© Frank P. Schneidewind
This vessel was built in Philadelphia for the US Navy in 1944 to assist in the Pacific war efforts. The boat was capable of transporting troops, tanks and gear directly to the shores of countries that were engaged in conflicts. The USS Lincoln County was given the hull number 898 and it’s first trips involved the invasion of imperial Japan at Okinawa. Later use as a capable transport vessel brought this boat to the Korean conflict, where it assisted in the famous Inchon invasion under General Douglas MacArthur and various other war theaters. The USS Lincoln County earned 7 battle stars (1 in Japan, 6 in Korea) during her service for the Navy. It was later used in the fading 1950’s to install elements of the DEW-Line in Alaska and Hawaii. She was decommissioned in March of 1961.
Like other military vessels, the LST-898 was then reused by allied forces, in this case the Royal Thai Navy. The boat was reassigned the hull number 2 (later changed to 712) and entered their service in August of 1962. For almost 50 years, the tank landing ship provided transport for troops and vehicles for the Navy. 712 HTMS Chang was moored near Bangkok in 2006 and partly gutted out. The Navy then decided to sink it as an artificial reef in the vicinity of Koh Chang island, a popular holiday destination. It’s journey to the Southeastern island (near the Cambodian border) was executed by two tugboats. It arrived on Koh Chang’s Navy pier in July 2012.
This is the Royal Thai Navy pier on the eastern shore of the island near the community of Dan Mai.
The provincial flag of Trat shows a white elephant on a red background. Elephant translates into “Chang” in Thai language
The residents, old and young, greeted the arrival of the big boat and a ceremony was to be held, so the HTMS Chang was really welcomed in style on the elephant island Koh Chang!
Officials and representatives of the local and provincial government met with Thai Navy officers to take possession of the vessel.
The huge boat (100 m long with a 15 m beam!) still shows all significant structures, but had been stripped of its armament.
Everybody loved the chance to inspect the vessel on dry foot, while it was berthed at the pier.
The organizing committee couldn’t have asked for a better weather. Scorching sun and blue skies – true Koh Chang style!
The deck was made accessible to the visiting public and islanders. And cameras were clicking wildly.
The public made itself familiar with the true dimensions of this vintage giant, that once served in wars only known in fading memories here.
The underwater exploration of such vessels became a big thing for Scuba divers worldwide with wreck diving being very popular amongst recreational divers.
The island’s team of volunteer road rescue personnel poses in front of the bridge on the upper deck.
Flower garlands were hung up in several prominent places and on masts to bless the occasion. This report will have a follow-up on the actual sinking date! Authorities are yet unsure about the specific date, but it can happen soon and will take place near the islet of Koh Rayang at Hin Luk Bat.
UPDATE: October 6th, 2012
Several projected sinking schedules in the past have lapsed without a single splash. The boat remains docked most days at the said Navy pier and can be viewed by the public. Rumors are now hardening for unspecified sinking days late in 2012, when seas are calm.
Nobody may say what will happen and when it will. We are just waiting it out.
UPDATE: November 22nd, 2012
The vessel was finally sunk at Hin Luk Bat, just outside Bang Bao village in approx. 18 m deep waters. Time of sinking was around 10:12 A.M., the final moments were documented by our crew, the corresponding videoclip will be shown here soon.
UPDATE: Here is the SIAMPEDIA Video: