Division of Naval History
Ship's History Section
A Brief HISTORY of My Life and My Death, by the USS LCS(L) 37
Born among the thousands of commissioned World War II ships named only by type and number, I joined with LCS(L)s 24, 38, 39, 40, 57 to lead the assault on Okinawa, Brown Beach 4, at 0800 Easter Sunday, 1 April 1945. I then served 27 more days on picket duty against suicide planes and patrol duty against suicide boats ("skunks"), one of which attacked and fatally injured me close to the shore of enemy-held territory on April 28 in Nakagusuku Wan (renamed Buckner Bay in honor of General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Commander of the Tenth Army, who led in the capture of Okinawa). I was miraculously towed from the scene by brave actions of LCS(L) 38. My commissioned life was but 467 days, with a span of only 201 days from commissioning to my death of disusage, and 507 days from the laying of my keel to being sunk by the Navy in the Philippine Trench. My battle life was 28 frenetic days, followed by a month of active support of battle as best a crippled ship could. In all, I had three skippers: SN Brickhouse (277 days), CC Ryther (37 days), and RE Deamer (153 days).
MY INFANCY AND YOUTH I was born 2 September 1944 when my keel was laid at Commercial Iron Works, Portland, OR. I was launched 23 September and commissioned 10 October 1944 under the command of Lt(jg) SN Brickhouse USNR, with this crew: CO Barnett S1c; PJ Barnett S1c; Ens OW Blake Gunnery Officer; WE Bowers RM3c; NR Caron F1c; CJ Costello S1c; RW Cummins RdM3c; Ens RE Deamer Engineering Officer; BL Drenner S2c; FA Eaton F2c; HS Elslager QM3c; ET Fincham Cox1c; VE Fletcher MoMM1c; CD Frey F2c; B Grisanti S1c; RA Henry S2c; AH Johns S1c; RH Johnstad S1c; JF Kleinhenz SC1c; LN Knowlton F1c; JD Leary S1c; RL Littlejohn S1c; RP Lynch F1c; Ens JA McEvoy Executive Officer; H Miller GM2c; GT Molstein PhM2c; C Nelson F2c; CW Oehlsen GM3c; RC Pajakowski S2c; DM Pflomm S1c; WC Phillips S2c; VA Poggemoeller F2c; GE Powell S2c; JD Ramsey S2c; PI Rhoades S2c; JH Robinson SM3c; N Robinson StM3c; GH Rosengren RT3c; PP Salemno EM3c; H Shipp S2c; LM Siess Jr FC3c; RD Simpson S2c; RR Singer S2c; EA Skurka S2c; EE Smith S2c; EA Stasko S2c; GL Stein S2c; HL Streeval S2c; IR Stull S2c; CC Sumpter S1c; MD Swayze S1c; RD Swordy S2c; PG Thayer S2c; RA Theis S2c; Ens CE Theriot First Lieutenant; GH Tilton S2c; KW Tincknell S2c; MS Ungaro S2c; RR Viles S2c; ER Vokoun Jr S1c; CH Vollgrebe S2c; EC Wallace S2c; CR Watkins S2c; ME Wheeler S2c; HW White F2c; HR Wicktorowicz S2c; JD Wilson S2c; Ens RJ Wisner Communications Officer; JD Wilson S1c; EM Wolfgang S2c; KR Woolley S2c. The average officer rank was O1.167, and the average enlisted rating was E2.788 in modern Navy terms, in which O1 is Ensign rank and O2 is Lt(jg), and in which E1 is Apprentice Seaman, E2 is S2c, and E3 is S1c. So the average rating of E2.788 is just a tad over three-fourths of the way between S2c and S1c. With the scant training and experience of this crew, I wondered at the time if my lines should have even been cast off so as to float in the harbor, let alone go to war. But as things turned out, it was a fine and capable crew.
On 22 October 1944, I sailed for San Diego with LCSs 38 and 54, stopping only at Astoria for 100 minutes to receive orders. I arrived 0700, 27 October at San Diego Naval Repair Base. From 28 October until 1 December 1944, my crew and I participated in shakedown, gunnery practice, rocket practice, fire drills, abandon ship drills, maneuvers, and the like. We also prepared for the trip to Oahu. The training exercises were marred by a disaster. On 7 November during AA practice, the LCS 35 accidentally fired a 40MM blind-loaded and plugged projectile into my conning tower. I lost my valued QM3c Harry S. Elslager, who was very seriously injured and had to be transferred to a hospital.
LEAVING HOME AND MATURING On 1 December 1944 at 1144, I left San Diego for Pearl Harbor with sister ships 35, 36, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 51, 53, 54, 55, 56. Flot 3 staff members AH Bullard RM3c and FC Lindsay S1c were passengers. Throughout the trip, daily training exercises were held, and I arrived in Pearl Harbor at 1300, 11 December. My average effective speed for the trip was almost 9.4 knots (using elapsed time and the great circle distance), not bad given that my crew got so much training while en route; also, it exceeds the 8.5 knots I sailed for most of the trip. At Pearl Harbor, the crew had just 10 days out of 54 in training: gunnery practice, maneuvers, shore bombardment, demolition, etc. The remainder of the time was consumed by preparations for sea and battle: loading ammo, installing equipment, taking on stores, etc.
At 1115, 3 February 1945, I left Pearl Harbor in a convoy comprising LSM(R)s 188, 189, 190, 191, 193, 194; LCS(L)s 24, 37, 38, 39, 40, 44, 57; SCs 1028, 1311; and LCTs 699, 700, 701, 706, 757, 758, 759, 761, 762, 784, 797, 798, 806, 807, 828, 832, 837, 880, 881, 882, 902, 903, 906, 907, 1051, 1083, 1084, 1102, 1103, 1104, 1133, 1178, 1192, 1309, 1313, 1369 generally sailing at six knots. Staff members Lt Sommerhalter, Group Commander; Ens H Towson, Group Communications Officer; RH Ochs RM3c; W Fry RdM3c; and LD Dunlap RdM3c were aboard. On 9 February, the convoy stopped at Johnston Island for six hours to transfer a crewman to the hospital, then proceeded to Majuro Atoll, arriving 19 February. Dropping off the LCTs at Majuro, I departed 21 February and arrived at Eniwetok 25 February, generally at 10 knots. On 28 February, I departed Eniwetok and arrived at Ulithi Atoll 6 March. Leaving Ulithi the next day, I arrived in Leyte Gulf 11 March. In the Philippines, I spent two days on patrol and five more days training, meanwhile receiving and stowing supplies and ammunition — and preparing for battle.
On 25 March, I left Leyte Gulf in a convoy of LCSs 24, 38, 39, 37, 40, and 57 (the order in which we sailed and would be in line to approach the beach), using various courses and speeds to arrive at Okinawa at precisely 0800, Easter Sunday, 1 April 1945.
PURSUING MY PROFESSION At 0800 on 1April, I lined up on our line of departure with the aforementioned ships, and we proceeded toward Brown Beach, starting to fire at the beach at 0805; we also fired at a small grounded Jap ship on the way in. At 0833, I ran aground on a reef, but got underway again ten minutes later. Also, one of the rockets misfired, landed on the deck, and was thrown overboard. Despite these troubles, we executed our mission, the crew’s performance magnificent. In all, my guns fired 5400 rounds of ammo and 180 rockets. Then, after three days and nights of making smoke for the big ships in anchorages, LCSs 24, 39, 40, and I made four firing runs at a beach south of Naha.
On 6 April, I reported to Radar Picket Station 3, and after surviving an attack by Kamikazes, my crew and I spent all night assisting in the search for survivors of the sinking destroyers USS Bush and USS Colhoun. We picked up two who survived and five who didn’t. During 7-14 April, I was on Picket Stations 2 and 3, enduring numerous attacks. I then made smoke in Hagushi anchorage until reporting on 17April at Picket Station 14, again experiencing the attacks so familiar to my sister ships. At 1828 on 22 April, my sister LCS(L) 15 took a direct hit by a Jap Val coming in out of the sun, and the 15 disappeared beneath the surface four minutes later. Our crew and the crews of DD 578, DD 656, LSM 195, and LCS 83 picked up what survivors they could. On 25 April, I returned to Hagushi anchorage for more days and nights of making smoke.
On 27 April, I joined LCS(L)s 24, 38, 39, and 40 for patrol duty in Nakagusuku Wan, where our duty was to seek and sack suicide boats and swimmers. Instead, a "skunk" found me, and at 0227 on 28 April, I suffered a fatal blow by a depth charge that the skunk dropped close by my rear quarter, knocking out all engines. One of my gun crews eliminated the skunk and its three enemy occupants; a fourth was shot in the water close to my side. Drifting rapidly toward enemy shore, my sister LCS 38 tossed over a tow line at 0243, for which she and her crew deserve some sort of medal.
After many evaluations of my condition (all the while making smoke and firing at the enemy despite my wounds), it was decided to tow me back to Leyte Gulf, and on 28 May, a full month after being hit, ATA 188 took LSM 33 and me under tow for the trip (which at one point was delayed slightly due to a typhoon warning). After these battle experiences, entailing 55 GQs, I knew I was dead despite hopes by others that I could be restored in time for the invasion of Japan — my role in which had already been drafted and made known.
MY WAKE I arrived in Leyte Gulf on 3 June 1945, and there I suffered ignobly while moored to the USS Tutuila (75 days), to a rusted barge in the middle of Leyte Gulf (54 days), and to a buoy off Manicani Island (63 days), much of that time without access to shore facilities — for either recreation or business — my crew literally hitchhiking rides with other ships or with passing small boats. The rest of the time, I was moored to a few other piers but mainly to the small boat dock at Manicani Island, near the island of Samar. In spite of all this, my crew and I retained our pride.
MY BURIAL I arrived 7 December 1945 at Manicani Island for my final stripping of equipment in preparation for decommissioning, and I was decommissioned there 19 January 1946. Several days after decommissioning, I was towed away, dynamited, and sunk in the Philippine Trench, third deepest in the world.
My final crew, under command of Lt(jg) RE Deamer USN, was Lt(jg) OW Blake Gunnery Officer; NR Caron MoMM3c; JC Chamberlain S1c; FA Eaton EM2c; Jaskulski S1c; AH Johns SM3c; RH Johnstad RM3c; LN Knowlton MoMM3c; JD Leary SM3c; RP Lynch MoMM2c; Lt(jg) JA McEvoy Executive Officer; H Miller GM1c; VA Poggemoeller MoMM2c; JD Ramsey S1c; PI Rhoades QM3c; H Shipp Cox3c; RD Simpson F1c; EA Skurka Cox3c; IR Stull S1c; PG Thayer S1c; RA Theis Cox3c; Lt(jg) CE Theriot First Lieutenant; GH Tilton S1c; RR Viles Cox3c; CH Vollgrebe MoMM3c; EC Wallace RM3c; ME Wheeler FC3c; HR Wicktorowicz S1c; JD Wilson S1c; Lt(jg) RJ Wisner Communications Officer; LD Wisowaty S1c; EM Wolfgang S1c; KR Woolley GM3c. All five officers and 26 of these 29 enlisted men served on the original crew.
Recorded, written in final form, and transmitted by Robert J. Wisner, with the advice and the consent of shipmates Robert E. Deamer, Richard P. Lynch, O. William Blake, Virl E. Fletcher, James D. Leary, Harvey Miller, Gilbert T. Molstein, Robert H. Ochs, and Leslie M. Siess Jr. Also, thanks are extended to Don Ball, Robin Rielly, and John Rooney.
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