The U.S.S. Hinsdale (APA-120), an Attack Transport, whose name was chosen in honor of Hinsdale County, Colorado, was built from plans based upon the design of the U.S. Maritime Commission for "Victory" type cargo vessels. She was launched on 22 July 1944 at the California Shipbuilding Corporation's Wilmington Yard, and upon completion, was commissioned on 15 October 1944. Following the commissioning ceremony, Captain N.W. Thornton, U.S. Navy, assumed duties as Commander Tentative Transport Division FOX, with this ship as his flagship, until 23 October 1944, when he shifted his flag to the U.S.S. Talladega (APA-208).
The Hinsdale's principle characteristics are: length 455 feet 3 inches; displacement, loaded 11,021 tons; has accommodations for a wartime crew of 532 and 1603 passengers with their equipment; carries 26 landing craft, and is equipped as Division Flagship.
After commissioning and fitting out, the Hinsdale had a short training period in the San Pedro-San Diego, California, area, prior to departure from San Francisco, California, for Pearl Harbor, T.H., on 30 November 1944, having embarked Commander Transport Division Forty-four, Captain J.H. Seyfried, U.S. Navy, and his staff, on 27 October 1944.
The support group of the 25th Marines, 4th Division, consisting of 74 officers and 1123 men with their assault equipment, were embarked at Kahalui, Maui, on 27-28 December 1944, and after strenuous rehearsals, the Hinsdale departed from Saipan for Iwo Jima on 16 February 1945, taking station as column guide and flagship of Transport Division Forty-four, as a part of Transport Group Baker, which, with attached units, composed Task Unit 53.2. The Hinsdale was underway to see her first action and participate in the seizure of stepping-stone bases to Japan. Before this campaign was concluded and Old Glory raised on Mount Suribachi, the U.S. Marine Corps, and other ground units supporting it, was to meet the toughest opposition encountered in the 168 years of the Corps' history.
To the delight of her passengers she encountered only calm seas and clear weather, proceeding to Iwo Jima without unusual incidents or confirmed enemy contacts, arriving in the transport area about 71/2 miles south southwest of the eastern beaches of the island at dawn on 19 February, and immediately commenced the scheduled debarkation of troops and cargo, maneuvering into the inner transport area about two miles off the beach during the afternoon of the same day. During the period from 20-25 February the ship continued unloading high priority cargo, receiving casualties, which were high during this operation, and retiring each night. The ship's Beach Party, minus the Medical Section, went ashore on the 20th of February, and remained until the 24th of February when it returned exhausted, having suffered seven casualties. The ship lost seven boats in this operation and although the ship received no hits, a Marine Corps captain was killed on board on 25 February when a projectile burst close aboard; one man was killed and one officer and two men injured in boat accidents. Having worked throughout the day and night of 26 February and until the afternoon of 27 February when all troops and cargo had been discharged, and her mission completed, the ship got underway to return to Saipan in company with Task Unit 51.16.7. Arriving without incident at Saipan on 2 March 1945 and on 3 March got underway for Guam, arriving the next day, when casualties were discharged to U.S. Naval Hospital No. 18. The personnel performance was exceptionally good throughout this operation.
With a very brief respite the ship commenced loading again on 9 March in Tanapag Harbor for its role in the seizure of another stepping-stone on the already short road to Japan, receiving 91 officers and 1319 men of the Support Group, RCT #2, of the Second Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force. Rehearsals were held in preparation for the Okinawa occupation until 25 March 1945, and on 27 March, the ship got underway in company with Task Group 51.2, to participate in the feint landing on the southeastern shores of Okinawa Gunto, scheduled to commence on 1 April 1945.
At 0549, on 1 April, when about 121/2 miles south southeast of the southern tip of Okinawa the ship was hit by a low-flying Japanese suicide plane carrying three bombs, that came out of the gray dawn without having been sighted in time to take it under fire. As a result of bomb explosions, all spaces between frames 65 and 95 were in free communication with each other and the sea, all machinery spaces were flooded and all machinery except emergency equipment, was dead. The ship had taken a 13 degree list and was very soon in a perilous plight. Only one man on watch in the engineering spaces lived through that morning's havoc wrought by the "Divine Wind." Fires broke out, the flooding continued, and only by the superb efforts of the Damage Control parties and her valiant crew did she survive her April Fool's Day Easter eggs from the fanatical Japanese pilot. Commander Transport Division Forty-four and his staff transferred to the U.S.S. Pickens (APA-190). The ship's company suffered 32 casualties, of which 14 men were killed in action, and 30 troops, including one killed in action and one missing in action.
Assault troops were transferred to LSTs in the area and later that day the ship was towed to Kerama Retto where she remained until 14 April. During this period the ship was subjected to frequent enemy air attacks and Red Alerts and her guns were credited with two "Sure Assists" and even though crippled, she was able to get some revenge for those of her crew who gave their lives for their country. On 14 April she departed Kerama Retto and was towed to Ulithi where temporary battle damage repairs were effected.
From Ulithi the ship made the voyage to the East Coast under her own power and, after a long availability to effect repairs to battle damage, was again ready for sea; and on 21 November, after taking on 1,102 passengers, was again headed for the Pacific and possibly a look at our defeated enemy, arriving at Pearl Harbor on 13 December 1945, for her peacetime role in returning the nation's war weary veterans to their homeland. It is understood that the Hinsdale is to be maintained as an active unit of the post-war Navy.
The successive Commanding Officers of the U.S.S. Hinsdale have been: