Ca. Having completed these preparatory exercises, Comstock and PhibRon One deployed from San Diego on 16 November to relieve PhibRon Five in the western Pacific. The ship proceeded to Subic Bay via Apra Harbor, Guam.

New Year’s Day 1965 saw Comstock still moored at Subic Bay. Later, during that deployment, the ship would participate in multiple amphibious landing operations. The first of note was a combined training exercise with the Royal Thai Navy at Pattani, Thailand (12–26 March). Comstock, as part of PhibRon One, then participated in a series of actual combat landings in South Vietnam during April and May, the first of which was the landing of the battalion landing team of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, at DaNang (10–12 April). The squadron then proceeded to land marines from the 3rd Marine Regiment at DaNang, Hue, and Phu Bai (14-18 April). The third and final amphibious landing of that deployment saw the squadron land the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and its support elements at Chu Lai (7–13 May).

Comstock prepares to off load troops into landing craft at Chu Lai, South Vietnam in May 1965. (R.W. Smith, U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives, USN 1111760).
Comstock prepares to off load troops into landing craft at Chu Lai, South Vietnam in May 1965. (R.W. Smith, U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives, USN 1111760).

The amphibious squadron departed Vietnamese waters and the end of May 1965 and began to return to San Diego via Guam in early June. Comstock arrived back at her homeport on 16 June. After a time at San Diego, Comstock was again bound for the western Pacific in August 1965. The end of the month found the dock landing ship at Baie de Dung Quat, South Vietnam, in support of marines ashore. By the end of September, the ship was underway bound for Apra Harbor, Guam en route to San Diego. The ship returned to San Diego in October and remained at her homeport through the remainder of 1965.

Following a yard overhaul at the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard, Terminal Island, Long Beach, Calif. (19 January–22 May 1966), she underwent sea trials (23–30 May). After returning to San Diego, Comstock underwent refresher training to include amphibious refresher (31 May–15 July). During that training period she transferred from PhibRon One to PhibRon Three. After completing refresher training, the ship then made additional preparations for overseas deployment from 16-26 July to include embarking the marines and their equipment on 25 July. On 27 July Rear Adm. Julian Burke, Commander, Amphibious Group Three visited the ship which then got underway under his command and the operational control of the Commander, First Fleet until 15 August. After a port call at Pearl Harbor (4-6 August), she came under the operational control of Commander, Seventh Fleet on 16 August. The dock landing ship paused at Okinawa and debarked a contingent of marines and its equipment (21–23 August).

Moving on to DaNang, Republic of Vietnam, Comstock arrived on 27 August 1966 and debarked additional marines with their equipment. She transited to Subic Bay for upkeep (30 August–5 September). On 11 September, the ship transferred from the operational control of the Seventh Fleet to Commander, Naval Forces Vietnam. That same day she relieved Tortuga (LSD-26) as Operation Game Warden support ship and embarked River Patrol Section 512 and Helicopter Combat Support Squadron One, Detachment 29, and immediately commenced Operation Game Warden activities to interdict communist operational and logistical movements on the waterways of the Mekong Delta. On 2 October, the dock landing ship received orders to lift cargo and supplies between DaNang and the mouth of the Cua Viet River, on 5 October, she began those operations. On 20 October, however, during the offloading of utility landing craft (LCU) at the mouth of the Cua Viet, Comstock’s stern gate support cables and chains snapped, disabling the hoisting mechanism and rendering the ship unable to continue cargo operations. The next day, 21 October, while at DaNang she received orders to resume Game Warden operations. By 25 October she had steamed to Vung Tau and resumed operations in the Mekong Delta.

On 31 October 1966, Rear Adm. Burke visited the ship again. Later, Vice Adm. Francis Blouin, Commander, Amphibious Force, Pacific Fleet briefly came on board on 10 November. Comstock, on 13 November, relieved the tank landing ship Jennings County (LST-846) as Game Warden support ship at Vung Tau and the former reverted to the operational control of Commander, Seventh Fleet. The ship then moved on to Subic Bay where she underwent upkeep and had her stern gate repaired (16 November–1 December). Rear Adm. Don Wulzen, Commander Amphibious Group One and Commander, Amphibious Force Seventh Fleet visited Comstock during that period. On 6 December, the dock landing ship embarked marines and their equipment at Subic Bay. She then moved to the Cua Viet River and Hue River to debark them and embark those they replaced for transport to Okinawa, where they arrived on 21 December. Comstock then got underway from 21–24 December en route to Yokosuka. While en route she engaged in an anti-submarine warfare exercise on 23 December. Having arrived at Yokosuka on 24 December, the ship remained in port through 2 January 1967. Though initially intended to proceed to Bangkok, Thailand, while at Yokosuka, Comstock received orders to sail for Vietnam once again to transport a dredge to the Cua Viet River. To accomplish that, the yard workers at Yokosuka removed the helicopter and super decks.

By early afternoon on 2 January 1967, Comstock, less her helicopter and super deck and with three LCUs in her well deck, set a course for Da Nang. Arriving on 8 January, the ship, early the following morning, 9 January, debarked the LCUs. Shortly after 0900 the ship was underway for Cam Ranh Bay, arriving on 10 January. By 1700 that same day, she was underway for the Cua Viet River with the 300-ton dredge Helsbar; its 500-ton, 140-foot long barracks barge; and three small craft. After accomplishing the lift without incident, Comstock departed the Cua Viet River area on 13 January with an LCU in her well deck. Anchoring in DaNang early on 14 January, she debarked the LCU, then sailed for Nha Trang. The ship’s next assignment involved transporting a Chinese fishing junk from Nha Trang to the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong, the mission being under the cognizance of the State Department. The fishing junk, crewed by 48 Chinese from Hainan Island, became disabled in heavy seas and blown into South Vietnamese waters.  After which U.S. and South Vietnamese units brought the boat into safe harbor. While at Nha Trang, the craft was repaired and, after assurances that their junk would be returned, the Chinese were flown to Hong Kong and repatriated to the People’s Republic of China by British authorities. During the afternoon of 15 January, the three-masted, 70-foot long craft was moved into the well deck. Comstock’s Repair Division set about shoring the craft for the voyage to Hong Kong. On 16 January, Comstock cleared Nha Trang for Hong Kong, where she arrived on 20 January and offloaded the junk.

After five days of liberty Comstock was Yokosuka-bound on 25 January. Tying up in the yard, workers and the crew went about replacing the ship’s helicopter deck on 30 January. With the deck restored, she left Yokosuka on 9 February bound for the United States. Steaming independently, Comstock exercised at general quarters, held engineering casualty drills, and conducted man overboard and abandon ship drills during the 12-day transit to Pearl Harbor. On 15 February, the ship "chopped" from Commander, Seventh Fleet and commenced operating in accordance with Commander, First Fleet’s operating schedule. The next day, also 15 February (having crossed the International Date Line), Comstock rendezvoused with the PhibRon Nine ships, en route to the western Pacific, Princeton (LPH-5), Monticello (LSD-35), and Ogden (LPD-5). On 20 February, the dock landing ship entered Pearl Harbor and after a brief stay, she got underway for San Diego before 0700 on 22 February, returning to her homeport and mooring on 1 March, beginning a leave and upkeep period.

Early in April 1967, Comstock transported a heavy monitor constructed on the hulls of landing craft and armed with cannon, machine guns, and mortars being developed for use in the Mekong Delta to San Clemente Island for test firing. The tests were successfully completed on 4 April and Comstock returned the craft to San Diego. For the next two days, she steamed in local operating areas conducting a variety of drills and firing an anti-aircraft exercise. She began preparations for Exercise Alligator Hide on 18 April as she left San Diego for Camp Del Mar, in company with Mount McKinley (AGC-7) and Cavalier (APA-37) for a Command Post Exercise (CPX) check of communications. She loaded vehicles and equipment on 20 April off Camp Del Mar.  Returning to San Diego on 21 April, Comstock remained in port until the 25th, when she anchored off the "Silver Strand” at Coronado during the day to serve as the backdrop for the videotaping of NBC’s The Today Show.

Comstock left San Diego on 22 April 1967 in company with Task Unit (TU) 176.3.0 for participation in Exercise Alligator Hide. This exercise’s intent was to train a Marine Expeditionary Brigade and an Amphibious Group to plan and execute an amphibious assault. It provided for embarkation, rehearsal, and the conduct of a surface and limited air assault in a counter-insurgency environment. Alligator Hide included a number of exercises conducted during formation transit to the assault area. Among those in which Comstock participated were gunnery shoots, “running” minefields, helicopter launchings and landings, vertical replenishment and alongside simulated replenishment with ammunition ship Paracutin (AE-18) and the oiler Caliente (AO-53). The ship conducted an anti-mine shoot and shot down a sleeve during an anti-aircraft exercise. One of the high points of the many evolutions occurred on 28 April when a helicopter experiencing engine difficulty spurred the setting of an emergency flight quarters. The aircraft was on deck in ninety seconds later without further incident.

Following a rehearsal landing on 29 April 1967, at Coronado in preparation for the actual assault on “enemy” territory, Comstock made an unscheduled return to San Diego on 30 April because an LCU on her well deck developed engine trouble. With the repairs completed, the tank landing ship rejoined the formation on 1 May, and on the day of the landing, 2 May; Comstock anchored off Green Beach on the flank of the boat lane to act as the Primary Control Ship for the ship-to-shore movement. After directing the initial assault, she directed the landing of support equipment as well as acting as the casualty evacuation control ship. The next day, Rear Adm. Julian Burke, now Commander, Amphibious Task Force and Commander, Amphibious Group One, once again visited the ship while direction off loading and back loading continued.  Comstock concluded her role in Alligator Hide on 4 May and returned to port the next day. The tank landing ship received commendation for her communications, pre-H-Hour transfers of troops, and her anti-aircraft fire during Alligator Hide.

Comstock then began a five week period of restricted availability on 6 May 1967. During the month, the ship took full advantage of the inport period to send her sailors for training in Assault Boat Coxswain, Petty Officer Leadership, Helicopter Fire Fighting, Air Conditioning, and Emergency Ship Handling, among others. While in port, the ship also acted as a host vessel for the Norfolk-based Hermitage (LSD-34) that visited San Diego en route to the western Pacific. Between 18 June and 25 June, Comstock operated with reconnaissance marines directing landings on San Clemente Island and at Camp Pendleton. On 26 June Commander Training Command, Pacific Fleet, conducted a training and readiness evaluation and judged the ship “ready” to undergo a two-weeks of refresher training.  That work commenced on 28 June and included transiting a simulated minefield; engineering drills, simulated underway replenishment; gunnery shoots; nuclear attack drills, man overboard drills; and precision anchoring. The final battle problem was on 7 July and the dock landing ship passed.

Having completed her refresher training, Comstock conducted an amphibious exercise with marines at Camp Del Mar (11–12 July 1967). Afterward, the ship continued preparation for amphibious training (14 July–23 July). Beginning on 24 July, the ship anchored daily at Coronado Roads, Calif., and conducted ship-to-shore exercises. The final battle problem began at 0255 on 4 August and the ship earned a grade of “excellent.”  On 14 August, in company with Okanogan (APA-220), Merrick (AKA-97), Wexford County (LST-1168), and Iwo Jima (LPH-2), Comstock participated in Helilex 2-67, an amphibious exercise designed to train a battalion landing team, elements of the Third Marine Air Wing, and an amphibious group in the conduct of a surface and limited air assault in a counter-insurgency environment. Initially delayed eight hours due to a failure of one of her service generators, Comstock completed embarkation of troops at 1100 on 15 August and at 1400 participated in a rehearsal landing at White Beach. During the night of 15-16 August, the ship inserted an underwater demolition team (UDT) and landing force reconnaissance elements onto the objective beach, preparing for the assault in the early morning hours in which she served as the primary control ship. Having completed the exercise, the ship conducted a dependents cruise on 19 August off Point Loma, Calif. The ship then spent the next month in port, time primarily spent in preparing for her upcoming western Pacific deployment. A shipyard workers strike in San Diego, however, prompted Comstock’s changing her pre-deployment yard period to the Todd Shipyard in San Pedro.

On 21 September 1967, Comstock left San Diego for Los Angeles, Calif., and in the late afternoon she moored at the Todd Shipyard. The yard period ended on 13 October and she arrived back at San Diego on 14 October. At 0859 on 18 October, Comstock, in company with Cleveland (LPD-7), Cavalier (APA-37), and Tulare (AKA-112), sortied from San Diego and began a variety of exercises during formation steaming. Comstock's cargo was the newly-constructed harbor utility craft YFU-71, destined for Naval Support Activity, DaNang, and 64 tons of roofing material destined for Handclasp projects in South Vietnam. En route, the ship practiced convoy tactics; radio, flashing light semaphore, and flag hoist communication drills; simulated underway replenishment; and gunnery shoots. Comstock received a "Well Done" for her gunnery. A later message from Vice Adm. Harold G. Bowen Jr., Commander, Anti-Submarine Warfare Forces, Pacific praised the four PhibRon Three ships for their very successful participation in the exercises. On 26 October, Comstock stood into Pearl Harbor. Shortly thereafter, the ship got underway for Barking Sands, Kauai. After night steaming, she embarked 9 U.S.M.C. tank landing vehicles (LVT) for transfer to Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, at 0700. The ship dispatched the LVTs the following morning, 28 October, then proceeded back to Pearl Harbor where she moored at the Naval Shipyard to begin a short period of restricted availability.

On 6 November 1967, Comstock got underway with Cavalier and Tulare set course for Okinawa and Vietnam. The ships conducted numerous training exercises en route. On 18 November Comstock and Cavalier (Tulare having departed the group) lay off the island of Iwo Jima for two hours before continuing their voyage westward to Okinawa. Cavalier, having steamed ahead to arrive at Okinawa earlier, Comstock arrived at White Beach, Buckner Bay, on the morning of 21 November and immediately began loading eight critically needed CH-46 Chinook helicopters into the well deck for transporting to DaNang.  Early the next day, 22 November, Comstock, steaming independently, left Buckner Bay and set course through the Bashi Channel for

DaNang. Early on 25 November, however, she suffered a casualty to the number one main engine circulating pump. Steaming on the port shaft alone reduced the ship’s speed and maneuverability, the engineering crew restored the pump to full operability within 36 hours. The ship moored in DaNang on 27 November and offloaded the helicopters and Project Handclasp materials and debarked YFU-71. The dock landing ship, almost upon arrival in DaNang, then proceeded south to Duc Pho, as directed, to assist in the salvage operations of Clark County (LST-601), that had broached when beaching and had partially flooded. Arriving at the scene the next day, 28 November, Comstock relieved Alamo (LSD-33) of her duties in the salvage and lent her efforts to those of Mars (ARS-1). Comstock then went to sea that night to rendezvous for an underway replenishment. She returned to Duc Pho and was anchored early the next morning, 29 November. Comstock sent working parties to Clarke County daily and also supplied fresh water and diesel fuel.

That same day Comstock and Mars were targets of the hijinks stemming from the inter-service rivalry that was part of the 1967 Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia. The ship’s command history for 1967 noted the exchange:

On 29 November Comstock and Mars were subjected to an incursion of their air space by an enemy who, flying fast and low, scattered propaganda leaflets on the ships. They read: “GO ARMY, BEAT NAVY.” The enemy aircraft, by virtue of its markings was a U.S. Army “Huey” [UH-1 Iroquois] gunship and its crew were positively identified as “The ARMY.” Revenge was not long in coming; this particular aircraft later had cause to land on Mars and was left unattended by its crew. Landing on Comstock after visiting Mars, the craft bore the marks of retaliation: stenciled in white under its fuselage were the words “GO NAVY, BEAT ARMY.” A day later, the sailors were justified when Navy beat Army in Philadelphia.”

The next day, 30 November 1967, Comstock attempted to recover Mars’ helicopter that crashed earlier, without the loss of life, and sank in 80 feet of water. Ocean minesweeper Pledge (MSO-492) located the aircraft and marked it with a buoy, while divers from the salvage ship Bolster (ARS-38) attached a five-inch nylon line to the helicopter so that it might be hoisted by crane. Changes in the weather and the appearance of heavy seas, however, forced discontinuing attempted salvage of the aircraft. With the severing of the line, Comstock got underway. She returned for scheduled relief by Fort Marion (LSD-22). The heavy seas saw Clarke County worked free from the beach. With the ship freed, Comstock and the other units present proceeded to DaNang. Soon after her arrival, she began relief procedures with Fort Marion in preparation for her role in Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) Alfa, one of the two Ready Groups operating in the waters of the northern I Corps Tactical Zone. Those preparations saw Comstock’s crew ensure readiness to conduct well deck operations. The dock landing ship embarked sailors from Assault Craft Division Thirteen, Detachment N; Beachmaster Unit Detachment A-3; and UDT 12, Detachment E, as well as marines from Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.

On 3 December 1967, Comstock steamed out of DaNang and headed northwest to the waters off the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to rendezvous and join with Task Group (TG) 76.4 comprising Iwo Jima, Cleveland, and Tulare as part of ARG Alfa. On 10 December the dock landing ship undertook a special lift of LVTs being used by Republic of Korea marines from the Mui Batangan peninsula north to DaNang. These vessels loaded in a heavy rain and high seas from territory surrounded by enemy forces. On 17 December, Comstock directed the offload of the battalion landing team equipment from Tulare at the mouth of the Hue River and the delivery of this equipment to the marines at Hue city. She then assisted Iwo Jima in the offload of equipment at the Cua Viet River and its delivery to Dong Ha. Two days after Christmas, on 27 December, Comstock began backloading Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, ARG Alfa’s Special Landing Force at Dong Ha and the Hue River. Bad weather resulted in those loading operations taking six days. After completing the backload on 3 January 1968, Comstock departed Vietnam bound for Subic Bay. Upon arrival on 5 January, the ship underwent an eight-day restricted availability period for needed repairs.

On 14 January 1968 the dock landing ship departed Subic Bay at 2118 bound for DaNang. On 18 January the ship received orders changing destination from DaNang to cruising Operational Areas Foxtrot 3 and Foxtrot 4 off the Hue River. While steaming independently the ship maneuvered to rendezvous with Iwo Jima on 19 January. The next day, 20 January, Comstock commenced conducting approach drills with Wexford County (LST-1168). On 22 January, the dock landing ship began maneuvering to rendezvous with Taluga (AO-62) and then maintained station on the oiler and subsequently conducted an underway replenishment which completed at 1820. With refueling completed Comstock commenced steaming independently.

On 24 January 1968, she entered the harbor at DaNang, only to depart in the early afternoon. By the next day, 25 January she was steaming independently in Foxtrot 3 and Foxtrot 4 off the Hue River then conducted operations with Wexford County during the afternoon before resuming independent steaming. At 1336 on 26 January the embarked mechanized landing craft (LCM) cleared Comstock’s well deck. At 1713 the ship began heading to Point John at best possible speed to backload debarked boats and then steamed off the mouth of the Cua Viet River very early in the midwatch on 27 January. She then maneuvered off the mouth of the Hue River, where she debarked LCU-1497 and then re-embarked her. While underway on 28 January, Wexford County assumed tactical command of Comstock during the conduct of a tactical maneuver exercise. Upon the exercise completion Comstock maneuvered to close with Iwo Jima.

Then on 29 January the dock landing ship steamed independently in Operating Areas Echo 2 and Echo 3 off the Hue River before maneuvering to rendezvous with Pollux (AKS-4) to conduct an underway replenishment. The dock landing ship then rendezvoused with Mattaponi (AO-41) to refuel. Having resupplied, the ship rendezvoused with Iwo Jima in Echo 2 and Echo 3 on 30 January and on 31 January both anchored off the mouth of the Cua Viet River as enemy forces launched the Tet Offensive.

Just after noon on 31 January 1968, Comstock got underway bound for DaNang arriving early on 1 February and anchoring that morning. She weighed anchor and got underway later that day at 1801 bound for Echo 2 and Echo 3. While underway on 2 February, the ship reduced speed to allow a Coast Guard 82-foot patrol boat (WPB) and a fast patrol craft (PCF) to come alongside for replenishment. On 3 February, she transited to My Thuy, Republic of Vietnam and anchored only to then get underway later in the day to steam in the operating areas off the Hue River. On 5 February she set a course for DaNang. Arriving that same day, she only remained for a short time before getting underway to rendezvous with Passumpsic (AO-107) to replenish. She refueled, returned to DaNang, and then got underway to steam in Operating Areas Mike 2 and Mike 3 and then returned to DaNang on 6 February. After taking on ammunition on 7 February, the ship got underway bound for Phu Bai, Republic of Vietnam. En route she rendezvoused with Iwo Jima and transferred ammunition to the latter and then proceeded to the shoreline south of Hue. Comstock then steamed independently in Operating Areas Hotel 1 and Hotel 2 off Phuong Dien. The next day, 8 February, the ship anchored at Cua Hu Thien, Republic of Vietnam, offloaded ammunition and then got underway to maneuver in Operating Areas Juliet 1, Juliet 2, and Juliet 3 and then returned to and anchored at Cua Hu Thien on 9 February. During that time helicopters landed on the ship and then departed with loads of ammunition. Comstock then got underway and remained in the vicinity of Cua Hu Thien while continuing to provide loads of ammunition to helicopters landing on her flight deck. One of these flights, at 1820, saw the transfer of marines from the ship.

On 10 February 1968, the ship proceeded into Operating Areas Hotel 1 and Hotel 2 to conduct helicopter operations in the afternoon and conduct an underway replenishment from Castor (AKS-1). Those helicopter operations continued in areas Juliet 1 and Juliet 2 off Cua Hu Thien on 11 February and the ship conducted a replenishment from Taluga. The next day, 12 February, the ship shifted to Delta 1 and Delta 2 and a rendezvous with Iwo Jima to conduct helicopter operations before moving into the Charlie areas. The dock landing ship conducted a replenishment from Regulus (AF-57) and then replenished Wexford County on 13 February before moving on to areas Delta 1 and Delta 2. On 14 February, the ship transited to area Charlie 0 to rendezvous with swift boats and then conduct a further replenishment of Wexford County before shifting to Delta 1 and Delta 2. On 15 February Comstock rendezvoused with a Coast Guard WPB, then anchored at My Thuy and conducted helicopter operations and boat operations before getting underway and maneuvering en route to DaNang where she anchored on 16 February, embarked and debarked landing craft before getting underway to rendezvous with Caliente for refueling before returning to DaNang for a short time before getting underway early on 17 February. She steamed jointly with Wexford County for much of 18 February before she broke off for independent maneuver on 19 February and arriving at My Thuy. She anchored briefly then moved on to Thon Tan An where she embarked three landing craft and then proceeded to DaNang, arriving on 20 February and then departing the next day, 21 February, bound for Echo 1 and Echo 2. Comstock returned to DaNang for a short time on 24 February before departing for an underway replenishment from Tolovana (AO-64) on 25 February. Afterward she continued transiting Echo 1 and Echo 2 and then, after a brief stop at DaNang, anchored at Qui Nhon on 29 February.

Underway on 1 March 1968, Comstock conducted a replenishment from Zelima (AF-49) en route to the Cua Viet Holding Area. The next day, 2 March, the dock landing ship rendezvoused with a Coast Guard WPB one mile off My Thuy. Shortly afterward the ship maneuvered to conduct well deck operations and then moved on to an anchorage at DaNang. On 4 May she was bound for the mouth of the Cua Viet embarking landing craft en route. On 6 March the ship moved to My Thuy to stay on station with Alamo (LSD-33) for turnover.

After completing that evolution, Comstock steamed in company with Caliente on 7 March 1968 to refuel, then anchored off the Cua Viet River before moving on to DaNang. The next day, she got underway for Hong Kong, where she arrived on 11 March. After a five-day port visit, Comstock weighed anchor on 16 March bound for Buckner Bay. She anchored there for a short time on 19 March, before getting underway for Tsoying, Taiwan. Over the next two days, she steamed between Tsoying and Makung Harbor, Pescadores Islands, before anchoring for a port visit at Tsoying (23–27 March). She then made a brief visit to Ching Keng-men, Taiwan, then returned to Tsoying. On 30 March, she moved to Kaohsiung, Taiwan and remained there until 4 April when she departed for Buckner Bay. Arriving on 6 April, she remained a day and then weighed anchor, bound for Yokosuka. She arrived on 11 April, but then departed the next day for Sasebo. She remained at there (14-23 April) until she got underway to return to DaNang.

She arrived at DaNang on 29 April 1968, but remained there for just a short time before getting underway for Cam Rahn Bay. Arriving on 30 April, she remained there until 1 May and then got underway to return to DaNang. After only a short stay at DaNang on 2 May, Comstock got underway for Subic Bay, but shortly thereafter, received orders to return to DaNang. Upon her return, she then turned around again and resumed her voyage to Subic Bay, where she arrived on 5 May. On 7 May, she got underway for Kaohsiung, conducting a firing exercise in the Philippines Operating Area en route. She remained at Kaohsiung on 9 May, then moved on to Sasebo. She arrived was in port at Sasebo (12 May–15 May) and then moved to Yokosuka which she reached on 17 May. The ship departed for Pearl Harbor on 25 May and moored there on 5 June. After two days, she stood out of Pearl Harbor on 7 June and shortly thereafter joined Commander, Task Unit 16.9.5 consisting of Cavalier, Whetstone (LSD-27), Colonial (LSD-18) bound for San Diego and moored at her homeport on 15 June.

Comstock remained at San Diego until 27 October 1968 when she got underway for the Willamette Shipyard, Portland, Ore. Arriving on 31 October, the ship underwent a period of overhaul at the yard until 8 February 1969, when she got underway for San Diego, returning on 12 February.

Comstock weighed anchor and got underway on 17 February 1969 for trials and training in the local San Diego Operating Area, returning on 20 February. Between 3 March and 14 March, the ship sortied from San Diego to conduct short-term training to prepare for her upcoming deployment. The ship largely remained in port at San Diego until getting underway on 20 May for Pearl Harbor en route to the western Pacific. Having conducted training exercises en route, she reached Pearl Harbor on 28 May. After a brief stay, the ship departed on 30 May, having set a course for Guam and pulled into Apra Harbor on 11 June. She departed the next day, bound for DaNang, and soon after leaving Guam on 12 June, she made contact with a Soviet ship gathering intelligence dead in the water and 4.5 miles distant as Comstock made her way to Vietnam. She entered DaNang harbor on 19 June and conducted an offload before weighing anchor and heading first to Tan My, Republic of Vietnam, then on to Cam Rahn Bay. Having arrived on 21 June, Comstock remained for only a short time before getting underway for Vung Tau and anchoring there on 22 June. The next day, 23 June, she moved on to Nha Bey, Republic of Vietnam and then on to the Ca Mau Peninsula, Republic of Vietnam where she anchored off the mouth of the Bo De River on 24 June. Also present at this anchorage were Belle Grove (LSD-2), Colonial, and other units assigned to TU 76.9.4.

Comstock remained anchored until 29 June 1969 when she got underway for the Philippines. In company with Belle Grove, she arrived at Subic Bay on 1 July and remained there until both departed for a return to DaNang on 6 July, anchoring there on 9 July. Comstock then got underway later that day to conduct drills prior to steaming in concert with Task Group (TG) 76.5 assigned to night operating areas November 2, November 3, and November 4. She continued to steam off the coast of Vietnam through the end of July, punctuating those underway periods with intermittent short-term visits to DaNang. These operations off the coast continued off the Batangan Peninsula through 12 August, when she joined Alamo to proceed to Subic Bay, arriving on 15 August. The ships then departed for Hong Kong on 19 August and arrived on 21 August. Remaining at Hong Kong, both dock landing ships departed on 27 August for a return to Subic Bay. Arriving on 29 August, Comstock remained there until departing for DaNang on 10 September and arriving the following day to conduct unloading and loading operations. She then departed for a return to Subic Bay on 13 September and arrived on 15 September. The dock landing ship shuttled between Subic Bay and DaNang from 16-22 September before she departed Subic Bay on 22 September bound for Naha, Okinawa. She received a change of orders and after conducting drills at sea, the ship returned to Subic Bay on 26 September. The next day, 27 September, Comstock departed bound for DaNang. Arriving on 30 September, she anchored for a short time then departed to operate off the coast before anchoring off the Cua Viet River on 3 October. She then got underway on 4 October bound for Buckner Bay. Arriving on 8 October she remained until 10 October when she weighed anchor and set a course for Camp Del Mar. On 30 October she arrived at Camp Del Mar, anchored and began disembarking marines and off-loading their equipment. On 31 October Comstock departed and returned to her homeport of San Diego. The ship remained at San Diego through the end of 1969.

On 7 January 1970, Comstock got underway bound for Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Wash.  Decommissioned at Puget Sound Naval Station on 7 April 1970, Comstock was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 30 June 1976. Her title transferred to the Maritime Administration (MARAD) for lay up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet, she was ultimately sold on 17 October 1984 and she was towed to Taiwan for scrapping.

The hearty veteran of service in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, however, received a new lease on life. Instead of being scrapped, the Republic of China (ROC) Navy replaced the ex-White Marsh (LSD-8) with ex-Comstock and renamed her Chung Cheng (191). The same name and hull number the ex-White Marsh had carried (the formal name of President Chiang Kai-shek). Ultimately, Chung Cheng was decommissioned and retired from ROC Navy service on 29 July 2012.

Comstock received ten battle stars for Korean War service and five campaign stars for Vietnam War service.

 

Awards, Ribbons, and Commendations

Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation

China Service Medal

American Campaign Medal

Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal

World War II Victory Medal

Navy Occupation Service Medal

National Defense Service Medal

Korean Service Medal

Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal

Vietnam Service Medal

Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation

Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal

Republic of Korea War Service Medal

 

Commanding Officers

Lt. Cmdr. J. C. Rochester                               2 July 1945–1 June 1946

Cmdr. Alfred J. Benz                                     1 June 1946–9 August 1946

Cmdr. Thomas W. Ford                                  9 August 1946–4 September 1946

Cmdr. Harry B. Baker , USNR                          4 September 1946–9 May 1947

Lt. Cmdr. Raymond W. Lamka                        9 May 1947–23 May 1947

Cmdr. George P. Huff                                     23 May 1947–24 June 1948

Cmdr. Theodore T. Miller                               24 June 1948–2 June 1949

Capt. Robert J. Archer                                     2 June 1949–9 May 1950

Capt. Emmanuel T. Goyette                           9 May 1950–2 July 1951

Capt. William Winter Jr.                                  2 July 1951–14 April 1952

Cmdr. Frederick R. Mathews                           14 April 1952–18 October 1952

Cmdr. Henry L. Waliszewski                           18 October 1952–22 October 1954

Cmdr. Harold C. Lank                                      22 October 1954–6 November 1954

Lt. Cmdr. Sam Fodor                                       6 November 1954–18 December 1954

Cmdr. Franklyn W.C. Zwicker                         18 December 1954–5 January 1956

Cmdr. Phillip A. Murray                                 5 January 1956–15 December 1956

Cmdr. A.H. Clark, Jr.                                      15 December 1956–15 April 1958

Cmdr. Donald M. Kable                                  15 April 1958–22 September 1959

Capt. Ralph E. Sandvigen                              22 September 1959–29 September 1961

Cmdr. John H. Mehus                                     29 September 1961–28 May 1963

Cmdr. Lawrence A. Kempf                              28 May 1963–2 November 1964

Cmdr. Jack G. Jernee                                     2 November 1964–18 June 1966

Cmdr. Robert A. Powell                                 18 June 1966–6 October 1967

Cmdr. James H. Morris                                   6 October 1967–8 November 1968

Cmdr. Robert K. Ripley                                 8 November 1968–22 January 1970

Lt. Cmdr. Charles C. Stewart                         22 January 1970–7 April 1970

 

Christopher B. Havern Sr.

11 July 2016

Published:Tue Jul 12 14:54:05 EDT 2016