LCT I Love You
By John T. Dizer
In memory of LCT 685 and her crew:
Group 70, Flotilla 24 7th Amphibious Fleet
New Guinea, Philippines, Okinawa, Japan
Myron Stirratt and Thomas, Nagoya Japan Nov. 1945
The Crew as of January 20, l945
Allen, Kenneth Leroy , 342-90-48, F. 2/c Abilene, Kansas dob 3/28/26
Andrews, Arnold Ralph, Jr., 959-07-21, GM 3/c, Madison, Wisconsin dob ll/l8/25
Aycock, William Burton, Jr., 896-85-71, MoM.M. 3/c, Decatur, Mississippi, dob l/8/25-
Boccuzzi, Nicholas Alexander, Jr., 942-27-20, F.2/c (EM), Chicago, Illinois dob 8/13/25
Dew, Wendell Phillip, 285-54-14, S l/c (SC), Parma, Ohio dob ll/20/25
Hindman, Thomas Plummer, 923-43-69, S l/c (GM), Butler, Pennsylvania dob 2/28/15
Lake, Harry Glen, 565-50-74, S l/c (RM), Los Angeles, California dob 4/3/26
Marsh, Robert Beck, 818-70-28, QM 3/c, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania dob l0/l0/l6
Nicks, Paul Albert, 831-l5-64, Cox, Sarasota, Florida dob ll/13/25
Titus, Dehue, 865-l5-5l, Mo. M.M. 3/c, Gary, Indiana dob 3/27/09
Stirratt, Myron Aaland, Ens., D-V(S), Executive Officer, Missoula, Montana dob 6/ll/20
Dizer, John Thomas, Jr., 357290, Ens., D-V(G), Skipper, Upper Montclair, NJ dob ll/7/21
Officers & Crew of LCT 685 Aug. 1945 Subic Bay
There were no heroes in the amphib navy. There were no villains. There was no glamour. There was little rah rah wave the flag and beat the Japs. There was little publicity and little recognition. Even Navy histories have little room for these unsung workhorses.
There were exceptions. Ira Wolfert wrote a great piece called "LCT, I Love You", which appeared in the Saturday Evening Post. I have borrowed his title. Wolfertís article contained such memorable lines as "The major difficulty about the LCT as a water-going vehicle is that it has no sense. Instead of riding waves, it tries to club them to death. Another difficulty is the skippers of these craft. They are all male Tugboat Annies, ninety-day wonders graduated as ensigns, truculent, fretful, quarrelsome, eager and more friendly than anything else on two legs that I have found. They bow before nothing." And, "In general, the LCT is something that only a mother can love, and its skippers love it." Wolfert said much more of the same and we all agreed with him but few others did.
So what were we like and what did we do? We were a bunch of kids with little knowledge of the "real" Navy, usually straight out of boot camp or Midshipman school, doing what we were told and trying to keep out of trouble and get along. And get the job done the best way we could and in any way we could. And wondering if we were going to make it through the war and some day go home.
The crew of the LCT 685 did a great job in spite of everything, went from Solomons, Maryland in l944 to Japan in l945 and finally home. We spent most of our time sailing "between Tedium and Apathy". We worked hard when we had to, played hard if we had a chance which wasnít often and survived.
LCT duty was different. We werenít commissioned but each "T" was a separate naval entity by itself with two officers and a crew of twelve. The officers learned at once that the standard stuff we were crammed with in Midshipman School had no relation to the reality of the Amphibs. We improvised and learned as we went along, often the hard way. The crew didnít have much need for the Bluejackets Manual either and also learned the hard way. There arenít too many of us left and I have been asked to set down my memories of LCT 685, Group 70, Flotilla 24, Seventh Amphibs. There is no real reason to except perhaps for the next generations but no real reason not to either. I kept a "War Diary" as did so many others, legal or not, so I have access to most of the facts and my memories are not badly tainted with nostalgia.
I had graduated from Midshipman School at Notre Dame in May of l944 and a group of us had been assigned to landing craft school at Fort Pierce, Florida. When we got to Florida there seemed to be some question as what to do with us - this was common during the war - and we were shortly sent to Solomons, Maryland, the training base for LCTs and LCIs. We were assigned to LCTs. We were told that we had been scheduled for the Normandy invasion but had just missed it. It didnít bother us a bit. We trained on both Mark 5 and Mark 6 LCTs. Most of the Ts were battle-scarred, not from battles but from inept skippers learning to moor alongside a pier or other ships. I was as inept as any. Handling a flat-bottomed scow of about l50 tons powered by three 225HP diesels with the wind and current shoving you around was an interesting experience. My diary says that after four days of actual training, never having docked a ship, I was assigned to LCT 5l2 as first skipper. The crews were all about as callow as the skippers. The crew and I moved on board with two even more junior skippers whom I was supposed to be training. We learned a lot about wind and tide and we learned it in a hurry. We learned together. We had navigation cruises down the Chesapeake. I learned the soundings were in feet, not fathoms when I ran LCT 5l2 aground in what I thought was 4 or 5 fathoms of water and it was 4 or 5 feet of mud. We learned that when an LCT meets a carrier in the Norfolk ship channel the T is never the "privileged vessel", regardless of the rules of the road.
Two weeks later, about the time we began to understand what we were doing, we were ordered to New Orleans to pick up a new LCT for further transport to the far east. We waited in New Orleans, trained in fire-fighting school as well as at Shell Beach in gunnery school and made the best of life in New Orleans. It wasnít hard. Eventually LST 577, Lt. Stahl commanding, came down the river along with LCTs 685 and 897on its deck. I was assigned to the 685 and Harry Green, another skipper, to the 897. My T was in three sections, chained to the top deck which is the way it went to the Admiralty Islands.
On August l3, l944 it was on to Cuba and then the Panama canal. I had shore patrol duty in Coco Sola and noted in my diary, "Really wide open!" To a country kid who grew up in rural Vermont it was a new and interesting experience. Then across the Pacific, going for a solid month without sight of land until we reached the New Hebrides. Crossed the equator at l22 degrees 55 minutes west. Neptune gave us a pretty bad time. We all stood watches with the men of the 577. Finally it was on to Los Negros Island in the Admiralties where we left the LST. The three sections of the 685 left also. They were hoisted off by a crane. They all floated but at odd angles. It was our job to tow the sections by LCVP to the assembly area. We had various problems. The LCVP ran up against one of the sections while Harry had his hand over the ramp and it cut off the end of one finger. We had to find a pharmacist mate in a hurry to get him patched up. I saw Harry again in the Korean War and was delighted to find that it was difficult to see where the accident had been. While the LCVP was towing the center section of the 685 to shore we saw a PBY coming in to land. It landed all right but while on the water turned and plowed head on into us. It stove in one float and the nose and damaged the plane considerably. The propeller scars on the side of our ship were permanent. The plane was carrying depth charges. They didnít go off. We were told later that we were in the PBYís landing strip though we had no way of knowing it. Shore control was worried about the depth charges going off if the plane hit the beach so told them to turn and hit us instead. Which they did. We felt both innocent and victimized. We were told later that a board of inquiry was planned but we had left. Anyway, there we were with the three sections of our LCT, a handy billy and a Wisconsin pump neither of which worked well and told that we had to bolt the sections together ourselves and get the ship ready to move. We had to ballast the sections, line them up, put gaskets between the sections and bolt them together. As I remember there were about 200 bolts of about 2" diameter. We got the job done but never could stop the joints from leaking. I think we left a piece of gasket out. It didnít seem to bother much. Considering our working conditions itís a wonder we got the sections together at all without killing someone. There was no food, drinking water or usable heads on the 685. All l3 of us would pile into the ships boat and head over to the beach for chow. We had about an inch of freeboard and hoped for calm waters. My comment in my diary was, "very poor organization." It was an understatement. After the three sections of the ship were bolted together, which took two days, Bill Aycock, Pop Titus and Allen got the engines and generators going and squared things away. Our motor macs were the best and we never did have trouble with the engines. So there we were, a Landing Craft Tank in navy parlance, about ll5 feet long depending on where you measured us, about l50 tons of metal with a top speed of about 6 knots or 7, we used to say, if you pushed on the conn railing. When we were semi-operational we were towed by LSM 35, along with LCT 686 (Jack Train, skipper) and LCT 897 (Harry Green) to Humboldt Bay or Jautefa Bay, Hollandia, New Guinea. We met our Group Commander Lt. Allen and our Flotilla Commander LCDR Carmody, shook down, sort of, got organized and learned how to run the ship. The first thing we noticed was how yellow everyone was. It was because of the atabrine we had to take for protection against malaria. We were soon as yellow as the old-timers. Myron A. Stirratt was assigned as Executive Office of the 685. This gave us a total of two officers and twelve crew members. We operated together with few changes until I left the ship in Japan after the war had ended. Due to the nature of the LCT most of our duty was in hauling freight, tanks, troops and anything that needed to be moved, from port to port or cargo ships to the beach and back. No glamour, nothing strategically important but very necessary. I find a chit dated l2/6/44 where we were assigned 50 caliber and 30 caliber guns to supplement our two 20 mm Oerlikons. When we first fired the guns which were mounted over the galley the vibration knocked down the insulation from the galley ceiling. We worked at Mios Woendi for a while. I remember the Mombah, an ancient wooden British sailing ship which had been reduced to a coaler and was anchored there. Still had beautiful lines and an enormous steering wheel at the stern. Then we were assigned to Sansapor at the very tip of the turtleís head in New Guinea. It was very rough duty. We loaded and unloaded Liberty ships and eventually loaded the troops for the Leyte push. Standard procedure was to drop our anchor as we were on the way in to the beach. Then we could use the anchor to keep our stern in place and to help pull us off later. If we dropped it too soon we ran out of cable. If we were too late the anchor wouldnít hold when we went to pull off. The surf at Sansapor was so rough that it caved in the stern bulkheads on all the Ts. The army would hook a bulldozer or caterpillar tractor on to each side of our bow and bury their treads in the sand, to try and hold us in position. It helped but didnít always work and Ts would broach in the surf. There would be the devil to pay getting them off the beach. Usually another T would come in and drag them off. The sea was so rough that we snapped eight inch hawsers like thread. I note we pulled our port bow bitts out by the roots and had a 30 foot surf breaking over the conn.
Quoting directly from my diary, "At 0l:52 the morning of December 23 our anchor cable snapped while we were on the beach and we broached, dragging one of the cats into the water with us. Very rough. Ferguson on the 869 came in to try and pull us off. Shot lines to him and led heaving lines and cables and eight inch hawsers over but the 7/8" cables snapped and the hawsers pulled off the bitts. Then the 869 broached beside us. The 74l came in to pull the 869 off and a wave tore her stern [bulkheads] completely out and ruined the rudder bar. Andrews got three out of five lines across from the line throwing gun. About daybreak 869 got off (high tide) with her anchor cable. 743 came in to try and pull us off. Andrews waded thru the surf with a heaving line to the 743 but they couldnít get a cable across. We were badly beaten up, flooded my quarters and a void and lost all paint, [I canít remember what I meant here] smashed life raft etc. [We were actively evacuating the army at this point and it couldnít wait.] Army personnel crowded on every LCT around (500 on each) and the 743 had to unload army and then try and get a line to us on the beach. They swung around while their ramp was down and put a hole in our port generator room just at the bottom. Flooded the compartment in a few seconds but Aycock used his head and had Allen dog down the w.t. [water tight] door so the grays [gray marine diesels-the shipís power] werenít flooded. We were choked up with sand [the sea chests for circulating water through the engines] so no engines could be run, port Hercules Diesel [generator] in five feet of water and a l0 degree list to the ship. Water in port generator room to within two inches of I beams on ceiling. Nicks [coxswain] and the whole crew and I worked on a new anchor, taking off the less than 50 feet of old cable and reeling 900 feet of new cable on the anchor drum. Quite a job. Led the Eye thru the fairleader and around to the spare anchor on the port side, next to the beach. Finally had a bulldozer pull the anchor off the ship and onto the beach, then down the beach l00 yards. The 743 beached and we (Hindman, Titus and I) put a 4" line on the anchor and to 743ís port bow bitts. She retracted and hauled out our anchor for about 600 feet. Finally at l3l5 we pulled ourselves off using our own anchor and got free enough to clean out the sand traps. Got Grays and one generator and radio repaired and moved out to anchorage. No lights, fans, stove, etc. while on beach and no sleep for us since we were up all evening and didnít beach till 2230 and I never did get to sleep. Counter flooded to an even keel and could run again. For the five days previous both generators were out and no lights, power, food (hot) or fans. A bit rough. Hung a battle lamp in the rigging and worked anyway. Hard mooring alongside "Big Boys" [liberty ships] without lights after dark. At l800 that same day still with no sleep beached at Red beach and took on a load. Then worked until 0l30 the 24th and slept till 0700. Worked all day the 24th and carried beer for one load. Got 43 cases in spite of 2 MPs. At l715 I plugged the hole in port generator room with 4" round plug, rags and wedges broken up. Big hole. Fun, swinging a sledge in five feet of water, holding your breath, and knocking in a [wooden] plug that comes to the surface if it has a chance. Got the void pumped out and [the crew] worked all night loosening bolts to take out the [deck] plate and pull the engine and generator. Christmas eve Marsh, Mike and I were singing Christmas carols up on the conn, roaring [at 6 knots] up and down the bay, beaching and retracting and generally celebrating a mighty strange Christmas Eve.
Unloading beer at Carite, summer 1945
On Christmas day we hauled army troops out to transports for the invasion. Hauled thousands of them, about 300 at a trip. [The troops wore helmets and were all standing squeezed together on the tank deck. Looking down on them it looked like a cobblestone street.] Worked all night the 25th and 26th. Had fresh turkey Christmas and New Years but food generally gets awfully monotonous." I am surprised I had time to write all that but I did..
It was a busy time. After we pumped out the generator room the motor macs rigged slings, pulled the Hercules/generator and set it on the deck. It was really unbelievable what they were able to do. We were making landing after landing and trip after trip while all this was going on. After the engine was pulled we let the void fill up again. On the morning of the 27th we went into drydock in LSD 5. We knocked out the plug and water poured out of our generator compartment. The Commander was standing there with me, congratulating us for our work when a beer can came shooting out of the hole. He didnít say a word and I didnít either. When you are working around the clock in conditions like that and happen to have beer on board you donít waste it. We got our hole patched up and miscellaneous welding done to put us in good shape. We got out of the drydock at midnight and went to work immediately. I noted we carried "everything imaginable, tanks, trucks, canned milk (it stunk), food, beer, army troops, ammunition, gasoline and everything else." While we were making trips to the beach and transports the motor macs rebuilt the Hercules engine/generator, dropped it back into the generator compartment and got it running again. A remarkable job. It was still running when I left the ship a year later. The army Ducks could not handle the surf and we watched several swamp. Other LCTs rescued some of the men. We had air raids the 28th and 29th. Everyone in the harbor was firing though we couldnít see anything. One bomber was shot down about midnight of the 30th. It burned all the way down. I note we had trouble staying on the beach without bulldozers or cats to hold us on. Then when the tide started going out the bulldozers shoved on our ramp while we took in on our anchor and backed all engines at l400 to get off. I note that three of us went to Amsterdam island where I swapped a soldier a case of the beer which we had stolen from the army for a gear box, bearings, pulleys etc. to build a washing machine. LCTís didnít rate a washing machine and we needed one. I find this note, "Washed sheets, mattress covers, shirts, pants, etc. Hard work, scrubbing on the chow table with brush and laundry soap." Eventually we took a 55 gallon drum and used the parts we had scrounged, together with an electric drill for power, and came up with a washing machine. It worked though I ruined a good pair of khakis trying it out.
We did not eat well in New Guinea. Wendell Dew, our cook, was great if he had anything to cook but generally he didnít. We would swap what we had to the army for K rations and were glad to get them. The low point was the morning when we were reduced to canned chili con carne and beer for breakfast. It wasnít always that bad. In one entry I wrote that "Last night we had a party on the 869, of creamed turkey on toast, ice cream and beer. Ferguson of the 869, Train of 686, Bassett of 870, Green of 897, Crew of 743, Shade of 788 and Brown of 868 for skippers were there and Van Huffel, Thomas, Strickland, Rogers and a couple more."
Generally I find notes like this: "Itís raining like the dickens and lightning in big sheets. The surf is bad and the cats couldnít hold me on the beach so I retracted, fortunately getting my anchor clear and not hitting anybody. Itís 2205 now and I expect to beach at midnight if 868 and 686 have straightened out their mess by then." Then, "Beached at midnight. LCM broached beside us. Waited an hour to rewind his ramp and tried to pull him off with a wire cable. Broke cable and we retracted and anchored. Very rough today. Bent our stern section in some more."
From Sansapor ten of us, the 870, 896, 868, 743, 686, 74l, l056, 826, 869 and 685 went in convoy with a PC to Noemfor where the 685, 686, 869, 870 and the 743 stayed. We generally sailed blacked-out in our convoys which made it fun trying to keep on station. The others went back to Mios Woendi. We loaded Aussie equipment and formed up in convoy with two Mark 5 LCTs from Flotilla 8 (the 298 and the 396) and shoved off for Biak. I noted "Have l0 Aussies on board to feed. Very pleasant. Quite an accent." Discharged our Aussie friends and equipment in Biak. I see we "went up to the Port Director and got sailing directions for northern New Guinea, 36 clamps for fenders and a seawater pump for [a] Gray Marine." I also note that "Nicks traded 3 cases of beer to the 298 for a Wisconsin l cyl. gas engine to drive our dinghy." Nicks was from Florida and really knew small boats and eventually our dinghy became an inboard. Beer was good trading stock. Also noted "Saw three (3) army nurses, darn good looking, the first white women close up Iíve seen since August." (This was late January) Then back to Woendi and spent more time than we liked completely re-painting the ship in different colors.
My entry for Sunday January 28 starts out "Quite a day. Hindman (watch) called me at 03l5. Blowing a bit and raining. Got out to see a destroyer going by. Turned out we were going by him! 686, 685 and 896 were all moored together on 686ís anchor. We were way out in the bay. Everyone cast off and went back singly. I was all ahead l800, pitch dark and shined the blinker ahead just to make sure nothing was there. A big round metal buoy was directly ahead and we missed it by a hair."
"Spent February [up] to the l7th loading LCM, LCVP and 95 drums of oil at Biak. Inspected by Commander Carmody who said on 3 occasions we had cleanest ship in flotilla. Nice of him." "Had a good fight with Lt. Allen, our group commander but lost it. He wanted my big charlie noble and got it. Our galley is a mess now. Wind coming down small charlie noble blew out the stove. Soot everywhere." Had standpipes welded on our outer voids and filled them with diesel oil for the trip.
"On Feb. l8 at 0530 got underway with 48 LCTs, several APcs, (7 &9) LCIs, LCSs, LST repair & DE for Leyte, Philippines. Went ok till dark. About 5 Ts towed already. Only l Mark 5. Several Mk. 5s with us. (Flot. 7 I think, 373, l75, l32, l27. All of Flot. 24 & part of Flot. 3l?" Mike had the conn and woke me up at 2230. It was becoming quite a storm. Pitch dark, pouring, no visibility. No running lights of course. "Almost hit LCI and tow and almost got hit by several ships. Got soaked and frozen. Got it [the 685]straightened out on [proper] course 374T and in the morning ended up in A-l position! Really lucky. Had no other ships in our line in proper position."
When things got really bad we had radio communication to turn on our running lights to avoid collision. It turned out a T had rammed our guide. We found we were scattered all over the ocean and half the ships, or so it seemed from their lights, were going the wrong way. Thought we would lose one of the old Mark 5s who had taken a hit through the hull awhile back and had been welded up. I was told they took off the crew but I donít think they saved the T. It was rough. And so on for days until we got to Leyte. Our LCTs eventually received commendations for successfully making a trip so far beyond the normal range of LCTs and in such adverse conditions. I will never forget standing on the bridge and looking forward as the ship hit a wave. The deck undulated and the whole ship vibrated until you couldnít see how it held together. Extra clamps had been welded to the ramp and bulkheads to keep the ramp from getting torn off.
We had a short stay in Leyte and visited Tacloban. We inherited an outrigger canoe somehow but had to leave it. We then moved up through the islands to Subic Bay, Luzon. Thought a lot about the LST 577. Had been told that about a month after dropping us off in the Admiralty Islands they had taken a Kamikaze at Mindoro, the ship had been sunk and only one officer and about 7 men saved. Never did learn how much of it was true.
We were now based in Subic Bay but spend much of our time running between Cavite, the old naval base at Manila and Olongapo in Subic Bay. We hauled what was left of the old navy base to what was to become the new base at Subic Bay. We could see firing at Clark Field and there was some enemy activity in the area but we werenít involved. On our trips from Manila to Subic we were instructed to take the north channel around Corregidor since the distance is shorter. We were told that the channel had been mine-swept but apparently the south channel had been but not the north. It was believed that we drew so little water there would be no problem. There wasnít for us but one T got tangled up with a mine which fortunately did not explode. I note considerable activity but generally routine. We had gas mask drill and A.A. drill.
"Got rumors of a gale this evening so studied our anchorage chart to see what we could do. The best bet was to go aground!" Apparently no gale and we didnít go aground. Finally got dry stores from the Samuel L. Moody and lots of them. "Went to every single hatch on the ship, Nos. l, 2, 3, 4, & 5!." "Ellrodt and I took our small boat and went to APc 7 in it. The gas line clogged and we had quite a time! Got a sack of mail for our group."
Mail was always intermittent. I got a Christmas fruitcake at the end of March but noted it was still good. The flywheel on our ramp engine exploded - faulty casting - so we couldnít use our ramp. I measured the remains and drew up a sketch for a steel replacement. The machine shop on the Gilmore turned a new one for us and we were back in business shortly. I note that after delivering food stores to the other Ts I gave a lot of food to PT boats on the promise of rides for all of us. Lt. Allen, our group commander, backed down on the PT boat rides so Turlington and I went to see the Flotilla Commander. Got his permission but for officers only.
Quoting again, "At l600 we went to the PT base to PT 327, Lt. Turnbull. He is a speed boat racer anyway and really handled that PT. Two officers and l2 men. We did 44 knots, fastest. Shot at a Jap-held island near Corregidor. Used 30 caliber, 50 caliber, 37 mm, 20 mm and 40 mm & the other PT boat used rockets. Saw a very dead Jap on the beach on another island. One of the crew got some shrapnel in his leg when the head piece of the 50 broke so we went into Manila harbor and tied up to LCT ll37 which was tied to a Liberty which had a doctor on board. Slept for a few hours on deck with my jacket and a blanket and continued patrolling. Got back to Subic Bay at 0930. Very interesting and enjoyable trip." This was March of l945.
We picked up some nice bronze portholes with both glass and metal covers at Cavite and the welders installed them in our two cabins. Improved the ventilation considerably though quite illegal we were told. Caused some flak but other Tís did the same.
On one of our trips to Cavite I noticed a blinker light on a sunken Japanese ship. We went over and liberated it, I rebuilt it and we used it until I shipped it home from Japan. It was a nice one. I also used it for years afterwards in signaling training for the Boy Scouts. I was told later others had seen it but thought it was probably booby-trapped so had left it alone. I was too dumb to worry about it.
Much of our signaling was blinker light or semaphore and most of us got fairly good at it. We had to or wake up our quartermaster or signalman which wasnít appreciated. We were on the move so much that the quartermaster and coxswain both learned ship handling. This was a help. We hauled pontoons to Batangas and cranes and generators back. Swapped some canned sauerkraut for a Batangas knife. Noted I tried to beach with an 85 ton load and couldnít get on the beach in several tries. Finally "Hit at 2100 (rpm) and almost wrecked the ship." Got on though. I think it was at Batangas that I borrowed an old brass diving helmet. It had a hand-operated double acting pump to provide air. I went down somewhere between 55 and 75 feet. When I came up the guys on the pump said it was all they could do to keep it pumping. Found out later it was unbelievably stupid. I was told if the pump had given out I would have been squashed into the helmet.
Damage on the road to Manila
"Played football this pm with Mike, Stricklin, Dew, Lake and Andrews. First exercise since August". This was April. We worked at Subic Bay and Manila for several months. My diary has a long gap but I remember liberty trips to Olongapo and Manila areas. A couple of us were hitchhiking around the countryside and ran out of rides. Turned out we were in Jap-held territory. I have a picture of a sign, "You are now entering Bataan Courtesy of 38th Infantry Division" and another picture of the road which was terrible. We drove on the left as the Japanese had until the Army decreed we should drive on the right. That day we did both and it was a mess.
Eventually received top secret orders for the invasion of Japan which I had to keep locked in my safe. When we finally got to Japan in the fall I was told by an Army Colonel on the scene that the Japanese knew who was coming, when we were coming and where we were coming and that it was a good thing the war was over. When the war ended we used up all our signal flares in celebration and I doubt if any of the Ts had any left. We had more problems with the weather and our Navy brass than with the Japs but we were glad the war was over because it meant we would be going home that much sooner, probably in one piece.
The next assignment for our LCT group was Buckner Bay in Okinawa. We went under our own power as we had since we reached Hollandia and had no problems. We hauled cargo and did our job. We explored the island which had been well secured and looked at the caves where the enemy had been. In one we found a number of very dead bodies. It was not glamorous. Our problems were seldom the enemy but always the weather. At Okinawa it was the typhoon of September l6-l7, l945. We were anchored in the bay and the waves were getting higher all the time. Many of the ships were dragging their anchors. We were backing down on our engines to ease the strain on the anchor cable but the waves were so high that our screws would come out of the water and the engines would race. The motor macs stood by the throttles and tried to adjust engine speed. We kept taking enormous waves over our stern. Eventually they caved in our stern bulkheads. Then the waves knocked the covers off our stern voids and flooded them. This was a blessing in disguise. We were now so low in the water that the engines quit racing at every wave. The anchor was still dragging so I decided to back over the anchor, if possible to take off more of the strain. I knew we ran the risk of fouling the cable in one of our three screws but there didnít seem to be anything else to try. We quit dragging anchor but eventually did foul our anchor cable on our middle screw. This of course knocked out the middle engine. We were still doing fairly well, scared to death of course. I was out on the main deck looking at the height of the waves. Coming towards us on one of the waves, completely out of control was a liberty ship, the John A. Rawlings.
Damage to the conn, caused by the Rawlings.
I saw the screw of the ship above us just before the ship crashed down on our wheelhouse. It bounced off us and continued on to the beach. It demolished our radio/signal tower along with about everything else on our conn. The wheelhouse was armor plated and the impact of the Rawlings drove the wheelhouse several inches down into the head, which was the compartment below. The control shaft for our steering ran directly below the I beams which supported the wheelhouse and the I beams were bent down so much that the steering shaft was also bent as well as immovable. Which simply meant that we couldnít steer. We were still afloat and so we rode out the typhoon.
The deck in the aftermath of the typhoon.
When things calmed down the LCT skippers and the flotilla commander looked over the situation. Other Ts had also been damaged but we were by far the worst. We had been earmarked to make the initial landing at Wakayama in Japan. The brass didnít feel we could make the trip but we were told if we could get the ship operational in about two days we could go. Otherwise we would wait and go to China later. There was no way we were going to miss out on the initial Japan landing if we could help it. We tried rigging emergency steering with ropes and pulleys but it didnít work well. We cut slots in the I beams in the ceiling of the head to free up the rudder bar. It worked and we were able to steer, though with some difficulty since the rudder bar was still bent. We got the anchor cable free of the center screw and had three engines again. Due to the efforts of the motor macs the engines were still in good shape.
The stern partially repaired after the typhoon.
We pumped out the voids and plugged them. We jury rigged the mast and did what we could with the mess on the conn and told the flotilla commander we were ready to go. He was doubtful but gave us permission and we made the trip to Japan with no trouble. They told us we had done such a great job saving the ship that they had put us in for a citation but of course we never heard anything more about it. At Wakayama we hauled supplies and equipment around the harbor as needed. I note we spent a day alongside the repair ship Luzon, ARG2, probably for damage repair. Things eased up a bit but we were always short of food. I note "we bummed various AKAís for chow but no luck" The weather also turned quite cold, especially compared to New Guinea. Of course it was now early October. My diary says, "Very cold. Have heaters all going and doors shut. Must be down to 60! Reports have it [another] typhoon wrecked post office at Okinawa which is why we havenít gotten any mail."
We didnít have a lot of activity at Wakayama except for calling for mail at the LST 50, the mail ship and not getting much and trying to bum food. I note I bought a Hohner chromatic harmonica for $5 from the exec of the l056 and practiced it a good deal.
Eventually we took on a load of mobile equipment and, on October 23rd, headed for Nagoya. It was a very rough trip up and we almost lost our load overboard. Unloaded at the Mitsubishi hangar ramp and anchored off the Mitsubishi factory. "Cruised all afternoon following [hospital ship] Consolation around." Finally got a medical party aboard. It was actually not much over a year since we had landed in the Admiralties but it seemed longer. For the record, I find references to LCTs 562, 566, 629, 634, 684, 685, 686, 788, 789, 825, l056, ll21, 1257 and the l258 all operating in the area.
It was October of l945 and it looked as if we were going to be in Nagoya indefinitely.
As usual we hauled whatever needed hauling to wherever we were told. I see we made a trip to Yokkaichi to get aluminum sheets. It was a two and a half hour trip with very rough water.
Again from my diary, "Today we took a load of troops out to ĎWaukesha.í Bummed around for chow and stuff. Finally got permission to come alongside PA 120. Wonderful ship! Full commander for supply officer. Got 28 sets of winter gear, plus all the canteen items and fresh food imaginable. They got underway and moved up three miles so I cast off and moored alongside when they anchored. Best ship I ever hit." We were ecstatic.
We hauled troops and gear to the Lurline, the big Matson transport, which at this point was heading for the States. Now instead of hitting the beach with troops and equipment we were taking everything the other way.
There was still plenty of work for us but we had more and more free time and we made the most of it. There was lots of the usual LCT initiative also. I mentioned earlier my fiasco with brass hat diving in the Philippines. Somewhere along the line I had taken a gas mask and re-worked it into a shallow water diving mask. I donít remember what I used for an air supply but it was not a problem. There was a tremendous amount of debris in Nagoya bay. Ts were continually fouling their screws. I enjoyed playing around underwater, cleaning out whatever was wrapped around the screws or skegs. I had to wear a long sleeved shirt and long pants because of the barnacles on the bottoms of the ships. They were sharp. The worse mess I got into was with a T which had run over something on the way into Nagoya harbor. It looked like a huge rubber ball and was jammed between the skeg and the hull. I tried every way to get it loose and eventually had to cut it out. It turned out to be a temporary channel light buoy. The light was still in it.
I find a good deal in my diary about our jeep. I was told it had belonged to a Colonel in Saipan and had been liberated by one of the LCTs who was there briefly. With the large deck and ramp of an LCT a jeep belonged. It could be kept out of the way of the cargo and could be driven onto the beach and back on board ship at a momentís notice. The skipper was going home on points and didnít wish to have any questions raised so I inherited it. Salt water hadnít helped it any. "Jeep runs well except no muffler or brakes" I noted. That was only part of it. I find records of replacing the horn, hood, "port bow spring and fender," steering bearings and arm, windshield and speedometer cable. To stop it we simply shifted down and slammed it into reverse. It didnít always work. Mike took it to the Nagoya zoo, got going too fast down a hill and ran into a tree. At that point we worked out a deal with the army ordnance base for brakes. We had painted it, put new Navy numbers on it and gussied it up. Through an amiable arrangement with the Port Director we had signed blank passes for the jeep. This was very helpful when we ran into SPs or MPs. It meant that we could go touring around the area and fraternize as we wished. When we had made the initial landings in Japan the natives, particularly the females, were extremely wary. This soon changed.
Jack Train, Willy Rigolr, Jack Dizer and the 685's jeep at the Nagoya Zoo, Nov. 1945
Our jeep was very popular with all the Ts in our group and was in fairly constant use. The procedure was to load it with sailors and as many cartons of cigarettes as it would hold and to head out into the hinterland where trading was good. The cigarettes were sold for yen or swapped for kimonos or anything else swappable. The yen bought stamps and paid for shipping the loot home. Our feeling was that everyone benefited. Certainly no-one complained. In the beginning a nice kimono cost five packs of cigarettes and a carton of cigarettes sold for 200 yen. This didnít last long. We all made visits to Nagoya, visited Nagoya castle and did the usual touristy stuff. I noted, "girls are wearing prettier kimonos and dresses now and pretty girls are everywhere." This was in the middle of November. It was sometimes very cold with a good deal of snow and it bothered us to see poorly dressed Japanese women in sandals shoveling the streets.
Nov 26. "Have been very busy having a good time. Got three Jap swords, two straight hilt and one saber-like and a Jap carbine. Explored Nagoya castle again. Turlington and I went miles out into the country and watched the farmers. Visited Jap boatyard and went all over it and a new house building there."
The deal on the swords and gun was this; all the Japanese guns and swords had been collected by our military. Many were distributed to us. The enlisted men got Jap rifles, officers got plain swords and Commanding Officers got Samurai swords. Somehow I was given a matching pair of modern swords, an ancient Samurai sword and a gun. I shipped them all home. The Samurai sword had a tag on it which I had translated and, some years later, I returned it to the family of the original owner. LCT skippers were officially Officers in Charge, not Commanding Officers but such technicalities were commonly ignored.
There were lots of small boats in Nagoya. The 789 liberated a fifteen foot sailboat from the defunct Nagoya boat club and put a 22 HP Johnson on it. It saw a lot of use. I found a twelve foot catboat but could not locate an engine. We made a sail from old canvas and when I had it rigged, "Mort Yubin and I tried it in a strong wind. Too strong. Wonít point well. Gybed it in an emergency and over we went. Cold!! Had heavy clothing on. [including our greatcoats] Nicks was standing by in our dinghy so he rescued us & 684 LCVP pulled it [our catboat] back to 685." Itís a good thing Nicks was there. Later we learned to handle it better and the boat saw a good deal of use.
Jack Dizer landing on the 685's bow ramp Nov. 1945
As I have said several times, LCTs worked hard to get the job done but were a bit casual about things. Sometimes too casual. There was a good deal of tide in Nagoya harbor. One night we were beached with our anchor out and our bow on a concrete jetty. The watch had strict orders to pull the ship off with the anchor cable as the tide went out. The tide went out faster than the watch expected and he found he couldnít back off Mike and I were at the officers club and got back to find the ship at almost a 45 degree angle. The bow was still on the jetty and the stern was buried in the sand. You could actually walk under the hull. The generators had been shut down because the sea chests were plugged with sand. There was no real danger but it was very embarrassing. Our biggest concern was that the flotilla commander would come by and catch us in that condition. He didnít, the tide came back in, we cleaned the sea chests and went on as usual.
By the middle of November the officers and crew of our LCTs began getting orders back to the States. Nov. l6, l945. "Marsh and Hindman left yesterday. Good men."
I got my orders on December ll, turned over the ship to Mike Stirratt and on December 23rd was underway for Seattle in the Admiral Eberle. We crossed the international date line on December 25 so I had two Christmases, neither of which was particularly memorable. Then to Seattle, a train across the country, and leave.
And there it is. Seventeen months on an LCT. No glamour. No real danger from the enemy. A good deal of occasional danger from the elements. As I noted in the beginning, we did the best we could with what we had. We learned a lot about ourselves and we grew up in a hurry.
Would the war have been won if we hadnít been there? Yes, of course, but we helped.
© 2000 LCT Flotillas of World War II ETO PTO