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A BRIEF HISTORY OF U.S.S. LCS(L)(3) 20
Robert P. Stone, Electronic Technician's Mate.
October 10, 1944 will live in our memories as a very fateful day. It was on that date that our ship, LCS(L)(3) 20, was commissioned in Boston, Massachusetts.† The workmen at the Lawley Shipyard in Neponset did an excellent construction job.†
The diversity of the crew was certainly representative of the country as a whole.† We were young and old, raw recruits and experienced sailors, rated and non-rated, gunners, electricians, seamen, mechanics and communications men, all willing to do our part to win the war.
After shaking down in the Chesapeake Bay for several days the ship set sail for Pacific duty.† The trip to Key West, then through the Panama Canal, to San Diego, California† was uneventful and, in fact, quite boring.† At San Diego we were outfitted with fire nozzles and hoses so we could assist ships that were on fire.† For a period of seven weeks we fired on San Clemente Island until it almost sank!† Finally we received orders to sail to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
At Pearl men came on board and installed rocket launchers capable of launching 120 rockets and, also, added Five 50-caliber machine guns.† While at Pearl we had the opportunity to test our anti-aircraft firing accuracy.† Several days were spent shooting at sleeves drawn by airplanes.†
Finally, we were on our way to the war zone, or so we thought.† However, after a short refueling stop at Funafuti Island, we landed in the Solomon Islands group. There we reconditioned our engines and other equipment, and more importantly, we practiced landing exercises that were later put to good use.
On March 12, 1945, the time came to leave the Solomons and proceed to Ulithi Atoll.† At Ulithi was one of the largest invasion forces ever assembled in the Pacific.† We left on March 25, 1945 for an unknown destination. After a day or two at sea the skipper informed us of our destination: OKINAWA.† The sea was quite rough.† Our group of LCSs were convoying a group of 35 LSTs.† The sea was rough enough to cause some of the LCTs being carried by the LSTs to break their tie-down chains resulting in some injuries and casualties.
As we approached Okinawa our first action occurred about 0200 Easter Sunday morning when a Jap torpedo bomber flew very low over the LSTs. We were the lead ship in the starboard column.† We had him in the cross hairs of every gun trained on the port side of the ship. The LCS 19 on our port beam opened fire.† Its tracers came right at us.† Soon word came "No firing on inside lanes in the convoy".† We had literally dodged a bullet.
At 0800, the LCSs left the line of departure and headed toward the beach. At once we started shelling the beach and when we reached within 1000 yards of the beach we fired the first volley of rockets.† While this was happening two Jap soldiers raced to the beach and fired on us using their knee mortars. They bracketed our ship with four mortars, two on each side.† As a result, the LCS 20 suffered seven wounded men.† More serious damage could have been inflicted had not the mortar team been knocked out by our rockets.
After the initial landing we were assigned to "call" duty.† We were to cruise parallel to the beach calling fire from the Jap's heavy guns that were hidden in caves and concrete tombs.† As the doors of one of the tombs opened a heavy gun would roll out and fire. We were to take evasive action and return fire using tracer bullets.† The "big boys " further out could pinpoint the location of these big† guns.† Eventually one of our ships knocked out all of the Japís gun emplacements.
LCS 20 was ordered to Kerama Retto on April 4 to provide anti-aircraft fire against suicide planes and to screen against suicide swimmers and boats. We did not directly engage the Japs while at that anchorage. We did stand by as a safeguard while the LCS 21 accepted the surrender of 35 Jap soldiers.
We soon got our orders to proceed to picket line duty to replace an LCS that had been sunk.† As often as not we were too late on the line or left too soon to see any real heavy-duty action but had lots of general quarters and many air raids.† Just when a† Jap plane got in our gun sights a Corsair would swoop in like a vulture and make the kill.† However we did save three destroyers one evening when two Jap Zekes came in from the stern at water level.† Our #3 40mm got the first plane.† The second pulled up and dove for the middle destroyer.† All of our portside guns fired and splashed him.
In between picket line patrols we were assigned to a small task force to invade Tori Shima, northwest of Okinawa.† The landing was uneventful and before noon the island was secure.
While on skunk patrol at 0230 on June 5, LCS 20 took three Jap prisoners who were evacuating Naha.† A minesweeper had spotted them in a small boat. The boat was capsized putting the men in the water.† We brought them aboard until morning and then transferred them to a larger ship for questioning.† When they came topside in the morning they gasped at the number of ships in the anchorage at Hagushi Bay.†
The saddest day for the officers and crew of the LCS 20 was June 9, 1945. We were patrolling on a picket line.† Some of the seamen were scraping paint on the starboard deck.† Three men were leaning against the top lifeline. Suddenly the turnbuckle broke causing two of the men to fall overboard.† The third man grabbed the bottom line and was able to climb back aboard.† One of the men who went into the water was a non-swimmer.† The other man tried his best to keep them both afloat.† The non-swimmer, who was a large person, gave up and sunk out of sight.† The other man was eventually brought aboard.† We searched the area until dark but to no avail.†
After Rest and Rehabilitation in Leyte Gulf in the Philippines we were ordered to Japan to escort occupation troops to Aomori, Japan.† On the way we were deterred by a typhoon and ordered to take shelter at Okinawa, but there was no shelter at Okinawa.† We weathered the storm by sailing west of the island for a total of about five days.† This was just one of the several typhoons that we encountered in the Pacific.
The landing of the occupational forces at Aomori went quite smoothly.† We were surprised to see the total destruction inflicted on a city so far north of Tokyo.† We were to soon find out that Yokosuka, Yokohama and Tokyo also experienced a near total wipe out.
Another typhoon while we were in Tokyo Bay caused us to drift across a sunken ship, ripping a hole in the bottom of our ship.† This resulted in a couple of days in dry dock.† When we were out of dry dock we were assigned to mine demolition duties out of the port of Sasebo, Kyushu. There we spent from October 24 to Jan 25 demolishing mines that sweepers released between Kyushu and Korea.
The LCS (L)(3) 20 left for the States on January 25, 1946 with stops in Saipan, Eniwetok, and Pearl Harbor.† Upon arrival in the States on March 23, we were assigned an anchorage at Sausalito, California.† On April 2 the ship left for Astoria, Oregon and, finally, on to the Commercial Iron Works at Portland, where it was decommissioned on June 27, 1946.†
In summary, the LCS 20 shot down two Jap planes; took three Jap
prisoners; spent 32 days on picket line duty; went to general quarters 38 times on picket line duty; went to general quarters 93 times in 53 days while on skunk patrol.† We spent 44 days on mine demolition duty and destroyed 57 mines.
Epilogue: After lending the LCS 20 to the Japs during the Korean War the ship was used by the USN for target practice and was sunk in 1959.
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