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On January 29, 1945, LCS 7 took part in the landings at San Antonio, Luzon, Philippine Islands. On January 31 landings were made at Subic Bay and Grande Island, Luzon, P.I. There was no enemy resistance to either of the landings. The Japanese were retreating.
On February 15 Flotilla One provided inshore fire support for the landings at Mariveles Harbor. Only minor opposition was encountered, but one LSM struck a mine. At the end of the day, LCS 7 was serving with other Flotilla One ships as a screen across the mouth of Mariveles Bay to protect three LSTs stuck in the beachhead in the bay. Contrary to following their usual procedure of providing protection by patrolling back and forth across a designated area, the LCSs were ordered to anchor in a line across the bay’s mouth. That they were, in effect, dead in the water and unable to get underway within several minutes, at least, made them highly vulnerable to attack by water and by air.
On February 16, at approximately 0320, the flotilla came under a surprise attack by about 30 suicide boats, and by heavy shore-based gunfire that appeared to come from Cabello Island. In a matter of minutes LCSs 7, 26 and 49, after receiving multiple hits, were sunk with the loss of 73 lives, and 49 wounded. LCS 27 managed to sink four suicide boats before the fifth blew up along the port side causing extensive damage resulting in flooding. The ship was saved from sinking by beaching it in Mariveles Bay. Since LCS 8 and LCS 48 were not in the immediate area at the time, they did not come under attack.
Ensign D.C. Demeter described what was happening on the Seven: “By the time our radar operator interpreted the signal, there wasn’t much time for shooting. When I ordered the crew of our ship’s gun nearest to the oncoming ship to fire, they failed to do so. I then fired two shots from a rifle and two more shots from my .38 revolver when a blinding explosion knocked me unconscious. When I regained consciousness the conn (bridge) was a mass of wreckage. The entire port side and superstructure were ablaze. Ammunition was exploding all around. Men were lying about the decks with burns and broken bones. The ship was sinking.”
Ensign Demeter, the Seven’s Communications Officer, was Officer of the Deck in charge of the ship at the time the ship was ordered to serve as a screen across the mouth of Mariveles Bay to protect the three LSTs stuck on the beachhead in the Bay. And he held this same position at 0320 the next morning when the Seven was the first of the three LCSs to be crashed and sunk by suicide boats.
Demeter attributes the high number of casualties on his ship and on LCSs 26 and 49 that were also crashed and sunk – 73 men killed and 49 injured – to two circumstances existing at the time: (1) Before this attack no one on LCS 7, or through a message to LCS 7 at least, was given warning at any time to be on the lookout for suicide boats, and (2) even though the ship’s crews had been at Condition One (General Quarters in which every man is at his battle station) during the evening of January 15, they were ordered at 2001 (8:01 PM) to Condition Two, in which only half the crew is on duty throughout the ship.
Ironically, had the attack occurred 20 to 30 minutes later, those asleep would have been awakened to go on watch and would have gone directly to their battle stations to defend their ship.
Concerning the tragic loss of men from this ship and the other two LCSs at Mariveles Bay, Richard Rhame, Flotilla One Historian, has written these lines: “Left behind beneath the blue-grey waters of Mariveles Bay were those 73 brave men who had given their lives in the best tradition of the Navy. Their sacrifice will live forever in the hearts and minds of their mates.”
The following men lost their lives as a result of the action:
Henry A. Averell
Frank M. Best
Emil R. Bowman
Henry S. Burgert
Israel L. Garcia
Earl J. Hardin, Jr.
Ellis A. Hawkins, Jr.
Joseph F. Hendron
Willie J. Jackson
Clayton A. Laird, Jr.
Lee R. McDonnell
Kenneth L. Mills
William M. Neely
Kenneth C. Pack
Robert I. Raaflaub
Cozzie N. Simpkins
David H. Stephenson
Thomas H. Strickland
Kermit Leon Stott
Robert E. L. Sutton
Thomas D. Thornhill
George E. Trammell, Sr.
Herbert A. Webb
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