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NOVEMBER 10, 1955


The bow of the USS Spiegel Grove poses proudly prior to its launch by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation at Pascagoula, Mississippi. Built for the U. S. Navy, the USS Spiegel Grove was named for the Fremont, Ohio, estate of President Rutherford B. Hayes. The 510-foot long LSD-32 was a landing ship dock designed to perform repair operations, assault landings, mine sweeper tending, and to transport troops and equipment.

(Official U.S. Navy Photograph from the Admiral Webb C. Hayes Photograph Collection)

Christening of the USS Spiegel Grove, November 10, 1955

Launch ceremonies of the USS Spiegel Grove at Pascagoula, Mississippi.

(Official U.S. Navy Photograph from the Admiral Webb C. Hayes Photograph Collection)

History: The USS Spiegel Grove was commissioned on June 8, 1956, Captain S. Filippone in command. She sailed for Hampton Roads and then headed for Guantanamo Bay on her shakedown cruise, returning September 15, 1956. In November, the USS Spiegel Grove participated in amphibious exercises off Onslow Beach, North Carolina. In January 1957, she joined the Transport Amphibious Squadron and sailed for Morehead City, North Carolina. With elements of the 6th Marines, she joined the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean. In November, she transported Army troops to Labrador. In January of 1958, the USS Spiegel Grove, once again, was deployed with the 6th Fleet on an extended tour. She became part of the Fast Squadron the following October. In 1959 and 1960, she participated in numerous operations along the east coast and in the Caribbean. She stood out of Norfolk in April 1961 as part of the "Solant Amity II" good-will tour to Africa, carrying tons of medical and disaster relief supplies, food, toys, seed, and books. In May of 1962, the USS Spiegel Grove took part in operations supporting Malcolm Scott Carpenter's manned space flight. In January, the LSD made her second goodwill voyage to Africa, steaming over 21,000 miles and visiting 9 countries. The USS Spiegel Grove spent the greater part of her active service particpating in amphibious exercises along the eastern seaboard and in the Caribbean. She was once again deployed with the 6th Fleet in 1964, 1966 and 1967, and in 1971 to 1974. The USS Spiegel Grove participated in operation "Fluid Drive" - the evacuation of Lebanon. One hundred ten Americans and 166 foreign nationals were evacuated to the USS Spiegel Grove. In January 1980, the USS Spiegel Grove was again deployed to the Mediterranean. Later, she performed numerous exercises with ships from nine NATO countries and additional exercises with the British Navy and the Honduran Army. In 1987, the USS Spiegel Grove was once again deployed to the Mediterranean during the mining of the Persian Gulf by Iran. The USS Spiegel Grove was decommissioned in 1989. In 1994, she was towed to the James River where she became part of the "mothball fleet" at Newport News.

Webb C. Hayes, Martha Baker Hayes, Christening of the USS Spiegel Grove

Mrs. Webb C. (Martha Baker) Hayes christens the USS Spiegel Grove on November 10, 1955, as Webb C. Hayes looks on. Upon launching the vessel, Mrs. Hayes said, "She is the most beautiful ship I have ever seen and I feel responsible for her."

(Official U.S. Navy Photograph from the Admiral Webb C. Hayes Photograph Collection)

USS Spiegel Grove, U.S. Navy Photograph

Immediately after the launch ceremonies, tugs tow the USS Spiegel Grove to the outfitting dock at the Ingalls Shipbuilding Yards at Pascagoula, Mississippi, November 10, 1955.

(Official U.S. Navy Photograph from the Admiral Webb C. Hayes Photograph Collection)

  • Length: 510 ft.

  • Beam: 84 ft.

  • Draft 19 ft.

  • Displacement: 11, 525 tons (full) 8, 899 tons (light)

  • Propulsion: 2 steam turbines, 2 shafts, 23,000 shp

  • Electron Equipt: Radar: 1/LN-66, 1/SPS-10, 1/SPS-6

  • M: 2 sets G.E. GT; 2 props; 24,000 hp

  • Range: 5,300/22.5; 10,00/20; 13,000

  • Boilers: 2 Babcock & Wilcox, 40.8kg/cm² pressure

  • Fuel: 1,390 tons

  • Man: 18 officers, 325 crew + 318 troops

Remarks: Portable helicopter platform removed in 1977. Last active U.S. ship with SPS-6 air-search radar. Decommissioned to reserve for retention for possible emergency mobilization, the LSD 32 was extended in active service two years.

Key Largo USS Spiegel Grove

USS Spiegel Grove
as she appears today lying on the ocean floor, 6 miles off Key Largo

(Photograph courtesy of Clark Anderson Aquaimages made available through Creative Commons)

In 1998, title to the USS Spiegel Grove passed from the Maritime Administration to the state of Florida. She was to be used as the backbone of a coral reef ecosystem off Key Largo. After financial and legal problems, an expensive cleanup, and structural modifications, the USS Spiegel Grove was ready for her May 17, 2002 public sinking. Sometime during the previous night, the USS Spiegel Grove surrendered to the sea on her own terms. Unfortunately, she sank vertically and stood straight out of the water upside down, creating a navigational hazard. On June 11, 2002, a salvage company "righted" the USS Spiegel Grove by turning the vessel to her starboard side. This was to be her final resting place and orientation, lying in 130 feet of water near the Dixie Shoals. But it took Hurricane Dennis to fix what man could not. In July 2005, the storm's waves and currents flipped the vessel over, setting her to rest on her keel on the ocean floor - as originally planned!

Until the sinking of the USS Oriskany near Pensacola (May 2006), the USS Spiegel Grove was the largest ship ever intentionally sunk. She served as the largest artificial reef in existence.