The USS La Grange was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract 26 June 1944 by the California Shipbuilding Corp., Wilmington, Californi. She was launched 1 September 1944 and was sponsored by Mrs. Albert Krutcher and acquired by the Navy 10 November 1944. The La Grange was commissioned 11 November 1944 with Capt. Frank R. Walker in command.

After shakedown and amphibious training operations, the USS La Grange departed San Diego 1 January 1945 for the western Pacific. Arriving at Manus on 18 January the attack transport carried cargo and passengers to Hollandia and the Philippines before joining Transport Squadron 17.

Following a month of intensive preparations, the USS La Grange departed Dulag Harbor, Philippine Islands, as part of the western islands attack group in the greatest amphibious assault of the Pacific war, the invasion of Okinawa. Arriving in the transport area off Kerama Retto, 26 March, the USS La Grange successfully landed advance forces who took that small cluster of islands which served as an advance naval base for fueling, repairs, and replenishment during the conquest of Okinawa itself. She remained off Okinawa for the next 30 days supporting operations on shore.

Returning to Saipan 5 May, La Grange sailed 2 weeks later with Navy passengers bound for San Francisco. She resumed war operations upon her arrival Eniwetok 11 July, and sailed for Okinawa 29 July. Arriving Buckner Bay 1 week later, La Grange unloaded cargo needed for the final days of the war. While anchored in Buckner Bay 13 August, she came under enemy air attack and suffered the last known kamikaze attacks of the war.

(Many photos below have enlargements when clicked on).

 

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Despite accurate antiaircraft fire, an unidentified kamikaze carrying a 500-pound bomb crashed into the USS La Grange’s superstructure. A second suicide plane struck the top of a kingpost and splashed 20 yards from the ship. The transport suffered considerable damage in both strikes, with 21 sailors killed and 89 wounded.

After hostilities ended 15 August, the USS La Grange did field repairs and prepared for the cruise home. Departing Guam 6 September, she arrived San Francisco 21 September. Because of the remaining battle damage, La Grange was decommissioned there 27 October 1945 and was returned to the War Shipping Administration for transfer back to her original owner. She was placed in the National Defense Reserve Fleet at Suisun Bay, California.

In 1955 the USS La Grange was withdrawn from the Reserve Fleet as part of a Repair Program, GAA-Coastwise Line, and then returned. On 18 April 1975 she was sold to Nicolai Joffe Corp., for $208,489.78, to be scrapped. At 1130 PDT, on 21 May 1975 she was withdrawn from the Reserve Fleet and sent to the breaker's yard.

All that remains of La Grange is her brass builder's plate.

 

Awards

The USS La Grange received one battle star for World War II service.

A book written about the USS La Grange was authored by Gerald Yankee (a former crewman of the USS La Grange during World War Two) of Palm Bay, Florida. The events of the USS La Grange's history is told from the ship's perspective of what occurred during World War II and includes the story of the last attacks against the ship.

This information was referred to me by Sandy Smith, the daughter of Woodrow Wilson Smith, a crew member on the USS LaGrange.

WoodrowWilson Smith



Woodrow Wilson Smith in center

Back of postcard to his wife


Saftey Harbor, Daytona Beach, FL

1940's car

1950 Salisbury, NC parade

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Many thanks to Sandy Smith for sharing these photos and a bit of her Dad's WWII life!