The LCT Story
Victory in Europe Plus the Letters of a Young Ensign
by William D. Baker
Fresh out of Naval Officer's School at Plattsburg, New York, in June l944, my new buddies and I went to the Mediterranean to serve on LCTs. As my letters made clear, we had never seen the landing craft before, so it may be well to present Ira Wolfert's tongue-in-cheek description from the Saturday Evening Post (January 8, l944):
To the layman, the LCTlanding craft, tanklooks like a tin shed with a false front, traveling upside down and backwards through the water. The major difficulty of the LCT as a water-going vehicle is that is has no sense. Instead of trying to ride the waves, it tries to club them to death. Another difficulty is the skippers of these crafts. 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. An LCT in the South Pacific that cut across the bow of one of our mightiest battleships did not give way. Instead, the skipper grabbed up a megaphone and shouted in the direction of the Admiral on the bridge, `Can't you see where the hell you're going with that damn thing?' In general, an LCT is something only a mother can love, and their skippers love `em. . . . They have bestowed on them fond names, the regular Navy's names for them are not so tender. They call them water mules or spitkits, seagoing jalopies, sea jeeps, or just plain four-letter words. . . . The Ensigns insist that their craft are warships. . . . [There is a story of] Ensign C. Johnson who claimed there was this Jap two-man sub looking them square in the eye. `I lowered my ramp and butted him to death in the charge,' he said.
Ernest Hemingway, a correspondent for Collier's, compared the LCT to "a floating freight gondola."
After the war I discovered that most of our LCTs were built on inland rivers and then towed or navigated on our magnificent rivers to ocean ports. Take a look at the surprising shipbuilding sites on rivers named by Native Americans.
LCT shipbuilding sites
Buffalo, New York, Niagara River
Omaha, Nebraska, Missouri River
Camden, New Jersey, Delaware River
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Monongahela River
Decatur, Alabama, Tennessee River
Quincy, Illinois, Mississippi River
Kansas City, Kansas, Missouri River
Mare Island, California, Pacific Ocean
Leavenworth, Kansas, Missouri River
Manitowoc, Wisconsin, Manitowoc River
Memphis, Tennessese, Mississippi River
Mt. Vernon, Ohio, Ohio River
I wonder if there are ten people still alive who knew that most LCTs were built on inland rivers all across America.
Having been an LCT skipper for the better part of two years (one year in the Med, one year on the Eastern seaboard), I was naturally curious to read what had been reported about them to the folks at home. Alas, very little was published. I recently checked the index of the New York Times and found some citations under "landing craft" but when I located the items they were often short notes on the role of shipbuilders. Ditto for items under "Amphibious warfare, WW IINavy." It was frustrating. I also checked the International Index and The Reader's Guide for the war era and found items I had already known in Life and the National Geographic. Later I tried the Internet and found a website (www.angelfire.com/pa/LCT376) which focussed on the crew of LCT 376 in the South Pacific. The best single item was in the National Geographic for July l944. Winston Churchill was a strong supporter of landing craft: The Russians, he wrote, never understood in the smallest degree the nature of the amphibious operation necessary to disembark and maintain a great invasion army upon a well defended, hostile
coast. . . . A vast armada of specially constructed landing craft, above all tank-landing craft in numerous varieties, was the foundation of any successful heavily opposed landing. In commenting on the insistence of the U.S. to invade southern France, even though large landing craft (LSTs) were in short supply, Churchill uttered his famous blasphemy against landing craft (God-damned things). I suppose he meant it as a term of endearment, but in returning the compliment, many an amphibious man has complained about Churchill's relatively ineffective battleships. How many troops did they land on the enemy shore?
If, as Churchill said, landing craft were so vital, why hasn't more been written about them? Granted, the admirals on battleships or carriers, or the Navy brass in general, were unlikely to toot the horn of the lowly LCT. But why haven't LCT skippers done so? Perhaps it is because the skippers and flotilla commanders were, for the most part, not regular navy men; when the war ended, they went on with their lives and left strategy and reports to others. With the fiftieth anniversary of D-Day, a few reports, notably oral histories, began to fill in the gaps.
When I wrote to Dean Rockwell, in charge of rocket training LCT crews for Normandy and the skipper of LCT 535, "the first ship in the first wave to launch equipment in the Omaha area," to see if he knew of writings on landing craft, he said he knew of none, and besides the "ugly ducklings were pretty hard to glamorize." He added:How could our LCTs, no matter the essential, critical roles they played in amphibious warfare, ever hope to compete with the ships of the line who, outside of carriers, had limited usefulness at Normandy, Southern France, and the island hopping in the Pacific? Maybe someone will write the part our beloved craft played in WW II. . . ."
Stephen Ambrose, after his oral history interview with Dean Rockwell, provided the clearest description of the craft. He wrote, ""The LCT was a flat-bottomed craft ll0 feet long, capable of carrying four to eight tanks." Urged on by Churchill, the British built the first experimental models and later modified and built many hundreds.
The three 225-horsepower diesel engines and three rudders of the LCT had to be able 1) to propel and steer them across relatively wide bodies of water, such as the English Channel or the Mediterranean, even in relatively rough seas, 2) push the prow up on a beach, and 3) discharge a cargo over a ramp. Flank (top) speed for an LCT was ten knots, but convoy speed was more likely to be five knots, a little faster than a good (non-Olympic runner) can cover a mile. The earlier US LCTs, designated Mark Vs, were built in three sections joined by metal plates that were bolted on the bottom, sides, and tank deck. The engines, crews' quarters, and officers quarters were in the stern, and the craft was piloted (we called it "conned") from a platform or bridge on top of the pilot house.
The skipper hollered orders down a voice tube to the helmsman and engine crew. The craft had a bow that was both high and light. Since there was no center board, in a strong wind or tidal current it was almost impossible to hold the LCT on course. The shallow (five-foot) draft and the high freeboard required a magician at the wheel, but that same shallow draft made the LCT perfectly adapted to the foot-and-a-half to two-foot tidal range of the Mediterranean where a great many landings could be made directly onto the beach, instead of fifty to one hundred yards off shore as at Normandy. (In fact a persuasive case can be made that the Southern France landings should have preceded Normandy: the tide, the weather, the unexpected location, air and sea dominance in the Mediterranean.)
One other detail about the smallest Navy craft aboard which men lived: the 20-mm guns and thin bulkheads provided only the barest protection. On the bridge the skipper was surrounded by a waist-high canvas windbreak. As the craft neared the beach in an invasion wave, he had nowhere to hide. If a shell or even a rifle bullet had his name on it, it would kill him. Once he had chewed on that, swallowed, and digested it, he would be all right. He could stand and take it. I served for several weeks as the skipper of LCT 34, a Mark V craft, and for more months as skipper of LCT 1045, a Mark VI craft. The canvas windbreak was the same on each model. Each boat had a number, and our flotilla of thirty-two LCTs had several Mark Vs and a smaller number of Mark VIs.
Admiral H. Kent Hewitt on Amphibious Warfare
By the end of the war the most knowledgeable amphibious man was Admiral Hewitt (1887-1972). His grasp of the amphibious concept, based on practical skills learned in almost all of the landings in the Mediterranean, was complete. In his 367-page administrative history of the Eighth Fleet, Admiral Hewitt who commanded that fleet from its inception in February 1942 until April l945 when it was absorbed as a task force of the Twelfth Fleet, summed up what he called "the first great amphibious fleet of modern times." His history, now declassified, is worth quoting and summarizing because it illuminates how a whole new method of warfare contributed to the victory in Europe. He was in command during two crucial landings before Southern France (Sicily, and Salerno), and he demonstrates how each made significant contribution to the success in Southern France. Hear what Admiral Hewitt has to say:
In February, 1942, President Roosevelt and the Joint Chiefs of Staff decided upon a unified amphibious command. . . . Amphibious warfare of the modern type was brand new to the war planners of l941. . . .It was exceedingly difficult to induce many regular naval officers to take an interest in this form of warfare. They failed to see the great opportunities it offered a capable officer. As one of them said, his twenty-five years of naval training had been directed toward preventing his ship from going aground; `now, Goddamit, they were asking him to beach it deliberately!'
The only ships permanently assigned to the Eighth Fleet were mine sweepers, patrol craft, miscellaneous yard craft and about 300 amphibious craft.
[In Operation HUSKY (the Sicily landings)] virtually the entire personnel, a small nucleus of experienced officers excepted, was composed of green, partially trained Reserve officers and men but recently civilians. Since all operations were to be amphibious, joint action of the army, air and naval forces were involved. Moreover, the ships and craft to be used in the Navy's first shore-to-shore operations were innovations in naval warfare. In the HUSKY operations strange new ships and craft like the LST, LCI, LCI (L), LCT, shipborne LCM, and LCVP and their seemingly outlandish gear, such as ramps and pontoon causeways, made their initial appearance along with the already familiar cruisers, destroyers and ships of the train.
[Operation HUSKY was the first time landing craft provided] a service of supply of food, fuel, and munitions to our front line troops. . . .Landing craft had been designed to beach, disembark their troops or unload their vehicles and retract. They were not designed to operate over long periods of time. With high-speed diesel engines, such as those of the landing ships and craft employed, protracted periods of overhaul, refitting and repair were necessary. [Nevertheless amphibious craft made 736 trips from Tunis and Bizerte to Sicily and carried 136,614 troops and 29,400 vehicles.]
Because of the failure of the Air Force to correlate plans, on the night of the assault a flight of troop-carrying planes which had been routed too close to transport areas strayed from their prescribed air lines, flew over the ships simultaneously with enemy dive bombers, and were unfortunately fired upon by our own antiaircraft batteries and suffered losses.Operation AVALANCE, as the Salerno campaign came to be called, was at best a hastily prepared undertaking. Joint army and navy amphibious training schools [were] opened. [But at a rehearsal of the landing on the Italian peninsula on August 27-28, l943] only a token unloading of vehicles was attempted. [Furthermore] the assault on Salerno proved no surprise to the enemy, who met our troops in force at the beaches. Our landing craft suffered repeated air attacks that seriously interrupted unloading and wrought heavy damages. In the early stages of the landings, it became apparent that the enterprise was a gamble, and that the narrowest of margins would govern its success.
By August 14 the entire beachhead was in jeopardy. . . .That the enemy recognized the threat of naval gunfire to their positions was abundantly evident by his repeated air attacks and their initial use of glider and radar-controlled rocket bombs on our fire support ships, which were priority targets for this form of attack. The lesson learned in Sicily regarding the proper utilization of gunfire support in pre-H hour bombardments was reemphasized at . . .the most daring amphibious operation yet launched, [that is, at Salerno, where] the margin of success was furnished by the weight of sea power.
[On the beaches) very little unloading assistance was provided by the army. Consequently bottlenecks developed and goods soon piled high. Navy men soon discovered that for the first several days of the operation, the army had no established plan for beach operation. The mistakes made by the army shore party in Sicily were repeated at Salerno, and the lessons learned by the Seventh Army seem to have gone largely unheeded.
In his report to the Commander in Chief on October 3, Admiral Hewitt said:
The Western Naval Task Force firmly established the Allied Fifth Army in positions over beaches in Italy in the Gulf of Salerno. To accomplish this the Eighth Fleet suffered the loss of one hundred ships, sunk or damaged. Salerno had indeed been a near miss.
[While 33 LCTs were used in the July 10, 1943, landings in Sicily (eight in the Gaffi area, twenty-five in the Salso area), only thirty-one were used at Salerno on September 9, l943, arriving by convoy from Ferryville, Tunisia. An even fewer number were used at Anzio on January 22, 1944. So far only six (LCTs 140, 219, 152, 224, 258, and 224) can be accounted for. Of the six, LCT 224 was given a special commendation by Admiral Hewitt. In a memo from the Officer-in-Charge of LCTA 224, Lt. L.W. Swent, to his crew he thanked the crew for its willingness and cooperation at Anzio and said he wished the Legion of Merit that he received could have gone to each and every man on the 224 for he felt it was the boat and crew that earned it. He concluded, "I regard myself merely as the custodian of a medal in which you all have a share."
Admiral Hewitt continued his report:
Most action reports are hastily written, brief and perfunctory documents, complying with the letter of Naval Regulations. In contrast those of the Eighth Fleet [on the Sicilian and Italian campaigns] are well-planned, detailed accounts of the operation, complete with charts and tables clarifying the text. Printed and bound on the flagship, they are a contribution to the literature of amphibious warfare and models for future writers of action reports to follow.
The Anzio landing. . . was designed to upset the static defense plans of the Germans in Italy by landing troops of the Fifth Army in the rear of the Nazi "Gustav Line" in the Anzio-Nettuno area about thirty miles south of Rome. This operation was planned, mounted, staged and conducted by the Eighth Amphibious Force under the command of Rear Admiral Frank J. Lowry (1888-1955)
Assault on Africa, 1942
Once again, what is an amphibious force? In WW II several craft were invented for landing troops on beaches. Some say the Japanese had used landing craft in their wars with China in the Thirties. Some say it was the influence of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who, smarting from the disaster at Dunkirk when the British left most of its armor on the beaches, and remembering the powered lighters used to land horses and vehicles at Gallipoli in World War I, argued persuasively for an inexpensive, easy-to-build assault craft capable of landing tanks. A naval architect, Robert Baker (no relation) designed the Mark 1. After thirty were built, they proved almost unmanageable in rough seas. Then an improved Mark II was designed and seventy-three were built. Although they saved the day at Crete, they were still too ungainly and Mark IIIs (350 LCTs) and Mark IVs (865 LCTs) were designed. In evolving the craft changes were made in length, width, armament, engines, and carrying capacity.
Others credit an Englishman, K.C. Baraby, who had the idea for what must have seemed the naval equivalent of star wars: a craft about one hundred feet long with a double-ended ramp not unlike an old fashioned riverboat ferry. The craft was meant to work with a larger three-hundred-foot, ocean-going landing ship. Later the U.S. Navy's Bureau of Ships, using Barnaby's idea, designed the craft I worked on: the Mark V LCT (500 were built) and still later the Mark VI (963 were built). They were called Landing Craft, Tanks, (or in sailor-language, Large Crude Targets) because they were designed primarily to carry the first wave of tanks to the beach. After the first wave they carried everything else the army needed. Everything. Several craft (160) were lend-leased to the U.K. and later several were lend-leased back to the U.S. for use at Normandy. Although the figures are not entirely verifiable, they show that the British built 1318 LCTs (Mark I-IV) and the U.S. built 1463 (Mark V-VI).
While the Mark V "flew" along at eight knots, the range was 700 nautical miles, not practical for the Far East (although in spring l945 U.S. LCT Flotilla 31 [24 LCTs] made an island-hopping tour of the Pacific from Pearl Harbor) but quite practical for the invasions of Normandy and Southern France.
A longer Mark VII (now called LSM) with a greater carrying capacity was built in l945 and 558 were manufactured by V-J Day. I assume they were used exclusively in the Pacific. I never saw one. The British lost 133 LCTs of all marks, and the U.S lost 67 Mark Vs and VIs in storms, accidents, or combat (26 in Normandy landings).Craft smaller than LCTs were called LCVPs (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel). After the craft were lowered from larger ships, whole platoons and companies of fully equipped troops used cargo nets to clamber over the side of the large ships to the boats. The troopships carried twelve or more LCVPs. Some craft were LCMs (Landing Craft, Medium), slightly larger than LCVPs. I saw jeeps carried in LCMs, and I personally used an LCM (piloted by a cox'n) to gather food supplies in Marseilles harbor for our LCT flotilla. Torpedo boats were not amphibious, but they achieved more fame. John F. Kennedy commanded PT 109 in the Pacific; Douglas Fairbanks had one in the Med.
The three main self-sustaining amphibious vessels used in invasions were LCTs, LCIs (Landing Craft, Infantry), and LSTs (Landing Ship Tanks). About fifteen hundred to two thousand of each were manufactured in widely different parts of the United States. These were supposed to be self-sufficient vessels where the crews lived aboard, as opposed to the crews of LCVPs where the crews lived on the mother ship. The LCTs had one or two officers and twelve to fifteen enlisted men, while the larger LSTs had eight officers and about eighty seamen. The LCTs were the smallest vessels in the Navy with crews living aboard. All had two things in common: 1) the use of the stern anchor, dropped a calculated distance before hitting the shore, used to retract the vessel off the beach, and 2) a bow ramp to let down on the beach or near it so that men and/or vehicles could be disgorged in a hell of a hurry. (More details about an LCT are revealed in the photos included in this book and as the young Ensign in the letters discovers them.)
The initial American amphibious invasion was near Casablanca, Morocco, in November, l942. To sail a large force across the Atlantic was no small feat in itself, for in those days the U-boats were sinking ships faster than we could build them. Not until mid-1943 with improved radar, better depth bombs, and homing torpedoes did we turn the tide, sink one hundred submarines, and improve the chances of getting across without being torpedoed.Still, we had to cross the Atlantic in armed and escorted convoys, and rare was the convoy until l945 that didn't "sight" U-boats on its radar screen. The convoys, including the one I was on, often left eastern ports, headed south to a point just off the coast of Brazil (I don't think we crossed the equator), and turned east to cross the "narrowest" part of the Atlantic (a mere two thousand miles heavily infested with submarines) to the west coast of Africa.
New types of naval transport had to be invented in the midst of the fighting. A so-called Kaiser-class "baby" aircraft carrier weighing 11,000 tons with a top speed of nineteen knots, transported thousands of planes across the oceans. Mass produced by Kaiser Shipbuilding and manned by largely inexperienced crews, these ships substituted for the much larger, faster, and scarcer aircraft carriers, such as the Hornet, the Saratoga, and later the Franklin D. Roosevelt. In July l944 I was ordered to the Brooklyn Navy Yard where I boarded one of these substitute carriers, the Shamrock Bay, CVE 84, and crossed the Atlantic. Planes (P-47s) were loaded and unloaded at dockside by huge cranes. The flight deck was in reality a large storage space, not an operational landing space. It was the first ship aside from the Staten Island Ferry and the Canadiana (a one-hour excursion ship on Lake Erie) I had ever sailed on. I discovered I was not a rough-weather sailor.
In Africa I learned that the commander of the Eighth Fleet with headquarters in Algiers was Admiral Hewitt, a man I admired but never met even though my orders were to report to him for assignment. In 1943 through early l944 he headed the American half of the landings in Sicily, Salerno, and Anzio, and in August l944 his Allied Naval Forces established the Seventh Army in Southern France.
Almost from the beginning it was Admiral Hewitt's job to train crews for landing craft, chiefly at the amphibious bases, one near Norfolk, in Little Creek, Virginia, and the other at Solomons, Maryland. In mid l942 we had almost no men trained to operate landing craft. Piloting an amphibious vessel takes more time to learn than to drive a tank or to shoot a cannon, but the volunteer naval crews (no one was drafted into the navy; we all "volunteered") developed an esprit de corps that tried to compensate for inexperience. The problem Admiral Hewitt faced was overcoming bureaucracy in an inter-service rivalry.
Rivalry? If you train people to deliver soldiers to the beaches, who is responsible for what? Unless the Navy is in command and actually on the beach, who is to give directions to the oncoming landing craft? While the marines have traditionally been our chief attack force on the beaches, the army must establish and push off from the beachhead or risk being bottled up as at Salerno and Anzio. And who coordinates the air force and the battleships' fourteen-inch shells being lobbed at the enemy from a dozen miles away?
In l942 from Admiral Hewitt's point of view the matter was even more complicated when the army began to do the navy's job by training boat crews, army boat crews. Part of the problem was that the army, using the draft, had many men to assign such training. The army even placed half-page advertisements in the papers: Join the army's navy. Admiral Hewitt said, "There should not have been an army's navy at any time and there should not be one in the future." So sayeth the admiral (who, right as he may have been, obviously had his own agenda.)
Nevertheless his forces were able to pull off Operation Torch (the November 8, 1942, landings near Casablanca) in spite of high surf and bad weather. Many landing craft were lost due to lack of experience, plus inadequate training of the crews. By the next day when the surf got much worse the landing craft were unable to land within the harbor of Fedhala, fifteen miles north of Casablanca. For sixty days the surf was terrible. Admiral Hewitt said, "It was an act of divine providence, I think, that we were able to get ashore at the appointed time."
Scuttlebutt about this difficult landing sped among naval trainees. They had yet to engage in such operations and the rumors were not calculated to encourage the faint-hearted. But of course no naval trainees I ever met had the least idea where they would be assigned after training in boot camp or midshipmans school. We were being taught blind obedience and the less we knew the less we would be confused by giving thought to our situation. If I sound cynical I must say the Navy did nothing to dispel my cynicism. It was either be cynical or naïve or both. My memory of naval officer's school is of intense academic pressure (failure meant boot camp) and 365 days of close-order drill to teach instant obedience: "By the right flank, march!"
Commando Raid and Operation Torch, 1942
In the previous August, Torch, the disastrous British/Canadian commando raid at Dieppe on the French coast, brought terrific losses. The experience fed the naval trainee's imagination about the inviolability of the German held "Fortress Europe." Every coast and every port was under German control. Guns bristled from pillboxes and fortified bunkers on the headlands above the beaches. In l993 walking along the beach on the Dutch coast with my grandchildren, I was able to point out to those concrete "bombproof" shelters. [One was transformed into a sculpture museum in 1999.] There was no safe place to land on the whole continent. The German command was, we were led to believe, exhaustively thorough, so the success of a massive assault on a vulnerable spot was problematical. Hence, the decision to invade North Africa first.
It took nine months of hard fighting in miserable desert conditions to push "the Desert Fox," General Erwin Rommel, out of Africa, but by July l943 the Allies were ready to land in Sicily. The advanced reconnaissance to assure that troops were landed at designated beach areas was handled by Captain Phil Bucklew, who trained his landing ship forces in Bizerte, Tunisia, almost two hundred miles east of Palermo. Several times I was to take a landing craft from Bizerte to Palermo more than a year later, though I first landed in Bizerte in July l944.
Imagine the astonishment (if that's the right word) of the naval trainee as he learned of Captain Bucklew's dangerous assignment. Would the recruit also have assignments like that? Would he have to come in advance of the landing force, sneak up on the beach just after midnight, drop off a man at each flank, then, as the Captain said, "You have [the landing craft] come down the alley guided in by the lights from each flank. It is a very simple procedure." Ha!
To complicate matters in the Sicilian landings, the Germans turned airfield searchlights on the beach and "it looked like Broadway." According to the captain the Germans had decided not to make a determined opposition, so when he found a German 88mm cannon working over him from the shore he felt he was being toyed with. "The Germans could do more with those 88s. They handled them like a .38 caliber gun, and they chased me from one end of the beach to the other. . . . I knew he could hit me if he could control it that well. . . . As [the Allied] troops came in the Germans folded fast."
That 88mm cannon was reported to be the most effective ground force weapon employed by any army in the war. The headlands above the beaches in southern France where my flotilla landed bristled with 88s. In fact the one hundred miles of beaches in southern France were studded with 578 case-mated positions, each holding a field gun or coastal gun. Near Toulon there were 106 coastal guns, including a .340 caliber giant that could hurl a 700-pound shell practically across the Mediterranean. Well, a great distance anyway.
Several lessons learned in the Sicilian landings made the whole concept of amphibious assault a shaky idea for the naval trainee. First, air surveillance by the enemy made tactical surprise almost impossible. Second, the slowness of amphibious craft gave the enemy time to get ready, especially in a large-scale operation. (Six reinforced divisions were landed in Sicily, the largest assault landing in the war; Normandy had a front of five divisions). Third, direct air support was missing and bombings to soften up the enemy had an insignificant effect. Fourth, the landings had to roll from the beginning. To have the beachhead sealed off by the enemy as later experience at Anzio (between Rome and Naples) showed, was disastrous. Fifth, a night assault made to surprise the enemy also causes confusion for your own forces and has no better chance of success than a day assault. Sixth, a massive invasion creates disorder and confusion on the beaches. Nothing goes by the numbers, so it takes some luck and patience to get men and ammunition ashore and off the beach.
Excerpts from a
Sailor's Log on Sicily,
Salerno, and Anzio
Since no official action reports from LCT skippers for assault waves at Sicily, Salerno, or Anzio are available (if indeed they were ever written), I have selected entries from the previously unpublished "Sailor's Log" of Gunner's Mate George W. Butenschoen, LCT 221, to provide a first-hand narrative, the only first-hand LCT reports I've seen for Sicily, Salerno, and Anzio. While the language is more colorful than officialese would be, it is also more vivid and more characteristic of talk I heard on LCTs.
July 6, l943, Sicily. About 4 A.M. we had one hell of an air raid. It lasted until 5:OO. Saw one plane get hit about three miles up and come down in a tail spin. Got three others as far as I know now. We start our invasion tomorrow.
July 7, l943, Sicily. We started and had good going [for the landing] on the 9th. For the first time since I was in the Navy I was seasick. Boy was it rough. About 2:00 the first invasion fleet hit the coast of Sicily. About 5:00 we were right in among the firing, pretty hot stuff some time. At 7:00 we hit the beach, unloaded in about three minutes, and pulled out. It wasn't too nice with shells falling all around our boat, but we made it.Salerno
September 8, 1944, Salerno. Planes attacked us at 2:00 A.M. They dropped a few bombs but didn't hit anything. About 4:15 again we were attacked. They hit one LCT with ammunition on. No one was hurt but it sank in about twenty minutes. One plane went over us at about 2000 feet. Shot at him around thirty times, but had to stop for the mast was in the way. Five A.M. our first P-38s [new U.S. planes] were with us. At 6:45 the message came through that Italy has surrendered. During the night planes attacked the convoy on and off.
September 9, l943, Salerno. At 5:10 A.M. we headed for the beach . Hell broke loose. I'll never forget it. While writing this we shot down an ME 109 [Messerschmitt]. It hit the water off our bow and tried to hit an LCT. Shells were falling around us all day. Out of ten [army] officers on our boat, nine were hurt and one killed. Three of my crew were hurt. At 7:30 P.M. shells started landing [near us] on the beach again and we got the hell out of where we were. About two miles out we anchored.
September 12, Salerno. We unloaded our first load after Sept. 9th. We saw the British bringing in their dead and wounded on an LCT. The dead were buried about three feet deep right off shore on a little hill. At 5:30 or 6:00 P.M. we saw a dog fight above us. Heavy artillery keeps firing on shore about ten miles inland. Salerno is being shelled by German 88s from the hills. Of 800 infantrymen landed on Green Beach, only seventeen are left.
September 13, Salerno. Out of 2000 [infantry]men only seventy-eight are left.
September 14, Salerno. We bombed the Jerries all night.
September 15, Salerno. D + 6. The Jerries are still shelling out here in the water, but reinforcements are landing too.
September 16, Salerno. Last night some 88 mm gun was shelling the beach from the hills again. We had a load of ammunition. Five of the boys and I left the boat and went off on shore aways. About 9 P.M. we went back to our boat by small boat and started unloading today. Jerries are trying to shell the two battleships that are in now. Germany is using its heaviest air power over the Salerno area. Navy reinforcements [?] are about thirty miles from here and are expected to be here by morning. Then we'll see what the Jerries have to say.
September 17, Salerno. British 8th Army meets the U.S. 5th Armored Division. Had one hell of an air raid tonight or last night. Jerries still shelling the beach. Commandos killed, 118, seventy were wounded getting sixteen Jerry Tiger tanks.
September 21, Salerno. D + 12 and still we have Jerries in the hills shelling us, but not until about 7:00. We tied up to a Limey [British] merchant ship, got in a little trouble, and we pulled away from it. The captain said we didn't have to go to [the Limey ship] again. Luckily we didn't because an LCT was hit tonight that tied up to it. Oh yes, yesterday we had to go to the beach under fire, ordered by Captain Zemmerly.
October 4, Salerno. Cagle and I went in to Salerno and looked around but we didn't see much. Grand and I went in Salerno for the first time Oct 2. The relief crew are going back to Bizerte tomorrow.
January 22, l944, Anzio. Landed about five miles on the south side of Nettuno. We had air raids. An LCI was hit and most of the crew killed. An A.M. [?] hit a mine and killed all but forty-five or fifty. It sank in three-and-a-half minutes.
January 29, Anzio. More raids. Got off beach about 2:30 after being on it four days without lights [no electricity from a salt-water-cooled generator.] An air raid at 6:30 was a honey. Jerries got one Liberty ship [the Samuel Huntington], a British cruiser [H.M.S. Spartan], and other small craft. At 3:15 I was on guard [duty] and saw a Liberty ship blow up between the bow and bridge. Fifteen minutes later the aft blew up and it threw shrapnel and steel about a thousand feet or more and some of it hit our boat. It was the prettiest thing I ever saw, but anyone that was alive before it went off was dead after that I'm sure. Shells from it exploded all night.
February 3, Anzio. One of our LCTs was hit by a bomb near Nettuno a few days ago and there was a diver down fixing it, and he was just out of the water when it hit, and he had to be washed off the deck with a water hose.
February 25, Anzio. Headed for Naples, getting loaded with ammo and will be headed for Anzio in a few days. Boy that's a hot place now. Be glad when those Jerries are out of there. Germans brought down another division. Now they have ten of them near Anzio and Cassino.
March 11, Anzio. The Jerries are still slinging shells over at us. This morning a bomb missed our boat by about 300 feet. The news is good all over but at Anzio. Hitler said he'd have us pushed in the sea in three days, but he has got fooled again, but he sure tries with everything he has.
April 1, Anzio. Four of the boys left the crew and Mr. Crawford today, being assigned to new LCT(6)s in North Africa. [The amphibious base was in Bizerte.] Jerries has been quiet for about two days but this afternoon he sure has been laying the shells in here again, some come mighty close. Baily and I hit some old buildings a couple of times.
April 4, Anzio. Last night was one I'll never forget. The Jerries must have broken through. They laid shells all over the harbor. One LCT pulled alongside to take one guy to the hospital about ll:30 P.M. About 3 A.M. they shelled again. Four of us guys got up and went to some buildings just off the docks. We no more than got inside when a shell hit twenty or twenty-five feet from us. It knocked two of us down. It got three other fellas on LCT 198 and one guy on another one. After that we got the hell out of there.
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