US LCT(5) Campaigns in the Mediterranean
Until now, we have understood that US LCT Flotillas 9 and 10 were deployed for the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. Unfortunately, the National Archives has no record of Flotilla 9 for the entire World War II period. In review, the only mentions of Flotilla 9 that I can find are contained in notes by Larry Noel, based on a visit or correspondence with a Dr. Fred Rehfeldt, who spent some time on LCT 201 in the Mediterranean, and the recollections of Eldred C. Ellis, a veteran of LCTs 431, 332, and 224.
But Flotilla 10 was real, though the records for Flotilla 10 are few:
- LCT(5) Flotilla 10 memorandum, dated 13 October 1943 addressed to all Officers-in-Charge. Subject: entries in service records for Sicilian and Italian Operations.
- Undated memorandum from Commander United States Naval Forces, Northwest African Waters, to Officer in Charge of United States LCT  of Flotilla Ten.
Subject: commendation. Signed by H.K. Hewitt. There is an attached memo from L.W. Swent, OinC of LCT(5) 224, addressed to the crew. These documents appear to have been submitted recently to Larry Noel by Eldred C. Ellis, a former crewman on LCT(5) 224.
- LCT(5) Flotilla 10 Action and Operations Report, Invasion of Sicily on 10 July 1943, dated 7 August 1943. Included in this report is a list of 25 LCTs in the Salso attack group.
- LCT(5) Flotilla 10 Action Report on Invasion of Italy, dated September 30, 1943. It reports that 37 LCT(5)s sailed from Ferryville, Tunisia for the Gulf of Salerno, and it identifies fourteen LCT(5)s that landed at the southern beaches at Salerno.
No action reports for individual LCTs at Sicily or Salerno were found.
Recorded March 23, 1999
Robert D. Blegen
World War II US LCT(5)s in the Mediterranean
Sicily Salerno Anzio 7 15 17 20 20 22 24 24 25 25 26 27 27 29 29 30 30 32 32 33 33 34 34 35 35 36 125 125 136 137 140 147 148 149 152 152 152 153 154 195 200 201 202 204 205 209 210 211 211 216 219 219 221 221 224 244 268 277 340 340 342 342 364 430
Invasion of Sicily on 10 July 1943, Action and Operations Report.
These are excerpts from the LCT(5) Flotilla 10 Action Report, dated 7 August 1943, and signed by J.B. Freese, Commander Task Unit 86.1221.
The LCT unit of the Salso Attack Group was composed of the following LCTs:
125, 136, 137, 147, 148, 149, 7, 26, 27, 17, 20, 32, 22, 24, 25, 29, 36, 152, 153, 154, 202, 210, 221.
In cruising disposition, LCTs 152, 153, 154, 202, 210, 221, 204, and 205 were attached to the Gaffi Attack Group.
Vehicles and supplies were loaded on D-5 and D-4; personnel were loaded on D-3. In some cases it was necessary to redistribute or lighten the loads to obtain maximum speed and safety.
- Sortie, Cruising
- With the exception of LCTs 32 and 36 all craft sortied on schedule from Lac de Bizerte, Ferryville area, on D-3 and proceeded to anchorages in Bizerte Bay. LCT 36 had experienced minor mechanical difficulties, and LCT 32 was still taking aboard a "scorpion." Both reported to the anchorage in time to take their places in the Joss Slow Convoy according to Cruising Disposition Charlie.
On the morning of D-2 LCT 152 reported anchor cable difficulties and requested a tug. There was no craft available to tow the LCT, and orders were given to cut the cable. Later LCT 149 reported that its anchor was dragging and that it could not be hoisted. Orders were given to cut the cable.
On D-1 the leading LCT 147 reported engine trouble. It was ordered to proceed on two engines while repairing the third. The column was slowed down temporarily.
At 1830, on D-1, the change from Cruising Disposition to Approach Disposition was made. LCTs 152, 153, 154, 202, 204, 205, 210, and 221 left the Gaffi Attack Group and attempted to join the Salso Attack Group. Because of heavy seas, it was impossible to accomplish this realignment before dark.
The northwesterly winds were increasing with heavy swells, and it was with great difficulty that the LCTs maintained their position. The Officers-in-Charge and crews are to be commended most highly for delivering their cargoes and personnel without loss. It
was necessary, while in danger of being swept overboard, to secure ramps and loosened cut-out side bulkheads.
After passing Point Queen one blue LCT appeared on the starboard side of SC 651, and two blue LCTs and an SC on the port side. The SC and the two blue LCTs were directed to cross the bow of SC 651 and proceed. Later an SC was reported to have flashed "LCTs follow me." The leading LCT 17 had slowed down again with engine trouble and had lost contact with SC 651. Picking up the "LCTs follow me" message, LCT 17, while following SC 696, led LCTs 20, 22, 24, 25, 7, 27, and 32 to the Dime Area. Contact with this SC was lost. At daylight the mistake was obvious, and the LCTs proceeded at full speed to Yellow Beach
The LCTs beached as follows:
Number Landing Time Schedule
136, 137, 147, 148, 149 0428 H+70
29, 36 0545 H+130
152, 153, 204 0630 H+190
154, 202, 205, 210, 221 0650 H+190
125 0700 H+100
7, 26, 27, 17, 20, 22, 24, 25, 32 0800 H+100
[There is no explanation for the disparity between landing times and schedule.]
The Officers-in-Charge and the crews of the LCTs are to be highly commended for their performance. The craft, with full loads of vehicles and personnel, were difficult to maneuver in the heavy seas. All LCTs, except one, which struck a mine at the Bizerte anchorage, carried out their assigned tasks, regardless of loss or difficulty and under extremely hazardous conditions.
The LCT(5) Flotilla 10 Memorandum, dated 13 October 1943, lists the following LCTs as having served with credit as part of the invasion of Sicily: 7, 17, 20, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 29, 30, 32, 33, 34, 35 36, 125, 136, 137, 147, 148, 149, 152, 153, 154, 202, 204, 205, 210, 211, 221, 340, 342, and 430.
[Curiously, LCT(5) 201 is not listed among these in Flotilla 10. And the notes from Dr. Fred Rehfeldt were quite clear about its presence at Sicily. So the search must continue for additional LCTs at Sicily.]
Recorded March 23, 1999
Robert D. Blegen
Invasion of Italy, 9 September 1943, Action Report
These are excerpts from the LCT(5) Flotilla 10 Action Report, dated September 30, 1943, and signed by J.B. Freese, Lt. Cmdr. D-V(S), USNR.
[This report seems not quite complete in detail. It describes a convoy of 37 LCTs, but identifies just 20 US LCTs. It also appears that the convoy included British LCTs. With the exception of Lieut. Hayes, no officers or men are named. Assault loads and actual landings are not described. No other reports have been found at the National Archives, so lets hope for some other resources.]
The sortie of thirty-seven LCTs was led on schedule from Ferryville, Tunisia, through the harbor of Bizerte on D-5 (4 September 1943). The convoy, accompanied by PC 542,
SC 639, LCI 87, perhaps others unidentified, proceeded at five knots to Castellamere Bay, Sicily, where it refueled. It then proceeded at four knots across the Tyrrhenian Sea to the assault area in the Gulf of Salerno.
At 1337, D-1 (8 Sept) the convoy was attacked by two JU-87 dive-bombers. One bomb fell 100 yards off port beam, another 75 yards off starboard bow. No damage, but LCI 87 lost use of both compasses and turned over navigation to SC 639.
At 1500, D-1, PC 542 left the convoy with LCTs 15, 364, 195, 219, 244, and 277 to join Convoy FSS-2X.
At 1650, convoy was attacked by possibly ten enemy fighter-bombers. British LCT 624 was sunk by a delayed-action bomb, but with no casualties. Convoy was attacked again by enemy dive bombers at 2125 and at 2135. Bombs fell close, but caused no damage.
Convoy arrived at Point Charlie, Point Queen, and Point Love on schedule.
On D-Day (9 Sept) at H+3 (0333) SC 639 led the first wave of LCTs from Point Love into the Red Assault beach under enemy artillery fire. No damage. Enemy air attacks persisted at 0510, 0710, 0745, 1307, 1735, and 2130.
Lieut. Hayes escorted LCTs 20, 27, 29, 30, 32, 33, 34, 35, 125, 152, 200, 201, 209, and 216 into Southern Beaches.
On D+1 SC 639 laid smoke screen around anchorage area during high level bombing attack. Enemy air attacks continued on D+2 and D+4. Artillery fire from shore batteries continued from D+4 through D+16. Many near misses, but no damage until D+12 at 1847 when enemy shell hit pilot house of LCT 384, killing OinC and three members of the crew. Laid smoke screens daily to shield ships from shelling.
On D-Day and subsequent days, LCTs continued unloading merchant ships off Red and Green Beaches in the Northern Attack area without regard for enemy shelling.
When orders were received to designate a ship for laying smoke under shellfire, Lieut. Richard A.R. Pinkham, D-V(S), USNR, Commanding Officer SC 639, volunteered for the job. Ordering everyone below he took his exposed station on the bridge and laid smoke 100 yards off shore as close as it was possible for his ship to navigate. He continued in this hazardous job for forty-five minutes until the smoke pots were gone. He repeated this performance on several occasions. Lieut. Pinkham was recommended for the Legion of Merit.
Robert D. Blegen
LCT(5)s in Action at Anzio, January 1944
At this time there are only two documents to support the activities of US LCTs at Anzio:
- A poor copy of an undated memo, signed by H. K. Hewitt, Commander United States Naval Forces, Northwest African Waters. The subject is a commendation for the outstanding performance of the officers and men of six LCT(5)s during the advanced landing behind enemy lines in the Anzio-Nettuno area of Italy, January 1944.
- A five-page recollection by Eldred C. Ellis, of Puyallup, Washington, who served in LCTs at North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, and Southern France.
- He was a machinists mate on LCT 431 at North Africa and Sicily, LCT 332 at Salerno, and LCT 224 at Anzio.
Ellis recalls Flotilla 9 as the first LCT flotilla to see combat. This may be the most reliable evidence that Flotilla 9 existed, because the 431, 332, and 224 do not appear in the action reports from Flotilla 10. The only other reference to Flotilla 9 comes from notes by Larry Noel from a meeting with Dr. Fred Rehfeldt, who spent time on LCT 201 at North Africa and Sicily. LCT 201 doesnt appear in any Flotilla 10 reports.
From these fragments we can offer a partial picture of LCT operations at Anzio.
The commendation memo cites the following:
Following the successful execution of the assault operations in which troops, mechanized equipment and supplies were landed over selected beaches in the assault area, US LCT 224 [plus 140, 219, 152, 24, and 268] continued to operate continuously and effectively in maintaining the beachhead. Its task included the unloading of merchant shipping, the evacuation of casualties, and the shuttling of supplies to meet the requirements of the ground forces. Although operating with limited repair facilities for a period of over a year, by dint of hard work and untiring energy this craft remained in the assault area for more than thirty days on a twenty-four hour operating basis. Day after day it made constant trips to beaches under heavy, demoralizing shellfire, enemy aerial bombing and strafing attack, and extremely adverse weather conditions. The efficient, persevering and courageous efforts on the part of its officers and enlisted men contributed materially to the successful establishment and maintenance of the Anzio beachhead.
The officers and men of US LCT 224 at Anzio:
Lt. (jg) Frank Grace
Hartmann, Marshall William, MoMM 2c
Kresel, James William, MoMM2c
Colwell, John Edward, S1c
Brown, Herman William, SM3c
Ecker, Donald Francis, MoMM1c
Ellis, Eldre Calvin, MoMM1c
Gray, Joseph A., SM2c
Buffa, Peter Anthony,QM3c
Schultz, Claude A., SC 3c
Brewer, Craven Hines, S1c
Burgett, Robert Dahl, S2c
Spalletta, Charles, S1c
Lt. L.W. Swent, Officer in Charge, was awarded the Legion of Merit Medal for the work done by LCT 224 at Anzio.
© 2000 LCT Flotillas of World War II ETO PTO