A framed photograph of the USS Jennings is now proudly displayed on the second floor of the Vernon courthouse compliments of Judge Jon and Julie Webster. Also displayed is information about the ship.—Staff Photo
Did you know that Jennings County is the only "Jennings County" in the United States and that during World War II there was a tank landing ship named in her honor?
Circuit Court Judge Jon Webster and his wife, Julie, thought the ship's story deserved a place of honor in the courthouse of her home county. The couple purchased a photo of the World War II ship, had it framed along with an informational sheet and placed both in the upstairs hallway at the courthouse for the public to view.
The USS Jennings County was an LST-542-class tank landing ship built for the United States Navy and launched on Oct. 27, 1944 and commissioned Jan 9, 1945. She sailed immediately to Pearl Harbor and eventually to Guam where she supported American force in the Marshall Islands and Okinawa.
After the war, the ship made cargo runs in China but after the communist revolution returned to the U.S. where she was decommissioned on Oct. 14, 1949.
The years following, the USS Jennings supported the movement of men and equipment during the Korean War, 1950-1953, returned to the U.S., then sailed back to the Far East and performed various duties, including transporting thousands of Vietnamese from North to South Vietnam after that country's partition. She was decommissioned again on Dec. 7, 1955.
The ship saw perhaps her most serious mission during Viettnam, where she was part of Operation Game Warden, a brown-water naval effort to keep rivers free of Viet Cong infiltration. On Aug. 3, 1970, a fire that began in the generator room eventually rendered the ship's engines, communications and electrical power inoperable. The ship was decommissioned for the last time Sept. 25, 1970.
The eventual namesake of our home county is unknown, although it was rumored she was sold for use as an ore barge for a mining company.
She was later abandoned and left on the shores of Subic Bay where she was photographed in 1977 by a serviceman.
In her prime, the ship was 828 feet long and carried 16 officers and 147 enlisted men and traveled at 12 knots (14 mph).