Thursday, February 20, 2014

The USS Gunston Hall: A Legacy of Honorable Service

This past Christmas, I received a holiday card from Captain Timothy C. Kuehhas, Commanding Officer of the USS Gunston Hall.  I was truly honored and deeply moved to have received a card from the Captain and his crew because, among other reasons, it was a powerful reminder of two very important facts.

USS Gunston Hall at sea.
First, this card reminded me that the legacy of George Mason and Gunston Hall is represented in a variety of places, ranging from a naval vessel to a County in Ohio. Most importantly, however, this card, sent on behalf of servicemen and servicewomen, patriots all, at a time when they should be receiving cards of thanks and best wishes from us, reminded me that George Mason’s and Gunston Hall’s legacy is and will always be about more than what happened in the past—it is about ideals of democracy, service, patriotism, integrity, and honor—all of which are embodied and represented by those serving onboard the USS Gunston Hall today.

So, without any delay following receipt of this card, I also sought to learn more about the USS Gunston Hall. Accordingly, I am pleased to share the following brief history of the two ships bearing this name.

The first USS Gunston Hall was an Ashland-class dock landing ship built and launched by the Moore Dry Dock Company, located in Oakland, California, in 1943.  The ship boasted an overall length of 457 feet, a beam of 72 feet, and carried a complement of 290 officers and crew.

During World War II, during which she earned 9 battle stars, the USS Gunston Hall participated with distinction in every major operation in the Pacific Theater from 1944 to the end of the war.  Able to carry tanks, a diverse array of vehicles, equipment of various types, and soldiers, the USS Gunston Hall possessed a versatility which supported its involvement in beach landings and assaults at places such as Guadalcanal, Luzon, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.

Shortly after the war, then based in San Diego, California, the USS Gunston Hall returned to the Pacific. Once in the Pacific, in 1946, she participated in Operation Crossroads, a series of scientific tests related to the atomic bomb located at Bikini Atoll.

The USS Gunston Hall was decommissioned in 1947, but only briefly. After a retrofit which strengthened her hull and improved her ventilation systems, the ship was recommissioned in 1949 and stationed in the Arctic, ultimately returning to San Diego in 1950.  After the outbreak of war with Korea, the ship set sail for Pusan, Korea. Serving for the duration of the war, the USS Gunston Hall earned another 9 battle stars between 1950 and 1953.

In 1955, the USS Gunston Hall participated in one the Navy’s largest humanitarian efforts, Operation Passage to Freedom, during which over 310,000 North Vietnamese residents, 68,000 tons of cargo, and 8,000 vehicles were evacuated and from the North and sent safely to South Vietnam.

Subsequently, the USS Gunston Hall deployed from the West Coast with troops bound for Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, but with the withdraw of Soviet missiles, she returned to California before reaching the Caribbean. She also shuttled between Pacific ports and Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

Shortly thereafter, in 1970, the USS Gunston Hall was sold to Argentina. She was decommissioned for the last time in 1981 and scrapped.

But soon a new USS Gunston Hall would be born.  Launched in 1987 at Avondale Shipyards in New Orleans, Louisiana, the new USS Gunston Hall is a Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship 610 feet in overall length and 84 feet at her beam.  Part of the Atlantic Fleet, the ship’s mission, as explained at here, is to transport US Marines and their combat equipment to areas around the world and to launch and support assault landing craft and helicopters during amphibious operations. 

USS Gunston Hall crest.
The new USS Gunston Hall’s shield includes colors from the Mason family crest and symbols honoring the battle stars and distinguished service of the first USS Gunston Hall. The ship’s crest also features the motto DEFENDING THE CONSTITUTION, which intentionally recalls the Bill of Rights and the Virginia Declaration of Rights, authored by George Mason in 1776. Additionally, the grassy knoll on the crest denotes the land of Virginia and the landscape of Gunston Hall.

After reading about the history of the first USS Gunston Hall and learning about the current USS Gunston Hall, I felt an even greater sense of pride about being able to work at George Mason’s Gunston Hall. Accordingly, while the USS Gunston Hall is presently deployed at sea, please join me in thanking all those servicemen and servicewomen who have served or are presently serving on either of the vessels bearing the name USS Gunston Hall.  The record of distinction, valor, and service embodied by these ships and their crews is impressive and all of us at George Mason’s Gunston Hall are proud and honored by any association with these two vessels and the brave individuals comprising their crews. 

Thank you Captain Kuehhas, our thanks to your crew, and please accept our best wishes for a safe voyage in defense of and service to our great country.  Huzzah!!

Scott Muir Stroh III
Executive Director, Gunston Hall

Information for this article found at:

No comments:

Post a Comment