Many stories of oursran ding naval service during the controversial Vietnam War have gone untold.
This is one such story: the extraordinary saga of a ship, her crew and their singular valor and sacrifice. In the thick early morning darkness on the Mekong Delta in Vietnam,
1 November 1968, USS Westchester County (LST – 1167) was anchored on the My Tho River with several other support ships of River Assault Flotilla One.
A Terrebonne Parish-class rank landing ship launched in 1953 and kn own as WESCO throughout the fleer,
LST-1167 was acting as a temporary base for the 9th Division’s 3rd Banalion and provided berthing for some 250 US Army personnel, along with her own crew of 140 sailors and officers.
In her belly, she carried supplies for the entire flotilla, including 350 tons of ammunition and explosives.
SHIP NOTES SEAPORT & MUSEUM NEWS She was a “sining” bomb!
Sappers had an ached and explodedtwo magnetic mines an her waterline.
In the chaos crewmen tried desperately to find ways to their battle stations through the dark, steam-fill ed, diesel-soaked wreckage.
Without hesitation, lower-ranked personnel manned damage control stations and assumed rhe responsibili ties of their missing superiors. There was no panic.
The concern of the ship’s commanding offi cer, LCDRJohn W. Branin, was stabilizing the shi p, rapidly listing to srarboard due to massive fl ooding below decks. Branin stared, “Jusr fo r a fl eeting momem, I thought she might keep on going over.”
He would later credit his fo rwa rd pump room personnel with stabilizing the ship.
The dange r of flash fires igni ti ng rhe co ns of explosives on the tank deck was an ominous threa t, as the ship had become enveloped in a cloud of aromized diesel fuel.
Any miscal culations at all could have resulted in a catastrophic explosion thar would have meant death.
SHIP NOTES SEAPORT & MUSEUM NEWS and destruction for people and ships within a very large radius surrounding the WESCO.
Barde stations remained at-the-ready for many hours: in was feared this might be the beginning of a much larger arrack,
with the possibility that more unexploded charges were an ached to the hull.
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