SHIP'S HISTORY 1956-1962

HERMITAGE (LSD-34) was launched 12 June 1956 by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Corp., Pascagoula, Miss., sponsored by Mrs. Alfred M. Pride, wife of Vice Admiral Alfred M. Pride; and commissioned 14 December 1956, Captain Leonard A. Parker in command.


1957----Submitted by Walt Kabis HERMITAGE reported for duty in the Amphibious Force, U. S. Atlantic Fleet on 29 January 1957, with Captain L. A. PARKER, commanding, after being commissioned on 14 December 1956, and undergoing the usual fitting-out period. Shakedown training at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was next, with the ship returning to her home port in Norfolk, Virginia, in early April. [While on shakedown in the Caribbean, HERMITAGE was informally inspected by Admiral Arleigh Burke, then Chief of Naval Operations.] She participated in her first amphibious exercise, SULEX II-57, at Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, in June 1957, operating for the first time with the other ships of Amphibious Transport Squadron Two. Throughout the summer, HERMITAGE operated in the Norfolk area, assisting in the training of Naval Reserve Midshipmen and in evaluating new amphibious techniques and equipment. In late August, she loaded to capacity with Marines and their equipment and became part of the amphibious task force which was formed to carry out the fall NATO exercise in the Mediterranean. Amphibious landings were made in Suda Bay, Crete, and Saros Gulf, Turkey, and attracted wide spread international interest due to their strategic implications. While in Corfu, Greece, Captain PARKER was relieved as Commanding Officer by Captain J. M. ALEXANDER. HERMITAGE once again returned to Norfolk [on 16 November 1957.] During her first year of commissioned service, HERMITAGE demonstrated the versatility which has given the LSD the reputation of being the workhorse of the Amphibious Force yet her crew visited many ports, literally "seeing the world" in the Atlantic and Mediterranean waters.


Local operations primarily with fast amphibious helicopter assault equipment and tactics occupied her until November 1959.  With a cargo of Presidential helicopters embarked, HERMITAGE sailed to Karachi 2 December via the Atlantic, Med, Suez Canal, and Red and Arabian Seas to furnish quick and safe transportation for President Dwight D. Eisenhower on his Asian and European tour.  Mission successfully completed, she returned home via Barcelona 17 January 1960.   page9_1 Foreign waters called HERMITAGE by the end of the year as she sailed 20 November as flagship for Admiral A. L. Reed, CONSOLANT, for a good will cruise to South America and Africa.  In the midst of the cruise, HERMITAGE was diverted 19 January 1961 to carry grain to the Congo to help the United Nations combat starvation in that revolution torn country.  Other points which she visited included Recife, Brazil; Monrovia, Liberia; Lome, Togo; Conakry, Guinea; Freetown, Sierra Leone;  Luanda, Angola; Las Palmas, Canary islands; and Bathurst, Gambia.  [Nora Lewis writes, "My husband, Richard Q. Lewis III, was with the Marine Unit aboard the USS Hermitage on (SOLANT Amity 1) in 1961.  The first port of call in Africa was Monrovia, Liberia.  It was also the 1st U.S. warship to navigate the Congo river since WWII. The ship's crew crossed the equator at 0 0 longitude and 0 0 latitude making the ship and its crew a golden shellback in January 1961.]

Relieved as flagship 3 May by SPIEGEL GROVE, HERMITAGE returned to Virginia 16 May and soon resumed her pattern of operations and exercises off the Virginia Capes and in the Caribbean. When the presence of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba threatened war in October 1962, HERMITAGE sailed to Guantanamo to transport Marines to that threatened base and underline America's determination to maintain her position there.  A second cruise to the Med, May -October 1963, took HERMITAGE to Naples, Athens, Genoa, Cannes, Sardinia, Malta, and Rota as well as other ports she had visited previously.
From scrapbook compiled by Michael Sheehy. Courtesy of C.J. and Julene DeHart.