Earl Blanton, Gunner's Mate LCS(L)-118


The USS LCS(L) 118 began her distinguished career at the George Lawley and Sons shipyard in Neponset, Massachusetts on 28 October 1944 as the seventy-first of the 130 LCS(L) ships authorized by the Navy. She was assembled, launched and commissioned in just twenty-five days, on 23 November 1944, Thanksgiving Day, for a new shipyard record. At 0800 Lieut. Commander E.S. Flemming, representing the LCS commissioning board, ordered Ens. Peter F. Gilmore to read his orders and assume command. The watch was set with Ens. Richard H. Lowe, XO, as first O.O.D.

For the next five days the sturdy LCS(L)118 accomplished builder's trails, loaded provisions and ammo, (in a snow storm) took on fuel and was demagnetized. On Tuesday, 28 November, the LCS(L) 118 put to sea en-route to Norfolk, Virginia making a short stop at New London, Connecticut to escape a fierce North Atlantic winter storm. Arriving at Little Creek Amphibious Base for minor repairs the LCS(L) 118 immediately departed for Solomons, Maryland where she joined LCS(L) 117, 119 and 120 for serious shakedown and training exercises. After eight days of gunnery practice, beaching, docking and maneuvers the ship steamed to Lambert's Point Norfolk, Virginia arriving 12 December 1944. During a nine day availability period the ship was repainted and Chrysler marine engines installed to drive the Hale fire fighting pumps. Finally on 21 December the LCS(L) 118, accompanied by the LCS(L) 117, departed for San Diego, California. Short stops were made at Key West, Florida (Christmas Day) and Coca Solo, CZ (New Year's Eve) before traversing the Panama Canal reaching the Pacific Ocean 2 January 1945. After 13 days at sea and a one day stop at Corinto, Nicaragua, the two LCSs arrived at the San Diego Naval Repair Base 15 January 1945 where they were immediately boarded by shore based officers. The ship was inspected for cleanness and "medical adequacy," passing with flying colors.

A period of intense shore bombardment, anti-aircraft fire and sea training consumed the next sixteen days. This, combined with Lt. Gilmore's constant crew drilling while en-route, enabled the LCS(L) 118 to be certified for combat in two weeks. Before departing San Diego the LCS(L) 118 assisted other ships in fighting a harbor oil fire and structural repairs were made to the forward gun mount for damages sustained during a violent overnight storm at sea.

Assigned to Flotilla 4 the LCS(L) 118 departed San Diego 31 January 1945 in convoy with LCS(L) 114, 115, 116 and 119, arriving at Pearl Harbor on 10 February. After more than two weeks of general preparations (and many liberty parties) sailing orders dispatched the LCS(L) 118 from its West Loch Anchorage to Saipan, Marianas Islands. The LCS(L) 118, one of a group of twelve LCS(L) and two LCI ships, arrived at Saipan on 17 March after a five day pause at Eniwetock Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Final preparations were made for the invasion of Okinawa that included dry-docking, refueling, loading provisions and fresh water. On 25 March 1945 the battle ready LCS(L) 118 steamed out of Saipan and took her position in Task Force 51.2 en-route to Okinawa Shima arriving there in the predawn hours of Easter Sunday.

On 1 April 1945 the LCS(L) 118, assigned to a decoy landing force, moved in toward the Southeast end of Okinawa. As the decoy force was positioning its self for the landing feint a kamikaze plane crashed into LST 884. The LST was carrying 300 marines, several types of explosives, large quantities of gasoline and crated aircraft. Within seconds the LST was a holocaust of flames and exploding ammunition. Unable to control the fires the ship was abandoned by both crew and Marines. LCS(L)s 118, 115, 116 and 119 moved in to assist the stricken vessel. The LCS(L) 118 was first to moor to the windward quarter, directing all fire hoses into the heart of the flames. At 0723 crewmen from the LCS(L) 118 leaped aboard the LST and fought the fires close hand, disregarding the flames and exploding ammunition. The ship was subsequently saved.

In the early morning hours of 9 April the LCS(L) 118, moored to the port side of a supply ship, USS Starr, was rocked by an explosion. A suicide boat had attacked the Starr from the starboard side. The LCS(L) 118ís searchlight illuminated three Japanese swimmers in the water and they were machined gunned by men on the Starr's small boats.

On 29 April 1945, while on patrol near Nakagusku Wan, the LCS(L) 118 moved within 800 yards of the shore and opened fire on enemy pill boxes and other shore targets in conjunction with a U.S. air attack. A number of buildings in a small village was destroyed starting fires that burned into the night.

On 30 April 1945, LCS(L)s 118, 114 and 119 made a sortie into Gap held Ionabaru Bay, Okinawa in search of downed airmen from a Navy TBF. The 118 and 119 covered the 114 as she made close inshore sweeps that drew enemy fire. Heavy 40 and 20 mm fire was returned by all three ships. A camouflaged target was taken under fire and it erupted in heavy smoke and flames. The LCS(L)s were given credit for destroying a Japanese ammunition dump.

On 4 May 1945 the LCS(L) 118 patrolling Radar Picket station 12 with DD 522 USS Luce, LSM(R) 190, LCS(Ls 81 and 84 were attacked by a large number of kamikaze aircraft. In spite of strong CAP coverage both the USS Luce and LSM(R) 190 were sunk. The LCS(L)118 was credited with destroying two of the suicide planes, one no more than a hundred yards from crashing into the LCS(L) 118, and rescuing 114 of the USS Luce survivors.

While at Pearl Harbor, the LCS(L) 118 had been assigned the task of transporting Flotilla Fourís payroll distribution group to the war zone. The group, consisting of Ensign J. J. Psiaki, three storekeepers and a money safe, came aboard just prior to the shipís departure. The heavy safe was lashed to the deck just forward of the aft 40 mm gun tub. For almost three months this group shared hardships and battle conditions with the shipís force. Finally on 22 May, a very happy distribution group and the safe, were transferred to the flagship via LCI(L) 367.

On other occasions, 3 and 6 June, the LCS(L) 118 accounted for two additional kamikaze planes shooting one down each day.

For her devotion to duty and action off Okinawa, the LCS(L) 118 was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation. Her Captain, Lt. Peter F. Gilmore was awarded the Bronze Star Medal as were five crewmen. Her Gunnery Officer, Lt. (jg) Charles D. Towers was awarded the Silver Star Medal.

With Okinawa secured Flotilla Four, including the LCS(L) 118 and her exhausted crew, was detached from the Okinawa area 10 July 1945. Flotilla Four arrived at Tacloban, Letye, Philippine Islands for a much need rest four days later. Nine August 1945 was an unusual day. The LCS(L) 118 struck an underwater object and severely damaged one shaft and propeller. However concern over this unfortunate event soon diminished as the ship joined in the gigantic pyrotechnic display to celebrate Japanís capitulation to the atomic bomb.

On 2 September 1945 the LCS(L) 118 was ordered north to Japan with Flotilla Four for occupation duty. On arrival, was assigned to Fleet Activities, Yokosuka, for picket, dispatch and utility craft duty. While here she rode out the tail end of a typhoon.

After 83 days in Japan the LCS(L) 118 received orders to return to the States and departed 3 December 1945. She stopped at Saipan, Pearl Harbor and San Diego. Christmas 1945 was spent at sea midway between Saipan and Pearl Harbor. While at San Diego many of the original crew was transferred for demobilization and the ships force enjoyed the first liberty on US soil in a year. On 26 January 1946 the LCS(L) 118 departed San Diego passing through the Panama Canal and arriving at Algiers Naval Repair Base, New Orleans Louisiana, 19 February 1946, in time to enjoy the first Mardi Gras celebration since the war's beginning. After dry docking and preliminary mothballing preparations, the LCS(L)s 118 and 119 steamed out of the Mississippi River on 30 March 1946 en-route to Green Cove Springs, Florida and arrived there on 3 April 1946. Finally the LCS(L) 118 was mothballed and declared "out of commission and in reserve" on 6 June 1946

On 28 February 1949 she was reclassified as LSSL 118 (Landing Ship Support, Large) and on 30 April 1951 was declared "not essential to the defense of the United States" and stricken from the Naval Register. On 25 July 1951, after reactivation and rehabilitation by the United States Government, she was turned over to the Italian Government under the MDAA program and renamed Spinoni 9856. The ex-USS LSSL 118 was finally scrapped in 1983.

The LCS(L) 118 World War II record included 49 days and 16 hours on the Radar Picket stations, 14 nights on suicide boat patrol ("flycatcher") and 10 harbor aircraft screens. She was directly or indirectly involved in more than 15 kamikaze attacks while on patrol or station and her crew was called to general quarters 154 times. She was credited with destroying four enemy planes. She suffered no battle losses but received substantial operating damage in the encounter with LST 884. The LCS(L) 118 earned the following campaign ribbons and medals: Combat Action Ribbon (retroactively), Navy Unit commendation, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign (with one star), World War II Victory Medal, Navy Occupation Medal and Philippines Liberation Medal.

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