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NavSource Online: Amphibious Photo Archive

LCS(L)(3)-120 / LSSL-120

Frederick H. Lamartin (first Commanding Officer)

The George Lawley Shipyard in Hingham, Massachusetts, built LCS(L) 120 during the fall of 1944. After commissioning and a brief fitting out in East Boston, the ship went from Boston to the Chesapeake Bay via the Cape Cod Canal in mid November of 1944. In the bay the ship's crew underwent individual ship and squadron training at the Naval Amphibious Training Base at Solomons, Maryland. A short availability at the Norfolk Naval Station followed the training.

The ship left Norfolk on December 29, 1944 bound for San Diego via Key West and the Panama Canal. The crew spent New Year's Eve off the coast of Georgia. Upon arrival in San Diego the ship joined Flotilla Four. In San Diego the crew trained in amphibious landings for a few weeks. During this training one noteworthy event occurred. Oil on the water surface around the piers ignited, endangering LCS 120 and others. The crew of LCS 120 cut lines and managed to get underway rapidly to escape the fire. The ship immediately returned to the fire and prepared to use its firefighting capability to aid the fireboats that responded to the emergency.

In February 1945 the ship sailed to Pearl Harbor to stage for the journey across the Pacific . While at Pearl Harbor the ship carried out one unique task. The ship escorted a few LCTs from Pearl Harbor around Diamond Head to Kaneohe on the north side of Oahu. Once again the crew underwent training: noteworthy was their training with underwater demolition teams and other pre-invasion specialists who later became the Navy SEALS.

The ship left Pearl Harbor in April for Okinawa via Eniwetok and Ulithi Atolls. During the transit, about six LCSs escorted six ammunition-laden LSTs. One event of interest occurred. One night the task group noted a radar contact that appeared to be moving on a course and speed matching that of our group. LCS 120 was detached to investigate the contact and we were baffled when we got close. The profile of the contact was like no other ship the crew had ever seen. Moreover the ship kept changing course as if to evade contact. After some maneuvering our ship got close enough to challenge the contact by signal light. The contact proved to be an Army buoy tender.

LCS 120 arrived at Buckner Bay, Okinawa on May 19 to participate in the campaign to take the island. The ship remained in Okinawa until July. While there the ship made "smoke" to screen the "big boys," carried out suicide boat patrols, went to Radar Picket Station 15 once, and bombarded the shore of Ie Shima with rockets and gunfire to support a landing there (apparently unopposed).

As the Okinawa campaign neared its end, LCS 120 moved to Leyte Gulf in July to stage for the expected invasion of Japan. The ship remained in Leyte Gulf until the end of the war, undergoing crew training in anti-aircraft defense.

About a week before the signing of the peace treaty to end the war, the flotilla moved from Leyte Gulf bound for Tokyo Bay. The ship arrived at Yokosuka a few days after the treaty signing and spent the next seven months on support duties in the bay. These included carrying liberty parties from large ships as well as passengers, including stretcher cases, across the bay for travel to the United States. During the stay a typhoon damaged the anchorage . LCS 120 sustained no damage but went through some trying hours.

The ship carried out two special assignments. One was to patrol inshore of Japanese anchored ships that were repatriating Japanese troops. The LCS's assignment was to prevent repatriots from going ashore by means other than the official repatriation route. The other assignment was to escort Japanese landing craft with Japanese crews from just outside Tokyo Bay to another location. Because the landing craft proved to be unseaworthy, the mission was aborted well short of the intended destination. Landing craft were lost but no personnel.

LCS 120 left Japan in April 1946 in company with about a dozen other LCSs, bound for the United States. About one day out of Tokyo Bay an LCS with the group broke down . LCS 120 took her in tow for a long, slow trip to Eniwetok. From there we went to Hawaii.

About midway to Hawaii, a tidal wave was reported to be moving north from Johnston Island. The commander of the group directed that all ships take on ballast. About 9:00 P.M., after taking on ballast, the ship lost all propulsion and electrical power and went dead in the water while the other ships went on unaware of the incident. After about half an hour LCS 120 was able to report its dilemma by battery-operated signal light. The crew diagnosed the cause of the failure: When taking on sea water as ballast, sea water was also inadvertently put in a fuel “day tank”. When the engineers took suction from that tank, sea water was injected into the operating propulsion and generating engines. When those engines started to lose load, the engineers on duty brought idle engines on line to sustain the speed and electrical load, damaging those engines also. After several hours, the engineers were able to get engines back on line with cracked pistons and cylinders. LCS 120 limped into Pearl Harbor trailing a half mile of exhaust smoke.

After extensive repairs in Pearl Harbor, the ship left for San Diego in June 1946 and arrived without incident. Shortly after arrival, I was transferred to LCS 48.

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