USS San Bernardino (LST-1189) underway off San Diego, California, date unknown.
USS San Bernardino (LST-1189) was the eleventh of twenty Newport-class tank landing ships built for the United States Navy in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Named after the City of San Bernardino, California, she was the only U.S. Naval vessel to bear the name.
San Bernardino (LST-1189) was laid down on 12 July 1969 by National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, San Diego; launched on 28 March 1970; sponsored by Mrs. Walter H. Baumberger, wife of Vice Admiral Baumberger; and commissioned at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard on 27 March 1971 with Commander Francis L. Roach in command.
Assigned to Amphibious Squadron 3, Amphibious Force, Pacific Fleet, the new tank landing ship got underway from Long Beach on 7 April 1971 and reached her home port, San Diego, the next day. For the remainder of 1971, she operated along the coast of California, conducting shakedown and various training exercises prior to commencing normal operations with the fleet. San Bernardino opened 1972 by escorting four Indonesian Military Sealift Command (MSC) vessels from the United States to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. She returned to San Diego, via Acapulco, Mexico on 9 February. Until the beginning of April, she sailed the coast of California. On 3 April she departed for Pearl Harbor and an amphibious exercise in the Hawaiian Islands. She completed the exercise on 14 April and, after three days in Pearl Harbor, weighed anchor for Long Beach on the 17th. After off-loading marines at Long Beach on the 22nd, she returned to San Diego. She remained in San Diego until 7 June, when she departed on a voyage to South America. The tank landing ship visited Valparaíso, Chile; Callao, Peru; and Rodman, C.Z., before returning to San Diego on 17 July. San Bernardino conducted refresher training in late July and early August; and participated in another amphibious exercise in late August.
After a month of preparation, San Bernardino departed San Diego on 21 September to deploy to the western Pacific. She arrived in Subic Bay on 19 October; participated in ZAMEX 9–72 on the 23rd and 24th; and put to sea on the 27th. On the next day, she joined the Amphibious Ready Group in the Gulf of Tonkin and remained there until 14 November, when she sailed for Keelung, Taiwan. Following a return voyage to Subic Bay, she rejoined the Amphibious Ready Group in the Gulf of Tonkin on 15 December. Two days later, she was detached to assist the Asheville (PG-84) and Tacoma (PG-92) to Subic Bay. Arriving on 19 December, she departed the same day, bound for Hong Kong. She returned to Subic Bay on the 29th and remained in port for the rest of the year. San Bernardino's deployment to the 7th Fleet continued until mid-April 1973. At that time, she sailed east to the United States, arriving at San Diego on the 29th. She remained on the west coast, either in port at San Diego or cruising the coast, for the rest of 1973. San Bernardino spent the first five months of 1974 in port at San Diego. In early June, she sailed west again, stopping at Pearl Harbor; Suva Harbor, Fiji; and Brisbane, Australia.
The last big task for the San Bernardino prior to the scheduled decommissioning and transfer of the ship to the Chilean Navy was to participate in the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima. It was the last of several 50th anniversary commemorations of World War II battles in which the ship had participated. For this one the San Bernardino was tasked with beaching on the island of Iwo Jima 50 years after the successful invasion. The "Last Real Gator" transited to Iwo Jima with the rest of the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) consisting of the Belleau Wood (LHA-3), Germantown (LSD-42) and the Dubuque (LPD-8). While other ships of the ARG remained a mile or so off shore because they were not capable of beaching, the San Bernardino, commanded by Commander Randy Etter with Lieutenant Dwayne Eldridge standing Officer of the Deck, executed a perfect beaching. After the bow ramp was extended and placed onto the beach sailors formed up as side boys along both sides of the ramp. As the San Bernardino sailors saluted, some of the marines and sailors who were on that beach 50 years previously proceeded up the ramp to participate in a short flight deck reception and wreath laying ceremony to commemorate the battle and remember the lives of those that were lost in securing victory.
Decommissioned on 30 September 1995, she was transferred to the Chilean Navy under the new name Valdivia (LST-93). The ship arrived at its new Chilean homeport, Valparaíso, on 1 December 1995. Its name is in honor of the first amphibious operation conducted by the Chilean Navy on 3 February 1820, in Corral Bay, where a force led by Admiral Lord Thomas Alexander Cochrane took possession of the city of Valdivia.
During 2010, Valdivia was heavily involved in relief efforts following the series of eathquakes affecting Chile throughout 2010. The intense workload caused structural and component fatigue to the already old vessel, and an inspection in August 2010 concluded that repairing the vessel would be uneconomical. Valdivia was decommissioned on 14 January 2011. The Chilean navy plans to replace her with two landing platform dock type vessels.
This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
- "San Bernardino". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/s4/san_bernardino-ii.htm. Retrieved 2 July 2007.
- "San Bernardino (LST-1189)". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/s4/san_bernardinolst-1189.htm. Retrieved 2 July 2007.
- "LST-1189 San Bernardino". Amphibious Photo Archive. http://www.navsource.org/archives/10/16/161189.htm. Retrieved 2 July 2007.
- "LST-93 Valdivia". Armada de Chile. http://www.armada.cl/site/unidades_navales/541.htm.
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