USS LST- 1090 By William C. Hagwood SK1
According to DANFS, the USS LST-1090 was decommissioned at Vancouver, Washington where she was placed in reserve on July 22, 1946. The following account of her activities are from memory and personal records of William C. Hagwood, a member of the crew from October 1951 through June 10, 1955.
With the outbreak of the Korean conflict, the USS LST-1090 recommissioned at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard Bremerton, Washington on November 3, 1950. After conducting trials and training of her crew off the California coast, she sailed from Long Beach, California February 10, 1951, bound for Pearl Harbor and Yokosuka, Japan where she arrived March 23, 1951.
Prior to my boarding the USS LST-1090, she was on her first tour to Korea, which began the first of April 1951. There she off loaded personnel and vehicles of the 101st. Signal Battalion at Inchon. Afterwards, she returned to Japan on April 11th, and carried cargo between Japanese ports for the remainder of the month. In May, she again delivered men and cargo to Inchon and then in June, returned to cargo runs in the home islands of Japan. During the next months, she conducted amphibious exercises, then returned to Korea in September for operations. She embarked Republic of Korea Army troops at P'ohang Dong and transported them to the islands of Cheju Do and Koje Do south of the Korean mainland. Also she made several shuttle runs between Pusan and the off shore POW inhabited island of Koje Do.
In October 1951 she returned to Yokosuka, Japan and it was there that I boarded the USS LST-1090 as part of her crew. We sat at dock in Yokosuka shipyards making repairs and taking on fuel, water and supplies for the return to the United States.
On November 23, 1951 she cleared Yokosuka for a non-stop cruise to San Diego, California. During the voyage we encountered a severe typhoon that did considerable damage to the "1090" as well as the other LST's in the convoy. The"1090" towed another LST that was in the convoy for several days while they made main engine repairs while under tow. Our galley range collapsed, therefore we ate boiled, steamed, and baked foods for the rest of the trip. Since the ship had been at sea for so long and in the war zone as well, she was some on the dingy side, our Captain wanted her to look good for our arrival in San Diego so he asked for volunteers to paint the ship's exterior while we were underway on the last weekend at sea. Almost all the crew went to work putting on a fresh coat of paint. When we finished with the painting, as a reward, and after we had all been sworn to secrecy, the Captain broke out beer from the storerooms and had it cooled down with CO2 fire extinguishers, then we had a big beer party on the tank deck. Of course, the duty section could not participate. The ship did look good when we moored at Broadway Pier on December 29, 2951. This crossing took 27 days.
After Christmas leave for the officers and crew, the "1090" sailed for Long Beach, California to the Navy Shipyard for a complete overhaul. We were there for a good part of 1952. Afterwards we operated off the West Coast with Marines from Camp Pendleton and the Army from Fort Ord doing amphibious training exercises.
Then on January 3, 1953 we sailed from San Diego with a load of Marines and equipment for Pearl Harbor. On arrival we offloaded the Marines and their equipment at Kaneohe, Oahu and then sailed around the island to Pearl Harbor for supplies, fuel, fresh water and then after a couple of days liberty, we sailed for Yokosuka, Japan. We arrived in Japan on February 7, 1953.
As the truce negotiations dragged on in Korea, we sailed to Sasebo, Japan. And in early March we returned to the combat zone making port in Pusan, Korea on March 12, 1953. Afterwards, we continued to the West Coast of the Korean peninsula and ferried cargo and personnel, making two amphibious invasions at Inchon. Later, the ³1090² went around to the East Coast of Korea to the Port of Wonsan and evacuated an Army tank battalion that the Chinese had pushed to the sea. During this time we were under cover of the USS Wisconsin and a British cruiser, several destroyers and mine sweepers and aircraft from a carrier out in the Sea of Japan. As we took on the tanks and other equipment and personnel, we were receiving fire from the beach. The Army troops were happy to see us. After they boarded and we pulled off the beach, the Captain ordered the showers to be turned on and a hot meal was prepared for them. This was the first hot shower and hot meal that they had had in several weeks. The temperature was so cold that sea water spray would freeze on our helmets before it could run off. Afterwards we were rewarded with a few days R & R at Fukuoka, Japan. We docked at the Air Force Crash boat docks there. We were the first ships to come into that town in a long time and the whole town greeted us when we arrived.
When we returned to the war zone, we ferried cargo and personnel to the U. N. held islands off the coast. Then in April of 1953 we went back to Sasebo and then over to Beppu, Japan where we loaded the Triple Nickel (555) MP Battalion and returned to Pusan. There we off loaded them. We were anticipating a truce to be signed and this group of soldiers were headed to the demarcation line. Later we were told that they boarded a train to the 38th parallel, but the train was sabotaged and most of them lost their lives.
On April 20th we sailed down to the island of Koje Do for "Operation Little Switch" for the repatriation of sick and seriously wounded POWs. During the operation, the "1090" carried North Korean communist POWs on the 4 hour journey from Koje Do POW compound to Pusan. This was the first leg of the trip North to Panmunjom to exchange POWs. The LST-1090 carried more than 85 % of the North Korean prisoners exchanged. The LST-1101 and LST-1096 carried mostly Chinese communist prisoners during this time. On the "1096", the Chinese prisoners staged a sit down strike refusing to leave the ship causing several hours delay. The North Koreans aboard the "1090" cooperated fully with the Army and Navy authorities loading and unloading in an orderly fashion. After the truce agreement was reached in July 1953, the LST-1090 continued her POW shuttle runs from the POW camps to the mainland. This operation was known as "Operation Big Switch". A month later she resumed cargo runs to Korea with shuttle runs between ports and beaching areas in U. N. held territory.
The LST-1090 cleared Yokosuka on October 23, 1953 and returned to San Diego in November for a period of leave, upkeep, and overhaul at Long Beach and further operations off the California coast.
The 1954 deployment to the Far East began when we sailed from San Diego on October 11th. And arrived in Yokosuka, Japan on November 4, 1954. Again operating out of Sasebo, Japan to Inchon, Korea, participating in two amphibious operations. We transported the 4th Marine Regiment from Korea to Kaneohe, Hawaii and visited Pearl Harbor from February 12 through February 22, 1955. We thought that we were on our way back home when the Chinese mainland started shelling the islands of Quemoy and Matsu off of the coast of Formosa (Now Taiwan) in the Formosan Straits, but we returned to Korea to embark Marine personnel and aircraft for transportation there but with the show of force, the shelling ceased and the threat of invasion was over, therefore, the "1090" cleared Inchon on March 29, 1955 and returned to San Diego with cargo on April 25th. After leave and upkeep, the "1090" operated out of San Diego and along the West Coast.
The LST-1090 was scheduled for a major exercise called "Operation Deep Freeze" up off of the Alaskan Coast and the Aleutian Islands in June 1955. As this operation was to last for several weeks, I transferred to the US Naval Station in San Diego for processing on the 10th day of June 1955.
The USS LST-1090 was named the USS Russell County on July 1, 1955 after counties in Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky and Virginia.
Below, and in no particular order as to date, are some of the most memorable things that I remember happening on the LST-1090 that have not already been mentioned.
1: The fully loaded LVT with Marines in full battle dress being swamped by a wave just as they launched off of the bow ramp and not resurfacing. The men were rescued and not injured.
2: A jet fighter practicing landing and takeoffs from North Island Naval Air Station Coronado, California crashing off our stern.
3: Our 20 MM guns almost shooting down a plane towing a sleeve target during practice off of the coast of San Clemente Island.
4: Catching fishermen with a load of lobster illegally fishing off the coast of San Clemente Island and trading them cigars for lobster without arresting them. Then having lobster for dinner on the ship.
5: A young seaman member of the crew from Wisconsin who fell from the main deck through the cargo hatch to the tank deck killing himself:
6: The starboard side aft boat davit losing power and being hand cranked up getting loose and breaking the leg of the boatswains mate crew member.
7: Sitting in Pusan Harbor at anchor watching a movie on the main deck not knowing that an air raid was going on. "Bed Check Charlie" flew directly over the ship.
8: Making amphibious landing at Inchon Harbor with the larger ships firing over our head then being left high and dry by the outgoing tide of the Yellow Sea.
9: Losing the boilers off the coast of Korea during operations in dead winter. No heat or hot water or hot food for several days.
William C. Hagwood, SK1 USS LST 1090