Marker Monday: U.S.S. Harris County

Image credit: Tony Parrott

To further examine this year’s Georgia History Festival theme, “Tear Down This Wall: Georgia in Cold War America,” this week’s #MarkerMonday looks at the U.S.S. Harris County historical marker. Originally commissioned on November 23, 1944, as LST-822 (Landing Ship Tank), this ship operated in the Pacific Theater during World War II and the Korean War. A few months after the ship’s recommission with the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) in March 1955, it and many other former military ships were renamed after counties in the United States. In June 1955, she was sent on a re-supply and survey mission to the Arctic Ocean, where she spent two months.

In the early 1950s, the Military Sea Transportation Service conducted secretive operations, named Operation SUNAC (Support of North Atlantic Construction) and Operation Blue Jay, in the Arctic Ocean in an effort to prevent Soviet attacks through North Pole airspace. During Operation SUNAC, MSTS ships constructed radar outposts along the eastern shores of Canada and the western shores of Greenland, around Baffin Bay. Operation Blue Jay focused on enlarging the northernmost U.S. Airforce Base in Thule, Greenland, to support the B-36 nuclear-capable strategic bomber planes.

The U.S. Military Sea Transportation Service tank landing ship USNS Harris County (T-LST-822), circa 1965. Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense.

In 1955, the MSTS was commanded to continue the construction of radar outposts along the northern coast of Canada, although it is not clear how involved the U.S.S. Harris County was with this initiative. Prior to 1955, there were very few successful expeditions between Baffin Bay and Point Barrow, Alaska. During the construction of the radar stations, supply ships utilized the Northwest Passage, the connection between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Due to the dangerous conditions, this route was rarely used after the first successful navigation in 1906. Under Operation Sealift for Security, the passage was well charted in 1957 and became a viable option for ships needing to travel through the Arctic Ocean.

Explore the links below to learn more:

Full Marker Text

Marker Monday: U.S.S. Harris County (June 27, 2016)

To Boldly Go Where No Fleet Had Gone Before (Military Sea Transportation Service in the Arctic)

NavSource Online

Dictionary of Naval Fighting Ships

Harris County, Georgia – History

Science & Diplomacy – Cold War in a Warming Place