Training the Crews
After being sworn in at various locations throughout the country, new recruits were sent to a number of bases where they were introduced to Navy life. Some of these men, such as Vaughn E. Hampton, enlisted while still minors. Hampton managed to enlist at the age of fourteen and celebrated his fifteenth birthday while going through Amphibious School in San Diego. Eventually his parents found out, after he had been on LCI(G) 450 for the invasion of Kwajalein Atoll. At Pearl Harbor on 7 April 1944 he was told he was to be discharged because of his age. His paperwork was misplaced and he was reassigned to Oak Hill LSD 7 before his records caught up with him. He was finally discharged on 14 June 1944.1 Numerous other under-age boys managed to get past the enlistment officers and join the Navy, as well as the other services. The means to check their ages simply did not exist in the early 1940s.
At the beginning of the war there were four bases that handled most of the training of recruits and those who had finished basic training. The four bases were at Newport, Rhode Island, established in 1883; Great Lakes, Illinois, established in 1911; Norfolk, Virginia, and San Diego, California, both developed in 1917. The rapid expansion of the Navy shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor saw increased construction at all of the bases, as well as the addition of new ones. The peacetime Navy of 1939 grew from 110,000 men to 3,009,380 in 1945.2
The curriculum at the bases included evaluation, physical fitness, introduction to naval customs, traditions and practices, and general training for naval personnel. From that point on, the recruits were sent on to a variety of schools as determined by both their ability and the needs of the Navy. Having completed their advanced schools, they were then sent to one of the Amphibious Training Bases. Among them were the amphibious training bases established at Fort Pierce, Florida; San Diego (Coronado), California; Little Creek, Virginia; and Solomons, Maryland. For the gun crews that served on the gunboats, one of the important bases was at Fort Pierce.
The first of the amphibious training bases was built at Solomons, Maryland. Work on the base began at the end of June 1942. Navy estimates indicated that the base would fulfill its mission of training sailors for the amphibious forces within a year. The immediate mission was the invasion of North Africa. It was thought that once that had been accomplished the base would probably not be needed. Accordingly, construction at the base was viewed as a temporary mission and it was considered usable by August 1942. This led to a number of problems later in the war, as the need for additional training facilities was recognized. Solomons had been constructed in haste, although the buildings were completed in accordance with standard building practices. The downside of the base was that, since it was assumed to be a temporary facility, there were no sidewalks, recreation areas, gyms, a chapel, theaters, swimming pools, or any other “luxuries” that might be found at a permanent base. Although the location of the base was sufficient for training purposes, the water surrounding it was limited in depth. Larger amphibious ships, such as the LST, could not be beached. They had to be anchored off the base.
Solomons Amphibious Training Base in Maryland was one of the most important bases for the amphibious ships. It trained men for service on the LCI(L)s and LCS(L)s. NARA 80G 203872.
Firefighting was an essential skill for everyone on board ship. Practice in firefighting is shown at Solomons ATB on 23 September 1944. NARA 80G 288608.
Quartermasters training with the sextant on a mock-up of an LCI(L) at Solomons ATB on 7 October 1944. Official U.S. Navy photograph.
John Rooney, who served as a radio man on LCS(L) 82, recalled Solomons: “The base sat at the mouth of the Patuxent River along Chesapeake Bay’s western shore—sultry, mosquito ridden, swampy—a sort of down-home Guadalcanal without Japs in palm trees.”3
Liberty was almost non-existent with no real access to the nearby cities of Baltimore and Washington, DC. Solomons itself was a small town and was easily overrun by sailors on liberty. Within a short while, local newspapers ran articles indicating that the base was causing problems for the local populace. On 17 January 1943, The Baltimore Sun ran an article noting how the “simple life” of Solomons had changed.4 The Calvert Independent published a poem on 10 June 1943 written by local resident Alberta Woodburn, entitled “Is This ‘Solomons” Anymore?”5 Clearly the presence of the base was having a significant impact on the local population. However, this was to be the case at most locations throughout the country as bases, either newly constructed or long in existence, were swelled by the tide of new military recruits in preparation for numerous campaigns against the enemy.
The resultant impact on the sailors being trained at Solomons was low morale. Stuck on a base in the middle of nowhere under trying conditions made it difficult for the men. Newly commissioned officers had little point of reference and so were a bit less affected by the conditions. In addition, they had the ability to get off the base on more occasions, even though trips to the cities were still a problem. For senior officers the realization that their careers were in decline came with assignment to the amphibious forces. It was considered to be the “Siberia of the Navy” and was also referred to as “Ensign Disposal School.” For senior officers it signaled that their careers were over and for new officers, that their futures were bleak.
Many Annapolis midshipmen were enticed into the service at the end of their third year when Commander Edwin Thomas, future Commander of LCS(L) Flotilla 3, Group 8, appeared at Annapolis in search of officer recruits. The amphibious forces were looking for fifty volunteers. Although skeptical, midshipmen soon began to hear rumors that the “volunteers” might find themselves in command of an LCI(L) or LCS(L) or in the position of XO on one of the larger amphibious ships. Further enticements included the possibility that the billet called for the rank of full Lieutenant, meaning a jump of two grades over the normal promotion to Ensign upon graduation from the academy. Fifty volunteers from the class of 1945 made their decision and twelve wound up as commanding officers on LCS(L)s. The other thirty-eight found themselves serving on LSTs and LSMs in various capacities, with a couple becoming skippers on LSTs. Their academic schedule was streamlined and they graduated in June 1944.
Not all of the LCS(L) skippers were without experience. Frank Adams had served on LCI(L) 69 in the Pacific, participating in patrols at Bougainville. The 69 was then sent to Noumea, New Caledonia, for conversion into a gunboat. Adams found himself heading back to the States where he was eventually assigned command of LCS(L) 104, just being completed at the Commercial Iron Works in Portland, Oregon. On 28 February 1945, he stood on the 104’s deck at the commissioning ceremony and became its new CO.6
Lieutenant Commander John H. Morrill, an Annapolis graduate in 1924, had served in the Navy in a number of different capacities. At the outbreak of the war he was in the Philippines commanding a minesweeper. As the Philippines was surrendered to the Japanese, he and seventeen men escaped from Manila Bay in a small boat and made their way to Australia. Back in the United States he requested assignment to the amphibious forces in spite of warnings that it was not a desirable assignment and would hold back his advancement in rank. He rejected the advice and had himself assigned to the command of LCI(L) Flotilla Thirteen and reported to Solomons to take charge of the flotilla.7
Trainees at the base spent their time training on LCI(L)s since the newly converted gunboats were basically the same with the exception of armament. LCI(L)s 569 and 592 were used for training on the base and both LCI and LCS sailors trained on them. In July 1944, the first of the LCS(L)s assigned to the training base arrived and the LCS(L) Training Group was formed. Six LCS(L)s would eventually be assigned to the base for varying lengths of time. Lieutenant Commander H. Heine, Jr. was the CO of the new LCS(L) training Group.8 LCS(L)s 1, 5, and 6 were permanently assigned and LCS(L)s 2, 3, and 4 were at the base for use as training ships for approximately six months before heading for the war zone in late February 1945. Crews that served on the LCI gunboats underwent their training at the base, but when their LCI(L)s were converted, they had to undergo on the job training for their new mission and equipment.
All sailors going through training at Solomons ATB practiced various skills on the LCI(L)s and LCS(L)s that were based there. Practice manning the guns was essential for most. Sailors are shown during gunnery training on board LCI(L) 1003.The 20mm gun shown here was found on all the LCS(L)s and LCI(L)s as well as the LCI gunboats. Official U.S. Navy photograph taken 16 October l944.
North Platte Canteen. Courtesy Lincoln County Historical Museum.
Citizens of North Platte, Nebraska, showed their patriotism and support of the troops during World War II. On Christmas Day in 1941 they turned the town’s train depot into a large dining hall to feed servicemen on the trains passing through. Numerous servicemen were the beneficiaries of their generosity. The canteen was in operation until the end of the war. Similar canteens existed throughout the country during the war. Courtesy Lincoln County Historical Museum.
Fort Pierce was commissioned on 26 January 1943. From that point on, numerous Gunner’s Mates trained at the base and then moved on to other locations to receive additional training for their specific ships. From Fort Pierce, the newly trained men reported to the Amphibious Training Base at Solomons. By 1944 a number of other amphibious training bases had been established at Ocracoke in North Carolina, Panama City, Florida, Morro Bay, California, and Galveston, Texas.
After completing amphibious training at Solomons, crews were sent either to Boston to pick up their ships at the George Lawley & Sons Shipyard or to Portland, Oregon, to get their ships at Albina Engine and Machine Works or Commercial Iron Works. Transportation was usually by bus to Washington, D.C. Some crews were lucky and delayed train schedules gave some a bit of much desired liberty. The trains used for transport varied from jury-rigged transports utilizing freight cars to relatively comfortable regular train cars. Crews transiting the country from Solomons to Portland had the longest ride and, at many stops along the way, they were treated to meals by local groups supporting the war effort. Among them was the famous North Platte Canteen in North Platte, Nebraska. The canteen had been established on 25 December 1941 in an effort by the local people to show their appreciation for the servicemen.
Some of the crews might have some free time in Boston if their ship was not finished. This was also the case in Portland, Oregon. Local inhabitants were frequently quite nice to the servicemen and they were treated well. Nothing could ease the problem of being separated from home and family, but men were kept busy in order to keep them from getting homesick.
Officers and Crew
The number of men on board the gunboats varied. The largest number were on board the LCS(L)s and LCI(G)s, each having a complement of five officers and sixty-five men. LCI(R)s carried three officers and thirty-one men and the LCI(M)s four officers and forty-nine men.9 The difference in the numbers had much to do with the ship’s armament. LCI(G)s and LCS(L)s were the most heavily armed and carried a diversity of weapons, 20mm, 40mm, rockets, and .50 caliber machine guns. The LCI(M)s and LCI(R)s did not have the number of weapons that the others had and thus needed fewer men. Most ships in the U.S. Navy operated at about 85 percent of their assigned crew strength. One of the exceptions was the subs, which always had a full complement.
On each of the gunboats there might have been a different number of officers and men, but they generally shared the same duties. Officers performed supervisory duties. Overall responsibility for the ship fell on the Commanding Officer who made decisions based on orders he received from the Flotilla Commander. He was the supreme authority in all matters relating to the operation of the ship and its crew. Commanding Officers on the gunboats usually held the rank of Lieutenant (jg) or Lieutenant. In a few instances the post was held by an Ensign, although this did not happen often. Second in command was the ship’s Executive Officer, who also served as the ship’s navigator. The Gunnery Officer was in charge of the weapons systems and the ammunition supply. The Engineering Officer supervised the Motor Machinist’s Mates and Firemen, who ran the engines. A Communications Officer kept contact with other ships in the fleet and supervised flag, signal light, and radio communications. On the LCI(G)s and LCS(L)s a sixth officer was also present. He was known as the “Additional Officer” or “First Lieutenant” and might be assigned whatever duties were in need of extra supervision, such as damage control. Ships with smaller crews and fewer officers, such as the LCI(R) and LCI(M), assigned multiple duties to the officers and men where needed. Each of the officers had a senior enlisted man under him who handled the routine duties of supervising the crewmen who were charged with specific tasks.
The day-to-day operation of the ship was handled by the Boatswain (Bosun), Coxswain, and the Seamen. They were the laborers of the ship and were responsible for numerous duties such as steering the ship, docking, anchoring, loading guns, ship maintenance, and whatever jobs needed their attention.
The Boatswain oversaw the conduct of drills and made sure that everyone was in the correct place and familiar with his assigned equipment. Since fire fighting was an important part of training, he made sure that every man knew which fire extinguisher he was assigned to and how to work it. He made daily inspections of the firefighting apparatus, life rafts, life preservers, and other vital equipment. The Boatswain had a great deal of control over the crew and regularly inspected their quarters and all the interior components of the ship. On occasion he would order the compartments aired out, and bedding would be taken topside for a few hours. Clothing lines might be strung through various equipment topside and freshly washed clothes hung to dry. When heavy weather threatened, he saw to it that lifelines were rigged on the ship in case the crew had to work on deck.
LCI gunboats and LCS(L)s not only shared the same hull, they had the same engines. This is the main engine room on an LCS(L) showing the starboard quad engine. The view is looking aft and starboard. Official U.S. Navy photograph.
Assisting the Engineering Officer was the Chief Motor Machinist’s Mate who oversaw the operation of the engine room. He was assisted by a Motor Machinist’s Mate and two Firemen who ensured that the engines were supplied with fuel and maintained properly. They were usually referred to as the “Black Gang” and performed the dirty tasks associated with the maintenance of engines. This was a noisy, miserable job. Secured in their engine room compartment, the men were frequently made ill by the smell of diesel oil and stale air. According to Motor Machinist’s Mate Edgar De Coursey, who served on LCS(L) 61, “it was terrible duty, heavy odor of fuel oil, you had a hard time keeping your food down.”10 The Motor Machinist’s Mate on duty could be found at a small desk near the engine room telegraph which was connected to the pilot house. The officer in charge on the conning tower gave the order to the Quartermaster, who in turn transmitted the order to the engine room via the telegraph. The Motor Machinist’s Mate on duty signaled back that the order had been received. The Motor Machinist’s Mate also maintained the steam generator and the fresh water distillation unit. An Electrician’s Mate might be found in the engine room, but he was basically free to attend to any part of the ship that needed his electrical expertise.
The Gunnery Officer oversaw the work of the Fire Directors and the operation of the guns. A gunboat usually had one Fire Control man and seven Gunner’s Mates. Assisting in the firing of the guns would be a number of Seamen, who would pass ammunition and load the guns. The Fire Control man operated the Mark 51 gun directors, if the ship was so equipped. These gun directors were located in tubs near the guns. One could be seen on the forward face of the conning tower on the LCS(L), and another in a separate tower aft the deck house. Two men usually occupied the fire control tower. When he was on target, the Fire Control Director closed a key on the gun handles in front of him and fired the gun. The LCS(L)s gun directors provided a distinct advantage, particularly against aircraft. Single 40mm bow guns were manually aimed.
Directly manning the 40mm guns were seven men: a gun captain, a trainer, a pointer, two second loaders and two first loaders. The pointer elevated the gun and the trainer moved the gun from side to side. The gun tubs were filled with ammunition clips, each of which held four rounds. Individual clips held one tracer, one armor piercing round, and two regular rounds. As reloading took place, damage control men working below passed ammunition cans from the ammunition locker. Contained in each can were four ammo clips.
Guns needed continual maintenance. Outside the war zone this might be done at a leisurely pace, but in the war zone under battle conditions, speed was a requisite. In all cases it was not considered wise to break down more than one 40mm gun at a time lest the ship be lacking in defensive capabilities. The ships carried spare barrels which could be switched to allow the dirty one to be cleaned once it cooled down. In some cases water was played on hot barrels to cool them rapidly so that they could be switched. This usually led to warping of the barrel, rendering it useless. Some of the Gunnery Officers learned this the hard way.
Radar men manned the ship’s radar. A Radarman and a Radarman Striker took turns standing watch on the screens to identify ships and aircraft in the vicinity. Also on board was a Radar Technician whose skills kept the radar in operation.
The “doctor” on board a gunboat was usually a Pharmacist’s Mate. He was tasked with looking after the general health of the crew and would render first aid and diagnose various health problems. If the condition of a crewman was such that his limited skills were not sufficient, he would recommend the transfer of his patient to a shore facility or to a larger ship where a medical doctor might be on board. The Pharmacist’s Mate dispensed various medicines and, in conjunction with the Boatswain, supervised the overall cleanliness of the crews. The Pharmacist’s Mate might also double in duty as a Yeoman, typing the ship’s log, action reports, and other ship’s documents which would include the health record of each member of the crew.
Electrician’s Mates were responsible for operating and maintaining the electric system of the ship. Highly dependent on the Electrician’s Mate was the Communications Officer and his crew, which included the Radioman and Signalman.
While underway, Radiomen maintained a 24-hour listening watch, copying continuous encoded fleet broadcast messages from land-based Naval stations, and passing any relevant traffic to the Communications Officer. In battle conditions, when normal open-sea radio silence was suspended, Radiomen operated short-range voice radios in talk between ships.
Signalmen were trained in the use of the semaphore or blinking light which was used to communicate between ships during periods of radio blackout. Signalmen were also skilled in the use of signaling between ships using flags.
The ship’s Quartermaster also had some training in the use of signals in case the Signalman was disabled. Normally the Quartermaster assisted the Executive Officer in navigating with the sextant and maintaining the charts. During periods of general quarters, the Quartermaster was at the ship’s wheel or in the emergency steering box situated over the rudder at the aft end of the ship. This position would only be used if the normal steering mechanism was damaged. Steering from the steering box was difficult, particularly due to communications. A Quartermaster Striker might assist the Quartermaster in the performance of his duties and, during general quarters, was assigned to man the engine room telegraph.
The ship’s galley was home to the Chief Cook and two assistants. On his shoulders fell the task of feeding the entire crew. In the words of cook Joe Staigar who served on LCS(L) 61, “If you were a good cook, most knew you. If a ‘so-so’ cook, everyone knew you.”11 On an LCS(L) the Chief Cook was allotted $.87 per day per man. However, after the first LCS(L)s were placed in combat in the Philippines, it became apparent that they were subject to extremely hazardous duty, and they were given the same rations allotment as submarines, which also had dangerous assignments. Chopped beef was standard fare which could be cooked in a variety of ways from hamburgers or meatballs to meatloaf and other dishes.
The cook’s normal watch involved one day on and one day off, with the cook on watch serving from 0600 to 1900. Hours were not always consistent, since men were unable to eat at regular times because of seasickness and the uncertain routines caused by general quarters during combat conditions. Rough weather might make it impossible for the cook to prepare hot meals and sandwiches might be the best he could produce. Three seamen were routinely assigned a week of mess duty at a time. These assignments were determined by the Boatswain. The men on mess duty assisted with cleaning and preparing vegetables and general galley duties.
The officers’ needs were tended to by a Steward’s Mate who maintained the officers’ quarters and brought their food to them. He had to make the ship’s fare look as palatable as possible. Steward’s Mates were usually of African-American heritage.
Although Seamen had their assigned duties, which could be varied, some were assigned permanent duty as “Strikers.” A “Striker” worked directly under a particular job assignment in order to learn through on the job training in case his skills were needed. Thus a Quartermaster Striker was basically a Quartermaster in training. Strikers worked in other areas as well. Usually the third cook on the ship was a Striker, however, he might have gone through Cook’s and Baker’s School and would be waiting for the official position of Chief Cook to be available.
Life on the amphibious gunboats was difficult and Spartan. The Landing Craft Infantry (Large) and its conversions was designed to get in close to shore and run its bow up on the beach. Prior to landing, the LCI(L) dropped its stern anchor before getting into shallow water. Once run up on the beach and having discharged its cargo, it then used its massive stern winch and anchor to haul itself off the beach. In order to operate in this manner, the ship had to have a flat bottom.
Flat bottom vessels are not comfortable in a seaway. They sit on top of the water and have a pronounced roll as soon as the ocean becomes rough. Originally designed for short missions across the English channel, they were pressed into service to cross the Atlantic and Pacific to transport troops to their landing destinations. Transiting the Pacific from California to Okinawa was not an enjoyable ride. In addition, the LCI(L)s were not that large. Their hull was only 159 feet long and they had a beam of just over 23 feet. There was little room for creature comforts. The LCS(L)s, built on the same hull, had virtually the same living space.
Life on board gunboats was a constant series of ship maintenance procedures. Shown here are John Sarsfield on deck and Stanley Wicks on the platform as they chip paint on board LCS(L) 61 at Saipan Harbor on 12 December 1945.
The berthing compartments were crowded with pipe racks extending from floor to ceiling, usually about four high. A small foot locker was packed carefully for each man as there was little space available. It would not be unusual for extra ammunition or other supplies to be stowed in various places throughout the ship. The galley was very limited in space and storage of many items was difficult.
One of the great treats for crewmen was ice cream. The LCIs and LCS(L)s did not have the capacity to make ice cream, so they had to depend on the charity of the larger ships. If they had a good relationship with the destroyers or other ships serving alongside them, they might be able to obtain ice cream for the crews. Rescuing a man overboard from a larger vessel was frequently grounds for such a reward.
On board LCS(L) 61 Peter Panichi and Fred Berter peel potatoes while on KP duty at Yokosuka at the end of the war. Courtesy Robert Blyth.
The small living space left no room for recreation save reading, writing letters home, or card playing, chess, checkers, and shooting dice. Gambling was forbidden, however, the men usually found a way to play when the officers were not around. Many ships kept a mascot and took special care of it. These might range from dogs and cats to monkeys picked up in the Pacific islands.
Ships needed to be kept free of rust and excess paint, so any loose paint was chipped off and new paint applied. Chipping paint was the scourge of crewmen as it was both tedious and difficult.
Officers had quarters that were slightly better, however, they could hardly be compared to a four star hotel. The commanding officer usually had to share his quarters with his executive officer. Included in the small cabin were a couple of chairs and a small writing desk so that the commanding officer could do his paperwork.
Once in the war zone, sleep became a valued commodity. Constant calls to general quarters kept the men from any restful sleep. Even in their off hours such calls guaranteed that they went without rest. On the radar picket stations at Okinawa, any unidentified aircraft were grounds for the GQ klaxon to go off, sending men running for their stations. General quarters could be particularly nerve wracking. Men working below decks could hear guns going off but never knew if they were in immediate danger. With the hatches dogged down they were trapped below if the ship should be hit. The sound of larger guns being fired was one thing, but the sound of 20mm or .50 caliber guns meant that the enemy was close at hand and the ship was in danger. A cutting torch was usually part of the equipment below. The men could use it to cut themselves out if they were in danger of flooding or if the hatches were jammed.
Crew’s quarters were similar on both LCI gunboats and LCS(L)s. This is a section of the crew’s quarters on an LCS(L), starboard side, looking aft. Official U.S. Navy photograph.
Space on board the gunboats was at a premium. The Commanding Officer shared his cabin with the ship’s Executive Officer. This is the Commanding Officer’s quarters on an LCS(L). Official U.S. Navy photograph.
Life on LCS(L) 61, which saw action on the radar picket lines at Okinawa, was typical. Normally, the crewmen worked watches of four hours on and were then off duty for eight hours. During their time on watch, some had specific tasks and others had a variety of duties. During the eight hours the men spent off watch, they were expected to do other jobs. The gunners spent their time breaking down guns and cleaning them and making sure that they were in perfect working order. Quartermasters spent time updating the charts and cleaning and painting the inside of the pilothouse. Most of the seamen had a number of chores, including basic ship maintenance. The preferred watch hours were from eight in the morning until noon and then again from eight in the evening until midnight. That allowed the most normal living conditions. After the eight to midnight watch was over, the crewman could turn in for a regular night’s sleep. However, in the war zone, general quarters might sound at any time. If the men were at their battle stations during their normal sleeping time there was no compensation for lost sleep. They simply went back to work. On picket duty around Okinawa, this proved to be difficult, with many of the men called to battle stations at night. In some cases they went without sleep for a couple of days in a row. Sometimes men could barely keep their eyes open on watch after prolonged sessions at general quarters.
On board ship there was occasional leisure time to catch up on the latest scuttlebutt. Crewmen on board LCI(G) 69 engage in discussion as their ship heads for the invasion of Luzon on 9 January 1945. NARA 80G 472021.
The immediacy of battle left little time for formal meals on board the gunboats. A crewman on LCI(G) 69 eats at his general quarters station as his ship approaches Luzon on 6 January 1946. A standard, tripod-mounted .50 caliber machine gun is seen over his shoulder. NARA 80G 472034.
Eating accommodations on board the ships were crowded. The mess area was small and only about thirty men at a time could eat. Normal hours for eating were from seven to eight in the morning for breakfast, noon to one for lunch and from four to five in the afternoon for dinner. As men lined up for their turn in the mess hall, those who had the next duty were allowed to go first. Meals usually lasted about fifteen to twenty minutes. One of the breakfast problems centered around the use of the toaster, since there was only one available. Disputes frequently arose over who was next in line to use it. Coffee, the one indispensable item in the work place, was often bad-tasting. If the stainless tanks in which it was made weren’t cleaned properly each day, a metallic taste permeated the brew. After finishing their meal, crewmen took their trays up to the next level for cleaning and waste disposal. Once the last meal had been served, the crewmen assigned to their week of mess duty cleaned the area and it was then used for recreation. There the men could play chess, checkers or cards. In card games some men were bigger winners than others, causing occasional fights. Some also indulged in the illegal game of craps. Officers normally avoided the area, leaving it to the crews and Bosun to manage.
Many of the men preferred to sit topside if the weather permitted. There they could relax and enjoy the trip across the Pacific, telling stories of their exploits before the war and their plans for civilian life afterwards. The small library on board the ship provided some reading material, which also helped to break the monotony of the voyage.
The galleys on the gunboats were of limited size but sufficient to feed the crews. Official U.S. Navy photograph.
The crew’s mess area on a gunboat was small in size, with meals staggered at intervals. Once the meal was finished, the area was cleaned and served as a place to play cards and checkers. Official U.S. Navy photograph.
The berthing area was confined, with several rows of bunks lined up four high from deck to overhead. Each man had a locker that measured twelve inches wide by eighteen inches deep by four feet high. Clothes had to be rolled carefully in order to fit into these spaces. Under the bottom bunk was a space of several inches where crewmen could stow their shoes. Some of the men with large feet made it through most of the war without proper foot gear. If shoes in their size could not be obtained, they wore an extra pair of socks with rubbers over them. Underneath the mattress bedding on each of the folding pipe berths was a hammock. When a crewman was transferred off the ship, he rolled his mattress and seabag in the hammock and carried it with him to his new ship. Poor ventilation was a common problem in the berthing area. Although there were fans to move air around, there was no air conditioning. During mild weather, conditions below were bearable, but in the heat of the tropics many men elected to sleep on deck. Crewmen were required to change their sheets regularly, and those who did not received some unpleasant attention from the Bosun.
The head area on the gunboats measured about ten by fifteen feet. It held two showers, four wash basins, six toilets and a washing machine. On one side a trough type urinal flushed waste water over the side. At certain times during the day the space was quite crowded, but it might also be empty in the evenings. A daily allotment of water determined the availability of showers. If the crew used up the allotment for the day, showers were prohibited. The ship carried distilling equipment that could distill three thousand gallons a day, however, commanding officers were frequently reluctant to deplete more than half the supply of water since it was also used for drinking and cooking. Also, one might never know when the distilling equipment might break down, causing a water shortage. At sea there would be no way to replenish the water.12
Tropical heat and the absence of direct threats from the enemy gave this cook on board LCI(G) 69 the opportunity to do some food preparation on deck, a rare occurrence. The photograph was taken in December 1944. NARA 80G 472022.
Race and Service
Service choices for African-Americans during World War II were limited. On the gunboats their primary role was that of Steward’s Mate. Duties included cleaning the officers’ quarters, making their beds, and serving them meals. It was considered a totally undesirable job by most of the crew. When Steward’s Mate Robert Doster on LCS(L) 35 was transferred off the ship in Shanghai at the end of the war, there was no replacement for him and several seamen were picked to take his place until a new Steward’s Mate arrived a few weeks later. Charles Thomas recalled, “It’s a duty they detest to a man…. Several of the seamen continue their undesirable steward’s duty for several more days until everyone, including the officers, is happy to see a new steward’s mate reporting aboard. “13 Doster was regarded by Thomas as being an intelligent man and had related to him that he wanted to go to college and medical school after the war. He probably would have made a good Pharmacist’s Mate, but that avenue of training was not open to African-Americans in general. The attitude of the seamen replacing Doster was understandable. Patriotic young men enlisted to fight for their country, not to become officers’ servants.
On board LCS(L) 61, StM 1/c Huram McCloud, was a plank owner, having joined the ship’s crew on 3 November 1944 at Portland, Oregon, with the rest of the men. McCloud was a quiet man who kept to himself and, in the early days of the ship’s Bosun service, was given a difficult time by some of the other crew members. However, the ship’s Bosun, Joe Columbus, quickly put an end to the harassment and McCloud’s situation became better.14
Louis Plant, who served as a Staff Signalman for Flotilla Three under Lieutenant Commander E. P. Stone later wrote his views about the situation. Plant related his observations about life on the destroyer Terry DD 513 which transported him home after the war. He wrote:
During this trip home I learned more about the treatment of Negroes. As I believe I have stated before, they were not allowed to be anything but Officer’s stewards and mess cooks. On this ship, they were not allowed to sleep in the crews’ quarters. They had bunks in the passageways between decks, the pretense being that they had to be up early to prepare our food, they would disturb the crew. However, it was OK to disturb them when walking by their bunks to go on watch. Ridiculous. How these men put up with this situation I shall never know. They were getting shot at just like we were; yet they were treated as being inferior. This was just not right.15
Each gunboat had a different story, with some of the African-Americans treated well and, on some ships not well at all. It was long before the civil rights movement and equality was basically non-existent. Relegating a group of men to a minor task was not in the Navy’s best interest, however, that was the situation. It was a waste of talent and manpower as numerous Steward’s Mates were capable of other roles that would have served the naval effort well.
ASSAULTING THE BEACH
One of the primary reasons for development of the LCI gunboats and its later variant, the LCS(L), was close-in fire support of troops as they made their landing. As the assembled landing craft made ready to send their troops and supplies to the enemy shore, the first assault was usually carried out by the amphibious gunboats. In the early campaigns of the war these were either LCI(G)s or LCI(R)s. However, as the war progressed it was not unusual to see a line of LCI(G)s, (R)s, (M)s, and LCS(L)s working side by side to lay down suppressive fire against the enemy-held beach.
A row of LCS(L)s may be seen between the second and third waves of landing craft. After making rocket runs on the beach, the gunboats patrolled close inshore, firing over the heads of the Marines as they landed. Official U.S. Navy photograph.
It was common practice for the gunboats to head for the beach abreast of one another and, at a distance of several hundred yards, let fly with everything that they had. This first assault included a heavy attack with rockets. After the rockets had been fired, the ships turned broadside in a line and worked over the beaches with their automatic weapons. They then turned and headed back to their departure line, loading rockets as they went. As soon as the rockets were reloaded, they made a second run similar to the first. They then stood by as the landing craft bearing the troops passed through their lines. As the LCVPs and other small craft passed by and landed men on the beaches, the gunboats remained just outside the surf and fired over their heads in order to keep the enemy at bay. Additional LCI(R)s and LCI(M)s might be found covering the flanks of the assault wave.
American success in aerial attacks, particularly after the Imperial Navy’s carrier losses at Midway, made the Japanese increasingly reluctant to transport large numbers of men on troop carriers. The debacles at Guadalcanal in November 1942, and later at the Battle of the Bismarck Sea in March 1943, made this increasingly obvious.
Rabaul blazes fiercely after an attack by U.S. B-25s. In the barge concentration tied up along the waterfront are several Army Type A landing craft. Over 300 tons of war material could be carried by these barges. They could also move personnel in addition to supplies. U.S. War and Navy Departments, U.S. Army-Navy Journal of Recognition, No. 7, March 1944, p. 41.
A Japanese 14 meter Dai Hatsu Army Type A barge. These were used for transporting men, equipment, and supplies between the islands. Landing craft gunboats were utilized to combat them. U.S. Navy Technical Mission to Japan, Target Report—Characteristics of Japanese Naval Vessels, Article 10—Landing Craft, 6 February 1946, p. 23.
A Japanese Navy Type A barge is shown underway on a canal in China.
In mid–November 1942 the Japanese attempted to send a convoy of eleven destroyers and eleven transports under Rear Admiral Raizo Tanaka down the “slot” to reinforce their troops on Guadalcanal. In the midst of the continuing naval battles for the island of Guadalcanal, the transports came under attack on 14 November 1942. Rising to the defense against these troop reinforcements were American Marine and Navy aircraft flying off Henderson Field on Guadalcanal and some from the carrier Enterprise. Fifteen Army B-17s from Espiritu Santo joined in the fray. The aircraft took a heavy toll of the transports, sinking seven and destroying the remaining four which had beached themselves on Guadalcanal.
Type A barges were used by both the Japanese Navy and Army. The Navy version had a deckhouse while the Army version did not. The Navy version carried sixty men and that of the Army 100-120. They had a length of forty-nine feet and a beam of eleven and one-half feet. The Army barge shown above was captured and put to use by the American forces. This was a common occurrence in the war zone. NARA 890G 1022361.
The Japanese observed that a destroyer screen with fighter cover was not enough to protect feebly armed ships; they must have close support from heavily gunned men-of-war. And they also learned the need of an additional airfield to help protect the “Tokyo Express.” The Americans noted how greatly the effectiveness of carrier planes was increased when they were provided with an optional land base.16
With such heavy losses the Japanese began to depend increasingly on smaller ships and craft such as barges to supply their forces in the Solomons.
The Type B landing craft was one of the smallest Japanese barges, having an overall length of thirty feet and a beam of seven and one-half feet. It was capable of eight to ten knots and carried forty men. U.S. War and Navy Departments, U.S. Army-Navy Journal of Recognition, No. 7, March 1944, p. 44.
In February 1943 it became necessary for the Japanese to supplement their troop strength in Lae, New Guinea. They planned to transport an additional 6,900 18th Army troops from Rabaul to Lae to reinforce the beleaguered garrison there. The convoy, carrying men and supplies, departed Rabaul at midnight on 28 February 1943. Under the overall command of the escort commander, Rear Admiral Masatomi Kimura, the convoy totaled eight transports and eight destroyers. By this time the Japanese had learned not to send ships loaded solely with men or supplies as the loss of either could seriously endanger the invasion attempt. Each transport carried a combination of men and supplies so that if some were lost, any individual ship would be capable of landing men and supplies together, thereby preserving their fighting efficiency. Only one day out of port, the convoy was spotted by American aircraft and tracked from that point on. On 2 March, the Americans and Australians struck. Particularly effective were the B-25s and A-20s of Lieutenant General George C. Kenney’s V Air Force. The convoy was under continuous attack from 2 to 4 March. When the Battle of the Bismarck Sea was over, all eight of the Japanese transports and four of the eight destroyers had been sunk. Of the men on the ships only 2,734 were saved.17 “Thereafter no big ships were risked within range of enemy air power. As had happened in the Solomons, New Guinea began to be supplied by barge.”18 By the spring of 1943, American intelligence estimated that the Japanese had 6,000 barges in service and that this number would increase.19
The Japanese Type C barge was heavily armored and diesel powered. It was designed to carry troops and also to support landing operations. It was forty feet long and could make twenty-five knots. U.S. War and Navy Departments, U.S. Army-Navy Journal of Recognition, No. 7, March 1944, p. 45.
The Japanese Type E barge could be recognized by the aircraft-type propeller on the stern and the round machine-gun tub forward. Here a soldier uses a pole to move the barge away from the others prior to starting the engine. This barge had a flat bottom and could transport about sixty men into very shallow water. It was sixty-three feet long with a beam of nine feet. U.S. War and Navy Departments, U.S. Army-Navy Journal of Recognition, No. 7, March 1944, pp. 46–47.
A Japanese Type D barge lands troops near Canton, China, on 12 October 1938. This type of barge was built in several variations ranging from 38 feet to 70 feet. NARA 306-NT-1151-J-4.
The Type F Japanese barge was designed as a small personnel carrier. At a length of twenty-one feet and with a beam of seven feet, it could carry approximately twenty men. It was not armed and the crossbeam could be moved to shift compartment arrangements. U.S. War and Navy Departments, U.S. Army-Navy Journal of Recognition, No. 7, March 1944, p. 46.
Barges came in several types and most ranged from around fifty to sixty-five feet in length. The larger barges might be armed with two Oerlikon guns and the smaller ones with one or two machine guns. Some barges were as small as thirty feet and were used for the local transportation of troops. The interception and destruction of these barges was of major importance, particularly in the southwest Pacific.
The War Department noted
the barge fleets have turned out to be fine substitutes for cargo vessels and transports, particularly since some sea lanes have been so badly slashed by U.S. air power. To cut down barge losses the Japanese have set up an ingenious short-hop water route. Each leg of the trip, from staging point to staging point, takes a night’s sail. The barges usually operate in shallow reef-infested waters inaccessible to U.S. destroyers and PT boats. During the day they remain in hiding, concealed under overhanging trees or are camouflaged on open beaches.
Since 13 Type A barges, each carrying ten tons of supplies, can maintain 20,000 men for a day, the tremendous value of the Japanese barges becomes apparent.20
The Japanese Type G landing boat was used to haul reinforcements and supplies once a beachhead was established. It was fifty-two feet long with a beam of thirteen feet. It was unarmed and capable of eight knots. An identifying feature was the small deck house amidships. U.S. War and Navy Departments, U.S. Army-Navy Journal of Recognition, No. 7, March 1944, p. 46.
Further reports indicated that
[a] convoy of 73 large barges can move a Japanese infantry regiment and a substantial amount of rations and ammunition a distance of 79 nautical miles 80 land miles, approx per night for several nights, with proper day concealment and fuel supply…. A fleet of 37 large barges seems to be sufficient to transport a Japanese infantry regiment about 34 miles in 36 hours including two nights.21
Barges might be used between islands, but might also be used to transport troops from one section of an island to another. This was due to the ever-present and impenetrable jungle on most of the islands. As a result of the dense jungle, most enemy troop concentrations were on the coast where they could easily be supplied. Forcing a supply line through heavy jungle, particularly in mountainous terrain, was well nigh impossible. Constant rain, heat, and humidity made traversing sections of the jungle on these islands extremely difficult, therefore the only practical way to move men was along the coast by boat. This was noted by the Americans in regard to their own troops. “Throughout the campaign on New Guinea, Allied and Japanese forces clung to small enclaves on the coast, leaving the impenetrable hinterland mainly to itself. Because of the dense jungle abruptly rising beyond the shores, 95 percent of the US Army’s supply movements in New Guinea had to be made by boat.”22
Many LCI conversions, as well as the LCS(L)s sent to intercept the barges, mounted a 3"/50 gun for greater effect. This gave them an advantage over the larger barges. Their ability to go into shallow waters allowed them to hunt barges successfully. On such missions they were frequently accompanied by PT boats.
By late 1943 the Japanese had recognized that they were in serious danger of losing the war. The island-hopping campaign of the Americans had left their troops isolated on bypassed islands.
A Shinyo Type 1 Model 1 suicide boat shown at Nagasaki in the fall of 1945. This particular type was used by the Japanese Navy. Within the bow was an explosive charge that was designed to detonate upon impact with the target. NARA 127-GW-1523-140563.
The Japanese Navy employed two types of explosive speedboats, the Shinyo Type 1 Model 1 and the Shinyo Type 5. Both carried a 595 lb. explosive charge in the bow. U.S. Naval Technical Mission to Japan, Target Report—Japanese Suicide Craft, 4 September 1945, pp. 11, 14.
Additionally, the great losses suffered by their Navy and the air arms of both the Army and Navy had left them vulnerable in many locations. The possibility of defending these island bases by use of aircraft or ships was out of the question as they were now in an inferior position in both areas.
How to defend these islands without air or naval support weighed heavily on the mind of Lieutenant General Yoshiaburo Suzuki, Commander-in-Chief of the Army’s Shipping Headquarters in Ujina. He determined that local forces would have to bear the brunt of defending the scattered island bases. With few options left, he decided to employ the use of suicide or special attack methods utilizing boats armed with explosives. His views were accepted and Imperial Headquarters directed their Technical Institute to hasten the development of boats that would be suitable for such missions.23
Suzuki recommended the following specifications for the suicide boats:
1. Weight to be as light as possible, configuration/size to be suitable for secret storage ashore and carriage by manpower.
2. Operating velocity to exceed 20 nautical miles per hour.
3. Capable of carrying explosive material sufficient in quantity to sink an enemy transport;
4. Number of crew to be up to two; and
5. Capable of being mass-produced.24
Work began almost immediately on the design and production of the boats, and the Army had working prototypes cruising Tokyo Bay by June 1944.
Saipan and other bases in the Marianas were seen as crucial to the defense perimeter of Japan. They were considered the inner ring of defense for the home islands. In May 1944, Admiral Soemu Toyoda, newly appointed as Commander in Chief of the Combined Fleet, noted their importance in a dispatch. Toyoda stated: “The war is drawing close to the lines vital to our national defense. The issue of our national existence is unprecedentedly serious….”25 During the following two months, Saipan, Tinian, Guam, and other islands in the Marianas chain fell into American hands. The loss of these islands was a serious blow to the Japanese and gave added impetus to the production of new special attack weapons and methods.
Subsequently, the “Sho-Go Military Operations Plan,” well-known as Japan’s zero-hour battle plan, was finalized for implementation. The “special” combat methods were then formally laid out within the “Guidelines Pertaining to Military Operations Covering Smaller Islands” issued by the Imperial Headquarters. Thus, aided by the spontaneously supportive atmosphere at all levels of military hierarchy, the SBRs [Suicide Boat Regiments] became reality, taking a specific organizational composition of its own.26
Within a few months after the production of the prototypes, enough boats had been produced to organize units and send them to their bases. Both Army and Navy suicide boat units were sent to the Philippines, Okinawa, Iwo Jima, Korea, China, and Taiwan. Those stationed in Korea, China, and Taiwan saw no action, as the amphibious assaults were in other areas. Boats assigned to Iwo Jima were quickly destroyed by American air attacks leaving the bulk of the suicide boat operations to the waters around the Philippines and Okinawa.
Although both Army and Navy suicide boats had virtually the same mission, their method of attack differed. For the Navy pilot an attack was sure death, but for the Army pilot there was a chance of escaping to attack again. This distinction had to do with the design of the suicide boats and their method of attack. The Navy boats were known as Shinyo (Ocean Shakers) and had 270 kg. (595 lbs.) explosive charges in their bows. At the termination of the attack the Shinyo rammed its bow into an enemy ship. The impact detonated the charge and the pilot of the Shinyo died in the explosion.
The Maru-re mounted two depth charges in the stern area. Early boats mounted them on either side of the pilot, and later models mounted them behind him. The later models carried a heavier payload. During the attack the pilot aimed for the target ship and then swerved away at the last moment, dropping his depth charges alongside the enemy ship. They were timed to explode after a few seconds and blow a hole in the bottom of the ship. If the attack were timed correctly the pilot might make a getaway, but many were caught in the explosion and killed. Still others fell under the fire of the ship as they tried to make good their escape.
Early Maru-re boats had the depth charges mounted alongside the pilot’s compartment. The depth charges could be released manually or by ramming the prow into the target ship. Division of Naval Intelligence, ONI 208-J Supplement No. 2, Far-Eastern Small Craft, March 1945, p. 31.
Piloting the Maru-re might be recruits as young as fifteen or sixteen who had been drafted from high school, while others had a year or two of college or technical school. The primary targets of these small vessels were usually transports and small, lightly armored ships. These craft were limited in their ability to carry fuel and so could only operate close to shore in relatively calm waters. Because they were easy targets during the day, their attacks were conducted at night. After reaching the vicinity of their targets, the suicide boats usually operated at a slow speed so as not to give away their presence. Once the target was spotted, they shifted into full speed and made their attack. Many were spotted and destroyed prior to making their final run.
The most successful of the attacks took place in the Philippines. On 10 January 1945, LCI(M) 974 was sunk by an Army Maru-re in Lingayen Gulf. Japanese Navy Shinyos, operating from their base on Corregidor, sank LCS(L)s 7, 26, and 49 and damaged LCS(L) 27 at Mariveles Harbor on 16 February 1945. The gunboats were particularly watchful for these enemy speedboats, and hunting them was one of their primary duties. This became increasingly important as time wore on. At Okinawa LCI(G) 558 was damaged on 29 March 1945 and LCI(G) 82 was sunk on 4 April 1945. LCS(L) 37 was put out of commission by suicide boats during the campaign for the island after she was attacked by them twice in two days on 28 and 29 April 1945. Patrolling against the Shinyo and Maru-re was officially known as “fly-catching.” The sailors soon referred to it as “skunk patrol.”
Between 10 January 1945 and 4 May 1945, the suicide boats were responsible for sinking seven ships and damaging another sixteen. Only supreme vigilance by sharp-shooting Navy gunners prevented greater losses.
PROTECTING THE UDT AND MARINE RECONNAISSANCE UNITS
Prior to each amphibious landing, it was necessary for the Navy’s Underwater Demolition Teams to reconnoiter the beaches and determine the best landing areas, as well as to clear away underwater obstacles, both natural and those constructed by the enemy to deter landings. In many landings, particularly the larger ones, the UDT was accompanied by Marine Reconnaissance swimmers. The Marine Recon was required to land and sketch out important objects to be encountered on the beaches and waters near shore, troop locations, enemy weapons, soil samples, and other items of interest to the troops about to land. One Marine usually remained on the LCPR to photograph the beaches as the landing craft made its way along the shore, dropping off and later picking up swimmers. If detected, as they frequently were, the frogmen and Marine Recons were sitting ducks for enemy troops on shore. However, the appearance of an LCI(G) or LCS(L) close-in to shore was usually sufficient to suppress fire. This placed the gunboats in a hazardous position and they frequently came under attack. Covering the work of the underwater demolition teams at Iwo Jima on 17 February 1945 proved to be devastating for the gunboats of Flotilla 3 Group 8 as all twelve were hit, one of which subsequently sank.
RADAR PICKET DUTY
Radar picket duty at Okinawa was considered the most hazardous naval duty of World War II. In order to protect the invasion fleet and its troops at Okinawa, the Navy set up a ring of sixteen radar picket stations around the island. On each station a destroyer, equipped with a fighter director team and special radar, worked in conjunction with the combat air patrol to intercept incoming Japanese aircraft raids. In short order it became necessary to assign extra ships, destroyers, PGMs, LSM(R)s and LCS(L)s to the stations to lend support to the radar picket destroyer. A total of eighty-eight LCS(L)s were assigned to the radar picket stations at Okinawa. Between 12 April and 14 August 1945, two LCS(L) ships were sunk and eight damaged by kamikaze attacks on the RP stations, with casualties of forty-six killed and seventy-four wounded.27
The assault on an island usually required that the prospective invasion site be cleared of mines. The task of the minesweepers put them in constant peril from both the mines that they searched for and the enemy ashore. Most of the minesweeping prior to an invasion was close-in to shore near the landing beaches. This put them directly under the guns of the enemy and made it necessary for them to be given fire support. This was usually done by the LCI gunboats working in conjunction with destroyers and other larger ships off the beach.
A crewman on board LCS(L) 28 watches as his ship explodes a mine with gunfire off Tarakan Island, Borneo, on 1 May 1945. Anything from small arms fire to the ship’s 40mm gun might be used for this task. Official U.S. Navy photograph.
Once the mines had been cut loose by the minesweepers, the gunboats were responsible for shooting at and destroying them. At the end of the war a serious problem existed in the number of these minefields remaining, and several months were spent working with the minesweepers off the coasts of Japan, Korea, and China to ensure that the waters were safe for peacetime traffic.
Still another mission that put to use the unique qualities of the gunboats was support of specific land operations or “call-fire” missions. To accomplish this task, a ship took on board a fire control officer from the Marine or Army infantry on shore. Using radio communications with his unit ashore, the fire control officer directed the ship’s gunners to specific targets in order to aid the ground troops in their attack. Close-in support of the troops in this manner was hazardous with the gunboats continually exposed to enemy fire. LCI(M) ships were particularly useful for this task, as their mortar shells passed over the heads of friendly troops to land on the reverse side of hills where the enemy might be concealed.
Most of the ships were equipped to make smoke in order to cover various operations or to protect anchorages. This was a smelly and unpleasant duty and particularly odious when the wind was blowing in the wrong direction. Smoke pots and their fuel were located at the aft end of the ship. It was not unusual for a ship to come off a lengthy patrol and then have to spend the later hours making smoke at the anchorage in order to conceal ships from air attack. Bob Wisner, who served as the Communications Officer on LCS(L) 37, complained that after a lengthy period of patrol on the radar picket stations at Okinawa, the ships had to return to the anchorage and make smoke to cover the fleet.28 This additional task robbed the crews of much-needed rest.
LCS(L)s 34, 35, and 36 lay smoke to cover anchored ships at Okinawa. Smoke-screening was an important but distasteful task for the gunboat sailors. Official U.S. Navy photograph.
Although the earlier LCI(L) conversions had some limited ability to fight fires, the newly designed LCS(L) was far better equipped. A special manifold could be mounted on the foc’sle with a number of outlets capable of pumping large amounts of seawater on a burning ship or shore installation. On many occasions the LCS(L)s came to the aid of other ships and put their fire fighting capabilities to use.
The special firefighting manifold on the bow of an LCS(L) gave it the ability to assist other ships in need. NARA RG 19 BuShips General Correspondence 1940–1945 C-LCS(L)(3) Class 593 LCS bow pumping system.
All of the amphibious gunboats based on the LCI(L) hull anchored from the stern. On the stern of each of the LCI(L)s was a large Danforth type anchor attached to a winch. To land troops, the ship headed for the beach and, while still in reasonably deep water, dropped the anchor and continued shoreward until the bow was run up on the beach. This allowed the troops to disembark in shallow water. Once the troops were ashore, the winch was started and hauled the ship backwards off the beach to deeper water. The conversion of the gunboats did not include a change to the anchoring system, so LCI gunboats usually anchored using their stern anchor. A small bow anchor was available and used on some occasions, but the stern anchor had greater holding power. It is interesting to note that the LCS(L)s, built strictly as gunboats and not intended to disembark troops, kept the same anchoring arrangement. This proved useful on a number of occasions as the LCS(L)s were better equipped to fight fires and, in a number of instances, were run bow first up on to the beach to fight fires near the shore. This method was employed at Iwo Jima as ammunition dumps near the shore were set afire by enemy gunfire and had to be extinguished.
LCS(L) ships had the capability to fight fires, which made them valuable in many situations. Here, LCS(L) 71 fights a fire at the Marine Barracks in Sasebo, Japan, after the war. LCS(L) 71 displays a twin 40mm bow gun, the adaptation that began to appear toward the end of the war. The two forward 40mm twins, coupled with the aft 40mm twin, made this variant ideal for antiaircraft support. Official U.S. Navy photograph.