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NavSource Online: Amphibious Photo Archive

Contributed by Mike Smolinski

Contributed by Al Grazevich

USS Donner (LSD-20)

International Radio Call Sign:
November - Juliet - Papa - Lima
Awards, Citations and Campaign Ribbons

Precedence of awards is from top to bottom, left to right
Top Row - American Campaign Medal - World War II Victory Medal
Bottom Row - Navy Occupation Service Medal (with Europe clasp) - National Defense Service Medal (2) - Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (1-Congo, 1-Dominican Republic)

Casa Grande Class Dock Landing Ship:
  • Launched, 6 April 1945, at Boston Naval Shipyard, Boston, MA.
  • Commissioned USS Donner (LSD-20), 31 July 1945, LCDR. P. V. McPeake, USNR, in command
  • Decommissioned, 12 August 1949
  • Laid up in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet
  • Recommissioned, 15 September 1950
  • USS Donner was assigned to Occupation service in Europe from 15 March to 27 June 1951
  • Decommissioned, 23 December 1970
  • Struck from the Naval Register, 1 November 1976
  • Laid up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet, James River, Fort Eustis, VA.
  • Removed for the National Defense Reserve Fleet, James River by towing, 10 June 2005
  • Final Disposition, scrapped at All Star Metals, Brownsville, TX.
    Specifications: (as reported by Office of Naval Intelligence, 7 April 1944)
    Displacement 4,032 (light draft), 7,930 (seagoing - loaded)
    Length 457' 9" o.a.
    Beam 72"
    8' 2 ½" fwd, 10' ½" aft (light draft)
    15' 5 ½" fwd, 16' 2" aft (seagoing loaded)
    Speed 17 kts (design speed)
    Endurance 8,000 miles @ 15 knots
    Officers 17
    Enlisted 237
    Troop Accommodations
    Officers 22
    Enlisted 218
    Well Deck Capacity (varies with mission)
    three LCT (Mk V or VI) each w/ 5 medium tanks or
    two LCT (Mk III or IV) each w/ 12 medium tanks or
    fourteen LCM (Mk III) each w/ 1 medium tank or 1, 500 long tons cargo or
    forty-seven DUKW or
    forty-one LVT or
    Any combination of landing vehicles and landing craft up to capacity
    Aircraft (still in commission in late 40's or early 50's) were fitted/retro-fitted with a prefabricated steel grated "Portable Deck" suspended between the wing walls and supported by removable I-beam girders. The aft end of the portable deck contained a wooden helicopter platform, enabling the ship to land and launch 1 helicopter at a time. Stowage of helicopters was limited to capacity of the portable deck installed for the mission. Aircraft servicing was limited to re-fueling. With portable deck and aircraft platform installed, the Landing ship, dock was still capable of transporting, launching and repairing smaller amphibious craft and vehicles up to the size of a Landing craft, utility (LCU) in their well decks.
    one single 5"/38 cal dual purpose gun mount in open tub (w/director)
    two quad 40mm AA gun mounts (w/directors)
    two twin 40mm AA gun mounts (w/directors)
    sixteen single 20mm AA gun mounts (local control)
    Fuel Capacities
    NSFO 11,720 Bbls
    Diesel 160 Bbls
    Gasoline 5,085 Gals
    two Newport News Shipbuilding steam turbines
    two Babcock and Wilcox oil fired D-type boilers, two drum, single furnace, single uptake, 250psi
    single Newport New Main Reduction Gears
    two turbo-drive 300Kw 120V/240V D.C. Ship' Service Generators
    twin propellers, 7,000shp

    Click On Image
    For Full Size Image
    Size Image Description Contributed
    Donner 81k USS Donner (LSD-20) under way, 5 January 1951, probably near the New York Naval Shipyard.
    Photo from "U.S. Amphibious Ships and Craft: An Illustrated Design History" by Norman Friedman.
    Robert Hurst
    Donner 300k USS Donner (LSD-20) off New York Naval Shipyard, 29 January 1951.
    New York Naval Shipyard photo # NY6-6793
    Robert M. Cieri
    Donner 429k USS Donner (LSD-20) under way, circa 1957, location unknown. Larry L. Legge
    Donner 115k USS Donner (LSD-20) at anchor in a Mediterranean port, date unknown. Richard Miller BMCS USNR Ret.
    Donner 85k USS Donner (LSD-20) entering the port of Valletta, Malta, date unknown.
    US Navy photo.
    Richard Miller BMCS USNR Ret.
    Donner 254k Recovery personnel aboard USS Donner (LPD-20) remove Ham, a 37-pound chimpanzee, from a Mercury-Redstone spacecraft following the successful Mercury-Redstone 2 (MR-2) suborbital flight from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The primate's 420-statute mile MR-2 flight was a significant accomplishment on the American route toward manned space flight.NASA photo # S61-00199 (31 Jan. 1961). Bill Gonyo
    Donner 130k USS Donner (LSD-20) under way in the Atlantic Ocean, about 200 miles east of Jacksonville and Cape Canaveral FL. as an HS-34 helicopter brings the Mercury space capsule aboard with "Space Chimp Ham" aboard after a successful NASA sub-orbital flight of the Mercury-Redstone MR2 and Mercury capsule, 31 January 1961. This picture is respectfully submitted in the name of relieving CO, CDR. Martin V. Cornetta USN Ret. 1961-1963 (now deceased). CO at the date of recovery, CDR. Ralph Brackett USN Ret. Ronald D. Luxon, Secretary USS Donner Memorial Association, Inc
    Donner 214k The chimpanzee astronaut Ham is greeted by the commanding officer CDR. Ralph A. Brackett, of the recovery ship USS Donner (LSD-20), 31 January 1961, after his 16-min suborbital flight on the Mercury Redstone 2 rocket.
    NASA. Image # : 61C-0189
    Robert Hurst
    Donner 57k USS Donner (LSD-20) under way in 1965. Note UH-34D Seahorse helicopters aft.
    Photo courtesy of Dr Georgio Arra.
    Robert Hurst
    San Marcos 97k USS Donner (LSD-20) and USS San Marcos LSD-25) at anchor in Grand Harbor, Valletta, Malta in 1967. Warren Polensky USS San Marcos
    Donner 87k USS Donner (LSD-20) under way in the Mediterranean Sea in 1967. Warren Polensky USS San Marcos
    Donner 300k USS Donner (LSD-20) and USS San Marcos at anchor in the harbor at Genoa, Italy, 31 December 1967. Photos by Carlo Martinelli
    Donner 851k
    Donner 141k USS Donner (LSD-20) under way, date and location unknown.
    US Navy photo.
    Richard Miller BMCS USNR Ret.
    Donner 98k USS Donner (LSD-20) under way, date and location unknown. Richard Miller BMCS USNR Ret.
    Donner 96k USS Donner (LSD-20) little changed from her World war II appearance, under way in December 1968, location unknown. The most visible modifications are the extension of the deckhouse under her bridge (the 5"/38 gun forward has been removed) and the addition of another, enclosed, bridge level (the old bridge windows have been plated in)..
    Test and photo from "U.S. Amphibious Ships and Craft: An Illustrated Design History" by Norman Friedman.
    Robert Hurst
    Donner 118k USS Donner (LSD-20) under way, date and location unknown.
    US Navy photo
    Gene Maresca

    USS Donner (LSD-20)
    Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (DANFS)
    Commanding Officers
    01LCDR. McPeake, Paul V.31 July 1945 - 30 December 1945
    02CAPT. Richardson, Gill MacDonald, USN (USNA 1937)30 December 1945 - 12 December 1946
    05CDR. Brock, James WardAugust 1951 - 1951
    08CDR. Renfro, John NortonApril 1956 - December 1957
    11CDR. Brackett, Ralph Anders USN1960 - July 1961
    12CDR. Cornetta, Martin W. USNJuly 1961 -1963
    13CDR. Harlan Jr., Wick Raymond USN (USNA 1946)1963 - July 19641964
    14CDR. Lyons, Richard Thomas USN (USNA 1946)July 1964 - ?
    15LCDR. Vogt Jr., Henry L. (acting CO)1964 - ?
    16CDR. Cort Jr., Walter William, USN (USNA 1948-A)1967 - 1968
    18CDR. Malone, Roy Wilson1969 - 23 October 1970
    Courtesy Wolfgang Hechler and Ron Reeves

    Crew Contact And Reunion Information
    U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation - Navy Log

    Additional Resources and Web Sites of Interest
    USS Donner Memorial Association, Inc.

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    Last Updated 23 August 2019