LST-1077

In December 1941, the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Company started to build a shipyard on 150 acres of land at Hewitts Cove in Hingham. By June 1942, the first ship, a destroyer escort, was completed and launched from the Bethlehem-Hingham Shipyard. The Shipyard built 132 destroyer escorts before turning to the construction of tank landing ships in 1944.

Tugboat “Venus” Escorting Tank Landing Ship LST-1077

This photo shows LST-1077, one of the last of the 165 tank landing ships launched from Hingham in 1944 and 1945. It is making its way out to sea–perhaps near Hull Gut–guided by the tug “Venus,” on April 19, 1945.

LST-1077 only arrived in time for the tail end of World War II, entering Pearl Harbor on July 19, 1945 and remaining there until August 29, 1945, when she ferried U.S. troops to Japan for the post-war occupation. In the Korean War, she served the Pacific Fleet from 1950 through 1955. In that year, she was finally given a name—the U.S.S. Park County.

After a substantial refit in 1965, the U.S.S. Park County supported the United States forces in Vietnam from 1966-1971. The Navy sold her to the Mexican government in 1978. Rechristened the A.R.M. Rio Panuco, she served the Mexican Navy as a landing ship.

At the end of her useful days, the Mexican Navy used LST-1077 as a target ship during military exercises. Her final service, then, is as an artificial reef off Mexico, where she provides a habitat for marine life.

Quite a journey, which all started at the Hingham Shipyard.

Glimpses of Huit’s Cove

Courtesy of George and Linda Luther Watt, the Society recently acquired a pair of watercolor drawings of Huit’s (or Hewitt’s) Cove—the site of the Hingham Shipyard—in early 1942.

Huit's Cove, in watercolor and pencil, by Beatrice Ruyl, January 23, 1942.  Hingham Historical Society

Huit’s Cove, in watercolor and pencil, by Beatrice Ruyl, January 23, 1942. (Hingham Historical Society)

The earlier drawing, dating from January 1942, shows part of the area prior to construction of the Bethlehem Shipyard. Hingham artist Beatrice Ruyl slipped into the area only weeks before construction began and captured a weedy winter landscape where only a few months later would stand an enormous industrial complex on almost all of the site’s 150 acres.

“Slipways” Watercolor and pencil picture by Beatrice Ruyl of the start of construction of the Bethlehem-Hingham Shipyard. May 2, 1942.

The second picture dates from May 1942, when construction of the shipyard was well underway. The artist titled it “Slipways.” There are cranes, tugboats, and, In the distance across the Cove, the Bradley Fertilizer Works.  Within a very short period, the shipyard was up and running.

Launch of a destroyer Escort, Bethlehem-Hingham Shiphard, 1944 or 1945.  (Hingham Historical Society)

Launch of a destroyer escort from Bethlehem Hingham Shipyard, 1944 or 1945. (Hingham Historical Society)

Fewer than 10 years earlier, Huit’s Cove had been the site of an enormous costume pageant to celebrate Hingham’s 300th anniversary. Nearly 1,000 residents participated.

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The cast of one scene in the Tercentenary Pageant–the “Ordination Ball”-in colonial costumes. June 1935. (Hingham Historical Society)

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Spectators in bleachers built at Huit’s Cove for the Hingham Tercentenary Pageant, June 27-29, 1935 (Hingham Historical Society)

Prior to to that, a short-lived airfield called Bayside Airport occupied the site.

Biplane in a hangar at Bayside Airport, Huit's Cove, Hingham.  (John Richardson Collection, Hingham Historical Society)

Biplane in a hangar at Bayside Airport, Huit’s Cove, Hingham. (John Richardson Collection, Hingham Historical Society)

Going further back, into the 18th century, Patience Pomatuck was said to have gathered native and naturalized plants from Huit’s Cove, which she used for medicinal, herbs, dyes and other household uses. Patience made a living selling these plants to her English neighbors in Hingham. We have no record of which plants grew in the Cove’s many acres, but among them would probably have been rushes, which could be formed into baskets and rush lamps; wild gentian, for use as an emetic; and mullein, used as cough medicine.

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Common Mullein

Fringed Gentian

Wild Gentian

One Family’s Tradition of Service, Part 2

Captain Gorfinkle returned to America after his service with the Peace Delegation was complete and continued his military service as part of the reserves. Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, he organized many philanthropic campaigns to aid military service people in the Boston area between World Wars. One charitable effort involved the donation of pianos to military bases throughout New England and beyond, including the Hingham Naval Ammunition Depot.

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Colonel Gorfinkle continued his patriotic service in World War II, serving as a member of the War Manpower Commission, appointed by President Roosevelt to oversee the New England region. After the war, he remained active in the Reserves, serving as military attaché for Massachusetts governors Christian Herter (1953-1957) and John Volpe (1962-1965). He finally retired from Reserve service in December 1965—at the age of 71. Besides his law practice and military service, he was an active philanthropist in the Boston area, and chief among his interests were Beth Israel Hospital, the Newton Tennis & Squash Club, which he helped found, and Brandeis University.

The Colonel’s son, Herbert J. Gorfinkle, continued the family tradition of military service and was also involved in this country’s efforts during World War II. He was a member of the 381st Engineers Combat Battalion, which deployed to Europe following D-Day, serving as Unit photographer. His unit stayed in Germany for a year after the war helping rebuild that country’s infrastructure. His collection contains many photos of bridges over the Rhine River which his unit was helping rebuild. It also includes letters home to friends and family.
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After the war, Herbert Gorfinkle completed his education at the University of New Hampshire in 1947 and then received a Master’s in Business Administration from New York University’s School of Retailing in 1948. He then started a successful career in the mercantile industry, serving as manager or founder for several successful retail chains including Jordan Marsh and the Edwards Stores of Boston. He and his wife, Connie, moved to Hingham from Braintree in 1972 and raised three daughters on Andrews Isle within the Home Meadows—near Hingham Harbor, which he helped champion as member (1983-1990) and Chairman (1988-1990) of the Harbor Development Committee. Herbert Gorfinkle was also a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Coast Guard Auxiliary and Commodore of the Metropolitan Yacht Club.
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