While the USS Blanco County has finally found a home where she can be appreciated, there is still much to be learned about how she became associated with Blanco County. Launched as LST-344 in 1942, she was renamed the USS Blanco County after earning her battle stars during the invasions of Sicily, Italy and France in WW2. She continued her service through the Vietnam War before eventually being retired in the early 70s. But the question remains, how did this highly decorated US Navy ship come to be named after this particular Texas Hill Country County. With our community’s emphasis on history and heritage, we are honored to have her here with us now. But we really do need to know the rest of the story.
A lot of the mysteries surrounding the USS Blanco County begin with its connection to Blanco County. How did this ship become named after the County? What process sent its Operations Center equipment here when it was finally retired from service? The first question was thought to have a quick and easy answer. Blanco County did produce a Congressman, later Senator, and finally President who was not above naming a ship after his home. Blanco County benefited well from Congressman Johnson’s representation back in the day and this would have seemed like the easy answer. But not so fast. Preliminary research by the LBJ National Park pulled up a blank on that connection. “ I so wanted to have LBJ behind this, but if he was there is no official record in his papers.” said Russ Whitlock, Superintendent of the LBJ Park. Russ has not given up the search though, and is continuing through other channels to try and find the answer.
Other unanswered questions revolve around the end of her career. Why did we receive the items that we now have, and most importantly… are there other items still to be found? The equipment that was recovered from the ship’s Bridge…the steering mechanism, compass stand and engine room telegraph, are now on display. A comparison picture of an LST Bridge shows what they would have looked like in service. Were the steering wheel and compass originally sent here and are now residing in a barn somewhere? Are there other items from the ship that have yet to be found? Who actually received the items and was there some sort of documentation?
So there is an open appeal for any information that can shine a light on the naming of this ship, and when the items were originally received here. It is not every Texas Hill Country County that was honored by having a decorated combat vessel named after it and she deserves the effort to preserve her story and the equipment we have been entrusted with. The items on display are in need of some restoration….years of gray navy paint still cover the original metal which will require a lot of time and effort to bring back to its original condition. It would be a good project for a person (or a group) interested in preserving our history to undertake.
There is also a need for a sponsor to consign a model of the ship to provide that perspective to her display. The USS Blanco County is a reflection of the community she is named after, and any assistance in making that reflection brighter is welcome.
Please contact the WW2 Museum in the Buggy Barn Complex at (800) 833-5708 N Hwy 281 for further information on this and other issues of local historical interests.