It originally operated as a World War II landing craft and participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944.
The MV Cape Henlopen was built by the Jeffersonville Boat and Machine Company in Jeffersonville, Indiana in September 1943. It was originally named the USS LST-510 and was built as a landing craft for the United States Navy during World War II. It was launched in November of 1943 and placed into full commission in January 1944.
In April 1944, the LST-510 transported the LCT-709, a 150-ton tank landing craft from New Orleans to New York City. Once there, an additional 600 tons of ammunition were loaded onto it for transportation via a 64-ship convoy from North America to the United Kingdom.
The LST-510 endured hazardous conditions during the trip like heavy fog, sleet, wind and occasional icebergs as well as the constant threat of U-boat attacks. However, it safely reached Derry, Northern Ireland with its cargo on April 13, 1944.
In June 1944, LST-510 loaded up with 200 men and 70 vehicles of the 29th Infantry Division and set a course for France to join the assault at Normandy. It arrived with the invasion already well underway. It approached Omaha Beach, but would never actually reach the beach. Instead, it anchored in the water and disembarked the soldiers and vehicles via LCTs and “Rhino” pontoon barges. It also served as an operating room for wounded soldiers with three doctors on board.
LST-510 received one battle for service during World War II and, on July 1, 1946, was placed out of commission.
After a decade of inactivity, LST-510 was renamed USS Buncombe County on July 1, 1955. Three years later, Buncombe County was declared unfit for further Naval service and decommissioned in November 1958.
It was sold to the Chesapeake Bay Ferry District of Norfolk, Virginia in 1960 and renamed MV Virginia Beach.
Some time between 1964 and 1965, it was resold to the Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA) and was renamed to MV Cape Henlopen, its current name.
After being converted to a auto and passenger ferry in 1966, it served the Cape May-Lewes ferry route between Cape May, New Jersey and Lewes, Delaware until 1983.
In 1983, it was sold to Cross Sound Ferry Services, Inc in New London, Connecticut. There it was refurbished completely before entering active ferry service.
In 1995, the MV Cape Henlopen was repowered with EMD 12-645 diesel engines before being repowered again, in 2016, with Caterpillar 3516C Tier 3 diesel engines to reduce emissions and improve efficiency.
The interior of the vessel was upgraded in 2019 to better accommodate passengers. These upgrades included the addition of a new passenger lounge as well as a gift shop offering Cross Sound Ferry gifts and memorabilia.
- IMO Number: 5381978
- MMSI Number: 367354360
- Callsign: WM5958
- Length: 328 feet (100 meters)
- Beam: 50 feet (15 meters)
- Speed: 12 knots (14 miles per hour)