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A BRIEF HISTORY OF U.S.S. LCS(L)(3) 66
Robert P. Grimes, Crew Member
Soon after the beginning of the American offensive in the South Pacific there arose a great need for an amphibious ship to lay down shell and rocket barrages on the enemy beaches during the lapses of time between the fleet naval bombardment and the troops rushing ashore. The LCS was designed and built with this purpose in mind.
The crew of our ship was from various parts of the country and of different nationalities and ethnic persuasions. The first half of the crew was assembled and trained at Fort Pierce, Florida; the second half at Solomons, Maryland. Fort Pierce trainees provided the ordinance division and Solomons, the special branches, the deck division and engineering forces.
After two months of training, both halves were joined to form a complete crew at Solomons on December 1, 1944. Immediately we were sent aboard LCS 6 for a week's cruise in the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The weather was colder than blazes and we had very poor conditions and overcrowding. After our cruise we departed Solomons in buses for Washington, D.C. where we were given a four hour liberty by our skipper, LTJG E. M. Eakin.
The crew took off in all directions intent on having one last fling. As twelve o'clock, the deadline for our liberty, rolled around, the men began to trickle into Union Station. It was comical to watch them. One had told his two buddies that he would drink either of them under the table. As it happened, his two shipmates came back carrying their exhausted drunk buddy between them. At ten minutes after midnight, with all hands aboard, our train, loaded with three LCS crews, left Washington for Portland, Oregon. The trip took five days. We had a beautiful view of what we were fighting for.
We arrived at Portland on December 13 and the enlisted men were assigned to naval barracks. We were given liberty every evening and weekends. The people of Portland really treated us swell. In fact, many of the men who had been in other large cities declared that Portland was the best town for liberty that they had ever been in. This was my opinion also.
Our ship was commissioned on January 2, 1945 and for the next ten days everyone worked like mad to equip and outfit the ship for sea. On January 15 we departed Portland and arrived at Astoria that evening. Two days later we left Astoria and the Columbia river and continued on our voyage to San Diego. The first few days were really rough and everyone aboard was seasick. It was difficult to be able to find men to stand watches.
Our ship finally arrived at San Diego on January 22. While there we went out with other LCSs for maneuvers and beach bombardments and anti-aircraft practice for three weeks. On February 22 we departed San Diego to arrive at Pearl Harbor on March 3. At Pearl we were repainted and had four practice invasions on nearby Moni Island. Once we were allowed to go in swimming but were somewhat deterred by there being sharks in the water.
On April 11 we made ready for sea, destination Guam. We sailed on April 13, one day after President Roosevelt's death with our flag at half-mast. Our captain predicted that we would see action before the flag was two-blocked (hoisted to the top). When we later arrived at Guam we were told to proceed immediately to Saipan. Here we stayed just two days and were given our orders to proceed to Okinawa, where our massive forces had invaded on April 1st.
While enroute to Okinawa on May 9 we were called to general quarters and depth charges were being heard. We rushed to our stations and watched a destroyer escort turn on a submarine and lay down a definite pattern of depth charges. The following morning at 0330 a submarine surfaced and a destroyer escort whirled with the speed of a cobra and again depth-charged the area. The charges were exploding within 200 yards of our ship. Twice in 24 hours we were subjected to a sub attack.
On May 10 we arrived at Okinawa. The next day we had another alert and were required to approach the entrance to the harbor and take formation against Japanese suicide boats. At 2130 we were called to patrol and to guard our battleships and cruisers off shore that were shelling Japanese troops on the island of Okinawa. At intervals of 30 seconds they bombarded the beach with high explosives and star shells. They really gave the Japanese a pounding.
On May 13 we were assigned to radar picket patrol duty to serve on outlying stations with destroyers, and other LCSs and LSMs to provide warnings of approaching enemy planes and to keep these planes from reaching our ships in the harbor and away from our troops fighting on the island. On May 19 at 1900 we were called to general quarters. We could see the two destroyers serving on our station about 400 yards away, firing at a Kate torpedo bomber. The Kate's pilot swung away from the destroyers and came straight at us. At three hundred yards he cut away, much to our relief.
On the next day nothing appeared on our station until 1907 when we saw some enemy Kates attacking two destroyers on our station. Our Navy combat planes intercepted them and two of the Kates were sent crashing in flames. Due to the alertness of our ship a Kate was spotted coming in very low at the stern. The destroyer was warned by radio and they opened up and splashed it within 50 yards of the ship. All told seven bandits appeared and seven were shot down. At the close of the battle we received a "well done" from the destroyer commander because of the alertness of a signalman and our radar man, who both spotted and confirmed each other's reports on that Kate sneaking in on the destroyer, which was so low they didn't pick it up on their own radar.
On May 22 we received our mail for the first time in weeks. It was a beautiful sack of mail. The morale of the ship jumped from “fair” to “excellent”. For the next two weeks we laid smoke screens in the evenings for larger ships in the anchorage.
On June 6 while we were serving on radar picket station 15A a Japanese plane came in from the destroyer's stern, low. The destroyer opened up on it with every gun available. The plane then circled the last destroyer in line, turned quickly and at 200 yards she burst into flames. The destroyer then moved ahead at flank speed, smoke billowing from its stacks. The plane hit the water near the waterline and bounced onto the destroyer throwing high test aviation gasoline.
The ship was lit as if it was a furnace. Five men were knocked overboard. The destroyer quickly left the scene, leaving behind rescue lights and water coloring for rescue forces to see. As she passed our stern she fired at another plane, low along the waterline. The plane disappeared over the horizon. We were told to pick up survivors. Thank God, after heading toward the signal lights we were able to see the men, bobbing around in the water. Excellent lookouts made this possible. There were one officer and three enlisted men to be rescued. No one was seriously injured; however they were treated for burns and exposure. Every courtesy was extended to them. On the afternoon of June 7 we also picked up a survivor from LCS 86.
On June 12 we noticed enemy troop movements on Okinawa so our guns opened up on a small boat and a number of Japs on a sandy strip of the beach. We poured shell fire into it until dark. At 0500 on June 15 we picked up about 30 Japs on the beach. We went alongside the beach and really let our targets have it. We then went and blasted 6 Japs advancing into the interior of the island toward the front. The flagship then gave us orders to blast the Japs with rockets, which we did.
At this time two LSMs opened up with about 1400 rockets apiece and blasted the target area. Our capital ships offshore also blasted the Japanese soldiers. At 1800 on the same day LCSs, LCIs, and LSMs were blasting the hills, caves, and villages. Destroyers, sitting out a ways, were also blasting away at the beach. Our ship was part of this major battle between U.S. Naval vessels of all sizes and the Japanese troops ashore.
During the first three weeks in July where there was no longer any fighting, our crew members were able to observe the Okinawan people and the land along the beaches of the island. We also observed the wrecked landing craft and airplanes in a number of places, and some of us managed to look into a number of caves and houses where the Okinawans lived and survived the war.
At this time our crew summed up what we had achieved in the battle for Okinawa: we destroyed one suicide boat, we shot down one enemy plane, we rescued several survivors, and we killed more than 200 Japanese troops on the beaches.
On July 22 we departed Okinawa for the Philippines and on July 26 we dropped anchor in San Pedro Bay, Leyte. There we went through our three “R’s” – rest, recreation, refitting. On September 3 we joined a convoy bound for Tokyo Bay. On September 11 we arrived at Yokohama, after being underway for eight days during which we had a typhoon chasing on the heels of our convoy.
Starting on September 13 we carried liberty parties from the US fleet ships anchored in Tokyo Bay to and from the cities of Yokosuka, Yokohama, and Tokyo. We also carried air freight to and from the Kisarazu Air Field.
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