A city in the state of Washington.
Vancouver (LPD-2) was laid down on 19 November 1960 at Brooklyn, N.Y., by the New York Naval Shipyard; launched on 15 September 1962; sponsored by Mrs. Stuart Symington; and commissioned on 11 May 1963, Capt. Thomas C. Harbert, Jr., in command.
After completing builders trials at New York and shakedown training out of Norfolk, Va., Vancouver departed the latter port on 14 August and laid a course for the west coast. She transited the Panama Canal on 20 August and, after making a side trip to Acapulco, Mex., in the process of assisting a disabled fishing vessel, arrived in San Diego, her permanent home port, on the 31st.
Late in September and early in October, Vancouver made the traditional visit to her namesake city-Vancouver, Wash.-and then returned to San Diego for seven weeks of training. Underway training occupied the first four weeks while amphibious training took up the last three. In mid-December, she welcomed on board newly appointed Secretary of the Navy Paul H. Nitze, and Admiral U.S. Grant Sharp, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, as well as several other high ranking Navy and Marine Corps officers, and treated them to a display of her multifaceted amphibious capabilities.
In mid-February 1964, the ship moved from San Diego to Long Beach where she entered the naval shipyard for post-shakedown availability. She finished repairs on 21 May, completed final acceptance trials early in June, and then returned to San Diego. Late in June, the amphibious transport dock ship made another voyage north to Canada for a visit to another namesake city, British Columbia, in time to participate in that city's annual maritime festival. On the way back home, she stopped in San Francisco for the Independence Day weekend and then reentered San Diego on 7 July. At that point, she began her operational schedule. She participated in three amphibious warfare exercises between July and October and then began preparations for her first deployment to the Far East.
Her first tour of duty with the 7th Fleet coincided with the beginning of the rapid acceleration of American involvement in South Vietnam heralded by the Gulf of Tonkin incident in August 1964. She departed San Diego on 16 November, loaded Marines at Port Hueneme, and set out across the Pacific on the 17th. Vancouver arrived in Buckner Bay, Okinawa, on 6 December, and unloaded her passengers. Embarking another Marine battalion at Okinawa on 21 December, she moved to Subic Bay in the Philippines, where she traded her second load of Marines for a third which she transported to Okinawa in January 1965.
Sometime in February, the ship embarked elements of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade and, on 8 March in company with Henrico (APA-45) and Union (AKA-106), landed the Marines at Danang, South Vietnam, to protect the perimeter of the airbase there and free South Vietnamese troops for other combat duties. During the remaining three months of her first deployment to the Orient, Vancouver twice revisited Vietnam, on both occasions on resupply missions. In June, she concluded her deployment and headed home. However, less than two months after her return, she embarked Marines for a special troop lift to the widening conflict in Vietnam. She departed the west coast on 5 August and did not return until 5 October. At that point, she began the normal schedule of upkeep and training exercises at San Diego and other points along the California coast.
During the first week in July, Vancouver embarked LVT's and Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 1/26 (1st Battalion, 26th Marines) in preparation for her second 7th Fleet assignment. On the 9th, she put to sea and, after a two-day stop at Pearl Harbor from 14 to 16 July, arrived at Subic Bay on 28 July. There, she became a unit of the newly constituted 7th Fleet Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), Task Group (TG) 76.5: a self-contained mobile amphibious assault team made up of a Special Landing Force (SLF), Marines and support units, and the ships which served as their transportation and mobile bases. In a series of training exercises held in the Philippines, the Navy-Marine Corps teammates honed their skills for an almost instant response to any need for amphibious support or reinforcement in the 7th Fleet's zone of operations.
Quite naturally, Vietnam constituted the area most in need of such a capability at that time. Accordingly, the ARG concluded its amphibious training on 12 August, reembarked the landing force, and sailed for the waters off Vietnam. Between 16 and 29 August, Vancouver participated in her first combat action during Operation "Deckhouse III" which consisted of two landings at a point some 60 miles east of Saigon. The first phase, from 16 to 20 August, saw BLT 1/26 move ashore in both modes, waterborne and airborne, against minor opposition and later destroy a fortified, Viet Cong-held village. During the second set of landings, 22 to 29 August, the Marines sent ashore changed operational control from the ARG to the authorities ashore to assist in Operation Toledo, a search-and-destroy mission to deprive the enemy of valuable caches of arms and supplies. At the conclusion of Deckhouse III, Vancouver returned to Subic Bay for 10 days of upkeep.
Departing the Philippines on 12 September, the ship began her second amphibious assault, Deckhouse IV, on 15 September in the vicinity of the Cua Viet River in Quang Tri Province just south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ). The landings constituted a seaward arm of the larger Operation Prairie being conducted by American and South Vietnamese forces ashore to destroy North Vietnamese Army fortifications, bunkers, and supply caches in the area and to stem intensified infiltration across the DMZ. During their 10 days ashore, the Marines of the SLF encountered heavy resistance and accounted for 254 of the enemy killed before they reembarked on 25 September. At the conclusion of the operation, Vancouver disembarked her portion of BLT 1/26 troops at Danang and headed for Okinawa.
After she embarked BLT 3/3 there, she returned to Vietnamese waters on 6 October and steamed with the contingency force in the area off the DMZ for the next 22 days. On 28 October, she disembarked BLT 3/3 and, two days later, embarked BLT 3/26 for transportation to the Philippines. She departed Danang on 1 November and arrived in Subic Bay on the 12th. During December, she participated in an amphibious exercise, Mudpuppy II, at Mindoro and conducted upkeep at Subic Bay. On the 30th, the amphibious transport dock ship got underway for Vietnamese waters and arrived near Vung Tau the following day.
There, near the entrance to the Saigon River, she began another amphibious operation in the Deckhouse series Deckhouse V, on 4 January 1967. It lasted until the 15th and was a joint United States-South Vietnamese effort utilizing Marines of both nations. Vancouver embarked more than 500 South Vietnamese Marines at Vung Tau on the 4th and, after a two-day delay caused by bad weather, sent her binational force ashore on the 6th by both assault craft and helicopter. In spite of continued bad weather and her first experience with riverine operations, the ship and her boats remained in the area for 10 days, providing the necessary logistics support for the SLF operating ashore. After reembarking the SLF and South Vietnamese Marines on 15 January and then disembarking the latter again at Vung Tau the following day, she departed Vietnam to return to the Philippines.
The ship arrived at Subic Bay on the 19th but remained only two days before continuing on to Okinawa where she exchanged BLT 1/9 for BLT 1/4 late in January. Following a visit to Keelung, Taiwan, she returned to the Philippines early in February and conducted an amphibious exercise, Mudpuppy III, with the Marines of BLT 1/4. Another brief rest and relaxation period at Subic Bay at the end of the first week in February preceded her departure from the Philippines on the 12th. Vancouver resumed duty with the ARG on 14 February and, two days later, began her part in Operation Deckhouse VI, another two-phase amphibious assault in support of operations of wider scope being conducted ashore.
At the conclusion of Operation Deckhouse VI, the amphibious transport dock ship visited Subic Bay; Hong Kong; Okinawa; and Yokosuka, Japan, before departing the latter port on 24 March to return home to San Diego. After a three-day stop at Pearl Harbor at the end of the month, she arrived in San Diego on 8 April.
Following an unusually long period in port at San Diego, Vancouver resumed operations along the west coast in July. In addition to single-ship underway training, she revisited Vancouver, British Columbia, in July to participate in a Fleet Assembly as part of the Canadian Centennial Celebration. Late that month, the ship resumed local operations which included underway training and amphibious refresher training. That employment occupied her for the remainder of the year and the first month of 1968.
On 1 February 1968, the ship departed San Diego, bound for Okinawa to begin another tour of duty with the 7th Fleet. She stopped at Pearl Harbor from 8 to 10 February and, after being diverted from Okinawa on the 12th, arrived in Danang on the 23d to disembark her Marines, urgently needed to stem the 1968 Tet offensive. The following day, Vancouver got underway for Subic Bay where she arrived on the 26th. On the 27th, she changed operational control to TG 76.5 and became part of the 7th Fleet ARG once more. On 29 February, the ship steamed out of Subic Bay for the Cua Viet River area of Vietnam where she began supporting the SLF, operating ashore since late January. While continuing that mission, she put into Danang on 10 March and spent the next two weeks repairing boats as well. In April, she steamed around off the DMZ providing support for BLT 3/1 until 10 April when she headed back to the Philippines.
Vancouver arrived in Subic Bay on the 15th and remained there until the 26th at which time she got underway to return to Vietnamese waters. The amphibious transport dock ship arrived on station near the mouth of the Cua Viet River and began providing logistics support to elements of BLT 3/1 committed to defensive positions in the vicinity of Dong Ha. That duty lasted until 3 June when she reembarked the SLF.
On 6 June, Vancouver began a combat operation, code named Swift Sabre. The SLF moved ashore in two groups. One group assaulted beaches in landing craft while the other group flew well inland in helicopters. Both groups then began moving toward one another in a sweep of Elephant Valley in Thua Thien province to eliminate a frequent source of hostile mortar fire on the Danang air base. After supporting the Marines for a week, Vancouver received a replacement SLF, BLT 2/7, when BLT 3/1 changed operational control to military authorities ashore. The new battalion landing team came on board on 14 and 15 June, and Vancouver set a course for the Philippines on the 15th. She entered Subic Bay on the 18th and began a 10-day upkeep period. Between 30 June and 3 July, the ship participated in the amphibious exercise Hilltop XX and then departed Subic Bay on 5 July for her last tour of duty in Vietnamese waters during the 1968 deployment.
Immediately upon her arrival off Vietnam, she began preparations for the amphibious operation, Eager Yankee. In the predawn of 9 July, destroyers Benner (DD-807) and O'Brien (DD-725) shattered the silence and sporadically lighted the darkness with gunfire. At the conclusion of the prelanding bombardment, Vancouver, as primary control ship for the boat phase of the assault, began shuttling Marines ashore some 10 miles east of Phu Bai. The first elements of BLT 2/7 went ashore in LVT's and began establishing defensive positions and clearing landing zones for the airborne phase of the operation. The ship remained in the area providing logistics support for the Marines as they drove northwest toward a known Viet Cong haven. After a week without contacting the enemy, Vancouver's landing force joined shore-based units in Operation Houston IV while the ship continued in her support role. The second operation ended on 22 July, and the Marines reembarked that same day.
However, they did not remain on board for long because, on the following day, Operation Swift Play began. In that operation, an all-helicopter affair, the Marines landed well inland about 10 miles southwest of Hoi An in east central Quang Nam province. They failed to contact the enemy during the helicopter assault and, the following day, changed operational control to authorities ashore while Vancouver played her usual support role. She remained in the vicinity until 19 August at which time she headed back to Subic Bay without her Marine Corps contingent.
The warship arrived in Subic Bay on 21 August and spent the next six days engaged in turnover operations with her relief, Ogden (LPD-5). On 27 August, she put to sea bound for Hong Kong where she arrived on the 29th. After a five-day rest and relaxation period, she departed Hong Kong for Okinawa. Diverted to Subic Bay by a typhoon, she continued her voyage via the San Bernardino Strait and finally arrived at Okinawa on 9 September. The following day, she set sail for Yokosuka, Japan, where she arrived on the 12th for five days of upkeep.
On the 17th, Vancouver began her voyage home. She reentered San Diego on 28 September and, after a month of post-deployment standdown, resumed local operations along the California coast.
That employment lasted until early in February 1969 when she began the first portion of her regular overhaul at San Francisco. That phase of the task was completed in mid-April and, after a brief return to San Diego, the ship entered the Long Beach Naval Shipyard for drydocking. The refurbishing was finished near the end of May, and Vancouver returned to San Diego on the 28th. Following two months of inspections and refresher training, the ship loaded vehicles and cargo at San Diego and got underway for the western Pacific on 1 August. She made a three-day stop at Pearl Harbor from the 8th to the llth; then resumed her voyage and arrived at Okinawa on 21 August. After unloading cargo at Buckner Bay, she got underway for Vietnam on the 24th. Upon arriving at Tau My, South Vietnam, on 27 August, Vancouver unloaded cargo there and at Danang before departing Vietnam that same day.
On the 29th, she arrived in Subic Bay and began turnover operations to relieve Paul Revere (LPA-248) of duty with ARG Bravo (TG 76.5). A week later, on 6 September, she put to sea with TG 76.5 for her first line tour with the amphibious ready group. She arrived off Danang two days later and entered the harbor on the 10th to unload more cargo. On 12 September, she and her group participated in Operation Defiant Stand by staging an amphibious feint about 10 miles south of the actual landing beaches to draw off defenders while ARG Alfa stormed ashore. The task group completed its deception early that morning and headed back out to sea to steam around until needed again. That routine, punctuated by brief visits to Danang and a series of amphibious and other exercises, occupied her until late October.
On 20 October, Vancouver began a new phase in her participation in the Vietnam War. Operation Defiant Stand had been the last amphibious operation of the war. On the heels of President Richard M. Nixon's announcement of the staged withdrawal of large numbers of American troops from the conflict, the amphibious ready group began carrying out the withdrawal. On 20 October, Vancouver moved from Danang to Cua Viet and began loading elements of BLT 1/4. She completed Operation Keystone Cardinal on 22 October and set course for Okinawa the following day. She disembarked the Marines at Okinawa on 25 and 26 October but remained at the island for liberty until 2 November. After embarking BLT 1/9, she headed for Subic Bay where she disembarked the Marines on the 4th.
Following a week of repairs at Subic Bay, she re-embarked BLT 1/9 on the 12th, conducted an amphibious assault exercise on the 13th, and got underway for Vietnam on the 14th. The new line period, unlike those before, consisted entirely of steaming well off the coast outside the territorial waters of Vietnam in order that the amphibious ready group's presence not be construed as a violation of President Nixon's troop reduction in Vietnam. She continued steaming in the new operating area until 23 November at which time she retired toward the Philippines. She entered Subic Bay on the 27th. Another practice landing in the Philippines followed on 1 December, and Vancouver repaired storm damage sustained during the transit from Vietnam to the Philippines.
On 6 December, the ship once more got underway for the coast of Vietnam. She arrived off Danang on the 9th; but, four days later, she left the combat zone for visits to Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Okinawa. Vancouver returned to the Vietnamese coast on the last day of 1969. New Year's Day 1970, however, brought her departure from the area on her way back to the Philippines. She entered Subic Bay on the 11th and remained in the Philippines until the 20th when she scarted a round-trip voyage to Okinawa. The ship returned to Subic Bay on the 27th and remained in the area until 4 February when she headed for Taiwan. After a patrol of the Taiwan Strait, she entered port at Kaohsiung, Taiwan, for a four-day visit. She returned to Subic Bay on 21 February and began turnover operations with her relief ship Denver (LPD-9). On 4 March, she departed Subic Bay for Okinawa where she delivered cargo on 6 March. Continuing her voyage on the 7th, she stopped at Danang on 11 March, unloaded cargo, and headed back to Okinawa where she refueled on the 14th before continuing on toward the United States.
Vancouver arrived in Del Mar, Calif., on 27 March and, the following day, moved to the San Diego Naval Station for drydocking and repairs. Repairs were completed early in June, and the ship departed San Diego on 10 June with Naval Academy midshipmen embarked for their summer cruise. She arrived in Yokosuka on 24 June and departed again on the 29th. The ship visited Hong Kong between 4 and 8 July and stopped at Danang on 9 and 10 July to load cargo bound for the United States. On the way back home, she stopped at Pearl Harbor from 24 to 27 July and then reentered San Diego on 1 August. Local operations out of San Diego, including LVT training and amphibious refresher training, occupied the ship's time through the end of the year and for the first three months of 1971.
On 30 March, Vancouver put to sea to return to the western Pacific. She made a two-day stop at Pearl Harbor at the end of the first week in April and arrived in Subic Bay on the 19th. The ensuing six weeks brought amphibious training and port visits to Singapore and Kaohsiung. In June, the ship carried cargo from Vung Tau and Danang in the Vietnam to Subic Bay and Okinawa. Early in July, Vancouver participated in an amphibious exercise at Zambales and then departed the Philippines on the 19th for a week at Hong Kong. On 28 July, the ship returned to the Philippines at Min-doro for more amphibious exercises. August brought voyages to Sasebo, Japan, and Kaohsiung, Taiwan; and, early in September, she returned to the Philippines for another round of practice landings at Zambales.
On 9 September, Vancouver left Subic Bay to pick up cargo in Vietnam. She stopped at Danang, Qui Nhon, and Camranh Bay before returning to Subic Bay on the 17th. On 25 September, she embarked upon a round-trip voyage to Okinawa and returned to Subic Bay on 9 October. On 14 October, Vancouver set out on her voyage back to the United States, stopping en route at Okinawa and Pearl Harbor before arriving back in San Diego, Calif., on 5 November.
The amphibious transport dock ship remained in San Diego through the end of 1971 for post-deployment standdown and for the usual holiday leave and upkeep period. On 11 January 1972, Vancouver began local operations along the California coast. That duty lasted until 10 June, when she embarked midshipmen for the annual training cruise and got underway for the Far East. During the midshipman cruise, the ship made a visit to Yokosuka, Japan, and two each to Hong Kong and Subic Bay in the Philippines. Late in July, she headed back to the west coast, arriving at San Diego on 4 August. There, on the 21st, Vancouver began her regularly scheduled overhaul.
The ship completed post-overhaul sea trials early in February 1973 and conducted type and refresher training until mid-March. On 17 March, Vancouver again deployed to the western Pacific. She arrived in Sasebo, Japan, on 4 April then continued her voyage on the 5th. She briefly stopped at Okinawa on 6 April and arrived in Subic Bay on the 8th.
On 9 April 1973, she relieved Cleveland (LPD-7) as one of the support ships for Operation End Sweep, the clearing of American mines in the harbors of North Vietnam as a result of the withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam. During April, May, and June, the amphibious transport dock ship alternated tours of duty in Vietnamese waters in support of the minesweeping forces with liberty and upkeep periods in Philippine ports. She also made periodic liberty calls at Hong Kong and at various Japanese ports.
The ship completed her last tour of duty in Vietnamese waters on 18 July and headed back to the Philippines, arriving in Subic Bay on the 20th. For her remaining two months in the Far East, Vancouver visited Hong Kong; the Japanese ports Numazu, Kagoshima, and Iwakuni. She returned to the Philippines early in September, whence she put to sea on the 19th to return home. After stopping overnight at Pearl Harbor on 2 and 3 October, the ship continued on to San Diego where she arrived on the 9th and began a year of operations along the California coast. Her tasks included: helicopter qualifications, landing craft training, and full scale amphibious warfare exercises.
On 18 October 1974, she concluded her west coast schedule and got underway for the western Pacific. She stopped at Pearl Harbor on 25 and 26 October and, continuing her voyage on the 26th, arrived in Buckner Bay, Okinawa, on 9 November. Though assigned to ARG Alfa as relief for Ogden, Vancouver began her first peacetime deployment to the Far East in more than a decade. For the next six months, she spent most of her time alternating between Okinawa and the Philippines conducting a series of amphibious exercises and transporting Marines and cargo.
Having received orders on 13 February 1975 to proceed to rendezvous with ARG Alfa (TG 76.4) Vancouver consequently cancelled a port visit to Manila and a scheduled Convoy exercise and stood out, bound for the Gulf of Thailand. After operating in those waters (17-24 February), Vancouver and her consorts returned to Subic Bay on account of worsening weather on 25 February. In-port maintenance for ships and embarked aircraft ensued until 1 March at which time ARG Alfa sailed to return to the Gulf, to prepare for Operation Eagle Pull, the evacuation of Cambodia. TG 76.4 conducted training and preparations (5 March-12 April), punctuating those evolutions with swim calls on 20, 22, and 30 March to permit her crew to enjoy some relaxation.
Eagle Pull commenced on 12 April 1975, with Vancouver utilizing helicopters and deploying Marines from BLT 2-4 to conduct the evacuation. "Due to the length of [the] preparations," her chronicler writes, "most of the evacuees were to be airlifted to Thailand and only a handful were actually evacuated during Eagle Pull," with Okinawa (LPH-3) embarking the evacuees. TG 76.4 proceeded north upon completion of the operation, and disembarked the evacuees at Settahip, Thailand. The ships then returned to Subic Bay on 17 April, greeted upon arrival by Admiral Maurice F. Weisner, Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet.
The deterioration of affairs in South Vietnam, however, dictated a quick return to those waters. Vancouver and the rest of TG 76.4 sped out of Subic Bay on 18 April 1975, and headed for the coast of South Vietnam, rendezvousing with TG 76.3; carriers Enterprise (CVAN-65) and Midway (CVA-41) and the guided missile light cruiser Oklahoma City (CLG-5), the flagship for Vice Admiral George P. Steele, Commander, 7th Fleet on 23 April. Five days later, Vancouver , placed on one-hour alert and detached for the purpose, proceeded to the mouth of the Batak River to serve as flight deck and wet well for refugees. During her time in those waters, the ship recovered six Air America helicopters, and later transferred the 123 evacuees via the ship's embarked LCM-8s to the Military Sealift Command (MSC) ship Pioneer Contender. Winding up those evolutions off the mouth of the Batak on 28 April, Vancouver proceeded north to rejoin TG 76.4.
The following day [29 April 1975], Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of South Vietnam, began, Vancouver reprising her operations during Eagle Pull, utilizing her embarked helicopters and Marines. "Operations lasted all day and through the night with helicopters full of evacuees landing on any flight deck they could find clear," an observer on board wrote later, "Not only U.S. helos but South Vietnamese ... shuttling refugees out to U.S. ships for future transfer to MSC ships. Plans and preparations made for Eagle Pull came in handy in Operation Frequent Wind. During the evacuation, Vancouver processed over 2,200 refugees." The evolutions over on 1 May, the amphibious ship, along with TG 76.4, steamed to Subic Bay, arriving on 3 May.
At the end of the deployment, she departed Okinawa on 20 May 1975 and arrived back in San Diego on 6 June, and resumed west coast operations almost immediately with type training and a weapons inspection. Similar duty occupied her through the end of that year and during the first nine months of 1976. On 25 September 1976, she headed back to the western Pacific once more. She made a three-day stop at Pearl Harbor at the beginning of October and put in at Kwajalein Atoll on the 10th for ARG commanding officers to conduct turnover briefings. From Kwajalein, she continued her voyage to Broad Sound, Australia, where she arrived on 21 October. There, she conducted a rehearsal landing in preparation for the Operation Kangaroo II landing exercises conducted between 24 and 29 October in conjunction with Australian military and naval forces. At the conclusion of Operation Kangaroo II, Vancouver made a five-day visit to Sydney, Australia, and then got underway for Okinawa. She reached her destination on 20 November, disembarked one group of Marines, and took on another. The following day, she headed for Subic Bay, arriving there on the 24th to begin a three-week availability. Late in December, Vancouver embarked upon a voyage to Taiwan and Hong Kong observing New Year's Eve at the latter port.
After a return to Okinawa and Subic Bay early in January 1977, the ship visited Singapore during the latter half of the month. She returned to the Philippines on 11 February and conducted exercises in the vicinity of Subic Bay until mid-March. On 16 March, the amphibious transport dock ship put to sea, bound for Inchon, Korea. During the latter part of March and early part of April, she participated in amphibious training with units of the South Korean military. On 12 April, she stopped at Okinawa and the next day headed back to the Philippines. Vancouver arrived in Subic Bay on 16 April but departed again on the 28th for a round-about voyage home. She made stops at Okinawa, Eniwetok, and Pearl Harbor before arriving back in San Diego on 21 May. After a month of post deployment standdown, the ship entered the Bethlehem Steel Co. shipyard at San Pedro, Calif., for her regular overhaul. She remained there into 1978.
Vancouver completed her overhaul satisfactorily on 18 April 1978. A rigorous period of refresher training out of San Diego followed in preparation for the ship's forthcoming deployment to the western Pacific. Vancouver departed from San Diego on 31 August and spent the remainder of the year in operations with the 7th Fleet. Her schedule took her to Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands; Subic Bay, Philippines; Pusan, Korea; and Hong Kong, B.C.C.; while basing out of Subic Bay, she twice put to sea to avoid tropical storms (Nina, 10-12 October, and Rita, 20-28 October).
Note: Vancouver's history for 1979-1992 is pending.
Vancouver (LPD-2) earned 11 battle stars for service in the Vietnam conflict.
Raymond A. Mann