A BRIEF HISTORY OF U.S.S. LCS(L)(3) 87
Lieut. Howard N. Martin, Commanding Officer
The story of LCS 87 began in the early fall of 1944, but at that time it wasn’t the LCS 87. It was just a bunch of men known as Crew 3819, training for LCS(L) duty and none of them knew then what the number of their ship would be or what was in store for them in the future. The crew was formed at the Amphibious Training Center at Solomons, Maryland, near Washington, D.C. It was here that the men went through the final stages that were to climax weeks of training at the U.S. Naval Training centers at Fort Pierce, Florida, Little Creek, Virginia and many of the other Navy schools throughout the country. Some of the men had been in combat before and had had many months of sea duty behind them, but the majority of them were fresh from “boot camp”.
But it was there at Solomons, a little island in the Chesapeake Bay, that the crew received that last touch of training, getting accustomed to working together, that was to bring them safely through what turned out to be the toughest and bloodiest battle “on the road to Tokyo”. It was here that they got their first taste of what duty aboard an LCS was like, for much of that time was spent aboard one of those little ships.
Then toward the last part of November, Crew 3819 was assigned to LCS 87 and was ordered to Portland, Oregon, where the ship, then under construction, was to be put into commission. It was somewhat of a letdown for most of these men because the biggest part of them hailed from the East coast, and Portland meant that thinking of another visit with their families before putting out to sea was practically impossible.
After the long and tiring trip across the entire width of the United States, the crew arrived in Portland, where the many details of putting a ship into commission into the U.S. Navy were immediately undertaken. Then after weeks of hard work, LCS 87 was put into commission on December 18, 1944, just a week before Christmas.
New Year’s Day, 1945, saw the little ship out in the Pacific, on her journey to San Diego, California. It wasn’t a long trip but it was a rough one and there were times when it seemed as if the ship were just going to roll over on her side. But the trip was completed without mishap and San Diego was finally reached. During the following months there was more training, a shakedown cruise, repairs and alterations, and again the job of loading stores for a long sea voyage. On the 11th of February, after all preparations had been completed, the ship sailed in convoy for Pearl Harbor.
There at Pearl Harbor the men had their last liberty, drank their last glass of fresh milk and their last malted milks. From there on it was to be a bit different from what they had been accustomed to. Dress uniforms were stowed away and their dungarees became the uniform of the day.
Soon Pearl Harbor and the Hawaiian Islands were left behind, and the next stop was Eniwetok in the Marshalls. From there it was on to Saipan. After noting the hustle and bustle around the harbor in Saipan, one could easily guess that something big was in the wind. There the men were able to get ashore for some much needed exercise and there they drank their last cans of beer for many months to come. But those few days passed quickly and the last few days of March saw the LCS 87 in the middle of a convoy heading west, toward Japan. The target was to be Okinawa Shima in the Ryukyu chain, just a little over 300 miles from the Japanese mainland.
Love Day, as it was called, was the 1st of April. It was also Easter Sunday and April Fools Day. Why it was called Love Day instead of the usual D-Day no one knew. But the LCS 87 took part in the initial invasion of the southeastern coast of the island. Expecting to see action the men were surprised when no opposition whatever met them. But their guns poured round after round into the beach where they started several small fires. Then it was over almost as quickly as it had begun, and the ship was ordered to proceed to a Radar Picket Station at the northernmost tip of the island.
The first few days were uneventful but it was there that the men got their first view of the enemy in action. It was April 6th when all hell broke loose. The Japanese picked that day to launch their biggest air attack on the American forces that had successfully invaded their back yard. At least 200 enemy aircraft were seen in the vicinity in which the LCS 87 was patrolling. But only one of these made any attempt to attack the ship. One bomb missed the ship by a scant 15 yards and the ship was hit in several places by a strafing attack. Luckily there weren’t any casualties. But a destroyer, the U.S.S. COLHOUN (DD-301), in an adjoining patrol station hadn’t fared as well, and the LCS 87 was ordered to proceed to that vicinity to aid the ship which had been hit by several suicide planes. It was dark when the LCS 87 arrived on the scene, and the ships were still under heavy enemy attack, but 56 men were rescued from the sinking ship before it was finally sunk by the guns of an American destroyer rather than leave it as a derelict.
For the next few weeks the 87 was assigned to various duties such as making smoke in the anchorage for the larger men-of-war or patrolling in and around the harbor to prevent Japanese suicide craft from approaching and damaging the transports. There was never a dull moment and there were very few nights that there wasn’t at least one air attack or an alert. And once as the ship was patrolling close inshore a Japanese battery on the beach opened fire on us but luckily the Jap’s aim was off.
Then on the morning of April 29th, while the LCS 87 was patrolling on another Radar Picket Station, the ship shot down her first Japanese plane. The ship had been at general quarters only for four minutes for their regular sunrise alert when the Japanese suicide plane attempted to attack us. That was one Jap pilot who never had a chance to achieve “glory” for he was shot down before he got any closer than 2000 yards from the ship.
During the first few weeks at Okinawa the hardest battle ever fought by these men was the battle for mail. The service at first wasn’t too good but it later improved and everyone soon felt as if the toughest part of the fight was over.
While patrolling to the southwest of Okinawa on May 13th, the U.S.S. BACHE, which was patrolling with the 87, was hit by a Japanese suicide plane. The 87 went alongside her to furnish aid in caring for the wounded and extinguishing the flames which were raging fiercely around the destroyer’s torpedo tubes. After putting out the fire the LCS 87 supplied emergency power to the crippled ship in order that she could pump out her flooded engine room. If it weren’t for the untiring efforts of the men aboard the LCS 87 on that fateful night, the BACHE would have been just another ship listed as sunk during the Okinawa campaign. And it was also on the same night that the 87 was credited with downing her second Japanese plane.
Then after another month of routine duty and patrolling, on July 10th, the LCS 87 was ordered to proceed to Leyte where the ship and the crew were to get a much needed rest. Here the men got relaxation and exercise ashore at the Fleet Recreation center. And they got another taste of beer. It was while they were at Leyte that word was received of the Japanese surrender. That was one night that none of us will forget as long as we live. It had any Fourth of July celebration beaten.
On September 3rd, the day after the official signing of the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay, the 87, along with the rest of the flotilla to which she was assigned, received orders to proceed to Tokyo Bay as part of the occupational forces.
On September 11th, the LCS 87 was one of a group of tiny ships which steamed into Tokyo Bay. It wasn’t the way they had planned they would enter the bay, but it was much quieter. It was quite a thrill for these men, who had fought the Japanese through the Okinawa battle, and everyone turned out to get their first glimpse of the Japanese homeland.
At first there wasn’t too much to see, but after the men had their first liberty in the Japanese cities of Tokyo, Yokohama and Yokosuka it was easy to see why the Japanese had surrendered. If the allied planes and warships had done as good a job on the rest of the Japanese empire as they had on their Capital and port cities, the Japanese would have spent many years cleaning up and repairing their cities. But liberty in Japan didn’t compare with liberty in the good old U.S.A., and each man on the LCS 87 counted the day until he could proudly sail into a United States port once again.
History submitted by Charles P. Littlefield, in August 1992
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