Today in Transportation History – 1971: The Launch of a U.S. Navy Dock Landing Ship

USS Mount Vernon (LSD-39), a dock landing ship built by General Dynamics Corporation (GD) for the U.S. Navy’s use in providing logistical support for ground forces, was officially launched. The ceremony took place at GD’s Quincy Shipbuilding Division in eastern Massachusetts. Eileen Shillito christened the new ship: her husband Barry J. Shillito was serving at the time as U.S. assistant defense secretary for installations and logistics.

Mount Vernon, measuring 553 feet (169 meters) in length, was commissioned into the Navy the following year at Boston Naval Shipyard. She was part of the Navy’s recently introduced Anchorage class of dock landing ships. The vessels in this class were built with a larger-than-average amount of space on board for boats transporting troops and military equipment ashore. These Anchorage-class ships were also outfitted with removable flight decks to accommodate helicopters.

Mount Vernon, which the newspaper Pacific Stars and Stripes reported was “designed to operate as an integral unit in a balanced and modern amphibious assault force,” was named after the home of George Washington. The ship’s motto, “Exitus acta probat” (“Action produces results”), was taken directly from the family coat for arms for the first president.

Mount Vernon took part in the 1975 military effort known as Operation Frequent Wind, the final stage of the evacuation of a large number of American civilians and at-risk South Vietnamese citizens from Saigon (present-day Ho Chi Minh City) prior to the takeover of the city by the North Vietnamese Army.

Mount Vernon likewise played a vital role in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska, in 1989. Mount Vernon was among the ships deployed by the Navy to serve as floating facilities for shoreline cleanup workers. These vessels provided the workers with lodging and dining accommodations as well as medical and laundry services. In addition, Mount Vernon was among the ships at Prince William Sound used for the takeoffs and landings of Marine Corps and Army helicopters assisting with cleanup efforts.

Another noteworthy event involving Mount Vernon occurred in 1998, when Navy Commander Maureen A. Farren took command of the ship. This assignment made Farren the first woman to command a U.S. Navy combatant ship (a vessel that is armed with offensive weaponry and designed to go into harm’s way).

In the course of her career, Mount Vernon received many awards. These included a Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal, and Humanitarian Service Medal. Mount Vernon was decommissioned in 2003. Two years later, she was intentionally sunk off the coast of Hawaii as part of a fleet training exercise.

For more information on USS Mount Vernon (LSD-39), please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Mount_Vernon_(LSD-39) and http://www.nvr.navy.mil/SHIPDETAILS/SHIPSDETAIL_LSD_39_2311.HTML

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