Effective October 1, 1954 a realistic reorganization of Amphibious Force, Pacific Fleet, established the Staff of Commander Amphibious Squadron THREE. In providing for greater operational unity, the Squadron Commander was assigned the administrative and operational control of the ships of Transport Squadron THREE and Landing Ship Squadron THREE. Transport Squadron THREE consisted of heavy transport ships, the APA’s, AKA’s and LSD’s while Landing Ship Squadron THREE was comprised of LST’s. Since its organization in 1954, Amphibious Squadron THREE developed further in late 1961 to include only the ships of Transport Squadron THREE. Command/control over Landing Ship Squadron THREE was relinquished.
Amphibious Squadron THREE evolved from Transport Squadron ONE which was officially appointed in September, 1950 and which consisted of LSMR’s, APD’s and ARL’s, in addition to the transport and landing ships which were to comprise the 1954 Squadron. Transport Squadron ONE participated heavily in the amphibious landings at Inchon and Wonsan, Korea during the last summer and fall of 1950. These landings contributed materially to the logistical support of the forces ashore. The Staff coordinated the unloading and dispatching of Navy and chartered vessels in the Wonsan Harbor.
Following the Inchon and Wonsan operations, Transportation Squadron ONE planned and participated in the evacuation from Chinnampo to Pusan and the Hungnam redeployment. The Squadron returned to the United States in June, 1951. After a training and upkeep period, the Squadron deployed to the Western Pacific in November, 1952 for a nine month tour of duty. During this tour the Staff of Transport Squadron ONE engaged in the amphibious operations BRONCO and MARLEX XVII. In addition, the Staff was involved in various troop movements to Korea and the general redeployment in the Western Pacific area.
The Staff returned to the Western Pacific on October 3, 1954 aboard the flagship USS GEORGE CLYMER (APA 27) with Captain Fritz Gleim, USN, as the first Commander of the newly designated Amphibious Squadron THREE. The USS BAYFIELD (APA 33) was assigned as alternate flagship, assuming this function if operational commitments dictated. The newly reorganized Staff was a working nucleus of approximately 20 officers and 40 enlisted men. It was the duty of the Staff to assist the Squadron Commander in all matters relative to the administration of the ships in the Squadron such as their employment, training, readiness and material condition. The Staff was deployed until March, 1955.
After returning to the United States, several regimental sized amphibious landing exercises were conducted for training before again deploying to the Western Pacific under a new Squadron Commander, Captain Augustus ST. Angelo, USN. The Squadron remained in the Pacific from October 1955 to April 1956.
Captain Donald F. Krick, USN, relieved Captain ST. Angelo as Squadron Commander on March 15, 1956. Captain Krick, in turn, relinquished his command to Captain Karl R. Wheland, USN, on October 18, 1956.
Making the transit once again to the Far East, the Squadron arrived in the Western Pacific in February, 1957. Captain Barry K. Atkins, USN, assumed command of the Squadron on April 12, 1957 in Yokosuka, Japan, relieving Captain Wheland. In addition, Captain Atkins became Commander Amphibious Group, Western Pacific, having aviation and shore based amphibious units in the Western Pacific under his command. During this deployment the Squadron participated with Amphibious Squadron FIVE in a division/wing amphibious landing exercise, Operation BEACON HILL, at Dingelen Bay in the Philippines. Additional exercises, LUCKY TIGER and CIGAR BOX, provided valuable training for Republic of Korea and U.S. Army amphibious units. Although a busy deployment, the USS TULARE (AKA 112) provided entertainment to the underprivileged children of Singapore and the USS BAYFIELD (APA 33) assisted in the salvage and refloating of the American merchantman SS GRAIN TRADER off the coast of Inchon.
Returning to the United States in September, 1957, other deployments occurred from October, 1958 to March, 1959 under the command of Captain Harold E. Baker, USN, and from October, 1959 to April 1960 under the leadership of Captain Herbert G. Claudius, USN. During the latter deployment, the Squadron participated in Operation Blue STAR, a division/wing landing exercise off the coast of Formosa.
On March 30, 1960, Captain Jesse B. Gay, Jr., USN, assumed command of Amphibious Squadron THREE. He relinquished his post to Captain Fletcher Hale, USN, on November 14, 1960. During the ‘state-side’ period April, 1960 to June, 1961 the ships of the Squadron underwent overhauls and upkeep, had refresher training and participated in amphibious landing exercises.
The Squadron deployed to the Western Pacific during the period June, 1961 to December, 1961, participated in Exercise SHARP EDGE off the coast of Korea and Exercise WARM-UP off the coast of Okinawa. From January, 1962 until mid-October, 1962 the Squadron operated out of San Diego, participating in Exercise KEEL BLOCK in February and Exercise PACNARMIDLEX in August. In October, under the command of Captain Victor H. Wildt, USN, the Squadron departed for the Western Pacific with Exercise CROSS BAR, a brigade landing in the Hawaiian area, planned while en route. However, due to the Cuban crisis, which erupted, the exercise was canceled. The USS RENVILLE (APA 227), the USS COLONIAL (LSD 18) and the USS WHETSTONE (LSD 27) were diverted to deploy to the Cuban area. On December 4, 1962, Commander Amphibious Squadron THREE shifted his pennant to the USS CAVALIER (APA 37) and the USS GEORGE CLYMER (APA 27) became the flagship of Commander Amphibious Group ONE. The Staff returned to the United States in May, 1963 after participating in Exercise DARK MOON, a surface amphibious assault under cold weather conditions to Chuminjin, Korea using a reinforced Battalion Landing Team. On February 22, prior to returning, Commander Amphibious Squadron THREE shifted his pennant back to the USS GEORGE CLYMER (APA 27).
On July 22, 1963, Captain Joseph D. Linehan, USN, assumed command of Amphibious Squadron THREE. From May, 1963 until March, 1964, the Squadron remained in the homeport, San Diego, area for overhaul and local operations. Exercise WEST WIND, with units of the U.S. Army, was conducted in Hawaii in April, 1964. The Squadron departed San Diego again in June.
Exercise TOOL BOX was conducted in Hawaii during June, 1964, while enroute to the Western Pacific area when the Gulf of Tonkin incident required the Squadron’s services in support of the crisis in South Vietnam. While deployed, Captain S. A. Bobszynski, USN, relieved Captain Linehan as Squadron Commander on September 3, 1964. The Squadron’s return to the United States was effected in December, 1964.
After a brief holiday leave period, Amphibious Squadron THREE participated in Exercise SILVER LANCE, one of the largest peacetime exercises ever conducted, from February 23, 1965 to March 12, 1965. During this exercise, the Squadron Commander directed the landing of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Brigade for seven amphibious ships.
On May 25, 1965 the Squadron, with the exception of the USS CAVALIER and the USS WEISS, left San Diego for the Western Pacific, transporting Marine combat units to Okinawa and Iwakuni, Japan. On the verge of returning home after completing this special lift, the Squadron Commander and selected members of his Staff were diverted, flying from Japan to Okinawa in order to coordinate load out operations for the lift of various Marine combat units to Danang, Vietnam. As a finale to the planning, the Squadron landed elements of a Marine Division at Danang July 7-13, 1965. The Squadron returned to the United States in August, 1965.
In October, 1965 Captain T. R. Weschler, USN, became the Squadron Commander and was shortly thereafter notified of his selection to Rear Admiral. From October, 1965, until January, 1966 the Staff, under the leadership of Captain Weschler, deployed to the South China Sea. A cadre Staff remained in San Diego to provide administrative continuity due to the fact that the ships of the Squadron did not deploy. From his flagship, the USS VALLEY FORGE (LPH 8), the Squadron Commander launched two highly successful amphibious raids against the Viet Cong while serving as the Commander of the Seventh Fleet Amphibious Ready Group. Additionally, the Staff participated in Operation HARVEST MOON, providing the surprise amphibious ‘punch’ which characterizes an amphibious striking force. Returning home to San Diego in January, 1966, the Staff had only a brief rest before deploying again in February with a full load of Marines, vehicles and cargo, destined for Vietnam. Just prior to the deployment, Captain Gerald W. Ranhill, USN, relieved Captain Weschler as Commander Amphibious Squadron THREE.
Under the command of Captain Rahill, the ships of the Squadron transported thousands of Marines and tons of bulk cargo and equipment to Vietnam. Ships of the Squadron participated additionally in amphibious landing exercises off the coast of Okinawa, amphibious training for Republic of Korea troops and sea surveillance along the coast of Vietnam. Rest and relaxation was provided to the combat Marines at Chu Lai, Vietnam when Amphibious Squadron THREE ships provided “support from the sea” in the form of hot meals, movies, laundry services and a good safe nights sleep in an air conditioned space. During the cruise, ships of the Squadron visited various ports including Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong and Sasebo, Japan in promoting good will; two of the ships, with Staff embarked, crossed the equator.
In July 1966 another reorganization of Commander Amphibious Force, Pacific Fleet, took place. This provided for the organization of two additional amphibious squadrons in the Pacific Fleet, reducing the number of ships in the Squadron from eleven to seven. The reorganization created more inherent flexibility in the Pacific Fleet Amphibious Force.
The Squadron and Staff returned to San Diego during September and October 1966. During the latter part of 1966, ships of the Squadron underwent type training and upkeep periods in their homeport area. In January, 1967 USS RENVILLE (APA 227) was decommissioned and ships of the Squadron began periods of overhaul and yard work interspersed with independent training exercises.
Also in January, the Staff in GEORGE CLYMER, in company with CAVALIER, enjoyed a weekend goodwill visit to Acapulco, Mexico as the highlight of a rigorous two-week training cruise.
On March 20, Commander Amphibious Squadron THREE and Commander Amphibious Task Force sailed for Hawaii in CLYMER to conduct an amphibious landing exercise at Papohaku Beach on the island of Molokai, Hawaii. The battalion size exercise took place April 3-7 with the First Battalion Twenty-seventh Marines of Kaneohe, Hawaii, a unit of the First Marine Brigade. This was the first amphibious landing of the recently reformed Marine Battalion since February, 1945 when the Marines stormed Iwo Jima. Returning to San Diego on April 20, the Squadron Staff continued to administer the Squadron ships, in readiness for future operations.
On May 22, Captain Thomas C. Harbert Jr., USN, relieved Captain Rahill as Commander Amphibious Squadron THREE.
As a versatile and modern force, the Squadron currently consists of six ships; the USS GEORGE CLYMER (APA 27), USS CAVALIER (APA 37), USS TULARE (AKA 112), USS COLONIAL (LSD 18), USS WHETSTONE (LSD 27) and the USS COMSTOCK (LSD 19). COMSTOCK is new to Amphibious Squadron THREE, having joined the Squadron in July, 1966.
Simply stated the mission of the Squadron is the transportation of Marines and their equipment. However, this includes assault landings and the use of helicopters for vertical envelopment. It requires the constant exercise of much skill and endurance by all hands. Elements of the Squadron are constantly on call to serve in amphibious operations whether they are in the United States or in the Western Pacific.
On September 16, Commander Amphibious Squadron THREE shifted his broad command pennant to USS CLEVELAND (LPD 7). CLEVELAND had joined the Squadron on July 11, after commissioning April 21, at Pascagoula, Mississippi.
Beginning in October ships of the Squadron began deployment to the Western Pacific. As a versatile and modern force, the Squadron consisted of seven ships; the USS IWO JIMA (LPH 2), USS CAVALIER (APA 37), USS CLEVELAND (LPD 7), USS TULARE (AKA 112), USS COLONIAL (LSD 18), USS COMSTOCK (LSD 19) and the USS WHETSTONE (LSD 27). USS IWO JIMA (LPH 2) was new to Amphibious Squadron THREE, having joined the Squadron in September. On 1 November, USS GEORGE CLYMER (APA 27), Commander Amphibious Squadron THREE flagship for many years was decommissioned.
Commander Amphibious Squadron THREE, Captain Thomas C. Harbert, JR., and his staff, arrived in the Western Pacific in early November 1967 and assumed duties as Commander Amphibious Ready Group ALFA (CTG 76.2) on 15 November, having shifted his broad command pennant to USS IWO JIMA (LPH 2), from where he directed the Task group consisting of four amphibious ships and nearly four thousand men. Embarked in the Task Group were Commander Special Landing Force ALFA, a Marine Battalion Landing Team, and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron. Captain Harbert directed three amphibious operations against Viet Cong insurgents and North Vietnamese armed forces infiltrated in the First Corps Tactical Zone of the Republic of Vietnam. Under his command, Amphibious Ready group ALFA conducted operations BALLISTIC ARCH, BALLISTIC ARMOR, and FORTRESS ATTACK I/II. In addition, Amphibious Ready Group ALFA, while supporting Marine Battalion Landing Team 2/3 in country operations, gained the reputation as “Ready Amphibians” while carrying out various contingency duties. Among these were providing “Helo Haven” for First Marine Air Wing helicopters during high in-country threat periods, acting as “Boat Haven” for repair of Naval Support Activity, Danang, boats operating on the Cua Viet River, and providing logistics support on station Hospital Ships.
Amphibious Squadron THREE ships IWO JIMA, and CLEVELAND, were assigned to Amphibious Ready Group ALFA for over six months during the deployment. TULARE, COMSTOCK and WHETSTONE were assigned to Amphibious Ready Groups ALFA or BRAVO for lesser periods during the deployment. During the cruise, ships of the Squadron visited various ports promoting good will and for rest and relaxation.
The USS COOK (APD 130) was assigned to the Squadron in February 1968, and returned to EASTPAC in March after a six month deployment in Western Pacific.
For their role as Commander Amphibious Ready Group ALFA from 15 November 1967 to 22 May 1968, Commander Amphibious Squadron THREE and his staff were awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation.
The Squadron and Staff returned to San Diego during June 1968 for a much deserved leave and upkeep period, where they remained for the remainder of 1968.
Two significant events marked the last half of 1968; the decommissioning of USS CAVALIER (APA 37) on 30 September 1968 and the Squadron change of command ceremony. As the oldest PHIBPAC ship still in active service we were sorry to see CAVALIER go, but her crew could be proud of a job well done. Then, on 20 November, Captain John B. Randolph, USN, became Commander Amphibious Squadron THREE, in a formal change of command ceremony aboard the squadron flagship, USS CLEVELAND (LPD 7).
Commandore Randolph led the Squadron Staff and one of its ships, USS WHETSTONE (LSD 27), as CATF for BLTLEX 3-68 at Camp Pendleton, from 2 to 4 December 1968. During November and December, the Squadron was enlarged by the administrative addition of three PHIBRON FIVE ships, USS PAUL REVERE (APA 248), USS SKAGIT (AKA 105), and USS PICKAWAY (APA 222), who remained in EASTPAC in upkeep and/or reduced status as PHIBRON FIVE deployed to WESTPAC. As an eventful 1968 closed, squadron ships enjoyed holiday leave periods prior to commencement of extensive training in preparation for the next tour of duty in the Western Pacific and SEVENTH Fleet.
From January through April 1969 COMPHIBRON THREE Staff was primarily engaged in conducting inspections on squadron ships. On 30 January 1969 USS COOK (LPR 130), USS TULARE (LKA 112) and USS PAUL REVERE (LPA 222) deployed to the Western Pacific with PHIBRON ELEVEN. USS PAUL REVERE (LPA 22) was detached from the squadron at the same time and reassigned to PHIBRON FIVE.
From 13-19 March COMPHIBRON THREE acted as CATF for the PHIBLEX 1-69 portion of the FIRST Fleet Exercise BELL JANGLE, held at Camp Pendleton, California. COMPHIBRON THREE shifted to USS IWO JIMA (LPH 2) on 14 April 1969 for the duration of the coming Western Pacific deployment. USS PICKAWAY (LPA 222) and USS SKAGIT (LKA 105) were detached from the squadron and administratively transferred to PHIBRON ONE on 30 April 1969.
Commander Amphibious Squadron THREE deployed to the Western Pacific from San Diego on 1 May 1969 and will act as Commander Amphibious Ready Group ALFA off the South Vietnamese Coast. Squadron ships USS IWO JIMA (LPH 2), USS CLEVELAND (LPD 7), USS COMSTOCK (LSD 19), and USS COLONIAL deployed together in the same convoy group, while USS WHETSTONE (LSD 27) left on 25 April 1969.
The history of Amphibious Squadron THREE has been a proud one. It has participated in most major operations in the Western Pacific since inception in 1954, and today that history shines brighter with participation in the United States defense of the Republic of Vietnam. Ships of the Squadron are making a vital effort there in the conduct of amphibious operations up and down the coast. The Squadron’s contribution to the Fleet, to our national goals and to the Free World is invaluable.
The Squadron is not always engaged in work. Many times during a cruise her men have the opportunity to visit foreign ports and to meet new people. Visits are frequently made to Japan, Korea, Philippines, Hong Kong, and may include Thailand, Singapore, and Taiwan. Amphibious Squadron THREE, in combat operations or in peaceful waters, stands as a modern and powerful force…a barrier to aggression and an incentive to peace.