USS Talladega (APA/LPA-208) was a Haskell-class attack
transport ship of the United States Navy. She was named for the city
of Talladega and Talladega County, Alabama. Haskell class attack
transports (APA) were amphibious assault ships designed to transport
1,500 troops and their combat equipment, and land them on hostile
shores with the ships' integral landing craft.
Talladega was laid down under Maritime Commission
contract (MCV hull 556) at Richmond, California, on 3 June 1944 by the
Permanente Metals Corporation; launched on 17 August 1944, sponsored
by Miss Marie Tomerlin; and commissioned on 31 October 1944, with Captain Edward H.
McMenemy in command.
Following her shakedown cruise, Talladega loaded cargo
and passengers at San Francisco; got underway for Hawaii on 5
December; and arrived at Pearl Harbor on the llth. The attack
transport conducted amphibious landing exercises with elements of the
28th Regimental Combat Team (RCT), 5th Marine Division, to prepare for
the assault on the Volcano Islands. She departed Pearl Harbor on 27
January 1945 and proceeded via Eniwetok to the Mariana Islands.
Talladega sortied from Saipan as a unit of Task Group
56.2, the Assault Group, on 16 February and arrived off Iwo Jima on
the morning of the 19th, "D-day." Four Marines pictured in Joe
Rosenthal's famous flag-raising photograph debarked from USS Talladega
to climb Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima: Ira Hayes, Franklin Sousley,
Harlon Block, and Mike Strank. After landing her troops, she remained off the beaches embarking combat casualties for six
days before heading back toward Saipan.
Talladega was routed onward through Tulagi and New
Caledonia to the New Hebrides. She loaded troops and equipment of the
165th RCT, 27th Infantry Division, at Espiritu Santo on 24 March and
departed the next day. Her troops were part of the reserve for the
invasion of Okinawa; and, after a stop at Ulithi, she arrived off that
island on 9 April. She finished unloading her passengers and cargo by the 14th and
returned, via Saipan, to Ulithi.
Talladega was subsequently ordered to the Philippine
Islands and arrived at Subic Bay on 31 May. She remained in the
Philippines, training elements of the Americal and 1st Cavalry
Divisions for a projected invasion of Japan. However, before the
operation began, Japan surrendered.
On 25 August, troops of the 1st Cavalry Division
embarked, and the transport headed for Yokohama the next day.
Talladega was the first of the 31 Ship Convoy with occupation troops to dock at Yokohama on VJ Day,
September 2, 1945. She disembarked her passengers there between 2 and
4 September and then returned to the Philippines to pick up soldiers
of the 41st Infantry Division for transportation to Japan. The attack
transport reached Kure, Honsh on 5 October.
Talladega returned to Leyte on 16 October for
provisions and fuel. The next day, now taking part in Operation Magic
Carpet, she loaded 1,934 veterans at Samar and sailed for the United
States. The ship arrived at San Pedro on 3 November and disembarked
She made three more round-trips to the Pacific to return troops: to Okinawa in December 1945,
to the Philippines in April 1946, and to China in July. When Talladega
returned to San Francisco in July, she began preparations for
inactivation and assignment to the Reserve Fleet. She was placed out
of commission, in reserve, on 27 December 1946.
The outbreak of hostilities in Korea on 25 June 1950
increased the Navy's need for active amphibious ships. Consequently,
Talladega was recommissioned at Hunters Point, California, on 8
December 1951. She operated along the west coast until November 1952
when she embarked aviation personnel at San Francisco and steamed westward as a unit of Transport
Division 12. The assault transport arrived at Yokosuka, Japan, on 29
November. She loaded men and equipment of the 1st Cavalry Division and
headed for the Korean war zone.
Talladega arrived at Pusan on 14 December 1952,
unloaded, and returned to Japan on the 18th. During the next nine
months, the transport provided amphibious training for the United
Nations forces in Japan and redeployed troops from one area in Korea
to another. She operated in the war zone during each of the first
seven months of 1953, but June. She worked along both coasts,
transporting troops and supplies to such ports as Inchon, Koje-Do, and Sokcho, before returning to San Diego on
15 August 1953.
In 1955, the USS Talladega was featured in the World
War II film classic, Battle Cry, starring Van Heflin and Aldo Ray.
Four Marines pictured in Joe Rosenthal's famous flag-raising
photograph debarked from USS Talladega (208) to climb Mt. Suribachi on
Iwo Jima: Ira Hayes, Franklin Sousley, Harlon Block, Mike Strank.
Others: John Bradley, Rene Gagnon.
In 1965, when United States forces assumed a combat
role in South Vietnam, Talladega stood out of Long Beach on 27 April for duty
with the 7th Fleet. After calling at Pearl Harbor from 2 to 5 May, she
proceeded to Guam where she loaded cargo for Vietnam. She delivered
the equipment and supplies at Danang on 30 and 31 May. Following
upkeep at Subic Bay, the attack transport moved to Okinawa to combat
load the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, for passage to Vietnam. On 1 July,
Talladega joined Task Group 75.6, composed of USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2) and
USS Point Defiance (LSD-31). Marines from the three ships were
assault-landed at Qui Nhon and cleared Viet Cong forces from the mountains around Qui
Nhon harbor by the 6th. They then reembarked in the ships which
remained in the area until 22 July.
From 15 to 25 August, Talladega participated in
Operation Starlight, landing marines 10 miles south of Chu Lai. On 12
September, she joined Task Group 76.3 which, in mid-September and
early October, conducted the first two raids by a Navy-Marine Corps
team in the Vietnamese conflict. On 11 October, the ship returned to
Subic Bay and disembarked the marines and then proceeded to Okinawa to
unload equipment. After calls at Yokosuka and Pearl Harbor, the
transport arrived at Long Beach on 17 November 1965.
Talladega returned to the western Pacific from 14
January to 17 April 1966. During this period, she transported two
loads of marines and their equipment from Okinawa to Chu Lai. In 1967,
the transport was deployed from 21 July to 1 December. Elements of the
11th Infantry Brigade were transported to Hawaii in July; and, after
calling at Guam, Talladega proceeded to Subic Bay. She arrived there
on 27 August and began loading supplies for Vietnam. However, a change
in orders sent her to Japan. The transport arrived at Yokosuka on 7
September, loaded supplies for Operation Hand Clasp, and headed for
Korea the next day. She offloaded supplies at Pusan from 17 to 20
September and returned to Japan. On 12 October, Talladega got underway
Talladega arrived at Vung Tau on 19 October and loaded
"Hand Clasp" supplies for delivery to Saigon. She offloaded the
supplies between 25 and 31 October. The ship then began the return
voyage to the United States. After calling at Hong Kong, Buckner Bay,
and Pearl Harbor, she arrived at Long Beach, California, on 1 December
Talladega was placed in a caretaker status for 18
months before being decommissioned in July 1969. In January 1969, she
was redesignated LPA-208. On 20 October 1969, Talladega was
transferred to the temporary custody of the Maritime Administration
and berthed at Olympia, Washington. On 1 September 1971, the ship was
transferred to the permanent custody of the Maritime Administration.
In July 1972, the transport was
moved to Suisun Bay where she remained into October 1979.
Talladega received two battle stars for World War II,
two for Korea, and three for Vietnam.
From time to time former members of the USS Talladega
meet in Talladega for reunions. Over the years, as time takes it's toll
on the former crewmembers, the numbers attending dwindle. I was lucky
enough to meet them during one of their recent reunions. It was a