The USS Magoffin Was Decommissioned In 1968

By Tommi Smith - 2000

Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to correspond with two Navy veterans who served on the attack transport ship, USS Magoffin. Being a native of Magoffin County, Kentucky, I wanted to learn more about this ship, which was named after my home county. Both Jerry Lopez of Alabama, and Willis Anson of Iowa, shared some interesting, historical facts about their former ship.

As Mr. Anson said, "Maggie" served her country well for many years. There were as many stories about her as there were men who served aboard her. Don't get confused by my reference to "Maggie" as "her" or "she," for every Navy ship is referred to in the female gender.

The USS Magoffin (APA-199) was commissioned in October 1944 and classified as an attack transport ship. Her commander was Eugene L. McManus. Her first assignment was to transport troops, in January 1945, to Pearl Harbor.

In addition to her own crew she could transport 1,475 enlisted men and had a cargo capacity of 2,900 tons. Later that month she transported troops to Guadalcanal. There they received intensive training with Squadron 18.

After completion of training rehearsals she was underway on March 27, 1945, with the invasion force to Okinawa, Japan. During the April 1st battle for Okinawa the USS Magoffin was the first ship unloaded and assisted in downing two enemy planes.

She received one Battle Star for her World War II efforts, then returned to transporting cargo and troops. In 1950 she was assigned to participate in two amphibious exercises, one at Sagami Wan and one in Korea.

By late 1951, "Maggie" was headed for the West Coast and San Diego for landing exercises and an overhaul. She received two Battle Stars for Korean service.

Two other significant historical events occurred in 1958, when in the spring, she was part of "Operation Hard Tack," the nuclear tests done at Eniwetok Atoll. In July she was sent to the Persian Gulf, during the volatile Middle East flareups.

The USS Magoffin sailed under the motto "No Beach Beyond Our Reach," which was proven true with the names of some of her destinations: Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Indochina, Saigon, Eniwetok Atoll, Shanghai, Yokohoma, Nagya, Pearl Harbor, and the Persian Gulf. To these faraway places the attack transport carried tens of thousands of marines and sent them ashore in landing craft, either in combat or in training maneuvers.

In December 1967, with a crew of 300 aboard, she returned home to San Diego after a seven-and-a-half-month Vietnam deployment. There the 10,000-ton ship was prepared for storage.

On April 10, 1968, "Maggie" hauled down her commissioning pennant at the naval station. A brief ceremony, with two of her former commanders present, marked the decommissioning of the ship. She became part of the naval defense reserve fleet at Suisan Bay, California, and on February 1, 1980, was stricken from the naval vessel register.

From an old book, The Dictionary of Naval Fighting Ships (1969), Volume 4, pp.193-194, and 487, it defines her name as a county in Eastern Kentucky. It goes on to describe physical details about the ship. The USS Magoffin was 455 feet long, had a beam of 62 feet and a speed of 17.7 knots. The ship's company included 56 officers and 480 enlisted men. Her armament included one five-inch 38mm gun, one 40mm quad mount, four 40mm twin mounts, and ten 20mm single mounts.

Mr. Anson said the ship's former crew had formed its own association. They try to "muster" every 12 to 18 months. Even in that length of time, he added that too many were lost to the scythe of "Father Time." Their last reunion was held in April 2000, at Tucson, Arizona.

Also, Mr. Lopez informed me of a small scholarship, which the association donates each year to our local high school, also named for our county.
Who named the ship is still unclear. Yet, people from many parts of the country have served aboard her and become familiar with her Eastern Kentucky namesake. The USS Magoffin has become a part of the heritage of every person whom the ship carried safely home.

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Tommi Smith, Box 1187, Salyersville, KY 41465, currently works as a guidance counselor at Salyersville Elementary School. She kindly shares this story with our readers.