|USS La Salle (AGF-3)|
|Name:||USS La Salle|
|Namesake:||La Salle, Illinois|
|Ordered:||8 August 1960|
|Builder:||New York Naval Shipyard, Brooklyn, New York|
|Laid down:||2 April 1962|
|Launched:||3 August 1963|
|Acquired:||21 February 1964|
|Commissioned:||22 February 1964|
|Decommissioned:||27 May 2005|
|Reclassified:||1972 as miscellaneous command ship (AGF-3)|
|Struck:||27 May 2005|
|Fate:||Sunk as target in support of Fleet training exercise, 11 April 2007|
|Class & type:||Raleigh-class amphibious transport dock|
9,559 long tons (9,712 t) light|
13,634 long tons (13,853 t) full
4,075 long tons (4,140 t) dead
522 ft (159 m) o/a|
500 ft (150 m) w/l
107 ft (33 m) extreme|
84 ft (26 m) w/l
22 ft (6.7 m) maximum|
23 ft (7.0 m) limit
|Speed:||23 knots (43 km/h; 26 mph)|
|Complement:||72 officers, 593 men, 24 Marines As AGF 750 Marines as LPD|
|Armament:||8 × 3"/50 caliber guns|
|Aircraft carried:||one helicopter|
Her keel was laid down by New York Naval Shipyard, Brooklyn, New York, on 2 April 1962. She was launched on 3 August 1963 sponsored by Mrs. Victor M. Longstreet, and commissioned on 22 February 1964 with Captain Edward H. Winslow, USN in command.
Service history[edit | edit source]
Amphibious transport, 1964–1972[edit | edit source]
After shakedown and training in the Caribbean Sea and off Norfolk, Virginia, the amphibious transport dock departed Norfolk on 9 October to participate in "Operation Steel Pike I", a complex training exercise involving over 80 ships and United States and Spanish troops. It closed the coast of Spain off Huelva on 26 October, and embarked Under Secretary of the Navy Paul B. Fay, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Horacio Rivero, Commandant of the Marine Corps General Wallace M. Greene, and Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Congressman Mendel Rivers to watch the landing operations.
With then-Vice Admiral John S. McCain, Jr., Commander Amphibious Forces, Atlantic Fleet embarked, La Salle sailed on 1 May for the Dominican Republic during the revolution where she served as Command and Control for the operation, returning to Norfolk on 1 June. Three weeks later it joined the Caribbean Amphibious Ready Squadron, returning to home port on 21 September to begin training operations along the east coast and in the Caribbean.
Through the first half of 1966, La Salle continued operating off the east coast. July and September were spent in Norfolk for upkeep and modifications, with further exercises following. On 3 November, she recovered a Gemini 2-MOL test space capsule near Ascension Island. This was the Gemini 2 space capsules second flight. This was returned to Cape Kennedy, Florida, and the rest of the year spent on local operations in the Atlantic. La Salle entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 9 January 1967 for repairs and remained there until 20 March. The remainder of 1967 and the first three quarters of 1968 were spent conducting various exercises and port visits which ranged along the entire Atlantic and Gulf coasts and into the Caribbean as well. On 2 November she put into Norfolk to prepare for an extended deployment with the Sixth Fleet. Departing 13 November, she steamed first to Morehead City, North Carolina, and then began its voyage to the Mediterranean Sea.
Command ship, 1972–2005[edit | edit source]
La Salle was converted to a "miscellaneous command ship" and given the hull classification symbol AGF-3 after an overhaul in 1972. The ship was dubbed "The Great White Ghost of the Arabian Coast" after being painted white for a Middle East deployment in 1972. Those who sailed on it in the Persian Gulf also called her the "Great White Target" for its relative lack of defensive weapons at a time when tensions in the Persian Gulf region were high.
In 1979, La Salle assisted in the evacuation of 260 American and foreign national civilians from the Iranian seaport of Bandar Abbas, and subsequently became the focal point of U.S. activity in the Persian Gulf at the outset of the Iranian Hostage Crisis. The ship returned stateside in late 1980 for the first time in almost nine years.
After undergoing an extensive overhaul in Philadelphia, La Salle returned to the Persian Gulf and resumed her role as the flagship for Commander, Middle East Forces (COMMIDEASTFOR) in June 1983, relieving the Coronado (AGF-11). In 1984, the ship conducted mine sweeping operations in the Red Sea in response to attempts to disrupt shipping lanes, and in 1986, conducted contingency operations in the Gulf of Aden during Yemen's civil war.
After the Iraqi missile attack on Stark (FFG-31) in May 1987, La Salle provided the primary fire fighting rescue assistance to the ship. During "Operation Desert Shield", the ship assumed the responsibility of commanding and coordinating the multinational Maritime Intercept Force. Soon afterward, La Salle returned to Norfolk to begin an overhaul to prepare it for duties as the U.S. 6th Fleet flagship.
Returning to a conventional gray paint scheme, La Salle assumed responsibilities as the flagship for Commander, Sixth Fleet on 8 November 1994. Homeported in Gaeta, Italy, La Salle was fully engaged in operations throughout the Mediterranean and Black Seas in its role of supporting Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet and Strike Force and Logistics South.
One of the ship's last major assignments was supporting NATO-led efforts to control the international waters off Greece during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. On 25 February 2005, she was relieved by Mount Whitney (LCC-20) as the U.S. Sixth Fleet command ship.
Decommissioning and disposal[edit | edit source]
The La Salle was decommissioned in Norfolk, Virginia on 27 May 2005, with Captain (later Rear Admiral) Herman Shelanski as its last commanding officer and former La Salle commanding officer, Rear Admiral Mark Milliken, as the decommissioning ceremony guest speaker.
It was sunk as a target by the United States Navy on 11 April 2007 during a scheduled fleet exercise off the Atlantic coast.
References[edit | edit source]
- “Great White Ghost” Decommissions in Norfolk. Story Number: NNS050528-01. Release Date: 5/28/2005 9:00:00 AM Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "decom" defined multiple times with different content
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
- This article includes information collected from the Naval Vessel Register, which, as a U.S. government publication, is in the public domain. The entry can be found here.
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