The gunboats had developed to fit certain needs as the war progressed. The first group of converted gunboats mounted 3"/50 guns to be used against Japanese barges and shore installations. As the situation changed, the use of them in island assaults was increased and they were fitted with 40mm guns and rockets. It became obvious that the guns and rockets could not reach enemy targets on the reverse slopes of hills and the installation of mortars on the ships became important. The limited range of the 4.5 inch fin-stabilized barrage rocket gave rise to the 5 inch spin-stabilized rocket which could reach further inland. The situation at Okinawa presented new problems that needed to be addressed. Whereas the initial assault and follow-up call-fire on targets close to shore had been an important use of the ships, at Okinawa things changed. There the gunboats performed in the initial assault but were challenged by suicide boats and kamikaze aircraft as soon as they were finished with the first phase of the operation. The radar picket line proved to be the most formidable challenge, and LCS(L)s mounting twin 40mm bow guns began to appear in greater numbers. The LCI(G)s, (M)s, and (R)s were utilized in anti–small boat patrols and in making smoke. Some of the LCI(R)s were fitted with radar jamming gear and were used to confuse enemy radar. They carried the additional designation of (RCM) which stood for Radar Counter Measures.
Operation Order A6-45 for the Amphibious Forces Pacific Fleet (Task Force 52), dated 16 March 1945, indicated the extent of gunboat participation. At Okinawa the Gunboat and Mortar Support Flotillas were designated as TG 52.9 under Vice Admiral Richmond Kelley Turner. The Task Group consisted of:
It is interesting to note the composition of the assault force. In the beginning months of amphibious assaults in World War II, the pure gunboat types without rockets, and the later gunboat types with rockets, were the mainstay of the landing operation. By the invasion at Okinawa, the mortar ship had become the predominant assault craft with forty-five listed in the plan. The LCS(L) followed closely behind with forty-two in number. Thirty-six LCI(G)s and thirty-five LCI(R)s rounded out the total. The use of rockets, however, had not fallen by the wayside. LCS(L)s and LCI(G)s carried sufficient numbers to destroy enemy beach defenses as needed. The LCI(R)s participating in the landing on 1 April 1945 were used to cover areas adjacent to the landing beaches. In all, the plan called for the use of 170 of the amphibious gunboats for invasion day. In the days and weeks after 1 April, additional LCS(L)s would arrive from the States as would additional LCI conversions. Added to this mix was the new conversion of the LSM, the LSM(R), a special assault ship which could launch huge numbers of rockets at the enemy.
Prelude to Invasion
Okinawa was considered the final step toward the actual invasion of the home islands of Japan. Following immediately on the heels of the capture of Iwo Jima, the capture of Okinawa was of prime importance. As the forces of the Southwest Pacific Area under General Douglas MacArthur continued their campaign in the Philippines, the stage was set for the invasion of Okinawa. The Ryukyu chain of islands had been cut off from their resources to the south. The only defense available for Okinawa came from the home islands and from Japanese Army and Navy air units on Taiwan. Occupation of Okinawa and its surrounding islands would give the Allied forces a strong base from which to conduct operations against Japan proper. Several airfields already existed on the island, as well as excellent anchorages. The building of facilities to supply the assault on Kyushu was possible.
Taking Okinawa would be no small task; it would be the largest amphibious operation yet attempted in the Pacific. In order to capture the island the Navy would use:
1,213 ships, 564 carrier-based support aircraft and 451,866 ground troops, including both Army and Marine divisions. In addition this force was directly supported and covered by the Fast Carrier Force (82 ships, 919 aircraft) and the British Carrier Force (22 ships, 244 aircraft). Operations of the 21st Bomber Command of the United States Army Strategic Air Force and of the Far Eastern Air Force supported the invasion.2
For the Japanese, Okinawa was crucial and every resource that could be brought to bear was dedicated to holding the island. However, even the most die-hardened militarist knew that it was only a matter of time before the massive Allied forces arrayed against the Japanese on Okinawa would prevail. Their strategy was not to hold the island but to make the Americans pay so dearly for its capture that they would be discouraged from proceeding further toward Japan’s home islands. Facing the American invaders was Japan’s 32nd Army under the command of Lieutenant General Mitsuru Ushijima. Ushijima followed the strategy already employed by Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kurabayashi at Iwo Jima. Rather than opposing the landing on the beaches and exposing his troops to the massive firepower of the invasion fleet, he withdrew his forces to the southern part of the island where numerous ridges and hills would make the Americans pay heavily for every foot of the island taken.
Vice Admiral Richmond Kelley Turner was Commander of Task Force 51, the Joint Expeditionary Force, during the invasion of Okinawa. Turner had served throughout the Pacific theater and was considered an expert on amphibious warfare. NARA 80G 302369.
The vast armada destined to attack Okinawa came from different areas of the Pacific. No one island or group of islands was sufficiently large enough to supply the number of troops, equipment, and supplies necessary for the attack. Loading troops, conducting rehearsals, acquiring supplies, and overall preparation was accomplished at a number of diverse areas, including Hawaii, Guadalcanal, Leyte, Ulithi, and Saipan.
The beginning of the invasion of the Ryukyu Islands began on 25 March 1945 as the Amphibious Support Force (TF52) and the Gunfire and Covering Force (TF54) arrived off Okinawa and began pounding the shore with naval gunfire. The UDT began its operations in the Kerama Rhetto islands off the southwest coast of Okinawa in preparation for the invasion. Capture of these islands was deemed important as they would deny their use to the enemy and provide a location for ship repair, a seaplane base, and a sheltered anchorage. A bonus in the invasion was the capture and destruction of approximately 390 Japanese suicide boats. In addition, the islands had a number of sheltered harbors that would prove useful for ship repair.
The invasion of Okinawa exposed the American fleet to Japanese air attacks from Kyushu and Taiwan.
Coordinating the efforts of the large number of converted gunboats and the newly launched LCS(L)s proved to be a sizeable administrative chore. The invasion of Okinawa was divided into a number of sectors, each of which required the use of particular types of gunboats.
The 10th Army, consisting of both Army and Marine divisions, landed on Okinawa on 1 April 1945. Northern beaches were assigned to the Marines and the Army landed on the southern beaches.
The American forces had about a year and a half of experience using the gunboats in various configurations and in various roles. By the time of the invasion of Okinawa on 1 April 1945, they had learned how to put them to the most effective use. Vice Admiral Richmond K. Turner noted in his action report:
LCI(G) and LCS(L), utilizing their 4.5" rockets and 40mm, preceded the leading wave utilizing the same tactics as in previous operations. A new procedure was instituted for LCI(M) who accompanied the leading wave toward the beach, commenced mortar fire at an intensive rate when approximately 1500 yards from shore, continued fire while closing to 700 yards, and then maintained fire over the troops and landing craft until HOW plus 10. LCI(R) and LSM(R) were used from flank positions and covered towns and critical points with an intensive volume of 5" rocket fire. After HOW Hour, those craft had little employment as support craft, due to the rapid movement of troops and the tendency of the enemy to avoid shore areas. However, some specific tasks accomplished are detailed in subsequent paragraphs, and all of these types proved of great value as smokers, inshore screening and flak vessels, RCM ships, anti-suicide-boat pickets, and dispatch boats.3
UDT and Marine Reconnaissance
As usual, the initial landing on the enemy shores fell to the Marine Reconnaissance companies whose forays onto enemy beaches were always done under cover of darkness. Moving into the various beaches in the Keise Shima Islands on the night of 25-26 March were members of A Company VAC Reconnaissance Battalion under Captain Merwyn H. Silverthorn, Jr. Artillery installations were set up there to be used against enemy forces on southern Okinawa. For the next several days, Marine Reconnaissance companies surveyed virtually all of the landing beaches, locating enemy positions and installations.
The massive assault on the island of Okinawa, along with those against Kerama Retto and Ie Shima, required a more in-depth assessment of the beaches and the location of enemy forces than had been attempted before. Exploring the landing beaches and blowing up obstacles fell, as usual, to the men of the underwater demolition teams. Two sections of UDTs, carried on APDs, arrived off Okinawa. An additional APD served as the command ship and three APDs carried their reserve equipment. Overall command of the teams, designated as Task Group 52.11, was under Captain B. Hall Hanlon, with Rear Admiral W. H. P. Blandy, CTF 52, on board one of the APDs. The two groups consisted of:
The beaches in the islands of Kerama Retto were explored by UDT teams beginning on 25 March. Support for UDT operations was supplied by Task Unit 52.18.3 under Lieutenant Commander C. J. Starkus. It consisted of LCI(G)s 366(GF), 372, 439, 440, and 475. Additional firepower was supplied by destroyers patrolling farther from the beaches. These included Heywood L. Edwards DD 663 and Preston DD 795.
Underwater demolition teams operated at sea level or just a few feet above, if they were wading in shallow water. This made them particularly vulnerable to sniper fire. The gunboats covering them with 40mm and 20mm gunfire had to be extremely careful to keep their rounds out of the water, otherwise, the UDT swimmers might fall victim to friendly fire. Snipers firing on them from beach positions might be at an elevation of only ten to fifteen feet above sea level. Firing over the heads of the UDTs from a distance of several hundred yards required extreme care and excellent marksmanship. If the UDT was under fire from the enemy on the beaches, the gunboats had little choice. Fortunately, cases of friendly fire casualties were quite rare, a tribute to the marksmanship and training of the Navy’s gunners.
UDT 12 explored the beaches at Yakabi Shima, Amuro Shima, and Zamami Shima on 25 March, while UDT 13 evaluated Tokashiki Jima and UDT 19 the beaches at Aka Shima, Geruma Shima, Hokaji Shima and Kuba Shima. The gunboats laid down covering fire, but there was no return fire and the swimmers returned safely. UDT 12 reported the presence of two Japanese luggers concealed near shore at Zamami Shima, and LCI(G) 439 destroyed them with 40mm gunfire. Having determined which beaches had the best prospects and which were problematic, the 77th Infantry Division under Major General Andrew B. Bruce prepared to land.
Covering the landings on the various islands at Kerama Retto was Task Unit 51.1.16 under Captain T. W. Rimer. They were tasked to deliver close-in fire support for the landing of elements of the 77th Army Division. It consisted of:
LCI Mortar Support Divisions Six and Eight
LCI RCM and Rocket Division Three LCI
Gunboat Divisions One, Three, Four, Five
LSM(R) Units One and Two
Islands invaded on 26 March were Yakabi Shima, Zamami Shima, Aka Shima, Geruma Shima, and Hokaji Shima, as well as the first stage of the assault on Orange Beach at Tokashiki Shima. In general the landings on the various islands of the Kerama group were unopposed or lightly resisted. The heavy firepower of the gunboats and their accompanying destroyers quickly put an end to any enemy opposition. Gunboats were hard put to find suitable targets, releasing their standard rocket and mortar barrages on lightly defended or unoccupied beaches and then searching in vain for enemy targets. The mouths of caves and scattered huts became prime targets of opportunity, whether or not they were occupied.
Tokashiki Shima 27 March
The gunboats of Gunboat Support Unit 52.18.2, consisting of LCI(G)s 465, 467, 472, 567, 568, and 580, spent that night on patrol and strafed Purple Beach on Tokashiki Shima the following day as Army troops landed. Mortar Division Six under Lieutenant H. M. Mattson, including LCI(M)s 801–804, fired mortars at Aware Town on Tokashiki Shima (Orange Beach Z-1). Mortar Support Division Eight TU 52.24.4 under Lieutenant J. A. Gage, along with LCI(M)s 1055 and 1059, fired mortars at Tokashiki Village and surrounding areas between 0835 and 0910. Some of the mortar gunboats had still not been outfitted with 40mm bow guns, so the best they could do was to strafe cave entrances and other shore targets with 20mm fire.
Commanding officers of these ships continually asked for the required 40mm guns, but apparently they were in short supply. In his endorsement of Lieutenant Gage’s action report for the bombardment of Geruma Shima and Hokaji Shima, Commander A. R. Montgomery, CTG 52.18, noted that “This ship [LCI(M) 1059] being one of the first twelve (12) LCI(L)’s converted to LCI(M)’s and having operated continuously since has not been equipped with the authorized and much needed bow 40 MM gun.”5
Some occasional mortar rounds fell near the ships but none were hit. Other large caliber shells hit the water near LCI(M) 803, but it was suspected that they were shells from American guns overshooting their targets on the island. Army troops indicated that: “rocket coverage was excellent and that gunfire (continued on their flanks after the waves had passed through the gunboat line) was accurate and comforting.”6
The plethora of islands in the Kerama Retto Group provided ample shelter for damaged ships and repair facilities, as well as a seaplane base during the assault on Okinawa. Its many landing beaches had to be surveyed by Navy UDTs and Marine Recon forces prior to landings. The Japanese word for island is Shima, but it is also read as Jima, depending on the word preceding it. Adapted from Commander Underwater Demolition Teams, Amphibious Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet Serial 0028-45, Action Report, RYUKYU ISLANDS Operations, 25 March–5 April 1945, 4 April 1945, Enclosure (A).
Casualties incurred during the taking of the Kerama Retto islands included LSM(R) 188, with eleven dead, three missing and thirty-one injured by a kamikaze attack. LCI(G) 560 suffered minor damage and two injuries when her mast was clipped by a kamikaze. LCI(R) RCM 646 had two minor injuries from an encounter with a suicide boat.
Coverage of the UDT operations at the Hagushi beaches took place from 28 through 31 March. It had been almost two months since the LCI(G)s covering UDT operations at Iwo Jima had been mistaken for the landing force. The result was that the Japanese opened fire on them with devastating effects. To counter this problem, a new strategy had developed. Captain B. Hall Hanlon, Commander of the Underwater Demolition teams at Okinawa, noted that “The LCI(G)s were moved into position in a most irregular manner in order to avoid the suggestion of a landing wave. Their movement was checked by many observers, and in no case was this suggestion given.”7 The lack of serious resistance in the Kerama Retto Islands did not demonstrate the value of the new approach. In addition, the main landing beaches at Hagushi had been pounded so severely for such an extended period of time that the new tactics for the gunboats were probably unnecessary, although a wise precaution.
LCI(G) 451, on patrol off Keise Shima at 2250 on 27 March, encountered an enemy suicide boat with seven men aboard who were attempting to escape the area. Apparently the boat’s motor was out of commission since the men were paddling. The gunboat circled warily and attempted to contact the men who ignored them and continued to paddle. They sank the suicide boat with 20mm and 40mm gunfire.
On 31 March the small islands of Keise Shima were taken by the Army to serve as an artillery base against southern Okinawa. They had been scouted by the FMF Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion on 26 March and found to be lacking any serious opposition to American forces scheduled to land there. UDT 13 surveyed the beaches scouting for obstacles to the landing craft. Lieutenant (jg) Donald Murray from UDT 13 recalled:
[W]e were assigned the Kiese Shima Island, two miles off the coast of Okinawa. It is a long, low island like an atoll and had small trees. We were to explore and secure it so that the Army could put heavy artillery ashore for the Okinawa bombardment.
I was in command of the LCP(R) and ten swimmers to enter a lagoon with two openings around an island in the center. We arrived under the gunfire protection of an LCI(G), which was liberally spraying the area with 40mm rounds. We came around and the LCP(R) dropped our men and circled the island, waiting for the swimmers and zigzagging the boat so that mortar fire would be inaccurate. The most men lost in UDT operations are in the small boats with mortar fire landing right on them…. We roared around the island again and came alongside the LCI(G) just after one of its own 40mm rounds exploded in the gun. We found a messy gun tub.8
Underwater Demolition Team surveys of the landing beaches at Hagushi reflected the two major landing areas. The Northern Support Gunboats, under Captain T. W. Rimer, were responsible for beaches assigned to the Marine Corps forces. These were, from north to south, the ten beaches labeled Green, Red, Blue, and Yellow. They would be reconnoitered by UDTs 7, 16, and 17. The Southern Support Gunboats covered UDTs 4, 11, and 21 on the southern beaches, Purple, White, Orange, and Brown, which were scheduled for assault by the Army. The Southern Support Gunboats were under the command of Commander L. B. Bailliere.
UDT swimmers at the Okinawa invasion beaches came under fire constantly from snipers ashore. Caves near the shore and numerous burial tombs in the area gave them the advantage of cover. The tombs were only about 150 yards beyond the seawall which gave the snipers a good position from which to fire on the UDT men. Gunboats and destroyers assigned to each sector spent a good deal of their time on station firing into these positions, as all along the beach the UDT was taking heavy sniper fire.
Obstacles discovered by the UDTs had to be destroyed. On the northern beaches, one to four rows of wooden posts, six to eight feet high, had been set in the coral reef. Approximately 1,725 of the posts barred easy passage to the beaches and had to be blown up in order for the landing craft to get to shore. The southern landing beaches were barred by another 1,200 posts, also requiring destruction by the UDTs. Once having destroyed the posts and charted the bottom, members of the various Underwater Demolition Teams stayed aboard the PCs and SCs off the beaches on invasion day to assist in guiding the landing craft to shore.
Additional danger for the ships and the UDTs came from the air. LCI(G) 560, a part of TU 52.17.1, was assigned to cover operations of UDT 17 at Green Beach on the morning of 29 April. As she cruised the area she came under attack at 0615 by a combination of three Nates and a Val. The three Nates made a run on her and she shot down two with her 20mm guns. One of the planes clipped her conning tower but only one man was injured.
Invasion Day—1 April 1945
The landing beaches themselves had ample attention from numerous gunboats, including LCI(G)s, LCI(M)s, and LCS(L)s. A total of eighty-one gunboats directly supported the landings on the twenty-one beaches at Hagushi. One of the concerns during the landing was the possibility that enemy troops might be brought into the area from north and south of the landing zone. To counter this, a combination of LSM(R)s, LCI(R)s, and LCI(M)s were used to supply heavy supporting fire on both the northern and southern flanks.
The first wave of landing craft approaches the beach at Okinawa on 1 April 1945. Smoke drifts from support landing craft which have just fired a salvo of rockets at the beach. USS Yorktown CV 10 Serial 0205 17 May 1945 Actions Air Support for and Support of Occupation of Okinawa from 14 March to 11 May 1945.
While the landings at the Hagushi beaches were underway it was necessary to prevent enemy movement on the flanks. LCI(R)s with the new five inch spin stabilized rockets, along with LSM(R)s, were used for this task. Commander LCI Flotilla 16 Serial 35, Action Report—Invasion of the Okinawa Group Liu Chius, 26 March to 21 June 1945, 15 July 1945, Enclosures (A) Fire Support Missions.
LCI(G) 1030 (center) and LCI(G) 1078 (right) fire rockets at Okinawa on 1 April 1945. NARA 80G 312105.
To the north of the Marine landing beaches, Green, Red, Blue, and Yellow, these ships delivered rocket and mortar fire on the areas around Zampa Misaki and the areas just to its south. The towns of Uza, Tokeshi, Jima, Takashippo, and Hanza, on Zampa Misaki were fired upon by TU 52.20.6 under Lieutenant Commander P. W. Howard. Ships under Howard were LCI(R)s 647–649 and 762(F)–764. Lieutenant Commander A. F. Eckelmeyer’s TU 52.20.5, consisting of LCI(R)s 704, 705, 1024, 1026, 1068(F), and 1069,joined in the attack.
These two divisions targeted the area from the beach to about 1,700 yards south of the town of Nagahama, including the town itself. In order to get closer to their target, the two divisions headed north around Zampa Misaki and approached the town of Nagahama on a heading of 178° true, heading almost due south toward the beach at Nagahama.9 Targets were spread to the east near the foothills of Mount Yontan and westward toward the towns of Zachini and Hanza. Accompanying them on this northern foray were the ships of TU 52.20.4 under Lieutenant Commander H. T. McKnight. They included LCI(R)s 643(F), 648, 706, 763, and 764. These towns were all interconnected by a highway that led into the northern end of Yontan Airfield. TU 52.21.2, LSM(R) Unit Two, included LSM(R)s 194 and 196–199. Their longer range rockets saturated the flanks on the northern end of the landing beaches.
The dividing line between the northern and southern attack areas was the Bisha River. Beaches Purple, White, Orange, and Brown were assaulted by the Army while their southern flanks were covered by LCI(R)s, LSM(R)s, and LCI(M)s which delivered their barrages near Machinato Airfield and adjoining areas, as well as the towns of Kakazu, Itchitomari, and Uchitomari. Of particular interest in this area were the Route 1 highway and a rail line that ran along the coast. These could provide ready access to the landing zone by Japanese forces attempting to get to the area.
LCS(L)s 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16 prepare to shell Yellow Beach during the Okinawa invasion 1 April 1945. Official U.S. Navy photograph.
Adding their firepower to the southern flank was LSM(R) Unit One (TU 52.21.1), which included LSM(R)s 189–193 and 195. Overall command of the two LSM(R) units was held by Lieutenant Commander J. H. Fulweiler. The newly converted LSMs targeted the heavily defended village of Gusukuma which lay just to the north of Machinato Airfield and about a mile inland.
LCI RCM and Rocket Division One under Lieutenant Commander F. Thompson, Jr., consisted of LCI(R)s 644(F), 650, 707, 771, 772, and 1077. In operation just to their south was LCI RCM and Rocket Division Two commanded by Lieutenant Commander J. W. Sullivan. It included LCI(R)s 651(F), 708, 1028–1030, and 1078. At 0955, after the last rocket run on its targets, LCI(R) 644 set off a mine as she retired from her run. The explosion took place approximately thirty feet off the ship’s port beam. Shrapnel from the mine landed on the deck of the gunboat, wounding Lieutenant Robert E. Sweeney, Jr. as he climbed the ladder to the conning tower. Sweeney served as the communications officer for LCI(R) Group Sixty-Three. He was transferred to LST(H) 929 and later to Barnstable APA 93 for treatment.
Although the invasion of the Kerama Retto islands had taken place several days before, the main event at Okinawa centered on landing the troops on the beaches at Hagushi. Scheduled to land there was the Tenth Army, comprised of units of both the Army and the Marine Corps. Overall command of the ground forces was held by Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner. Included in the landing forces were:
Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr.—Commanding Officer
III Amphibious Corps—Major General Roy S. Geiger (Northern Attack Force)
1st Marine Division (1st, 5th, 7th, 11th Marines)—Major General Pedro A. Del Valle
6th Marine Division (2nd, 6th, 8th, 10th Marines)—Major General Lemuel Shepherd, Jr.
2nd Marine Division (4th, 15th, 22nd, 29th Marines)—Major General Thomas E. Watson†
XXIV Corps—Lieutenant General John R. Hodge (Southern Attack Force)
7th Infantry Division (17th, 32nd, 184th Infantry)—Major General Archibald V. Arnold
27th Infantry Division* (105th, 106th, 165th Infantry)—Major General George W. Griner, Jr.
77th Infantry Division (305th, 306th, 307th Infantry)—Major General Andrew B. Bruce
96th Infantry Division (381st, 382nd, 383rd Infantry)—Major General James L. Bradley
81st Infantry Division (321st, 322nd, 323rd Infantry)—Major General Paul J. Mueller*
*Held in reserve at New Caledonia.
†Held as floating reserve.
April 1 dawned with pleasant conditions for the invasion. Light east winds played over a calm sea. Visibility in the landing area was unlimited until the smoke from numerous rockets, mortars, and shells blanketed the landing zone and made it difficult to see the target areas.
The landing zones for the American assault were centered in the area between the two airfields of Yontan and Kadena. Dividing the assigned areas was the Bisha River. The Marine’s III Amphibious Corps, consisting of the 1st and 6th Marine Divisions, landed on the beaches north of the river, and the Army’s XXIV Corps landed on the beaches to the south. Held as a floating reserve was the Marine’s 2nd Division, while the Army kept their 81st Infantry Division in reserve at New Caledonia. The gunboats assigned to the Northern Attack Force covered the Marine’s landings, while those of the Southern Attack Force covered the Army’s landings.
LCS(L)s 11–16, of LCS Division Three, were assigned to provide rocket and gunfire for the Marines landing on Yellow Beach One. Scattered mortar fire came near some of the ships but none were hit.
The gunboats of Mortar Support Division Six under Lieutenant H. M. Mattson included LCI(M)s 801–806. They fired on targets beyond Red Beaches 1, 2, and 3, which included Yontan Airfield and Toya Town. Mattson reported that “During the firing the entire beach area appeared as one continuous explosion and coverage was excellent.”10 This was the situation on most of the beaches. The combined rocket and mortar fire from the ships raised so much smoke and debris that an exact accounting of the effect was difficult to determine. All that could be assured was that any enemy forces on or near the beaches were probably killed in the initial bombardment. Delivering longer range fire power were LSM(R)s 194–199 which targeted Takashippo Village about a mile inland and a mile north of Yontan Airfield.
Not all danger was on the receiving end of the gunboats’ missiles. On board LCI(M) 807, which was assigned to bombard Blue Beach 2, along with Mortar Division Seven LCI(M)s 808810(F), 1088, and 1089, a mortar shell exploded prematurely on the foc’sle deck about 0821, during the assault phase of the operation. It was thought that the mortar barrel had become overheated from the rate of fire. The explosion set off four cans of 40mm ammunition which had been stored nearby, compounding the effect. Eleven men were blown overboard. As a result of the explosion four men were killed and another eight suffered serious wounds. Shrapnel blanketed the forward end of the ship and an additional thirteen men suffered minor wounds. The explosion blew a two foot diameter hole in the foc’sle deck and caused general damage to equipment in the area.12 The men who had been blown overboard were picked up by small boats from LST 949 and LCI(M) 809. In his endorsement of the action report on the incident by LCI(M) 807, the Commanding Officer of Flotilla Fourteen, Captain Theodore W. Rimer, noted: “The 4.2 mortar casualty described in this action report was probably due to a premature burst. Many units were supplied with some of the M3 fuzed ammunition. This type was disposed of and segregated as units were resupplied.”12 As she left the firing line, LCI(M) 1089 passed close to the stern of Idaho BB 42. A salvo from the battleship’s gun battery “tore hinges off the wooden door to the conn, scattered charts and papers over the deck of the pilot house, and made the men on the welldeck, firing mortars, feel that their clothes were being torn off. The concussion caused the radar to behave strangely for a few minutes.”13
Orange Beaches One and Two were the landing sites for the Army units. Covering them were the mortar gunboats of Mortar Division One (TU 52.23.1) under Lieutenant Commander W. T. Dom. They included LCI(M)s 630–632, 638, 756, and 1010. Thirty-five minutes before the assigned landing time, the mortar gunboats moved into position and headed for the beaches at five knots. At a distance of 3,200 yards from shore, they began firing their mortars and continued their fire as they moved toward shore, marching the mortar rounds inland from the beach. Rocket ships nearby fired off their second salvos, marking the time for all units to cease fire. Two days later on 3 April, on board LCI(R) 648, Charles Lamson S 2/c wrote to his mother: “I presume you know by now rockets is our specialty—well we fired the damned things all day and certainly dug up the hillside….”14 Joe Dumenigo, a storekeeper on board LCI(G) 568, had the position of pointer on the forward 40mm gun during general quarters. The destruction wrought upon the beach areas by their rocket salvos had him spellbound. Sixty-seven years after the end of the war he still recalled that “it looked like an inferno when the rockets went off.”15
As the LVTs approached the beaches an air strike passed through the area, strafing and bombing targets of opportunity. The gunboats continued their fire as the LVTs landed on the beaches. The mortar gunboats, having the greatest range, continued firing for an hour after the landings.
On the southern flank of the landing zone was Brown Beach 4. The ships of LCS(L) Group Nine covered the landing of the 96th Infantry Division there. They included LCS(L)s 24, 37–40, and 57 under the overall command of Lieutenant B. A. Thirkield. The ships made their initial rocket run at 0805. However, before they could get into range to launch their rockets, they came upon the reef which at Brown Beach 4 was about 1,200 yards off the beach. With the LVTs close behind them, they had no time to search for breaks in the reef and had to use 20mm and 40mm gunfire to suppress enemy emplacements on the beach. Following their aborted rocket runs, they turned south to engage targets of opportunity near the towns of Kue and Chatan, raking the area with 20mm and 40mm gunfire. Later in the morning, after the troops had landed, they were able to work their way through breaks in the reef and launch rockets at various targets inshore. Thirkield recommended that the gunboats be given a greater lead time so that they could effectively find breaks in the reef that would allow them to get within rocket range.
To distract the enemy from giving its full attention to the landings at Hagushi on the western side of the island, a fake or “demonstration” landing was scheduled on the southeastern tip of Okinawa to coincide with the real landings at Hagushi. Leading the assault waves in to the diversionary landing were a variety of LCI gunboats, including LCS(L) Divisions 1, 6, and 7, along with Mortar Divisions 4 and 5, and Gunboat Support Division 1. The gunboats had trained for the demonstration at Saipan under Lieutenant Commander McFadden in mid–March. None of the LCI(R)s were used for the demonstration. Underwater Demolition Teams had also worked over the beaches in the days preceding the diversionary landing, blowing up obstacles to make it seem as though the invasion at that point was real.
The ships of the diversionary force were about fifteen miles from the landing site at 0555 when they came under aerial attack. One kamikaze was shot down but a second managed to get through the hail of gunfire and crash into LST 884. Explosions and fires broke out on the LST and the order was given to abandon ship. Three hundred Marines and the crew were taken off the ship. ATR-80 and Van Valkenburgh DD 656 attempted to put out the fires but called in the LCS(L)s to fight them. LCS(L)s 115, 116, 118, and 119 moved into position and played their fire hoses on the flames. Firefighting teams from each of the gunboats boarded the LST and fought the fires in the midst of exploding ammunition and gasoline. The battle raged for four hours before the fires were finally out. A quantity of the water used to fight the fires went down into the LST’s hold, and by the end of the ordeal she had a ten degree list. The gunboats then had to pump her out, but they had saved her. Unfortunately, the ground swell continually pounded the gunboats against the LST’s sides and they looked much the worse for their ordeal after being battered for over four hours.
The rest of the diversionary force moved into position at 0830 on 1 April and began their assault. LCS(L)s made their strafing runs on the beaches without encountering any return fire, and the LCI(M)s sent their barrages of mortar rounds at the beach. The troop carriers followed them in closely, but at a distance of only a few hundred yards off the beaches, they all turned and headed back to sea. They repeated the diversionary landing the following day and, once having distracted the Japanese, the ships all headed on to other duties around the island. Some joined the forces at Hagushi and others went to patrol and screening stations. Many of the LCS(L)s were assigned to the radar picket stations.
The Campaign Continues
Kamikazes began to step up their operations. On 2 April, LCI(G)s 465 and 568 were on patrol off Motobu Peninsula. They were sent in search of a downed pilot around 1820 when they were attacked by a Japanese plane identified in the action reports as either a Tony or a Judy. The aircraft were picked up visually with binoculars at a distance of five miles and the ships were ready for them. The gunboats were at general quarters when the plane crash-dived into the after part of LCI(G) 568’s gun deck. As the plane approached, it was hit by 20mm fire and knocked off course. It strafed the ship on its way in, but the combination of the ship’s gunfire and its movement caused it to miss the conn and fall short, hitting the gun deck and 20mm guns with its port wing. The crash destroyed two 20mm guns and killed one man. Three other men were injured, one seriously. Another plane attempted to crash into LCI(G) 465 but undershot its target and crashed into the sea.16
The LCI hulls had their advantages and disadvantages. With their flat bottoms and no keel area, they were difficult to maneuver. They rolled in any kind of rough water and pounded their way through the seas. In all, they were not a comfortable ride. However, on 3 April the shoal draft of LCI(R) 763 saved her from sure destruction. She was on a screening station off western Okinawa at 0240 when a Frances headed toward LCI(R) 648 which was underway near her. The plane was driven off by the ship’s gunfire and veered toward LCI(R) 763 dropping its torpedo. The pilot’s aim was true and the torpedo headed right for the port beam of the rocket gunboat. It passed underneath the ship, traveled a short distance, and exploded. The ship was shaken but not damaged, and there were no casualties. Her shoal draft had saved her from sure destruction.17
Suicide boats were a constant threat in the area, and gunboats were sent in search of their lairs. On 5 April, four LCS(L)s of TU 52.19.5, LCS(L)s 24, 37, 39, and 40, with the commander of the task unit, Lieutenant Commander B. A. Thirkield on board LCS(L) 24, rendezvoused with Commander Bailliere in his flagship LC(FF) 679. They headed south to the area between Naha Airfield and the southern tip of Okinawa to search out and destroy suspected suicide boat bases. Foul weather dominated the area with rain, fifteen knot winds, and rough seas, making it unlikely that any of the small enemy boats would be on the water. Visibility was limited to one to four thousand yards, and it did not seem likely that the mission would be a success. The poor visibility made inshore navigation difficult due to the presence of reefs that threatened to ground any vessel that got too close. Bailliere requested that the mission be relocated but received no response. He then set about pursuing his mission. At 0815 the gunboats made a run parallel to the reef about 1,000 yards off shore, but found nothing of interest save a floating mine. LC(FF) 679 took it under fire and exploded it. A second run at 0915 was more successful. Cave openings presented themselves to the sea, and the LCS(L)s fired into them and hit other targets of opportunity in the area. Men were seen pulling a boat into a cave, and the LCS(L)s poured some heavy fire into it. Two additional runs were completed and the gunboats returned to the anchorage.18
On 7 April, Mortar Division Six, LCI(M)s 801–806, was sent north from Hagushi to Nago Wan to assist the Marines around Motobu Peninsula. They shelled the beach near the town of Yabu and, on the following day, the beach west of the town of Awa. Call-fire was not requested until 9 April when a company of Marines needed support. On 12 April LCI(M)s 801, 802, and 805 were sent to assist some Marines trapped in a ravine on the northwestern tip of Motobu Peninsula. Mortar fire was out of the question and 40mm fire was attempted. However, reefs in the area prevented the gunboats from getting within range. A destroyer was called in and, with her larger guns, was able to fire into the requested target area. The gunboats were sent back to Hagushi for smoke details.
Okinawan civilians and Japanese Army personnel attempted to escape from the Marines in large numbers during the night of 9-10 April. Gunboats of LCI(R) Group Forty-Six reported intercepting and destroying at least twenty small boats with automatic weapons fire. One of the boats contained three men, three women, and fourteen children. They were taken aboard LCI(R) 1070 and put ashore safely on Hanaee Shima.
Tsugen Shima lies off the southeast coast of Okinawa at the entrance to Nakagusuku Wan. It is nearly the central island in a string of islands that stretch across the mouth of the bay. As the fighting progressed southward on the main island of Okinawa, seizure of the eastern islands became important as they guarded the entrance to Nakagusuku Wan. The Marine’s FMFPac Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion scouted the island on 6 April, paddling their rubber boats into the island at 0200. Unfortunately they encountered four civilians, two of whom escaped to warn the Japanese troops stationed there. The result was a fire fight which gave a good indication that the Japanese on the island were well-equipped and ready to resist. Having determined that the enemy was on the island in force, the Marine recon companies withdrew under heavy fire. Their losses were two dead and eight wounded. Reconnaissance of the other islands at the mouth of Nakagusuku Wan was completed during the next day, and it became obvious that Tsugen Shima would soon be the scene of the fighting. No enemy forces were found on Kutaka Shima to the south or the other islands to the immediate north. The condition of the landing beaches at Tsugen Shima was checked by the Underwater Demolition Teams and found to be clear of any problems.19
At 0650 cruisers and destroyers began shelling the beach. The mortar gunboats began their firing at 0800 until 0828 on the northwest, south, and southwest sides of the island. Some ships reported small arms fire and mortar fire directed at them but none were hit.
April 10 was the scheduled day for the invasion. Assigned to capture the island was the Third Battalion, 105th Regimental Combat Team of the Army’s 27th Infantry Division. Their landing was relatively unopposed but, once ashore, they faced stiff resistance from the Japanese who were well-hidden in bunkers and blockhouses. Two other battalions were held in reserve. All 234 members of the Japanese force were killed, and the 3/105 suffered eleven dead and eighty wounded. By 1530 on 11 April the fighting was over.
The gunboats of TU 52.24.3, under Lieutenant Commander R. F. Hunnicutt, were assigned to provide covering fire for the landing and call-fire if needed. They included LCI(M)s 808–810(GF) 1088, and 1089. They were not needed for the initial landing but stood by on the west side of island. They fired on some targets at 1156, then stood by for screening duties.
To the northwest of Okinawa is the island of Ie Shima. Separated from Okinawa by about three and one half miles, the island would prove useful as a radar site and for its airfields. The Japanese had determined that it would be difficult to defend and began to destroy the infrastructure, particularly the airfield. The island was extensively mined as a precaution against American invaders, and fortifications were constructed that would enable the defenders to resist the American invasion. The Japanese defenses were in caves and tombs and not visible to aerial observation, leaving the Americans to believe that the island was poorly defended. Shelling of the island by American ships began on 25 March and continued up until landing day. Scheduled to land on 16 April were elements of the 77th Army Infantry Division. From 1 through 10 April and again from 13 to 15 April, the island was subjected to continued air attacks by carrier aircraft.
UDTs 4, 17, and 21 surveyed the beaches in preparation for the assault. FMF Marine Reconnaissance Units had already landed and found the enemy defenses. The UDTs noted that enemy measures against them were primarily sniper rifle and machine gun fire. To make it more difficult to see them, the UDT members had painted themselves with aluminum camouflage paint to lessen their visibility. Covering the work of UDTs were the gunboats of TU 57.18.1 under Lieutenant Commander Robinson, including LCI(G)s, 373(F),452, 454, 462, 465, 467, 472, 561, 567, 568, 580 and 751. LCI(G) 452 reported placing two 40mm shells in the entrance door to a block house on shore. Fires were started by the shelling from the gunboats and enemy snipers were kept down by their gunfire. By 1050 all the swimmers had been recovered and the gunboats ceased fire and left the immediate area.
The following day, 14 April, the crew of LCI(G) 452 reported an unusual incident involving a Japanese soldier on shore:
At about 0915 a rather peculiar incident occurred one which had never occurred to us or to any-one else so far as we knew. A Jap strolled nonchalantly out on the upper edge of the beach, stood around for a few moments and sat down; by this time the Executive Officer had pointed him out to our number three 40 mm gun crew. After a couple of close straddles he stood up and making no effort to duck or protect himself, just stood there. After a few more rounds, he was hit in the middle by a 40 mm projectile which blew him to bits. We noticed what was left of him as we left the beach.20
Participating in the assault on Ie Shima on 16 April were Lieutenant Commander C. F. Robinson’s Gunboat Support Division Four which included LCI(G)s 373(F), 451, 454, 461, 561, 751, and Lieutenant Gilberty’s Gunboat Support Division Five which consisted of LCI(G)s 452, 465, 467, 567, and 568. Rocket fire notwithstanding, the majority of the gunboats at Ie Shima carried mortars. Four mortar task units delivered mortar fire during and after the assault. They were:
TU 51.21.25: Lieutenant Commander Harris Brown—LCI(M)s 356, 739(F)-741, 975
TU 51.21.27: Lieutenant Commander R. E. Hunnicutt—LCI(M)s 807–810, 1088, 1089
TU 51.21.28: Lieutenant J. E. Gage—LCL(M)s 755, 1055, 1059(F)
TU 51.21.29: Lieutenant (jg) Frederick J. Geiger—LCI(M)s 742(F), 805, 806
Supporting the gunboats offshore was the destroyer Heywood L. Edwards DD 663.
The landing at Ie Shima went well. Apparently the ships’ fire kept most of the snipers at bay. Once the assault was completed, the ships retired to their anchorage at Nago Wan. In the early evening, enemy artillery from the north shore of Motobu Peninsula took them under fire and they had to move further offshore. Several shells fell in the area near the 561 but did not hit her.
Once she had finished her rocket run, LCI(G) 452 had to back down full in order to avoid running up on a reef. LCI(G) 568 was not so fortunate, but her grounding was brief; she was pulled off promptly. As she was stuck on the reef, a 5 inch shell from an American destroyer hit the water about one hundred yards off her bow. The explosion dented her forward splinter shield but there were no injuries. A number of fuel tanks on shore were hit and buildings were demolished by mortar fire.
Concerns were raised over the late landing of the LVTs. They had been ordered to proceed to the beach at top speed, which was four knots. The gunboats, ahead of them by 300 yards, were supposed to adjust their speed so as to keep the correct interval. A four knot speed for the flat bottomed gunboats made it difficult for them to maintain position. As a result, the LVTs lagged a bit too far behind to make effective use of the rocket salvos. By the time they reached shore, the best support the gunboats could manage was 40mm fire. There was concern that the Japanese might have time to exit their fox holes and bunkers and put up a more effective resistance. Fortunately, the Japanese had elected not to defend the beaches but to resist farther inland.21
Preparatory bombing of the island by two battleships, four cruisers and seven destroyers began the invasion day fireworks. Following that, the rocket and mortar gunboats did their part and continued until the LVTs were safely ashore. Once the troops of the 77th Infantry Division had been safely landed, the gunboats remained in the area to supply anti-aircraft protection for the ships that were unloading. Enemy aircraft appeared in the afternoon, and LCI(G) 561 shot down a Zeke which was about to attack the anchorage.
Landing on Ie Shima was the 77th Infantry Division, which was covered by fire support from the gunboats and destroyers. The American forces faced light opposition as they landed. The Japanese had determined to fortify ridges on the island and conducted their defense away from the beaches. Once having landed, the American forces encountered difficult opposition and the island was not secured for six days. During that time the Japanese suffered 4,706 dead and 149 taken prisoner. As usual, civilian workers and others had been pressed into service and most died during the battle. American losses were 172 dead, 902 wounded, and forty-six missing in action.
Once the island was secured, repair of the airfields was undertaken. On 20 April, ground elements of the Army Air Force’s 318th Fighter Group arrived, and on 13 May the first P-47N Thunderbolts arrived on the island. They would be used for long range attacks against Kyushu and Korea, as well as local combat air patrols.
Small groups of Japanese remained on the island and many attempted to escape by using rafts and small boats to get across to the mainland. To prevent their escape the channel was under continual patrol. On 22 April LCI(M)s 802 and 803 were on patrol in the channel at 2320 when they spotted a raft with seven Japanese soldiers on board. Intending to capture the Japanese, LCI(G) 803 fired ten rounds of .30 caliber fire across the side of the raft. As she approached the raft, the Japanese indicated that they would surrender and threw their weapons overboard. The Japanese were told to remove their clothing prior to being brought on board the gunboat. A search of their clothing revealed hand grenades which were thrown overboard. Their clothing and knapsacks were soaked in a bucket. A further search of the raft revealed eighteen hand grenades which were dropped into the ocean. The other materials removed from the Japanese included clothing, money, knives, and other personal items, all of which were dried and turned over to Commander LCI Mortar Support Flotilla along with the prisoners.
LCI(G) 802 headed toward 803 to assist and soon found a couple of rafts to investigate. Each of them contained five Japanese. Since there was no additional need to take prisoners, the 802 opened fire on the rafts and killed the Japanese soldiers. At 0221 LCI(G) 802 spotted another raft with six Japanese and opened fire, killing at least three. The rafts were towed to shore where additional hand grenades were found between the floorboards.22
The islands of Kerama Retto, although under American control, could still be dangerous since scattered elements of the Japanese Army existed in some areas. In the evening of 18 April an LCVT had been driven ashore by thirty knot winds and heavy swells on the north shore of Zamami Shima. It soon came under machine gun fire and two of the five men on the LCVT were wounded. LCI(R) 770 was sent to aid them. Sea conditions caused the rocket gunboat to ground on a reef only 200 yards off shore as she moved in to assist. She was able to suppress the enemy fire with her guns and the following morning sent her small boat in to the shore to rescue the men. The two wounded men were removed first and the remaining three men taken back on a second trip. In spite of her efforts to get off the reef, she was unsuccessful. She sent out for help from a tug and was soon pulled free of the reef with no damage to her hull.23
Diversionary Landing 19 April
The Tenth Army continued to make progress to the south. To divert the enemy’s attention, a feint was made on southern Okinawa in the vicinity the village of Oshima. Under the overall command of Commander M. J. Malanaphy (CTU 52.23.4), in LC(FF) 627,were a number of gunboats. Malanaphy’s command consisted of: Gunboat Support Divisions Two and Three, LSM(R) Unit Two, and Mortar Support Groups One and Two. The mortar gunboats utilized mortar fire plan Baker and the ships opened fire at 0625. They fired for twenty minutes before departing the area. Additional coverage of the area was provided by American aircraft which bombed and strafed the area.
With the initial landings at Hagushi completed, the gunboats turned to a variety of duties, including smoke-making, anti–small craft patrol, anti-aircraft fire, call-fire, and shore bombardment as the fighting moved south. Involved in the shore bombardment were a variety of LCI(M)s, (R)s and (G)s, along with some LCS(L)s. However, the majority of the LCS(L)s were assigned to radar picket duty stations since all of them had at least two twin 40mm guns and some mounted three.
As the fighting moved south on Okinawa, there were few places safe from the guns of the American fleet. Areas close to shore were attacked by the gunboats and LSMRs, while those targets further inland fell under the guns of the destroyers, cruisers, and battleships. The reverse slopes of ridges and hills could be attacked by mortar fire near shore, and those targets further inland fell victim to aerial bombing and strafing. In short, there were few places that the Japanese could feel safe. The only thing that saved them was the hilly topography of the area and extensive underground tunnels they had constructed.
Two of the gunboats operating in Nakagusuka Bay on 4 May were LCI(R)s 651 and 763. Their primary duty in the area was making smoke during the night, but they were given the additional assignment to patrol for targets of opportunity on the beach between China Point and Baten-ko. The coastline in that area extends westward for a mile and a half. Shore access was prevented by a reef which extended seaward 200–600 yards. Toward one end was a seawall and a flat stretch of beach. Pulled up on shore was an assortment of twenty-five to thirty boats. These were not military vessels but were probably native fishing boats. However, any boat could be of use to the Japanese, if even to supplement their rations with fresh fish. From 1055 to 1900, the two ships, backed up by the destroyer Hall DD 583, cruised the area between Chinen Point and Yonabaru firing their 20mm and 40mm guns at small boats on the beach, fuel dumps, and caves where they suspected enemy presence.
After the initial landing at the Hagushi beachhead on 1 April 1945, the bulk of the fighting moved to the southern part of Okinawa. LCI gunboats were continually called upon to supply rocket, mortar, and automatic weapons fire on targets close to the shoreline in support of Army and Marine forces moving south. As the Japanese were pressed into the southernmost areas of the island, they became ready targets for the gunboats.
The fusillade from the ships started large fires in the grass just off the beach, and within a short time, four grass huts in the area were burned down. Moving on down the beach, the rocket ship fired on and burned down three more huts near Yonabaru, hitting a dozen large drums of fuel and two large boats, all of which were left in flames. As they neared Yonabaru, the ships were bracketed by mortar fire; LCI(R) 651 sustained minor damage and suffered one crewman wounded.
Smoke-screening was a tedious and unglamorous undertaking but most welcome to the ships being covered. On 4 May LCI(M) 356 was sent to a reef off Kouri Shima, arriving at 2335. PGM 17 had run up on the reef and was solidly grounded. The fleet tug Tawakoni ATF 114 was attempting to pull her off. For the next two days, the LCI(M) anchored upwind from the tug and PGM, covering them with smoke whenever there was an air alert. By 6 May increasing air raids threatened the three ships and they were strafed by a Betty at 0426 on 6 May. PGM 17 continued to be pushed further on to the reef and had to be abandoned. Her men were transferred to the tug along with sensitive materials, and LCI(M) 356 remained in the area to make sure that the Japanese on the island could not get to the PGM. Later in the day she was relieved of the duty by LCI(M) 975 and returned to Ie Shima. LCI(M)s 356, 740, and 975 took turns patrolling nearby for the next few weeks.
While diversionary assaults were useful, the gunboats frequently supplied bombardment of enemy positions ahead of advancing American forces. From 14 to 15 May and again on 19, 22, and 23 May, LCI RCM and Rocket Support Division Five (Lieutenant Commander A F. Eckelmeyer) with LCI(R)s 704, 705, 785, 1024, 1026, and 1068, and mortar gunboats from Mortar Support Division Seven (Lieutenant Commander R. E. Hunnicutt) with LCI(M)s 807–810(F), 1088, and 1089, were assigned fire-support duties for the 6th Marine Division as it attacked enemy emplacements around the city of Naha. Navigating the entrance to the harbor at Naha was of concern, as the break in the reefs provided only a narrow channel into the bay. The LCI(M)s delivered their mortar fire on the city of Naha while the LCI(R)s fired on enemy positions on Yahara Ridge and Orokumura. LCI(M) 808 ran aground on the southern tip of Kanna Se around 1600 but managed to get off in short order.
Once again problems in the construction of the mortar boxes arose. LCI(M) 1089 reported that the high rate of fire caused one of her mortar boxes to break, and the other two were close to breaking. The need for stronger boxes and water cooling jackets on the mortars was again suggested. LCI(M) 1089’s mortar box had already been repaired but not with the required hardwood. The only material available in the area was soft wood which quickly proved to be inadequate.24
The following day, Mortar Support Division Two, consisting of LCI(M)s 632, 633(F), 1010–1012, and 1023 under the command of Lieutenant Commander S. J. Kelley, was relieved of its smoke-making duties at Hagushi and sent into action. Using mortar fire plan Charlie, the ships supported the 6th Marine Division and bombarded areas of Naha and its airfield from 0827 until 1642. Observed on shore at the airport was the hulk of an enemy plane and a hangar, both of which had been worked over by aircraft and fire from the larger ships. At times it was difficult to find a target that had not been hit; the accumulated gunfire to that date having been extensive. The primary purpose of the fire was to suppress enemy action in front of the advancing troops. After each mortar barrage, the ships used their automatic weapons to fire on targets of opportunity, including buildings, cave entrances, and suspected enemy positions. Since the mortar gunboats were the newest of the conversions used at Okinawa, this led to problems as neither the infantry forces ashore, the Naval Liaison Officers (NLO) or Shore Fire Control (SFC) officers were familiar with its operations and limits. After much confusion on 15 May between Lieutenant Commander Kelley and the NLOs he noted:
On 4 May 1945 PGM 17 was grounded on a reef off Motobu Peninsula. Tawakoni ATF 14 went to her aid and LCI(M) 356 covered the operation. The ships were strafed by a Japanese Betty bomber on 6 May. LCI gunboats patrolled the area for several weeks, keeping the Japanese from gaining access to the ship. USS LCI(M) 356 Serial 1286, Anti-Aircraft Action and Operation Report, Kouri Shima, 4 to 15 May 1945, 27 May 1945, Enclosure (B).
It is felt that there is much room for improvement in the knowledge and understanding of NLO’s and SFC parties in the ability, characteristics, limitations, and standard tactical procedures of LCI mortar craft. It has been difficult at times for the Division Commander to know what it is that the NLO wants due to this limitation. In short, we don’t seem to speak the same language. Examination of Enclosure (A) will show that the NLO with which this command worked with on 15 May 1945 had:
(a) No knowledge of class patterns.
(b) No appreciation of how long it takes to move a division from the standby area to the position from which to fire.
(c) No knowledge of “reference point” as used for the various plans of fire.
(d) No appreciation of navigational problems. Witness the location of numerous reefs in vicinity of area from which fire was delivered into NAHA town.
(e) No knowledge of safety margins in regard to own troops.
(f) No appreciation of ammunition allowances.25
Apparently the mortar ships had run through their allotment of ammunition for the mission and were reluctant to exceed the total in spite of the urging of the NLO that additional mortar fire be unleashed on the targets. Kelley further noted that the NLO was not on board his ship but on board LCI(R) 1068 with the Commander of the RCM and Rocket Division Five.
Mortar Support Division Three, including LCI(M)s 351–356, were reassigned from the smoke and patrol duties at Hagushi anchorage and sent south to attack targets in and around Naha. They targeted the seawall around Naha Airfield, artillery positions near the airport and harbor, and the harbor and city itself. As with all of the gunboats supplying rocket and mortar fire in the area, they made ample use of their 20mm and 40mm guns against targets of opportunity once their mortar run had been completed. A new assignment was given to the division on 17 May. The 6th Marine Division was concerned with enemy forces slowing their advance and identified seven targets for them. They supplied mortar fire for the Marines and then retired from their position. The Marines needed their assistance again on 18 May, identifying two targets for the mortar gunboats. From about 0907 to approximately 1120, the mortar gunboats poured mortar fire on both. However, at 1120, they were called away from their mortar bombardment duties to aid Longshaw DD 559 which had run onto a reef in the area, fallen under the guns of the Japanese Army ashore, and was on fire. They aided in picking up survivors and spent several hours patrolling the area looking for additional men in the water. Attempts to come alongside the destroyer to help with firefighting were made, with LCI(G) 356 managing to secure lines. Other gunboats of the division made the attempt as well, but the flat bottomed LCI hulls made maneuvering difficult. The gunboats eventually cast off as there was no further assistance that could be given to Longshaw.
The gunboats returned to the Hagushi area for a few days of making smoke, but were back off Naha from 19 to 23 May. Their mission was to support the advance of the Army’s 7th Division as it made its way southward in the Naha area. Rocket and mortar assaults were made on Naha and also on the eastern side of the island at Yonabaru. Participating in these support missions were LCI RCM and Rocket Divisions One, Two, Four, Five, and Six, along with Mortar Support Division One.
LCI(M) 353 was operating off Ie Shima on 25 May when she found herself in the middle of an air raid. At 0800 the ships in the area received a flash red-control green air raid signal indicating that enemy aircraft were in the area. As she went to general quarters, a Japanese twin-engine bomber crashed into the water about 300 yards off her bow. Other enemy planes swarmed overhead, many out of range of the gunboat’s 40mm gun. A few miles away Spectacle AM 305 was hit by a kamikaze, killing twenty-nine of her men and wounding six. LCI(M) 353 headed toward her to render assistance. LSM 135 also came to the scene and no sooner arrived when she was crashed by an enemy bomber. Firefighting on the ship was impossible as her water mains had been broken in the attack. She began to list to starboard, and leaking oil set the water around her ablaze. Her commanding officer, Lieutenant H. L. Derby, Jr., and ten of the crew were killed, with another ten wounded. She was abandoned and drifted on to a nearby reef, a complete loss. Gunners on LCI(M) 353 spotted a Japanese Tony diving on a nearby destroyer escort, the William C. Cole DE 641.The Tony overshot the DE and headed for LCI(M) 353. The mortar gunboat took it under fire with its 20mm guns and scored a number of hits. The plane flew over the gunboat and headed away, bursting into flame a few minutes later. It crashed into the sea. LCI(M) 353 patrolled the area picking up survivors from LSM 135 and Spectacle, in addition to three men from William C. Cole who inexplicably wound up in the water during the attacks.
The invasion of Iheya Shima, originally scheduled for 1 June 1945, was postponed until 3 June. Assigned to fire support for the invasion was Lieutenant Commander A. H. Connors’ TU 31.25.42 which consisted of LCI(M)s 351–356, and Lieutenant Commander R. F. Hunnicutt’s TU 31.25.43 comprised of LCI(M)s 807–810(GF) 1088, and 1089. At 0955 the ships took their fire-support stations and began to prepare for the assault. They followed plan Charlie and began their mortar bombardment at 1028. Occasional pauses in the firing took place as American aircraft bombed and strafed targets ashore. It was difficult to determine the effect of the bombardment since there were no enemy positions observable and no return fire was encountered. The 2nd Marine Division landed. A typhoon was predicted for the region and the mortar division headed for Nago Wan to ride it out, returning the following day to resume screening and smoke-laying duties which ended on 6 June.
LCS(L)s 95, 91, 68, and 124 lead the attack on Blue Beaches 1 and 2 at Aguni Island, 9 June 1945. NARA 80G 274357.
LCS(L) 124 fires at Japanese positions on Aguni Shima as she leads landing craft to shore. NARA RG 19 LCS(L) (3) 124.
Aguni Shima was taken on 9 June 1945. Connors’ TU 31.25.42 provided mortar fire support beginning at 0542. After about twenty minutes of fire on the shore area, it was determined that there was no enemy resistance and the troops were given the go ahead to land. The gunboats remained in the area for two days, providing smoke cover and anti-aircraft protection.
The End of the Campaign for Okinawa
The deadly fighting on Okinawa had continued into May and June. By that time the Japanese had been pushed to the far southern extreme of Okinawa, and many of their units were near the shoreline in range of the rocket ships and mortar gunboats.
Early activity in the fire-support region saw numerous Japanese soldiers killed by gunfire, rockets, and mortars. June 2 found LCI(R) 769 patrolling along the southeast coast of Okinawa near the southernmost tip of the island. Numerous targets of opportunity were on display, including pill boxes, cave openings, and occasional enemy activity. On occasion an explosion indicated that they had hit an ammunition dump. Some suspected enemy positions in the hills were observed, and LCI(R)s 646 and 769 fired rocket salvos into the forward slopes at Sakibaru Saki.
By the end of the Okinawa campaign, the Japanese forces had been pushed to the far southern end of the island. There they fell victim to constant raids by gunboats and destroyers operating just off shore. LCI gunboats were constantly firing in support of advancing American troops. Commander LCI Flotilla 16 Serial 35, Action Report—Invasion of the Okinawa Group Liu Chius, 26 March to 21 June 1945, 15 July 1945, Enclosures (A) Fire Support Missions.
On 3 June LCI(R) 647 hit an ammo dump, causing a small explosion. Shortly thereafter, one of her rocket salvos landed in the middle of about fifty Japanese soldiers near Gushtokan, killing most of them. LCI(R)s 647, 764, and 770 cruised the area with no shortage of targets, using 40mm and 20mm fire in addition to their rockets.
LCI(R)s 643, 645, 647, 762, and 770 patrolled off the southern tip of Okinawa on 5 June. On board 649 was an Army recon party to help them spot targets. The Japanese had positioned a six inch naval gun in a cave overlooking the plateau south of Gushtokan which was preventing Army advances in the area. Call-fire was requested to eliminate the threat. The gunboats fired on the cave with 40mm guns, receiving heavy mortar and small arms fire in return. When the smoke had cleared, it appeared that the gun had been destroyed and the Army unit made its advance.
The following day the gunboats continued their cooperation with the Army. A spotter plane from the cruiser Tuscaloosa CA 37 directed their rocket fire against targets near Mabuni and Komesu. Return fire from the Japanese was heavy. They recognized the severe threat from the gunboats but were unable to hit any of them. The spotter plane pilot radioed back that the gunboats were on target, and the Army radioed their great appreciation for the assistance. Reports from Army units began to filter back to the naval command indicating that the support of the gunboats was extremely valuable. Just knowing that heavy firepower was only a call away gave the Army and Marine units ashore a psychological boost. That sort of benefit was impossible to quantify, but it was invaluable.
As the fighting moved to the southern end of Okinawa and reached its final stage, it was not uncommon for enemy troops to attempt to escape from the area. Numerous individuals and small groups of men were captured as they attempted to swim away from the beaches or escape using small boats and canoes. Patrolling offshore to prevent their escape were the gunboats, many of which either captured or killed them. LCI(G) 567 reported capturing seven Okinawans at 2300 on 9 June. They were attempting to escape the area near Naha in a small boat. The boat was sunk with .50 caliber machine gun fire. Several hours later, at 0300 on 10 June, another boat with five Okinawans was sighted. Five more prisoners were added to the group and the boat was sunk. On 11 June an intermittent radar blip gave away the position of still another swimmer near the reef at Naha. The gunboat followed him for a half hour trying to get him to accept the life ring they were throwing. He finally consented, was pulled aboard, and added to the prisoner tally. Lieutenant K. C. Flory, CO of LCI(G) 567, recommended that cargo nets be used to aid in picking up prisoners. Also, it was found useful to keep a spotlight shining in their eyes to prevent the use of any weapons they might have. He further recommended that the gunboats be issued Japanese phrasebooks giving them the ability to communicate orders to those being picked up.26
On 6 June, LCI(R) 769 patrolled the southeast coast of Okinawa firing on numerous pill boxes and suspected enemy installations. At 1640 her lookouts spotted what appeared to be a Japanese command post at Mabuni-dake and hit it with a rocket salvo. A few days later, on 9 June, the rocket gunboat was back in the same location. This time she discovered two camouflaged twenty-five foot dugouts on the beach and destroyed them with 40mm fire. Japanese small arms fire erupted from some of the caves in the area and the ship was hit by a number of rounds. However, .30 caliber rifle bullets had little impact on the steel hull and topsides. The gunboat turned toward shore and ran in close to the beach firing her guns into every cave opening visible. That ended the enemy small arms fire.
There was no dearth of targets in the southern part of Okinawa. On 10 June Lieutenant Commander H. T. McKnight led his fire-support group (TU 52.20.4) in a mission against the towns of Mabuni, Ibaru, and Komesu. They maneuvered in close to shore and strafed various targets. Some of their rounds hit a small ammo dump resulting in a large explosion. Enemy mortar fire was directed at the ships but none were hit.27 LCI(R) 1028 had the closest call when she was narrowly missed by a mortar round which hit the water only fifteen feet off her starboard beam. Having overheated their guns with constant firing, the gunboats retreated to a position 5,000 yards from shore to let them cool. After an hour they had cooled sufficiently and the rocket ships headed inshore once again. This time they caught about forty enemy troops moving through the area and cut them down with ten minutes of 20mm and 40mm fire. Thirty minutes later a half dozen more enemy troops were observed near a cornfield and killed by gunfire from the ships.
The land on the southernmost area of Okinawa is hilly with cliffs along the seashore. To the west of the town of Mabuni, a path ran up the bluffs and over the top. This was a busy area. LCI(R) 647 reported:
A great deal of activity was observed on this particular path, which ran almost straight up the bluff and disappeared through a V-shaped notch on the top. Path became so popular we dubbed it “Park Ave.” Women were frequently observed carrying food and supplies down the path, disappearing behind large rocks at bottom of path. Believed that this large rock housed an Army activity of importance for our consistent bagging of enemy troops along path did not seem to discourage traffic. Dawn and dusk sweeps proved extremely effective. Caught many troops by surprise as they strolled up the hill in plain sight.28
Between 10 and 20 June, numerous Japanese soldiers were killed while transiting the path or crossing the notch at the top. It was obvious that a number of enemy troops were in the area, and mortar and rocket fire was aimed at the reverse sides of the bluffs. The forward bluffs facing the sea were covered with foliage and this made it difficult to spot enemy soldiers. From time to time soldiers were seen with foliage attached to themselves in an attempt at camouflage.
Five and six inch Japanese guns were located in some of the caves near the water, and ships reported being taken under fire by them from time to time. On a number of occasions mortar fire from shore bracketed the gunboats, but none were hit. Small arms fire also emanated from areas of dense foliage on shore and it was difficult to find the source. In all cases, the suspect area was blanketed with 20mm and 40mm fire with unknown results.
A particularly severe attack occurred on 18 June when the area seemed strangely quiet. No enemy soldiers were seen and no fire was directed at the ships. The enemy was lying in wait. The ships were struck with a shower of machine gun and rifle fire from the shore. None of the gunboats were damaged and there were no personnel casualties. Twenty and 40mm fire from the ships soon put an end to the ambush.
The Japanese at the southern end of the island were nearing their final efforts. Under fire from American troops ashore and from ships afloat, they were also subject to air attacks. On 13 June, observers on LCI(R) 769 watched as sixty F4U Corsairs hit the Japanese in the southern area with rockets and napalm. The napalm in this instance was not as useful as it might have been against other targets; it could not penetrate the cave entrances. Napalm in the hills did not work particularly well, as there was nothing to set afire in the area. It had already been destroyed by naval gunfire, shore based artillery, and previous air strikes.29
Japanese soldiers, as well as civilians, continued to flee the onslaught of Army and Marine forces at the southern end of Okinawa. On 16 June LCI(R) 650 was firing on caves in the cliffs overlooking ARA Point and Chiyan Point when her lookouts spotted ten people on the beach waving white flags. The gunboats put out a request to the Army to cease fire in the area so that the ten could be picked up. The Flotilla Commander attempted to communicate with them using Chinese, but they could not understand the language. Fortunately the CO of LCI(R) 762, Lieutenant (jg) E. E. Kelley, did speak their language. Using his Japanese skills, he convinced one of them to swim out to the ship. An Army interpreter was on board and learned that there were a number of civilians in the area, as well as some troops, who wished to surrender. The location of Japanese headquarters near Mabuni was learned through the interrogation.30
Twiggs DD 591 was on patrol off the southern end of Okinawa when she was torpedoed and then crashed by a Jill at 2030. The torpedo caused her No. 2 magazine to explode. The plane circled around and crashed into the destroyer, finishing the job. Twiggswent under as LCS(L) 14 and LCI(R) 650 tried to close on the ship to assist in firefighting, but they were driven off by the intense fires. Both gunboats patrolled the area picking up survivors.
LCI(R) 1077, operating as a part of RCM and Rocket Division One, was tasked with the mission of encouraging Japanese soldiers and Okinawan civilians to surrender. Her CO, Lieutenant G. N. Armstrong, reported:
On 17 June we were assigned to work with 1st Lt. Kwiecinski of the Army in trying to obtain a mass surrender. We remained in this capacity until 22 June. We had a Japanese interpreter and a Japanese soldier aboard; their job was to talk to the people in the caves. A loudspeaker system was installed. As this was the first big scale attempt, no knowledge of the outcome could be seen. We met with no appreciable success the first two days; but the remaining days brought a complete change. Hundreds poured out of the caves and began walking to American lines as we talked to them. When asked why they surrendered, many answered, “American ship promise we would not be harmed if we surrendered.” The take included many soldiers as well as civilians. Our mission was a success and we received a “Job Well Done” from the Army.31
LCI(M)s 807–809, 1088, and 1089 (TU 32.24.3 ) operated from Hagushi anchorage and steamed to the southernmost area of Okinawa to provide fire support for the 1st Marine Division on 17 and 18 June. Arriving at the scene, the mortar gunboats found that the target area was already being worked over by larger ships and aircraft. The enemy was positioned on a series of ridges in the area, and the ships directed mortar fire on these areas which were to the north of the town of Komesu. Marine spotters requested that specific targets be destroyed and the ships were selective in their fire support. Headquarters 1st Marine Division reported that the mortar fire was on target and that the ships had provided significant assistance.
At the same time Mortar Division Six, under Lieutenant Young Davis, was supporting the Army’s 7th Division in the southern area. They targeted the area south of the village of Ibaru and the beach south of Mabuni from the water to 400 yards inland. North of Mabuni village lay a ridge with Japanese positions. Using mortars and 40mm shell fire, the mortar gunboats worked over the area both days before returning to Hagushi each night. Included in Mortar Division Six were LCI(M)s 801–806. On 17 June, machine gun fire from shore fell near the ships but they suffered no damage. A mishap occurred on LCI(M) 806 during the firing when a flash from one of the mortars set off powder rings in the number 3 ready box. The flash covered the entire well deck, causing three men to go over the side to escape the fire. Fortunately, the men suffered only minor burns and were soon hauled back on board.
With the fighting on Okinawa nearing its conclusion, more and more Okinawan civilians and Japanese soldiers began to surrender to the gunboats operating inshore. On 19 June, the end was near:
At 1520, LCI(R)s 762 and 1069 closed the beach east of ARA SAKI to investigate a large movement in that area. As they closed the “big parade” started. Civilians and troops appearing from behind cover when it was seen that the LCI(R)s were not firing. Troops stacked their arms and joined the procession moving northeast along the surrender route. There was no apparent control of the mob.
At 1640 it was seen that our troops had broken through the beach, and at dusk 7th Division announced that there were no longer any front lines.32
Lessons Learned and Recommendations
The campaign for Okinawa had seen the use of the gunboats in their various configurations on a grand scale. Commanders of the various task groups and units were justifiably proud of their accomplishments. They were equally distressed at the use to which some of the ships had been put. In particular, the ships were little understood by the infantry forces ashore. They appreciated their firepower in the initial assault, but failed to recognize that they could continue to supply fire support as the troops advanced on the enemy. In areas where the fighting moved far inland, they could not be used, however, as long as the fighting was near the shoreline, rocket, mortar, and automatic weapons fire could be supplied by the gunboats.
Captain Clarence E. Coffin, Jr., who served as the Commander of LCI Flotilla Sixteen, was particularly appalled at the misuse of the rocket ships under his command after the initial assault on Okinawa on 1 April 1945. Coffin’s experience with the ships in combat was significant; he had also commanded LCI(R) units at Iwo Jima. In his Action Report—Invasion of the Okinawa Group Liu Chius, 26 March to 21 June 1945, he stated:
In view of the excellent performance of the LCI(R)s on fire-support duties during the latter part of May and during June it is strongly recommended that they be used primarily for close fire-support and not put to uses that completely ignore their tremendous fire power. It is well understood that it is necessary to use some LCI types for press duties, dispatch boats, etc; but it is felt that an LCI type with less fire power could be used, or if none are available, that these onerous duties could be spread out among all LCI types so that none would be completely lost to combatant duties. This Group was particularly hard hit as all 36 LCI(R)s were assigned to miscellaneous duties ranging from barracks for LCT officers to dispatch boats. For about two weeks after L-Day there was no concerted effort to reduce or consolidate this miscellaneous employment of LCI(R)s; but on the contrary, units to which they were assigned made a great effort to keep them busy enough to claim their retention. Once an LCI type is assigned a unit it is extremely difficult to obtain their permanent release.33
Continued lobbying by the officers in charge of LCI(R) units resulted in their increased use. In March and April, Coffin’s ships, excluding invasion day, had engaged in only nineteen fire-support missions. By mid–May their use had increased, thanks to this pressure. Seventy-five fire-support missions were completed, primarily in the last half of May. As enemy forces were driven to the coastal areas in southern Okinawa, the ships were engaged in 145 fire-support missions from 1 to 21 June.
Part of the problem in the lack of use for the ships had to do with basic education. Many of the ground commanders were just unfamiliar with them, and concerns were voiced over the possibility of rockets falling short. This was not a real problem, and the greater accuracy of the newer spin-stabilized rockets made it a non-issue. More knowledge of the ship’s capabilities by ground commanders would have led to their increased use earlier in the campaign and saved American lives.
It was noted by the commanding officers of other types of gunboats that the rocket ships were particularly suited for call-fire after the initial invasion. The new spin-stabilized rockets had a longer range than mortars34 and were more useful as many targets were inland. Lieutenant John E. Farrar, commanding officer of LCI(M) 1010, noted:
The range of the rocket [spin-stabilized] is greater than the mortar. This additional range would eliminate possibilities of endangering the lives of troops on the beaches.
The rate of fire would be greater and more continuous because of a lower maximum ordinate. The danger of hitting low flying planes would not be as great.
Additional armament of the rocket ship, including twin and single mount 40’s would permit greater effective firing power, better adapted for close-in firing and call fire. It must be remembered that the return fire from the assault beaching area was practically negligible, but with stiffer opposition it is felt doubtful whether the mortar ship would have proved to have been the “right” ship for the “right job.”35
Interestingly enough, Farrar’s description of the “right” ship fitted the newer LCS(L)s which had fired 4.5 inch barrage rockets at the beaches alongside the LCI(M)s. An upgrade to the new 5 inch spin-stabilized rockets would make the LCS(L)s even more potent. This was not attempted and the LCS(L)s finished the war with their original rocket armament.
Trying to hit the enemy suicide boats at night was difficult unless the ship’s 40mm guns were equipped with telescopic sights. Experiments with putting Mark 77 sights on LCI(G) 442’s 40mm gun proved to give excellent results. This gave gunners on the 40mms the advantage of sighting in on suicide boats at a greater distance from the ship and destroying them before they could get so close that the gun could not depress sufficiently to destroy them.36
By the end of the campaign for Okinawa, most of the LCI(R)s had replaced their original 4.5 inch fin-stabilized rockets with 5 inch spin-stabilized rockets which had a greater range and better accuracy. SO-1 Radar was only installed on one ship in each division. Coffin recommended that every third ship be so equipped.
Small ships such as the LCI(R)s, LCI(M)s, LCI(G)s, and LCS(L)s had limited storage facilities and could not store specialty foods and other items. Coffin recommended that some system be devised to replenish fresh provisions, fruit juices, and other perishable items. Larger ships frequently took the more desirable supplies before the smaller ships could get in their requisitions. Life on the gunboats was not like life on the larger ships. There were no movies, recreational areas, or large storage space. This writer has had the opportunity to investigate virtually every compartment and space on the LCS(L) 102, currently a floating museum at Mare Island, California, and can attest to the fact that space is extremely limited. So much so, that it is nothing short of amazing that such a ship could perform the tasks required of it.
The ships suffered from maintenance problems as well. Paint was in short supply in the war zone, and many of the ships had rust in various places. Acquiring paint to remedy the situation was often extremely difficult; the commanding officer of a destroyer or other large ship usually was able to acquire paint and maintenance supplies, whereas the Lieutenant (jg) commanding a gunboat would not be so fortunate. Coffin noted that:
Adverse comment has been made about the rusty “Tramp Steamer” appearance of many of the landing craft. 98% of the officers and men are proud of their ships and resent the unseamanlike appearance; but the landing craft are again among those left out when paint is issued. Practically every pot of paint used by this Flotilla at staging areas and the objective was begged or traded for.37
Many of the gunboats wore out their automatic weapons gun barrels and their engines constantly needed repairs. Spare parts were in short supply. With so many of the gunboats operating at Okinawa, Coffin felt that sufficient spares should be placed on ARLs.
The LCS(L)s had standard armament, with the exception of the bow gun. Mounted there on the ships sent to the southern areas was a 3"/50, which proved very useful against barge traffic and shore targets in the Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Borneo. Most of the ships sent to Okinawa were supposed to be equipped with a twin 40mm bow gun, however, many of the first ships to arrive at Okinawa were fitted with an “interim” 40mm single. Wiring and controls were installed for the twin 40mm, but shortages of the twin led to many of the ships being equipped with the single 40mm. Since most of the LCS(L)s served on the radar picket stations and their major concern was enemy aircraft, a third twin 40mm gun would have been preferred by all of their commanding officers.
Radar on the LCS(L)s was insufficient to pick up all but low flying planes. Although it was useful for detecting suicide boats, the assignment of many LCS(L)s to the radar picket lines left them at a distinct disadvantage for the task. By the end of the first month, experiments were under way to install improved radar units on some of the LCS(L)s. However, by the time conclusions had been reached on their use, the war was nearly over. Had they been scheduled for radar improvements, they might have had new radar installed by the time of the planned invasion of Japan.
LCI(M)s were also in need of some changes. Constant firing of the mortars damaged the beds and support frameworks for the weapon. Numerous repairs had to be made on site, and the problem became so extreme that some mortar gunboat COs requested that welding equipment be a standard part of their assigned equipment.