A SHORT HISTORY OF THE U.S.S. LCS(L) 35
After a brief ceremony on 3 October, 1944, twenty-four year old Lieutenant (jg) Kenneth C. Huff, USNR assumed command of the U.S.S LCS(L) 35. The record of the ship, however, began some months before that misty morning in Portland, Oregon.
In June two separate groups had been formed which would later comprise the ship's crew. The first trained in seamanship at the Amphibious Training Base, Solomons, Maryland while the second trained in gunnery at ATB Fort Pierce, Florida. In August the two groups merged at ATB Solomons. They began a long train ride across the country from Washington, DC. Suffice it to say, the men enjoyed the hospitality of Portland while the ship was being completed.
After commissioning came a frenzy of outfitting activities. On 17 October, in company with the LCS(L) 36, the ship began her maiden voyage to San Diego. Of the sixty-six men and six officers in the crew, only four had ever been to sea. None were officers. The average age of crewman was less than twenty.
Later, during gunnery training off San Diego, a tragic accident occurred when a 40 MM gun was inadvertently fired from LCS(L) 35 striking the bridge of the LCS(L) 37. In what could have been a far worse accident only one man was seriously injured.
On 1 December, 1944 the LCS(L) 35 and thirteen other LCSs sailed for Pearl Harbor. More intensive training ensued for an upcoming "Top Secret" invasion. there. When the plan for the invasion of Iwo Jima was distributed it seemed to be general knowledge in Honolulu. This became more personal while en route to Iwo Jima when Tokyo Rose said, in effect, "We know you will be here on the 19th, and we have a hot reception waiting for you."
Twelve LCSs of Group 7 sailed from West Loch, Pearl Harbor on 22 January, 1945 with a convoy of heavily laden LSTs (Landing Ship Tank). Their destination was Iwo Jima, some 4,000 miles away via Eniwetok and Saipan. On 15 February the final leg of the voyage from Saipan to Iwo Jima began.
On the morning of 19 February, an hour and a half before the assault wave landed on Iwo Jima, the LCSs of Group 7 went close to shore to launch rockets. A second attack was made just before the Marines landed. After the first wave hit the beach the LCSs took stations on the flanks of the landing beach to provide gunfire support for the next forty-eight hours. The crew went without sleep or hot food during that time.
By the end of the second day the landing beach was a cluttered mass of wrecked landing craft and other equipment buried in the sand. Assigned to salvage duty, attempts by the LCSs to drag the grounded craft from the beach were largely unsuccessful. Crewmen of the LCS(L) 35 witnessed the raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi a day later.
The wind increased and a number of pontoon barges drifted to sea. SeaBees were aboard them and the LCS(L) 35 was ordered to sea to their rescue. In the late afternoon a barge was found, however, the sea was too rough to transfer the barge's two crewmen. During a night of high wind and sea, with her ungainly tow astern, the LCS(L) 35 struck a huge LSD (Landing Ship Dock) causing minor damage. Further damage was suffered during the battle while transferring ammunition from a ship alongside in a heavy sea. Sixteen frames and other incidental structures were broken.
When their role ended at Iwo Jima in late February, the LCS group sailed for Leyte Gulf to repair damages and rehearse for the Okinawa invasion. With repairs made and training accomplished, the LCSs sailed for Okinawa with a convoy of LSTs in late March. While en route, the convoy was subjected to very heavy seas until the day before arrival.
At Okinawa, as the LCSs approached the beach on Easter Sunday, 1 April, 1945, a final signal came from the flagship: "Happy Easter and good egg rolling." Fortunately, the only signs of resistance from the defenders were occasional mortar and light machine gun fire. After the first rocket barrage it appeared that the job was done. There being little requirement for gunfire support, the LCS(L) 35 was again assigned to salvage.
On one particularly stormy night the LCS(L) 35 attempted unsuccessfully to drag a broached LST from the beach. Heavy swells almost swept the ship onto the beach too. All hands not on duty were ordered topside in life jackets. Only by slipping the tow cable did the ship manage to move away from the beach through the heavy swells.
The Japanese made many air attacks from 6 April on. During one night raid the LCS(L) 35 was subjected to a direct attack by an enemy bomber dropping six bombs. The last two bombs hit about fifty yards away showering the area with fine shrapnel.
Two days later the ship was assigned to Radar Picket Station Two, some fifty miles north of Okinawa. On 16 April the enemy attacked the picket stations in large numbers with the Combat Air Patrol shooting down many. Nearby picket stations were in trouble, and the LCS(L) 35, in company with the LCS(L) 32 and the destroyer U.S.S Byrant started full speed to their assistance. Suddenly, three kamikazes attacked RPS 2. One succeeded in making a flaming crash into the Bryant, the rest were splashed. LCS(L) 32 and the still blazing Bryant proceeded at top speed to render assistance to the other station while the LCS(L) 35 began picking up survivors and bodies blown from the Bryant. This area became known as "Suicide Junction" by the men of the picket ships.
The heavy air raids continued through April, May and most of June. No night passed without three or four hours of excitement. Early in May, the LCS(L) 35 and the other LCSs of Division 13 were assigned to the inner anti-aircraft screen and spent most nights making smoke and providing cover for larger ships. The ship was again directly attacked by an enemy plane which dropped bombs that straddled her stern drenching the aft gun crews The other duty was "skunk patrol," which consisted of night patrol for enemy suicide boats. A lonely variation from those duties came when the LCS(L) 35 was assigned to guard a PGM (Patrol Gunboat) aground on a reef some fifteen miles away from the nearest American activity.
In daylight, during an all clear in May, an enemy plane made an undetected approach from the sea. His primary target appeared to be a large LSD anchored some two hundred yards astern of the LCS(L) 35. As the enemy plane swiftly approached LCS(L) 35 gunners opened fire with 20 MM and fifty caliber machine guns causing the enemy plane to crash into the sea.
In early June came another ten day assignment to the picket line. Although there were a number of nerve-wracking alarms and enemy air raids, both night and day, the LCS(L) 35 returned safely from the patrol. In the middle of July, the LCSs were sent to a rear area at Leyte, for rehabilitation and repairs. Both were much needed.
The men had not had any recreation since early January and all had been under intense strain during the entire period. The number of calls to general quarters ran into the hundreds. Most of the men had been sleeping in their clothes for months and there was no such thing as restful sleep. Leyte, which previously had been scorned for its heat and rain, was a very welcome sight to all hands on 9 July. This area of Leyte (Tacloban), was a major staging area for the coming invasion of Japan itself. Repairs and rehabilitation had been accomplished when the unbelievable news that the war was at an end reached the harbor at 2100 on 9 August. For hours after, the din of whistles and the glare of thousands of searchlights and flares filled the air. It was a sight and feeling never to be forgotten.
In mid-September the ship was sent to Wakayama, Japan via 0kinawa. The duty in Japan consisted of patrolling and acting as harbor control vessel. It was necessary to take refuge twice from typhoons which passed nearby. On 25 October the LCS(L) 35, in company with five other LCSs, sailed for Shanghai, China.
Shortly after exploding a floating mine, the LCS(L) 35 struck a submerged object in the Yangtze River. Repairs were effected in dry-dock at Shanghai. Captain Huff summed up the men's visit to Shanghai in his official report: "This port was something of a Pacific fantasy after the barren war scarred islands previously visited."
On 19 November the ship was sent to Formosa to assist in minesweeping operations off the north coast. This duty lasted for the next month and consisted of following the sweeps to destroy the mines cut loose. At times, the water in the area was extremely rough with rolls recorded of thirty-five degrees. The bobbing mines became difficult targets under these conditions. While at anchor one morning a floating mine drifted along the entire length of the LCS(L) 35.
Accompanied by other LCSs, the ship departed Shanghai in mid-February, 1946 flying her Homeward Bound pennant. The long voyage home across the Pacific was hampered by worn out equipment and several periods of extremely rough weather. The LCS(L) 35 arrived at San Pedro, California on 15 March, 1946. With most of her original crew gone, the ship sailed to New Orleans via the Panama Canal in May. Manned by a skeleton crew, the LCS(L) 35 was towed from New Orleans to Green Cove Springs, Florida where she was decommissioned in September, 1946. Having sailed in harm's way at Iwo Jima, Okinawa and post-war mine sweeping operations, the LCS(L) 35 proved to be a lucky ship, returning without a casualty.
The LCS(L) 35 claimed credit for three enemy aircraft and earned the following World War II awards: Combat Action Ribbon (retroactively), American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign (with three stars), World War II Victory Medal, Navy Occupation Medal, China Service Medal, Philippine Liberation Medal, and Philippine Independence Medal.
Written by Charles Thomas