Figure 1: USS Plymouth Rock (LSD-29) photographed circa the later 1950s or early 1960s, with a HUS helicopter parked on her after deck. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: USS Plymouth Rock (LSD-29) 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 US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: USS Plymouth Rock (LSD-29) underway on 8 April 1963, shortly before she deployed to the Mediterranean for a tour with the Sixth Fleet. She has an experimental retractable sonar fitted to her bow. Official US Navy Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Plymouth Rock (LSD-29) pulls alongside USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2) for refueling, during operations in the Atlantic, February 1979. Photographed by PH2 Alexander and PH3 Kent from on board Iwo Jima. CH-46 "Sea Knight" helicopters of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (HMM-261) are parked in the foreground. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: 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. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 6: Insignia of 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. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after the site of the landing of the first permanent settlers in New England in 1620, the 11,270-ton USS Plymouth Rock (LSD-29) was a Thomaston class dock landing ship that was built by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation at Pascagoula, Mississippi, and was commissioned on 29 November 1954. The ship was approximately 510 feet long and 84 feet wide, had a top speed of 21 knots, and was armed with eight twin 3-inch guns and six twin 20-mm guns. Plymouth Rock had a crew of 304 officers and men, could carry up to eight helicopters and 21 LCM(6) landing craft, accommodate 300 troops, and transport more than 2,000 tons of cargo.
After being commissioned, Plymouth Rock sailed from her home port at Norfolk, Virginia, and went on her shakedown cruise off America’s east coast and the Caribbean. In the summer of 1955, the ship transported men and equipment to the Arctic Distant Early Warning bases in the far north. In March of 1956, Plymouth Rock deployed to the Mediterranean for amphibious exercises and returned to the United States in October. During 1957, she made numerous trips to the Caribbean and then went back to the Arctic, resupplying American bases there.
From May to October 1958, Plymouth Rock was assigned to the US Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean and participated in the landing of US Marines in Lebanon in July. In early 1959, Plymouth Rock pioneered the tactical concept of “vertical envelopment,” which was (and still is) the use of helicopters to assault a specific target. The ship then returned to the Caribbean and in February 1960 participated in operation “Amigo,” during which she carried support helicopters and other equipment for President Dwight Eisenhower’s visit to South America. From March to December of 1960, Plymouth Rock was deployed once again to the Mediterranean.
Throughout 1961, Plymouth Rock made several deployments to the Caribbean and one to the Mediterranean. In 1962, the ship returned to the Caribbean and was part of the US Navy’s blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. On 7 May 1963, Plymouth Rock went to the Mediterranean and came back to the United States in October.
In 1964, Plymouth Rock completed two cruises to the Caribbean and participated in operation “Steel Pike I” off the coast of Spain, which at that time was the largest amphibious exercise since World War II. In early 1965, Plymouth Rock ended another cruise in the Caribbean and from 28 January 1966 to 7 March was involved in the frantic search for a missing hydrogen bomb off the coast of Palomares, Spain. The bomb fell out of a B-52 bomber after a mid-air collision with a KC-135 tanker aircraft over the Mediterranean. Both planes crashed, but after a search of the area lasting more than two months, the United States eventually recovered the missing bomb from the Mediterranean.