My final duty station in the United States Navy was an attack cargo ship which had been placed in commission more than 20 years before I reported aboard in November 1965. Winston was commissioned at the New York Navy Yard 19 Jan 1945, too late to take part in World War II. She saw service in both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets, participating in the Korean War. She was inactivated in 1957, reactivated in 1961, and had already been deployed twice to the South China Sea by the time I came aboard in San Diego, fresh from my WestPac deployment aboard USS Annapolis. In the following history from Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Vol. VIII, pp. 425-428, we'll pick up her story at about the time I reported aboard...
Counties in Alabama and Mississippi.
(AKA-94: dp. 14,200 (lim.); l. 459'2"; b. 63'0"; dr. 26'4" (lim.); s. 16.5 k. (tl.), cpl. 247, a. 1 5 ', 8 40mm.; cl. Andromeda; T. C2-S-B1)
...Amphibious exercises, independent ship's drills, and upkeep at San Diego occupied her during much of the winter of 1965 and 1966. During the latter half of February 1966, the ship prepared for another tour of duty in the western Pacific.
Winston departed San Diego on 1 March 1966 for the first Far Eastern deployment in which she would conduct major operations in Vietnamese waters. She stopped at Pearl Harbor overnight on 10 and 11 March and arrived at Okinawa on the 26th. There she unloaded one cargo and took on another - mostly lumber for construction activities at Chu Lai, South Vietnam. She arrived at Chu Lai on the 5th and spent the next four days unloading her cargo. On the 10th, she moved to Danang where she helped Skagit (AKA-105) unload her cargo, and she herself loaded elements of the 4th Marines. The following day, she departed Danang for the Colo area near Hue, arriving there on the 12th. Between 13 and 15 April, her boats ferried ammunition and supplies up the Hue River, both banks of which were in enemy hands.
At the completion of that dangerous mission, she reembarked all boats and crewmen and got underway for Hong Kong. Following a week of liberty, she returned to sea, set a course for Japan on 23 April, and arrived at Sasebo on the 27th. She spent three weeks in upkeep there before sailing on 16 May for Okinawa. She held amphibious training exercises in the Okinawa area on 17 and 18 May and, from 19 to 23 May, embarked Regimental Landing Team 5 and its equipment for transportation to Chu Lai. She set out for Vietnam on the 23d and arrived at Chu Lai on the 27th. She unloaded cargo, disembarked passengers; and, after a brief stop at Danang on 2 June, got underway for Taiwan.
She arrived in Keelung on 4 June and remained there until the 7th when she returned to sea bound for Subic Bay in the Philippines. En route, however, she was rerouted to Yokosuka, Japan, where she arrived on 11 June. At the end of almost a month of upkeep at Yokosuka and several days of operations near Okinawa, Winston suffered damage to one of her boilers. That casualty forced her into Subic Bay for repairs, and she did not return to sea until 22 July.
On 26 July, after a rough transit which had taken her through the developing Typhoon "Ora," the cargo ship returned to Vietnam at Camranh Bay. The next day, she embarked men and equipment of the Army's 572d Light Equipment Company for transportation north to Tuy Hoa. She anchored there the same day and began unloading. That operation lasted two days and proved difficult and hazardous due to the soft sand beach, large numbers of fishing craft and equipment crowding the area, and large amounts of debris. On the 29th, she headed north from Tuy Hoa to evacuate a South Vietnamese unit from Qui Nhon. That reverse amphibious operation saved the unit the heavy casualties it would have sustained fighting its way south along routes held by strong insurgent forces. Winston departed Qui Nhon on 31 July and delivered the South Vietnamese troops to Tuy Hoa that same day. Over the next three days and nights, she completed another difficult unloading operation complicated by the proximity of the enemy and the possibility of hostile fishing craft. She departed the Vietnamese coast on 3 August and, after a stop at Okinawa, arrived at Yokosuka on the 11th. A week later, she headed home, stopped at Pearl Harbor from 27 to 29 August, arrived back in San Diego on 5 September, and resumed local operations along the southern California coast.
On 11 January 1967, Winston entered the Long Beach Naval Shipyard and began a three-month overhaul. She completed repairs on 27 April and spent the month of May engaged in refresher training. In June she conducted amphibious exercises, and July brought preparations for her return to the western Pacific. The ship departed San Diego on 21 July and arrived in Pearl Harbor on the 29th. During the first week in August, she participated in another series of amphibious exercises conducted off Molokai. Two days after completing that training, she exited Pearl Harbor to resume her voyage west.
She arrived in Danang on 2 September and, after three days in port, returned to sea to join Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) Alfa. During her six-week tour of duty with that mobile, self-contained amphibious unit, Winston participated in two combat operations. On 9 September, she helped backload marines of Special Landing Force (SLF) Alfa at Danang. On 16 September, she found herself off the Vietnamese coast near Hoi An. During Operation "Ballistic Charge," the Special Landing Force went ashore by both helicopters and surface assault craft. Winston boats participated in the lift and in the backload operation a week later. Almost a month later, she again participated in an amphibious landing, Operation "Bastion Hill," near Quang Tri City. That operation ended on 20 October, and Winston served with ARG Alfa just eight more days before heading for Hong Kong and a liberty visit. From Hong Kong, she proceeded to Japan, arriving in Yokosuka on 17 November. After a brief upkeep, she began her homeward voyage on the 21st and entered San Diego on 10 December.
During the early months of 1968, Winston made preparations for another deployment to the western Pacific. She spent most of March in the shipyard at Treasure Island undergoing repairs. Late in April, she took part in Operation "Beagle Leash," an amphibious exercise which simulated an attack on the Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton...
During my Winston tour, I served as First Lieutenant and later as Communications Officer. Thirty-five years later, the details of amphibious operations described in the history above are blurred in my memory. There were many sleepless nights and long work days. I went ashore several times in Viet Nam, mainly to relieve the boredom of sitting at anchor, waiting for our boats to return so we could get underway.
After my 15 May 1968 discharge, Winston participated in yet another WestPac deployment, returning to duty off the coast of Viet Nam in late 1968 and early 1969. She returned to San Diego 12 Jun 1969, prepared for inactivation and was placed out of commission in November 1969. Her name was struck from the Navy list 1 Sep 1976. Winston earned seven battle stars during the Korean War and another seven battle stars for service during the Vietnam conflict.
While I was on board Winston, my commanding officers were: