The USS Sumter LST-1181 – written by Gilles Perez
The USS Sumter LST-1181 is one of 20 Newport-class ships. It is certain that these buildings must have taken people together with their particular and unique silhouette. What good is this boat with its two large “horns” at the front?
Newport-class ships are responsible for transporting and disembarking directly on beaches or docks of all types of equipment, troops and especially vehicles, mainly from the Marine Corps; from the simple jeep to the battle tanks. These vessels have a very low draft, it is thanks to a new 40t ramp concept supported between two gantries at the front that these boarding and disembarkation can now be carried out in better conditions compared to the old LST type ships.
Built at the Philadelphia shipyard and commissioned on June 20, 1970, the USS Sumter will be named after Officer Thomas Sumter (1734/1832) who distinguished himself during the American conflict against the English troops and in particular his involvement in the “Carolina Gamecock” movement (a word that would later be repeated on the ship’s insignia).
The USS Sumter first entered service with the Pacific Fleet for two years, attached to the 7th Amphibian Squadron based in Long Beach, California, participating in two campaigns during the Vietnam War in 1971 and 1972.
In January 1973, the Sumter joined the Atlantic Fleet in the 8th Amphibian Squadron and her new base at Little Creek, Virginia. She was mainly positioned in the Mediterranean with the Sixth Fleet in 1973, 75 and 77; and in May/June 1978, she joined the Forces participating in Exercise Solid Shied, followed by deployment to Northern Europe in 1978.
The events of Lebanon in the early 1980s will once again lead the Sumter into Mediterranean waters. Philippe DURAND tells us about her first visit to Villefranche:
“Support operations in the Eastern Mediterranean are coming to an end. En route to her second mission to Lebanon (August to December 1984) to support the withdrawal of troops, the USS Sumter LST-1181 made a stopover in Villefranche harbor at the end of August 1984.
From August 1982, when the Marines were sent to Lebanon, she was first deployed to the Mediterranean in the 6th Fleet, along with other ships of the 6th Amphibious Wing (Inchon LPH-12, La Moure County LST-1194, Fort Snelling LSD-30, and Shreveport LPD-12) who, like her, had been removed from NATO maneuvers in Scandinavia.”
In 1985, The Sumter will conduct a seven-month construction period at Little Creek for the rehabilitation and modernization of equipment ranging from propulsion, on-board equipment and combat systems.
He returned to sea a year later, taking part in the largest gathering of ships since the end of the Second World War: Exercise Northern Wedding 86/Marg 1-87 with no less than 30 ships of all types and nations across European waters. Various exercises and maneuvers followed in the following years, such as Ocean Venture in 1988, before this time being deployed to the Atlantic near the West Coast of Africa during the WATC 88 exercises off Mauritania, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. She will then join a new action group taking her into South American waters and her various local navies. Then again it will be Solid Shield ’89 before a new upgrade period under construction in Little Creek. Then new deployments will follow regularly and the USS Sumter will once again meet in the Mediterranean in the amphibious forces of the 6th Fleet, which will give her the opportunity to make her second crossing in Villefranche harbor from 20 to 25 April 1992.
The USS Sumter will be decommissioned from the U.S. Navy on September 30, 1993. In September 2000, she was leased and sold as ROCS Chung Ping LST-233 to the Navy of the Republic of China (Taiwan). She will be permanently removed from the U.S. Navy’s records in July 2002.
Some features of the Newport class:
Length: 159.18 m
Moving: from 5190 T empty to 8550 T at full charge.
Crew: Navy: approximately 14 officers, 15 CPO (Chief Petty Officers) and 226 crew. Marine detachment if boarding: 18 officers, 21 NCOs and between 250 to 400 troops.
“Welcome Aboard” brochure from the USS Sumter (coll. PEREZ):
The USS Sumter in the harbor of Villefranche-sur-Mer on August 29, 1984 (Photo Philippe DURAND):
The USS Sumter in the harbor of Villefranche-sur-Mer in 1990 (Photos G.PEREZ) :