Tuesday, November 20, 2007

USS Plymouth Rock (LSD-29)

The USS Plymouth Rock (LSD-29) was an 11,270-ton Thomaston class dock landing ship and was built by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The ship was launched on 7 May 1954 and was commissioned on 29 November 1954. She was 510 feet long, had a beam of 84 feet and had a crew of 766 officers and men. The Plymouth Rock was a modern amphibious assault ship that could steam at 21 knots, had an armament of four twin 3-inch/50 gun mounts (for a total of eight guns) and could carry approximately 400 troops plus 2,400 tons of equipment. She also carried 18 LCM(6) landing craft and four LCVPs, and had two large cranes that could handle roughly 50 tons each.

After being commissioned, the Plymouth Rock steamed to her new homeport in Norfolk, Virginia. After conducting a shakedown cruise off the eastern coast of the United States and in the Caribbean, she was assigned to the US Atlantic Fleet. In March 1956 she joined the US Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean and supported the landing of US Marines in Lebanon in July 1958. This ship also made numerous trips to the Caribbean and was part of the Arctic Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line support operations in 1955 and 1957. The Plymouth Rock also was one of the pioneers in developing the concept of “vertical envelopment” by helicopter assault in early 1959 and she was part of “Operation Amigo,” which involved carrying support helicopters and other equipment for President Eisenhower’s trip to South America.

In 1961 the Plymouth Rock made several trips to the Caribbean and one voyage to the Mediterranean and she participated in the Project “Mercury” space flight support mission. In 1962 the Plymouth Rock was again sent to the Caribbean and she was part of the US Naval blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. After that, she was sent back to the Mediterranean on 7 May 1963. In 1964 the Plymouth Rock took part in Operation “Steel Pike I” off the coast of Spain, which, up to that time, was the largest amphibious training operation since World War II. From 28 January 1966 to 7 March she took part in the H-Bomb recovery mission off Palomares, Spain, and during the latter part of 1966 she assisted the victims of Hurricane Inez in Haiti. For the remainder of her career, the Plymouth Rock made numerous training cruises to the Caribbean and Europe. The Plymouth Rock was decommissioned in September 1983. After spending more than 10 years in the US Navy’s Reserve Fleet, she was sold for scrapping in September 1995.

This tough and versatile ship was obviously named after the site of the landing of the first permanent settlers to New England in 1620. May all of you have a happy and safe Thanksgiving Holiday!


Figure 1 (Top): The insignia of the USS Plymouth Rock (LDS-29). This emblem was received from the ship in 1958. It features an alligator (symbol of the Amphibious Force) in Pilgrim dress standing on the ship's namesake, Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. A depiction of USS Plymouth Rock is in the left background. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2 (Middle, Top): The USS Plymouth Rock photographed circa the later 1950s or early 1960s, with a HUS helicopter parked on her after deck. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph from larger image.

Figure 3 (Middle, Bottom): USS Plymouth Rock photographed circa 1963, while she was fitted with a retractable sonar forward. The photograph was received with the annual ship's historical submission, dated 6 January 1964. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4 (Bottom): Amphibious Group at sea, 17 April 1964. The ships are USS Hermitage (LSD-34) in left foreground, USS Francis Marion (APA-249) in center, USS Plymouth Rock (LSD-29) in the left rear and USS Yancey (APA-93) in the right rear. Three UH-34 helicopters are flying in formation over the Francis Marion. Photograph received from USS Francis Marion, 1964. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.