U.S.S. Belle Grove (LSD-2)
Belle Grove was an Ashland-class landing ship dock. She served in World War II and Vietnam.
She was laid down at Oakland, CA by the Moore Dry Dock Co. on October 27, 1942 and commissioned there on August 6, 1943.
Belle Grove sailed for Pearl Harbor on October 21 and began rehearsals for the invasion of the Gilbert Islands, the first U.S. offensive in her “island-hopping” campaign. Arriving on November 20, she disembarked her cargo at recently captured Makin Island. Returning to Pearl Harbor in December, she embarked elements of the Army’s 7th Infantry and set course for the Marshall Islands. There she set her men ashore to capture the massive enemy anchorage of Kwajalein in January.
The LSD set out for the Solomons on March 2 and served as a transport there until May. Belle Grove embarked several Marine Corps units and headed for the combat zone again. This time her target was Saipan in the Marianas. On June 15, she loosed her Marines at the island. Staying in the area, the landing ship was nearly hit by an attacking Japanese plane on the 26th after U.S. gunners shot it down. Belle Grove embarked 18 Sherman tanks for the next island in the chain, Tinian. She released them on July 24.
For the remainder of 1944 and into 1945, Belle Grove would support the most important amphibious operations of the war, including all of the major landings in the Philippines. On January 24, 1945, she set sail for Pearl Harbor, arriving April 8. Sailing again on June 3, the ship toured many of the major battlegrounds of the Pacific war until finally reaching Espiritu Santo on August 14, 1945, one day before the Japanese surrender.
After the surrender, Belle Grove set to the task of shuttling men and material to and from the former war zone, as invasion forces moved out and occupation forces moved in. She returned to the West Coast at the end of 1945, arriving in San Diego January 1, 1946. There she was deactivated and placed in reserve on May 29, 1947. Three years later, the Korean War broke out and Belle Grove joined the surge of WWII-era ships being reactivated. Commissioned once again on December 27, 1950, it was decided that the landing ship would be transferred to the Atlantic, freeing up newer ships in that fleet for duty in Korea.
She arrived at Norfolk, VA on May 4, 1951 and began operations from the eastern seaboard. She trained along the east coast and in the Mediterranean until April 1953, when she was ordered back to the Pacific Fleet. Belle Grove returned to her old homeport at San Diego on April 9. Her first two years back in the Pacific consisted of runs to the far north, braving harrowing ice and storms to resupply outposts in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. After this, she conducted a series of cruises to the western Pacific. In June 1961, the landing ship reported to Portland, OR for a major overhaul under the Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM) program. Her receiving, communications, and cooking systems were brought up to modern standards, extending her service life into the new decade.
Upon her return to Long Beach in 1962, a crisis broke out in the Indochinese country of Laos. President Kennedy ordered U.S. Marines into Thailand as a show of support for that country and South Vietnam. Belle Grove loaded men and equipment of the 9th Marines and set out with a fast carrier task force on May 19. She offloaded at Thailand in June. Soon afterward, in July, the crisis was resolved, and Belle Grove began shuttling Marines back home. She would return to this troubled area of the world just three years later.
On April 19, 1965, the landing ship left Long Beach and headed west. Along the way, she picked up elements of South Korea’s elite “Tiger Corps”. Their destination was the harbor at Da Nang, Vietnam. Once this group was offloaded, Belle Grove took up station in the harbor. She took on a variety of jobs as U.S. forces built the port and town into a large military center. One of her more unusual jobs saw her converted to a temporary home for the ever-growing riverine force. As a landing ship dock, she was able to flood a portion of her hull. Normally, this capability was used to load and offload landing craft for amphibious operation, but at Da Nang, a lack of proper dock space and services for coastal and river patrol craft meant that Belle Grove would harbor patrol craft in her well deck. By November, more support and repair vessels had arrived “in country”, and the landing ship was allowed a temporary reprieve at Long Beach. After just six weeks, she was back.
Having helped set up Da Nang, the ship was sent closer to the Mekong River Delta in January 1966, where she would set up a new base of operations for river patrol craft. Belle Grove became the backbone of operations in the delta at this time, repairing boats, landing craft, and even helicopters and serving as a command center for both Navy and Army operations upriver. She was relieved of this duty in April, and after another brief visit to Long Beach, she returned to the western pacific. On September 24, she was caught in Typhoon Ida, but the ship suffered no major damage. Operating as a cargo ship between U.S. WESTPAC bases and Vietnam, Belle Grove once again proved her worth in supporting the war effort. She returned to Long Beach in December.
After several months of training and exercises, the landing ship returned to Vietnam. Arriving on August 27, 1967, Belle Grove took aboard U.S. Army personnel and equipment and began a series of amphibious operations in support of I Corps operations. On September 4, while on her way to Japan, the ship found the Japanese fishing vessel Kiyu Maru aground and rescued her entire crew. She conducted operations between Japan and Okinawa until December, when she loaded new CH-46 Chinook heavy lift helicopters. Bound for Da Nang, she reached the harbor on January 2, 1968 and found that the harbor was full. Undaunted, her crew took advantage of Belle Grove’s well deck. The new helicopters were assembled inside the ship and flown off directly to their new bases. She served as a transport until March, when she arrived at Long Beach.
The ship operated out of her homeport for the next few months. On October 4, she visited Acapulco, Mexico and while there, took aboard the U.S. Olympic sailing team and their vessels. The winning team was transported home in style aboard the navy ship. Belle Grove conducted repairs at San Pedro in January 1969. In February, she loaded explosives and testing equipment for use in nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll. With this work complete, she sailed to Vietnam for the last time in her career, serving as a cargo ship.
Belle Grove returned home on September 11 and prepared for deactivation. She decommissioned on November 12, 1969. She was sold for scrap in 1970.
Risk of Asbestos Exposure
The ship was built at a time when the U.S. Navy mandated the use of asbestos as an insulator for steam engines. Being a steam-powered ship, Belle Grove would have featured asbestos in many of her spaces, especially her engineering areas.
Asbestos insulation breaks down into tiny fibers when damaged or worn. These fibers can spread throughout a ship via her ventilation system. Asbestos inhalation is a proven cause of mesothelioma, a malignant cancer of the lung. There is no cure for mesothelioma, but treatments such as chemotherapy can be used to fight the disease.
If you or someone you know served aboard Belle Grove or worked on her in a shipyard and has contracted mesothelioma, please fill out the form at the bottom of this page to receive free information regarding you rights to compensation.
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