- USS La Salle (AGF-3)
The second USS "La Salle" (LPD 3 / AGF 3) was built as a "Raleigh" class amphibious transport dock and later served as a
command shipin the United States Navy.
"La Salle" was named for the town and county in
Illinoisthat was in turn named after René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle.
Her keel was laid down by
New York Naval Shipyard, Brooklyn, New York, on 2 April 1962. She was launched on 3 August 1963sponsored by Mrs. Victor M. Longstreet, and commissioned on 22 February 1964with Captain Edward H. Winslow, USN in command.
After shakedown and training in the
Caribbean Seaand off Norfolk, Virginia, the amphibious transport dock departed Norfolk 9 Octoberto participate in Operation Steel Pike I, a complex training exercise involving over 80 ships and United States and Spanish troops. She closed the coast of Spainoff Huelvaon 26 October, and embarked Under- Secretary of the Navy Paul B. Faye, Vice Chief of Naval OperationsAdmiral Horacio Rivero, Commandant of the Marine CorpsGeneral Wallace M. Greene, and Chairman of the House Armed Services CommitteeCongressman Mendel Riversto watch the landing operations.
The exercise completed
4 November, "La Salle" joined the Sixth Fleet at Naples, Italy, for amphibious operations and joint NATOtraining. She returned to Norfolk 13 March 1963.
With then-Vice Admiral
J. S. McCain, Jr., Commander Amphibious Forces, Atlantic Fleet embarked, "La Salle" sailed 1 Mayfor exercises in the Caribbean, returning to Norfolk 1 June. Three weeks later she joined the Caribbean Amphibious Ready Squadron, returning to home port 21 Septemberto begin training operations along the east coast and in the Caribbean.
Through the first half of 1966, "La Salle" continued operating off the east coast. July and September were spent in Norfolk for upkeep and modifications, with further exercises following. On
3 November, she recovered a Gemini 2-MOL test space capsule near Ascension Island. This was the Gemini 2 space capsules second flight. This was returned to Cape Kennedy, Florida, and the rest of the year spent on local operations in the Atlantic. "La Salle" entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyardon 9 January 1967for repairs and remained there until 20 March. The remainder of 1967 and the first three quarters of 1968 were spent conducting various exercises and port visits which ranged along the entire Atlantic and Gulf coasts and into the Caribbean as well. On 2 Novembershe put into Norfolk to prepare for an extended deployment with the Sixth Fleet. Departing 13 November, she steamed first to Morehead City, North Carolina, and then began her voyage to the Mediterranean Sea.
"La Salle" was converted to a "miscellaneous command ship" and given the
hull classification symbolAGF 3 after an overhaul in 1972. The ship was dubbed "The Great White Ghost of the Arabian Coast" after being painted white for a Middle East deployment in 1972. [http://www.news.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=18540 “Great White Ghost” Decommissions in Norfolk] . Story Number: NNS050528-01. Release Date: 5/28/2005 9:00:00 AM]
In 1979, "La Salle" assisted in the evacuation of 260 American and foreign national civilians from the
Iranian seaport of Bandar Abbas, and subsequently became the focal point of U.S. activity in the Persian Gulfat the outset of the Iranian Hostage Crisis. The ship returned stateside in late 1980 for the first time in almost nine years. After undergoing an extensive overhaul in Philadelphia, "La Salle" returned to the Persian Gulf and resumed her role as the flagship for Commander, Middle East Forces (COMMIDEASTFOR) in June 1983, relieving the USS Coronado (AGF 11). Retaining her white paint scheme to dissipate the summer heat in the region, "La Salle" became known by her crew as "the Great White Ghost of the Arabian Coast." In 1984, the ship conducted mine sweeping operations in the Red Seain response to attempts to disrupt shipping lanes, and in 1986, conducted contingency operations in the Gulf of Adenduring Yemen's civil war.
Iraqi missile attack on USS "Stark" (FFG 31) in May 1987, "La Salle" provided the primary fire fighting rescue assistance to the ship. During Operation Desert Shield, the ship assumed the responsibility of commanding and coordinating the multinational Maritime Intercept Force. Soon afterwards, "La Salle" returned to Norfolk to begin an overhaul to prepare it for duties as the U.S. 6th Fleet Flagship.
Returning to a conventional gray paint scheme, "La Salle" assumed responsibilities as the flagship for Commander,
U.S. Sixth Fleeton November 8, 1994. Homeported in Gaeta, Italy, "La Salle" was fully engaged in operations throughout the Mediterraneanand Black Seas in its role of supporting Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet and Strike Force and Logistics South.
Following the tragic events of
September 11, 2001, "La Salle" commenced her role in the war on terrorism, serving in support of Operation Enduring Freedomand Operation Iraqi Freedom.
One of the ship’s last major assignments was supporting
NATO-led efforts to control the international waters off Greeceduring the 2004 Summer Olympicsin Athens. On 25 February 2005, she was relieved by USS "Mount Whitney"(LCC 20) as the U.S. Sixth Fleet command ship. She was decommissioned in Norfolk, Virginia on 27 May 2005, with CAPT Herman Shelanski as her last commanding officer and former "La Salle" commanding officer, RDML Mark Milliken, as the decommissioning ceremomy guest speaker. [http://www.news.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=18540 “Great White Ghost” Decommissions in Norfolk] . Story Number: NNS050528-01. Release Date: 5/28/2005 9:00:00 AM]
The "La Salle" was sunk as a target by the United States Navy on
11 April2007 during a scheduled fleet exercise off the Atlantic coast.
* [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ship/agf-3.htm globalsecurity.org history]
* [http://www.navsource.org/archives/10/0903.htm navsource.org: USS "La Salle"]
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