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A BRIEF HISTORY OF USS LCS(L) 84
Richard De Causemaker, Gunnerís Mate
On February 8, 1945, we left the states.† It was a semi-cloudy day with a few clouds scattered here and there emitting the strong sunlight down on us as we were slowly progressing through the San Diego Naval Base harbor.† Our crew consisted of 65 men and 6 officers plus our Flotilla Group Commander, Lt. Commander Montgomery, and his staff.† For a small craft as we were, that was crowded conditions, and that is putting it mildly.
Our purpose as a naval vessel was as a Landing Craft Support (LCS).† In other words, Amphib boys -- a new and ever-growing branch of the Navy.† We had been trained, were trained, for months previously, most of us coming from the Amphibious Training Base in Fort Pierce, Florida, and the rest from the A.T.B. in Solomons, Maryland.
For our purpose we were heavily armed, one twin 40mm fore and aft and also a single 40mm Army mount forward.† Four 20mm and four 50 caliber machine guns plus ten rocket launchers, which were the basis of our landing operations support. For a heavy ship this may seem a mere trifle but we were no heavy ship. We were only a 157 foot craft with a beam of about 25 feet.† Flat-bottomed with no keel at all allowed us a draft of 7 feet at the stern, fully loaded.† Place these together and you have made a fair-sized yacht for some fortunate individual.† However small, we were far from being a pleasure yacht - a miniature battleship built to carry the weight of the guns and magazines, later known as the Mighty Midgets in the Okinawa campaign.
Outside the San Diego harbor we came upon our convoy of LCSs, LCIs, and LSMs. After a period of circling, waiting for the convoy to gather, we shoved off for Hawaii.† It was late afternoon by this time, and instead of the sun's rays we had evidence of a good storm.† Already the sea had become very rough and was beginning to pitch us about.† For three seasick days that storm tossed us about. For Harriman, our bosun, a rugged sailor of long standing, the rough sea had no effect, but the rest of us -- well, we were just landlubbers!† Most of us were capable of standing sea and gun watches as prescribed, however, with an effort on our part.†
A couple of the lads were just plain out.† For one it meant his last voyage on the sea.† From the first day of the storm he lay on the deck in the mess hall and never moved to eat, sleep or drink.† After the storm subsided he made a feeble effort to regain his post as lookout on the starboard sector.† Wilkinson was his name, a short blonde-haired kid of about seventeen years of age.† After five or ten minutes on watch, becoming sick, he went to the side to throw up, and losing his balance, fell overboard.† Immediately "Man Overboard" was sounded.† "Boats", our Bosunís Mate, and a signalman and a coxswain lowered the wherry, our small boat, and commenced to row towards the lad.† However their efforts were not needed.† Having sounded the alarm, all the ships in the convoy were made aware of the fact, and the LCI following us, seeing the lad, and in swerving to avoid running him down picked him up off their fantail.† After medical aid he was immediately returned to the ship.† Once aboard the 84 he was taken below and given a couple of shots of brandy and placed in his sack, where he remained for almost the remainder of the trip.† Later at Pearl Harbor he was given his medical discharge as prescribed by our Pharmacistís Mate.†
The rest of the trip had been uneventful except for a little 20mm target practice at balloons, so we arrived at Pearl Harbor in the early morning of February 17. It had been a long tiresome journey over a never-ending wide expanse of blue water.† Believe me, it can look mighty desolate alone out there.†
The first landmark to identify the harbor is the "Diamond Head", an extinct volcano. Rounding the Diamond Head brought us into view of the well known Waikiki Beach and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel which later we had the good fortune to visit.† Those who weren't on watch or handling lines were brought out on the gun deck in whites as our salute to the entrance.† The harbor was massed with ships of all sizes and dimensions, from battlewagons to small landing craft.† Before we could enter the harbor we had to wait for a couple of flattops (carriers) to enter. In waiting, a pilot of a Navy "Wildcat" was having a sweet time diving in between ships in our convoy.† The harbor itself was more or less a large channel.† Into this we sailed late in the morning and moored alongside a sister LCS.
After ten days of frequent liberties, visiting Honolulu, Waikiki Beach, and taking in the Capitol Building, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and other places of interest we received our orders to proceed on.† Consequently, February 26, 1945, saw us once more on the move, fully loaded with supplies, fuel and ammunition. One island had been passed and so to the next.† Always heading west further and further from our homes and families. Further and further toward the hated enemy that had once thought they could invade the U.S.A.† Already they were having good cause to regret their bloody sneak attack on that seventh day of December 1941.† The U.S. Navy was not prepared then, but now there existed no navy on earth that wanted to test her might, especially that of Japan whose navy was in constant hiding.† Soon they would be sought out and defeated.† Now it was only a matter of time.
Our next destination was Saipan.† Saipan to most of us meant one thing, ďno more fooling around.Ē† Saipan had been a bloody battlefield where U.S. Marines had fought for every foothold.† American losses had been great but the enemy losses were ample enough to lessen the grief.† It was a great asset to the American forces for the large airfields it presented to our Superforts enabling their constant bombardment of Japan proper.† A constant gun watch was maintained upon this journey, for there were still reports of enemy submarine attacks.† Our convoy was partially the same, a goodly number of LCS(L)s, LCIs, and LSMs.† Together we sailed the blue Pacific with nothing more than big swells to interfere.
We made our first stop on our way to Saipan at Eniwetok, where we were to have refueled, and continued our voyage the same afternoon. However, upon the Flotilla Commander's orders, we were detained.† This detention lasted for six days during which time we managed to put ashore two liberty parties.† Upon leaving Eniwetok our convoy of LCSs was accompanied by freighters. The trip was totally uneventful, and the morning of Sunday, March 18th saw us enter Saipan harbor. At Saipan we obtained the necessary supplies we needed and stayed in waiting for orders to come. They weren't long in coming.† One week from the day we had arrived we were once more underway, this time on a more dreaded mission.† We were about to test our might as an LCS in THE OKINAWA CAMPAIGN.
The night before our departure from Saipan we got the news, "The Invasion of Okinawa" in the Ryukyu Islands.† Ensign J. H. Coogan, Executive Officer, brought maps and charts to the mess hall to explain what we were in for and any
particulars of interest to the men.† The island was described, particularly in the sector in which our craft was to take part. Our part in the invasion was completely a diversionary mission.† While the actual landing was taking place on the opposite side of the island, we were to make a fake landing on our side.† Due to aerial photographs it was known that the Japs had only small one-lane roads which would make them very difficult to use for two-lane traffic.† If by our sudden attack we could start their mobilized units in our direction, then the sudden major landing from the opposite side would throw them into confusion.
Before they could reorganize and come into actual contact with our landing troops, a period of from two to three hours was estimated to elapse.† In this two or three hours our entire Marine force, the Second Marine Division, was to establish a foothold.† After establishing a foothold, the entire Tenth Army was to be landed before that afternoon had passed, better than 150,000 men in all.
With this knowledge in mind we sailed out of Saipan in the early afternoon of Sunday the 25th of March bound for our mission to take place April 1st, Easter Sunday.† We arrived Easter morning about three A.M. within sight of the island, having had no enemy contact during the trip.† 0430 found us at General Quarters.† It was a clear morning and already we could see the APA troop ships waiting.† It was shortly after this that a mass of ack-ack (anti-aircraft fire) was sent up about three or four miles to our port.† Jap planes were in the vicinity.† As a result an LST was hit by a suicide plane and set aflame putting it out of action. The firing subsided and no more was heard before the invasion.
Softening up our sector were the guns of the battleships MARYLAND and TEXAS and a few destroyers.† At 0800 the battleships and destroyers ceased their fire and we were already at our prearranged positions.† We waited long nervous moments until at 0820 the word came.† At this time a single plane dropped out of the sky to our port, and sailing ahead of us made a smoke screen.† Through this we sped almost beneath the bow of the MARYLAND. As we cleared the smoke screen, all the LCSs abreast commenced firing with both forward 40mmís. We laid to and continued firing until both forward magazines were empty.† Not one shot had been fired in opposition.† Our task done, we turned and went out of the area following the same route as coming in.† Following previous instructions we laid to and awaited further orders.
The fact that we received no opposition gave us good grounds to wonder whether our mission had served its purpose.† It wasn't until that evening that we received word that all of the 150,000 troops had already landed. The invasion had been a success!
Following the invasion, a radar picket line of sixteen stations was established around Okinawa to provide warnings and to protect our forces from the Kamikaze suicide planes.† The ships of the picket line were destroyers, destroyer-mine-layers, LSMRs and last of all LCSs.† We were assigned to our picket station the† night of the invasion and, from then on, commenced what was probably the most bloody and hectic experiences in a man's life.
Our first assignment was to Radar Picket Station No.2, which was located to the northwest of Okinawa.† The first four days gave us nothing more than numerous reports of enemy activity in the vicinity.† On the fourth day low flying clouds offered a perfect screen to low flying Kamikaze bombers which were the cause of disasters to follow.† Toward the late afternoon our radio picked up a distress call from the destroyer U.S.S. BUSH to the effect that she was being attacked by a considerable number of Jap Bettys.† Immediately, the destroyer with us, the COLHOUN, hurried to her aid.† About three quarters of an hour later we received a message from the COLHOUN stating that they were under heavy bombing and strafing attack, and were hit.† This time our Captain, Lt. J. A. Naye, acting under Lt. Commander Montgomery's orders, started to the aid of the COLHOUN and BUSH.† With us was the LCS 87, later joined by the destroyer CASSIN† YOUNG.
Arriving upon the scene in the pitch black of night we could only make out two destroyers.† The U.S.S. BUSH had already sunk.† Next came the trying and arduous task of tying up to the U.S.S. COLHOUN to attempt to take off survivors. This was accomplished after a period of skillful maneuvering by our ship.† Within fifteen minutes we had taken off 226 survivors including seven stretcher victims and those badly wounded but able to walk.† This addition of survivors took up every available space aboard our ship. After we had cleared the vessel, the destroyer, U.S.S. CASSIN YOUNG, attempted to tie up to us to transfer some of these survivors.† Due to a rough sea and the darkness, this was given up after an almost disastrous attempt.† Naturally we could not resume our patrol with all these men aboard so we proceeded to take them back to Kerama Retto, about 20 miles west of Okinawa.† On the way to Kerama Retto two of the stretcher victims from the COLHOUN died and were given a burial at sea.† The rest of the men were transferred at Kerama Retto, those wounded to a hospital ship, and the others to an APA troop ship.
After this episode we were given patrol duty off Hagushi Anchorage at Okinawa.† This "Skunk" duty was to prevent suicide boats from endangering the ships in the anchorage.† It was here we made our first bag.† One night while we were patrolling our area we were brought to General Quarters by an air attack on the anchorage.† The smoke screen that had been laid on the anchorage drifted down so that we were in the midst of it.† At this particular time small boats were spotted by one of the lookouts.† Immediately all engines were set to full speed, endeavoring to elude the suicide boats.† According to radar there were four boats which later broke formation so that we were able to pick them out one by one.† In the dense fog that was laid it was difficult to spot the craft before we were almost upon them. Receiving radar reports we closed in on one.† This one we took unawares and so we greeted him with a hail of bullets before he was able to make a suicide attempt.† Having all port guns trained on him he was soon blown to shreds and sank just off our fantail.
Our second suicide boat gave us a different story.† He was able to spot us closing in on him before we could see him visually.† Consequently, he was almost upon us before we were able to fire.† Being so close, we were unable to depress the 40mm's upon him, and it was only by the quick thinking of the Captain that in executing a right turn listing the ship that we were able to fire. Again with all port guns blazing, the suicide boat was soon riddled and blew up not 20 feet off our port quarter.† This was our last one, for we were unable to sight any more although we did have numerous radar reports on them.† So we secured from General Quarters, satisfied with our first bag.
The radar picket stations proceeded as usual with a great deal of enemy air attacks.† Some casualties were listed, but in the long run the Jap Air Force was taking a terrific beating.† About this time, Japan came out with the proclamation that a new generation of suicide pilots would follow. A couple of nights after the encounter with the suicide boats we were sent to a patrol station more distant. After spending a comparatively quiet night, except for the usual alerts, we were proceeding back to the anchorage when we came upon a dugout with four Japs. Following all precautionary methods we attempted to compel them to leave the dugout so that we could pick them up.† By this means we were able to induce only one of them into the water so the rest we had to yank out of the dugout.† Holding them as prisoners we took them back to the prisonerís ship in the anchorage.
Our next radar picket station was No. 12, located to the West of Okinawa. Our little band consisted of two destroyers, three LCSs and one LSMR.† Late that night our station was called in thirty miles closer to Okinawa.† Why?† We didnít know, unless a morning attack was expected.† Already before dawn one of our destroyers left to provide aid to another picket station. Consequently, only one destroyer, the U.S.S. LUCE, was to be present for an attack.† At 0740, while most of us were eating breakfast, suddenly the rapid ringing of the General Quarters Alarm brought us to our battle stations.† Already the LUCE was firing at a bomber attempting a suicide dive. Watching the scene we were unable to fire for it was out of the range of our 40mm guns.† We watched the bomber descend from the clouds with five-inch flak bursting all about it.† When it seemed almost inevitable that it would complete its suicide mission a five-inch shell hit it and blew the plane apart.† There was a second burst of flame as the bomb load ignited and nothing could be seen of it as the ball of flame hit the water.†
Two more bombers were sighted to the starboard.† Chasing these were the Marine Pilots of our Combat Air Patrol.† Although one bomber was forced down, the other one was attempting an attack on the LUCE.† Being attacked from the starboard, the DD had all guns trained in an effort to down the plane and subsequently never saw the sneak punch coming from her port quarter.† Racing in an effort to get within range, we were still unable to ward off the sneak attack.† Helplessly we watched the plane hit the LUCE on her fantail.† Being fully loaded with her bombs, the plane caused a violent explosion, the clouds reaching hundreds of feet high.† Speeding out of the smoke it seemed the LUCE was still able to stay afloat but before she progressed very far her bow began to rise out of the water.† Before four minutes had passed, she had disappeared in the watery depths.†
At the same time, another suicide bomber being fought down by one of our Corsairs made a successful crash on the LSMR 190, setting it aflame.† The rest of the bombers being fought off by the Combat Air Patrol, we went to the rescue of the LSMR while the other two LCSs, the 118 and the 81, went to pick up the survivors of the sunken LUCE.† The LSMR had been abandoned, for it was slowly sinking, so we had the task of picking the men up out of the water.† After picking up the survivors they were transferred to a speedy PCE (patrol boat) which had come to help in the rescue work.† While this rescue work was on, the LSMR sank, resulting in a violent underwater explosion which rocked our small ship.† Having transferred our survivors, we once more continued our patrol, joined later by two destroyers and an LSMR.† We had no more trouble to mention, so in a couple of days we were sent back to the anchorage at Okinawa (Hagushi).
Five days after the sinking of the U.S.S. LUCE at Radar Picket Station #12 we were once more assigned to the picket line, station #15, to the northwest of Okinawa.† For two days we had nothing but the usual patrolling, except for common alerts.† Then the fun began!† Friday, May the 11th, again we were brought to General Quarters while having morning chow. Upon manning our guns, a slow enemy seaplane was sighted on the horizon.† Not being within range we could not fire. However the destroyers U.S.S. HADLEY and the U.S.S. EVANS immediately commenced firing.† It was then that the seaplane attempted a suicide dive for the HADLEY and was shot down just off their bow.† We remained at our stations and five minutes later saw us in the midst of one of Okinawa's outstanding sea-air battles.† To our port the EVANS was being attacked by two suicide pilots.† One was hit and disabled a good distance away, while the second was not hit until almost upon the EVANS.† At this time we were attacked from the rear, and with the help of the LCSs 82 and 83 and the LSMR 195 we drove him off, whereupon he was an immediate target for the Combat Air Patrol.† Back to our port the EVANS was again being attacked by a number of planes.†
Keeping a good watch we spotted the plane that was attempting another one of those sneak punches, so we immediately commenced fire upon it.† Being caught in a crossfire it turned toward us.† Although we scored a number of hits we were unable to bring him down before he was upon us.† Once above us he banked almost at a 70-degree angle and started his suicide dive on us. This was it! Coming straight down on us from our stern he suddenly barrel-rolled about one hundred yards off, and by the grace of God just missed us, plunging into the water off our bow with a deafening explosion, spraying fire and debris over the ship. The fire that started in the bow was immediately extinguished by the forward gun crew.† Luckily there were no casualties or severe damage inflicted on the ship other than to add to the severe strain of the already taut nerves of the crew.
While we had been fighting off this attack the EVANS was hit amidships by a kamikaze pilot, setting it aflame. Shortly afterward we watched helplessly as a plane crashed into the HADLEY.† Once more we were under attack from the stern and due to the excellent marksmanship of our gun crews, this one was blown to shreds in mid-air. A spiraling, flaming mass, it came plummeting down, precariously close to the LCS 82.† Now the forward guns were firing upon a plane going toward the LCS 82.† A short while later it also followed its path to its ancestors.
The battle continued, still going heavy, but now upon the scene were arriving numbers of the Combat Air Patrol.† Soon the skies were filled with them.† With mad ferocity spitting fire and destruction the Japs were diminished.† Although we still got some fleeting shots at the Japs, firing at one time at three different planes, we got but two more as assists.† The kamikaze pilots being fought off by our gallant Marine flyers, our attentions were immediately focused upon the distress of the two destroyers.† The EVANS, having been hit by two suicides, both of them in vital areas, was in mortal distress.† An uncontrollable fire was started amidships while they were slowly sinking aft.† Immediately the LCS 82 went to their aid, and with its fire fighting apparatus, endangering themselves, courageously aided in quenching the flames.†
The Hadley was also in dire need of help, so to her aid went the LCS 83 and the LSMR 195.† Our tasks, seemingly our common duty, was in picking up the few victims that were blown off the EVANS.† Even though we were busy taking aboard the victims, our gun crews maintained a watchful vigilance and were rewarded.† A Jap "Val" (suicide dive-bomber) being fought down by two Corsair pilots, and was making an unsuccessful suicide attempt at the stricken EVANS, came at us.† Already it was aflame but it was only a matter of yards to us.† The Val, coming in between the DD with the aiding LCS 82 and ourselves, we were endangering our ships by our fire, but we had no choice.† With the few shots our aft 40mm crew put out, we tallied home another score by blasting it down short of our stern.† Still continuing our rescue work we soon had many survivors aboard.† Dead and wounded were immediately cared for, so it was we also went to the aid of the stricken EVANS.† Tying alongside their stern, an attempt was made to keep it afloat, with a brave effort being made to expel the water from their flooded compartments.
From the anchorage arrived two APDs (small Destroyer Escorts) and a Navy tug. Our wounded were placed in their hands.† Having got the flames under control, the LCS 82 tied up alongside the EVANSí bow, on our side, while the tug commenced towing from the opposite hand.† So with the two LCSs and the tug, the EVANS was taken back to the safety of the anchorage, closing only one of the many sea-air battles of Okinawa.†
For each and every man in our crew and all the others out there that day, there will always remain the nightmare of that bloody battle.† The ghastly sight of
picking up wounded men, burned and marred for life, picking up cold, clammy, torn bodies of the dead and having to bury them at sea is an unimaginable torture on the human mind.† It is sights as these that make or break the bravest of men.†
Not a week had passed before we were once more patrolling another picket station, Radar Picket Station #11, just off Kerama Retto this time.† On this station were three destroyers and four LCSs.† The first few days were quiet patrolling, the heavy, rainy weather keeping aircraft grounded. However, a constant gun watch was maintained.† Good weather or bad, nothing could be put past those Japs.† One night when there was a lull in the storm, once more Battle Quarters was sounded, with bombers closing in on us.† Manning our stations in the pitch black of that night we could hardly see our hands before our eyes.† The radar reports were coming in regularly, so we were on the alert when a single bomber closed in from our stern, now at a bearing 210 degrees relative, four miles; 210 degrees, 3 miles; 210 degrees, 4000 yards.† Still we could not see him.† 210 degrees, 3000 yards; 210 degrees, 2000 yards. There he is! Immediately we commenced firing and with the first few shots we were scoring hits.† Being joined by the guns of the LCS 83 and 115 he was shot into the water.† Although there continued to come reports of other bombers, we were unable to get any shots at them.† So we secured from Battle Stations, satisfied again with our latest bag.
Again the rains came and continued for a number of days to follow.† It was the third day following the attack of the bomber when the rain had ceased to a slight drizzle that we were once more in mortal combat.† It being hazy, visibility was very poor.† Consequently, any immediate burst of gunfire was endangering anyone of the ships in our group.† To our starboard the DDs were firing at planes beyond our visibility.† Keeping a constant watch we were the first to spot a Jap Hamp fighter.† Still we could not be certain that it wasn't one of our own Combat Air Patrol so we held fire.† Once we could make out the distinguishing features of a Jap fighter we commenced fire.† With the help of two other LCSs she was finally brought down plummeting in the water not 20 yards from the LCS 16 about 200 yards off our starboard bow.† Now to our port another was sighted but due to the poor visibility he was able to escape us.† Not sighting any more, principally due to the haze, for we did receive more radar reports, we again secured from General Quarters.
After these skirmishes the sea-air battle calmed considerably. Though there were still the constant air attacks upon the Okinawa airfields they were becoming fewer and of less intensity.† We were sent to a couple more radar picket stations but at these nothing of any particular significance happened.† So it was that we had quiet patrolling for the remainder of the Okinawa campaign.† Once the island was in American hands the radar picket line was brought to a minimum of three stations.† Subsequently the need for LCSs at Okinawa was diminished, and group by group we were leaving for rest periods at other American-possessed islands.† Our group 11 was sent to the Philippines where we were rested in preparation for the occupation of Japan.† While we were at the Philippines the Russian entrance into the war against Japan and the astounding power of the Atomic Bomb brought about the surrender of our hated enemy.†
Then as we proceeded to aid in the occupation of Japan we could look back with pride upon the glorious record we had set down in the history of our LCSs in the amphibious force.† Since our commissioning in Portland, Oregon, December 4, 1944, where we arrived after our long tiresome trip across-country from Solomons, Maryland and our trip down to San Diego, from where we shipped out, each of us has experienced hazards of war that will live forever in our memories, memories which should be forgotten, but will remain forever embedded in our minds.
Due to our many meritorious skirmishes at Okinawa our little ship has gained fame that has made each and every member of the crew proud to have been a part of the small gallant ship.† In reward for bravery and devotion to duty the LCS fleet has been commended by Admiral Nimitz, Admiral Turner, Lt. Gen. Buckner (ComGenTen) and numerous other prominent leaders of the Pacific Naval Forces.† For the part we played in that outstanding sea-air battle on May 11th 1945, we received the following recommendation for the Presidential Unit Citation, although the citation has not yet been confirmed.
RECOMMENDATION FOR CITATION
"For extraordinary heroism as a ship when on the morning of 11 May 1945, she fought fiercely against intense enemy suicide attacks, shooting down three (3) planes and assisting in the shooting down of two (2) others. Subsequently, while still under enemy attack she picked up forty seven (47) survivors from the U. S. S. EVANS treating the wounded and later mooring to the injured destroyer to conduct salvage operations and furnish electrical power which was instrumental in saving this ship.† The feats performed in action by this small vessel were outstanding and merit the highest possible praise."
C. E. Montgomery
Lt. Commander, USNR
Although we had done no more than other gallant ships in that war we hope that our recommendation will become a reality.† Not because we want to be heroes but so we know our ship has a name.† To have been a part of such a ship was enough to satisfy our eagerness to take a part in the defense of our country. Then our one thought was to return home to our families and loved ones.
I hope by writing this account that it will serve to be my contribution as† part of this fighting crew.
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