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A BRIEF HISTORY OF USS LCS(L) (3) 88
Arthur R. Martin, Signalman
The LCS(L) 88 was commissioned in Portland, Oregon at the Commercial Iron Works on Dec. 22, 1944. The crew had been assembled at Solomons, Maryland, having been made up of two groups. The first was the skeleton crew, which was made up of all the operational rates needed to man the operation of a naval ship. The other group was the gunner's mates, which had been assembled at Fort Pierce, Florida, having received training there preliminarily. Upon assembling at Solomons Amphibious Training Base, the crew was given training on the base. Then they were given two weeks of training aboard an LCI (landing craft infantry) on the Chesapeake Bay. With this completed, the crew was given one week aboard an LCS, again sailing on the Bay.
Upon completion of the Amphibious training, the crew was sent to Portland, Oregon aboard a troop train, which took about 5 days. On arrival at Portland, they were housed in barracks until Dec. 22, 1944, when they were given the ship to board. The crew learned that boarding a newly-commissioned ship was a most difficult task, what with unpacking and outfitting all new equipment. Shortly after that, approximately a week, LCS 88 sailed from Portland down the Willamette River to the Columbia, and on to the city of Astoria, Oregon, at the mouth of the Columbia River.
Our crew left Astoria after a few days for the port of San Diego. This was a most trying trip for the landlubbers aboard, which was most of the crew. Unfortunately, there was a general storm on the west coast, and we were ushered into the Pacific Ocean into this storm. This trip lasted five days, about 4 of which were in the most turbulent waters that most of us had seen up to then. It was estimated that all officers and men were seasick, except about 10. Watches were barely being stood, and little chow was eaten.
Upon arrival at San Diego, we went on a shakedown cruise. We finally left for overseas in January 1945, sailing for Pearl Harbor, with five other LCSs. An unsettling event occurred a few days out of port when two men from the LCS 57, which was directly behind us, fell overboard. One of them was recovered. Upon arrival at Pearl Harbor, we were given the duty of escorting 36 LCTs to Guam. This task took us about 40 days, at 6 knots. We were accompanied by 6 LCIs, 3 sub chasers, and 3 Destroyer Escorts, who also served as escorts. Our LCS 88 was in the right rear "coffin corner" of the group. On arrival at Guam we were released from our convoy, and sailed on to Saipan, where we awaited our orders. Shortly, we set sail, not knowing where, till we got to sea. The captain came on the ship’s PA system telling us it was Okinawa. We arrived on April 12, the invasion having been on Apr. 1, 1945. We were soon assigned one of the radar picket stations. These were picket patrols surrounding the Okinawa Islands for the purpose of intercepting air attacks on U.S. Naval ships. These attacks were of the "suicide" nature at this stage of the war. A number of the Japanese planes were suicidal in their attacks. They also had special suicide planes and pilots, as well as fighter planes that were not suicidal.
On our second such radar picket patrol, in company with USS DOUGLAS H. FOX (DD-779), USS HARRY F. BAUER (DM-26), LCSs 52, 109 and 114, we encountered an attack on May 11, 1945, involving one Japanese Betty bomber and 4 Oscar single-engine bombers. In this attack, we assisted in splashing one of these planes, but one circled our picket patrol and sneaked in on us. During this attack, our 20mm gunner clipped off his wing, which diverted his line of attack and subsequently sent him on in to our fantail section. Our aft twin forty finally hit him point blank, splashing him, but the explosion (or the skill of the Japanese pilot) enabled a 200 lb. bomb to drop from the plane, hitting the aft end of the 88. This explosion resulted in the loss of 9 men killed and 7 injured. All men on the gun that splashed him were killed. (There is an official battle report on this incident).
We had our steering disabled, along with a severely damaged aft end. We also had a dangerous fire aboard that was extinguished by the very able leadership of our engineering officer, Mister White, Lt.(jg.). All hands concurred that this officer certainly deserved a citation for his personal bravery. Because of the loss of our captain in the attack, nobody proceeded to single him out for a decoration. We were towed into Kerama Retto harbor, the location of all damaged ships, which were many at this stage of the war. We tied up alongside a badly damaged destroyer, where we stayed about a month, until our departure for Saipan. From there we went to Eniwetok, and subsequently to Pearl Harbor, where we were told we would get repaired.
After laying in Pearl for about a month, we were finally given orders to return to San Francisco for repairs. This was a most heartwarming bit of news. The crew got leave, which was welcomed. After getting repaired, and the war was over, we got orders to rejoin our flotilla in Japan. We sailed for Pearl Harbor in our first leg of this return, when we got orders again to return to San Francisco. We were then given orders to return to Portland,Oregon for decommissioning of the ship. We finally put the LCS 88 in mothballs in Astoria, Oregon, in March 1946.
In the intervening years much has come out about the "little ships." In the Okinawa and Iwo Jima campaigns, there were 12 LCSs hit, with 2 of them sunk. Unofficially, there were 65 LCS crewmen killed and 103 injured. Of 33 destroyers deployed to radar picket, 6 were sunk and 18 were damaged. It was estimated that more than 300 kamikaze attacks, perhaps 15% of all kamikaze sorties at Okinawa, were made during April 1945 on radar picket station number one, the most notable being a 42-plane attack on the destroyer LAFFEY (DD-724), losing 31 dead and 72 injured.
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