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Posted on Sat, May 7, 2011 : 2:18 p.m.

USS Washtenaw display about Vietnam War-era ship finds permanent home in downtown Ann Arbor

By Lisa Carolin


A display honoring the USS Washtenaw, a Vietnam War-era fighting ship, was dedicated Saturday afternoon in downtown Ann Arbor.

Angela J. Cesere |

Visitors to the Washtenaw County Clerk Building at the corner of Main and Ann streets in downtown Ann Arbor now have the chance to experience a piece of history.

Today at noon, one of the most highly decorated ships of the Vietnam War, the USS Washtenaw County, had a display dedicated in its honor in the building’s lobby.

The USS Washtenaw County is the only U.S. Naval vessel that bears the county's name, and now a model of the ship built by Ann Arbor veteran Bill Prince, along with the ship's wheel, a 400-pound brass bell, and more than a dozen service awards will be permanently displayed.

"It’s been a long voyage from the day I saw the ship’s artifacts in 2002 until today,” Thomas Osmond, who served aboard the ship, told the crowd gathered in the building’s lobby.

Among them were nine of the ship’s crew, their wives, and Navy veterans and public officials. The dedication took place today because it is the 36th anniversary of the official end of the Vietnam War.


James Leacock, left, and his assistant Jerry Wysocki, work on a display designed by Leacock in honor of the USS Washtenaw County, a Vietnam War-era fighting ship.

Courtesy of James Leacock

James Leacock, owner of Multiform Studios LLC, designed and built the display.

“The exhibit presents artifacts that are representative of the Landing Ship Tank,” said Leacock. “At the heart of the project is a collage and photographs representing the life of the ship’s crew.”

Elmer White, an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam, helped organize the dedication and thanked the Washtenaw County Commission who in 2009 unanimously approved putting the display in the County Clerk Building’s lobby.

"This is a good location for the display because it is visited by the general public and has very good lighting," said White.

In 2009, a committee of Vietnam veterans that included White organized "Project HARBOR" to create the display. Committee members also include Navy veterans George Perrault, Donald Miller, Gary Lillie, Thomas Rand, and Osmond, all members of the Washtenaw County Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 310.

The USS Washtenaw is classified as an LST (Landing Ship, Tank) and was built in 1953. It received 37 citations and medals largely for helping pioneer river-based operations in the Mekong Delta.

The ship was known as a "gator freighter" for its ability to land on shore and deliver troops, supplies, and vehicles. It spent the final years of the war as a minesweeper, was sold for scrap in 1974, and has had a few private owners since then.

Although there is no official record of why the ship was christened the USS Washtenaw, White suspects it may have come from one of the thousands of naval officers who have graduated from the University of Michigan.

Lisa Carolin is a freelance reporter for


Alice Ralph

Sun, May 15, 2011 : 11:58 p.m.

I was pleased to see an article on the recently re-dedicated display of the USS Washtenaw County Historic District with a photograph. These objects made up the first local historic district designated (in 1978) by the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, within the jurisdiction and under the protection of the Washtenaw County Historic District Commission (WCHDC). It is primarily to the credit of many veterans that these historic objects now occupy a new case in a fitting location. As a public property, these objects suffered neglect for many years. They were put in storage during various building construction projects--out of sight, out of mind and out of public funding for remediation. This was a point of continuing concern for the WCHDC. Mr. White and his fellow veterans lept to action upon learning of the situation, easily gaining support of the WCHDC and working to gain support from the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners. Their persistence and successful fundraising helped to win support and smoothed a number of challenges along the way. After far too long, the next annual report on the status of the USS Washtenaw County Historic District to the Department of the Navy will be more than perfunctory. Congratulations to all who took part in this project. I would like to suggest that the photograph be made available to the Washtenaw County Historic Preservation Program to replace the outdated one (thankfully) on the website where all of the locally designated historic buildings, sites and objects are highlighted.

Kristin Judge

Wed, May 11, 2011 : 12:53 a.m.

What an honor to have this wonderful display in our County Building! Thanks to all who worked on this project!

Tom Osmond

Sun, May 8, 2011 : 2:38 a.m.

Lisa, the word "County" is still missing from the name of the ship at 4 locations. The article title, the 1st picture caption, 3rd to last paragraph and the last paragraph. Thank you so much for writing the article. I hope the name is correct in the Sunday paper. BTW, the ship is the "most decorated ship" of the Vietnam War. We spent many hours researching this particular claim. A grateful USS Washtenaw County veteran.

Eric S

Sat, May 7, 2011 : 7:10 p.m.

It's nice to see that this found a home. BTW, the full name of the vessel appears to have been the &quot;USS Washtenaw County&quot;. An official reference and lots of photos can be found at <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>. The USS Washtenaw County Veterans Association has a website at <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Moscow On The Huron

Sat, May 7, 2011 : 10:35 p.m.

And the headline

Kelly Davenport

Sat, May 7, 2011 : 8:34 p.m.

Thanks, Eric, you're certainly right about the full name. I will make that change to the story.