|Story by JOSN Joe Hudspeth
Heading for her third and possibly final retirement, USS Benewah (APB-35) left Nha Be
recently for a farewell tour of the Pacific. The 25-year old Brigade Command Ship
and former flagship for Commander River Assault Flotilla 117 will make stops at Singapore,
Subic Bay and finally, Guam.
Benewah, named for a country in Idaho, is built on the hull design of 542
Class LST (Tank Landing Ship) and is modernized to accept a helo deck as well as
communications and command spaces. She was launched May 6, 1945 in Boston, Mass. and
commissioned in March 1946. Five months after beginning active service, Benewah was
decommissioned and moth-balled in Boston. Then, in 1947, she moved to Green Cove
Springs, Fla. and was placed in service in reserve and served as headquarters ship for Sub
Group THREE Florida Group Atlantic Reserve.
USS Benewah was recommissioned November 9, 1951 and reported to Atlantic
Fleet Service Force. On March 9, 1952 Benewah deployed for the first time and served
as logistic support ship for Mobile Construction Battalions at overseas bases.
In July, 1953 Benewah proceeded to the Naval Shipyard,
Portsmouth, Va. to be fitted out as a flagship. Upon completion of the yard period
she reported to
Naples, Italy and served as
||flagship for Commander Fleet Air Eastern
Atlantic and Mediterranean until August 1955. She returned to the United
States, was decommissioned and placed in reserve in December, 1955.
In July, 1966 after conversion and modernization's, Benewah was made a
brigade command ship and flagship for Commander River Assault flotilla ONE. She was
commissioned on January 28, 1967. After a week's training at the Amphibious Base,
Little Creek, Va, she sailed for Vietnam.
Since her arrival in Vietnam, Benewah has served as Flagship for Commander
Task Force 117 with the Second Brigade Ninth
Infantry Division of the Mobile Riverine Force. She has also served as flagship for
Commander Riverine Strike Group on the Vam Co and Soi Rap Rivers and support ship for
Barrier Reef Operations on the Upper Mekong River. She then acted as Flagship for
first Sealord's during Tran Hung Dao Eleven operations in Cambodia.
Benewah was home for the combat units of the Delta, communications center and
tactical operations center for the complex control functions of riverine warfare.
Her helopad has recorded about 16,800 landings during her three year stay in the Republic.
The last major operation for Benewah was Tran Hung Dao Sixteen, a joint
operation with the Vietnamese Navy which began in September of this year. Benewah
||bid a reluctant farewell to all her
friends in the Delta on receipt of her decommissioning orders.
Benewah has received due thanks for her vital support while serving in
Vietnam. She proudly wears a Presidential Unit Citation and Navy Commendation Medal
for her duty in the Mobile Riverine Force. She was commended by
the commanding officer of Dong Tam for her quick action in returning suppressive fire on
the enemy during a night attack on that base.
The following is a message summing up the many farewell expressions recently
received by Benewah.
"To think of a brown water Navy without USS Benewah is difficult, to say
the least. The support you have provided during the past three and a half years has
been superb. The PBR's of the U.S. Navy and the Vietnamese Navy have relied heavily
on the crew of the Benewah and you never let them down.
This was significantly borne out during the Cambodian operations which saw
you plying your trade and talents on the other side of the border.
On the behalf of the brown water sailors, past and present, I want to express
my sincere appreciation for the outstanding job you have done. I wish you smooth
seas and a following breeze as you set sail on a course which will take you out of active
service." Signed, Vice Admiral Jerome H. King, Commander Naval forces, Vietnam.