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A BRIEF HISTORY OF U.S.S. LCS(L)(3) 26
Harry Meister, Engineering Officer, LCS 27
LCS 26 was commissioned on August
26, 1944 at the Commercial Iron Works, Portland, Oregon. She was assigned to Flotilla One, Seventh
Fleet, Task Force 78.3.8, consisting of LCSs 7, 8, 26, 27, 48 and 49. Her shakedown was conducted in September
1944 in San Diego, California
On January 29 1945, LCS 26 made Landings at San Antonio, Luzon, Philippine Islands. There was no resistance to the landings. On January 31 landings were made at Subic Bay and Grande Island, Luzon, P.I. There was no resistance to these landings either. The Japanese were retreating.
On February 13, pre-invasion mine clearing operations were conducted in Manila Bay, Luzon, P.I. In company with LCS 27, the 26 followed the mine sweepers to destroy all floating mines cut loose by the sweeps. February 14th continued the mine clearing support with LCS 27.
In these two days LCS 26 destroyed 30 mines. At one point she came under fire from a Japanese battery on Corregidor, which was promptly put out of action with help from a destroyer. Later in the day, LCS 26 came to the aid of two destroyers which had struck mines near Mariveles. The two destroyers were able to proceed on their own power although badly damaged.
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 Flotilla 1 anchored as a screen across the mouth of Mariveles Bay.
On February 16, at approximately 0320, the flotilla was attacked 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 many more wounded. Swede Swenson, the engineering officer on LCS 26, was able to free himself from the sinking ship by swimming out through the hole caused by the suicide boat. As he left, he saw a shipmate’s severed head lying on the deck.
LCS 27 managed to sink 5 suicide boats before the sixth blew up along her 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 by any suicide boats.
The following men of the LCS-26
lost their lives in the action:
Alvie C. Arnold
Milton N. Bachman
Casper A. Bacrowski
Richard L. Bartz
Edward A Bayus
Donald V. Bearison
Alvin F. Beczynski
Howard W. Bedford
Ulysses M. Bendy, Jr.
Albert S. Bellofatto
Horace E. Blair
Norbert H. Bleau
Paul E. Boyer
Arvel B. Clark
Harold L. Clark
John E. Cooper
Vernon H. Frey
Calvin R. Jones, Jr
James H. Nix
Chester A. Oddell
Carroll D. Pipes, Sr.
Howard T. Priest
Arlo R. Schellhardt
Walter E. Smith
The most vivid and expressive account of this tragic event and the feelings it generated was given by W. M. (Marty) Kingwell, crew member and survivor of the 26:
Tonight we're placed at Harbor's mouth,
Five ships in line from north to south.
I'm standing watch, t'ween three and four,
There comes a flash, an awful roar.
We stand in awe, we hear men scream,
It seems unreal as if a dream.
Another flash, they've hit one more,
It lights us up, the flames now soar.
We look in vain, we cannot see,
What caused all this, what can it be?
I see them now, just two grey shapes,
They're coming fast, I see their wakes.
Torpedo-like boats, suicides,
A crazy Jap in each one rides.
The one hits near, we feel the thud,
It don't explode, it is a dud.
It was God's will, I'm satisfied,
He interfered or I'd have died.
Toward the bow, the other hit,
A blinding flash the sky is lit.
Our ship's in flames, men run about,
Trapped men now scream, others shout.
I turn to leave, a blow I feel,
My forehead stings, it makes me reel.
I keep my feet, I gain the rail,
I can't give up, I must not fail.
I hit the sea, I head for shore.
Some mates are near, there’s three or four,
We swim awhile, then turn to gaze,
The ship now sinks, the sea’s ablaze
From burning oil, which soon burns out,
Once more it’s dark, men swim about.
Jap snipers fire from off Bataan,
I’m glad it’s dark, three hours till dawn.
They say at dawn the trees bore fruit,
Jap bodies hung, quite limp and mute.
I reach the shore, I utter thanks,
Then stagger up the rocky banks.
At dawn they come to rescue us,
We’re cold and grim, there’s little fuss.
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.”
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