A BRIEF HISTORY OF LCS 86
SOLOMONS, MARYLAND TO DEPARTURE
FROM SAN DIEGO
By Ensign W. C. Warren III
The history of a ship is largely the record of the men who man her, hence, our story begins not at a shipyard but at the Amphibious Training Base, Solomons, Maryland. There on a "Blue Monday" early in October 1944, a group of men mustered together for the first time; officially known as Crew 3815. Their future ship had not as yet been built. Officers and men were brought together from every state in the union to serve together with few changes from that day until the war’s end. Five officers, green and youthful, stood shifting from foot to foot not knowing quite what to say to the crew. Ensign Phillip R. Shutt was Captain; Ensign William C. Warren, Executive Officer; Ensign Don L. Ellis, Communications Officer; Ensign Robert C. Rives, Engineering Officer; Ensign Maurice T. Jenson, First Lieutenant. The Gunnery Officer was to join the crew at a later date.
Assorted is the word that best describes the thirty odd men who comprise the nucleus of the crew. There was Lawrence J. Christe, BM 2/C, a muscular man with a mustache who made a terrible boatswain's mate for Solomons, Maryland, because he could not count cadence nor keep in step with the crew when they marched. All who went to Solomons always marched, in step or out, everywhere they went. Roger D. Neighbors was one of Mr. Rives' black-gang fledglings. Although in a minor role at the time, he was later advanced to become known to the crew as "the chief". The cook--the crew could not be complete without him--was a man who knew good whiskey from bad but it seemed he preferred bad. Captain Phillip R. Shutt, fresh out of Annapolis, thought him a good man--never having tasted his cooking. His "cold cuts," hot dogs, and sauerkraut became so famous that he was left on the beach at San Diego and replaced by Morris Waxman, SC(B) 2/C, the best cook in the amphibs.
Another key man in that crew which formed on that "Blue Monday" was Theodore Crisan, GM 2/C, a quiet unassuming man, who was subsequently destined one day off Okinawa to shoot down a Japanese suicide plane just off the fantail with 24 shots. When Ensign Gordon F. Meeker, Gunnery Officer, arrived from the swamps of Florida (Ft. Pierce) with the gunnery crew, there were several rated additions to the crew. "Red" McWhorter was the leading gunner's mate; and no one can forget Coxswain Carney, as big and good natured an Irishman as ever swung a shillelagh. The last addition before leaving Solomons was a "Scotsman", Angus Kean, who became Christe's right hand man. These men were the leaders of that crew at Solomons and played a large role in making the LCS (L) (3) 86 what she was at Okinawa.
During the month of October, Crew 3815 spent the best part of their time on LCI training ships on the congested waters of Chesapeake Bay. The best advice the training officers gave was, "When you put into Solomons for the night, don't let "CornPhil" see you ashore."
In the middle of November the crew for the LCS (L) (3) 86 left all the trials and tribulations of Solomons behind and started for the shipyards at Portland, Oregon. The famous Solomons band, which dispensed that constant beat every morning for muster, was at the bus to wish God's speed in winning the war.
Washington, D.C. was the first stop and proved to be the most disastrous. Captain Shutt and Mr. Warren debated the advisability of granting liberty during the three hour wait in Washington, D.C., and decided to take a chance and let the men go. What a mistake! Five minutes before train time the poor Executive Officer stood in the center of Union Station attempting to muster the slightly mellow mob before him. Final score—three missing and one train window broken.
As the speedy sooty cars of 1900 vintage meandered about the country--between the Canadian Border and the Gulf of Mexico--looking for Portland, Oregon, the crews of the 86 and 64 indulged in song fests and card playing and Spanish athletics. The government played no favorites, for 93 1/2% of the railroad lines in the United States were patronized on the journey.
Upon arriving at Portland, the final count was 10 men lost (AWOL to you) and a train load of soot. Little did both officers and men realize they were at the threshold of the best month they were to spend in the Navy. Liberty is the one word that comes closest to describing that all too short month at Portland. Several men accidentally became tenants of the brig which proved to be a better deal than living outside. The iron-clad rules of the brig were demonstrated to the Captain when he put McKenna in the "hoosegow" on Saturday and found him downtown at a local bar on Sunday.
On the 27th of November the LCS (L) (3) 86 slid down the ways of Commercial Iron Works, and on the 14th of December all hands went aboard for the commissioning ceremony. Thus ended Crew 3815, and thus began the LCS (L) (3) 86. After two hectic weeks of fitting out, the 86 left the fair city of Portland in true Navy tradition leaving many broken hearts behind. Down the Willamette River and across the Columbia River Bar--roughest water in the world--so we thought at the time. Only the very salty lads survived those rough waters without feeding the fish. Once in open sea we headed for Southern California with fair weather ahead.
The three ships, LCS (L) (3) 86, 64, and 87, arrived a week later in San Diego Harbor for shakedown. All hands manned the rail as the three LCSs steamed past the great warships of the fleet anchored in San Diego Harbor and tied up at the Naval Repair Base.
Shakedown was a much feared word to all officers, but all rumors concerning this period of training proved to be exaggerated. After a week’s cruise out around San Clemente Island, where many gunnery exercises and a practice invasion were held, all officers agreed that shakedown was not quite as tough as they had feared. The remainder of January was spent in availability, "working" the yard for anything they could do.
Liberty in San Diego was terrible-- too many sailors and too much shore patrol, however, Tijuana, Mexico, and Los Angeles were close enough to break the monotony.
On January 31st the LCS (L) (3) 86 received a new skipper, Lt.(jg) H. N. Houston, who hustled aboard one morning and has not stopped since. He proved to be just the medicine to whip the LCS 86 into a fighting team. His age and previous experience as Captain of the LCI(L) 803 made him a great addition to the LCS (L) (3) 86.
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA TO OKINAWA
By Ensign Don L. Ellis
At 1055, Sunday, 11 February 1945, to the strains of "Goodbye Mama, I'm off to Yokohama," we pulled away from the San Diego Pier, and started on our long trip west.
The first day at sea was as beautiful as a page from a travel folder. The sun was shining through a few fleecy white clouds, and the sea was as flat as a hobo's pocketbook. However, during the night the sea became choppy and many of the green members of the crew headed for the life line or the nearest bucket to pay their respects to old father Neptune. Outstanding feeder of the fish was our Executive Officer who spent most of his time on all fours over a bucket begging for death to ease his suffering. He occupied so many buckets that, at times, it was necessary for the engineer to drape himself over a life line.
The time on our trip to Pearl Harbor was consumed with the usual "at sea" exercises; such as flag hoists, general quarters, collision drills, fire drills, and many other exercises which improved the teamwork of the crew. An added but not usual exercise was the erratic ship handling by green officers and helmsmen. The occasion best remembered occurred on the night of 15 February when another LCS completely left her assigned column, cut across the bow of this ship, wormed her way into the second column, and finally ended up rejoining her column at full speed and narrowly missing this ship's starboard side in the process.
In accordance with orders from the Pacific Fleet, our ship went to general quarters twice daily, early in the morning and at sunset. These "dummy drills," as they were referred to at the time, were a source of agitation to all hands, but at a later date the speed and efficiency gained by these daily general quarters was to pay a large dividend.
The only "scare" of the trip also happened on the 15th when our formation crossed a shipping lane and received a radio report that an enemy submarine was in the area. For the next two days our lookouts reported vast numbers of "periscopes" which on closer inspection turned out be anything from breaking waves to floating debris.
On 20 February, we entered Pearl Harbor. Most of the crew were eagerly manning the rail for their first glimpse of the island paradise of Hawaii, but one man, Setbacken, PhM 1/C, looked upon the island through different eyes. There on a memorable Sunday morning--December 7, 1941--he narrowly escaped death on the opening day of the war.
During our nine days in Pearl Harbor, the ship was restocked with supplies; the crew was sent off to take in Waikiki and similar sights, and the officers learned with some misgivings that our ship was one of several assigned to convoy LCTs from Pearl Harbor to Eniwetok in the Marshalls. While at Pearl, Ensign William L. Wilhoit, holder of the Navy Cross and Purple Heart for his participation in the Normandy Landings as LCT skipper, reported aboard as gunnery officer. Needless to say, on the trip to Eniwetok, Ensign Wilhoit bore the brunt of any mistake made by the LCTs.
On the first of March, as group flagship for 12 LCTs, we were again underway with our first stop scheduled at Johnston Island. In order to stay with the slow moving tank transports, we were forced to maintain a speed of four to five knots. The combat veterans of the crew were glad to sail slowly toward their second tour of duty in the Pacific, but the untried members of the crew were very anxious to rush out and get into the fight. Later when this ship was on the Okinawa picket lines, nearly every member of the crew would have gladly given up all "the glory" of war just for a chance to again convoy some LCTs on some nice peaceful ocean, where the only danger was in reaching retirement age before arriving at the destination.
After five days of nice weather and with no mishaps, we approached Johnston Island prepared for an overnight rest. Much to our chagrin something went wrong and instead of riding at anchor, the formation spent one complete night running in circles near the small island. The next day was spent at anchor while the LCTs made minor repairs. All hands went swimming over the side. Later we learned that while we were swimming, a ship about 100 yards away was killing a 10 foot shark. At 1600, we were again at sea with our destination Majuro Atoll.
Items of interest on this leg of our journey include the day our gunners knocked down five of six balloons, and the agonizing evening and night spent in towing one of the LCTs. Several ships attempted to tow this same LCT, and several anchor cables were snapped in the process.
Majuro brought our first rest period when the men again were able to swim over the side and some of the more adventurous ones went ashore to get coconuts.
The rest of the trip passed without event. Upon arrival at Eniwetok, we learned that we were to accompany the LCTs on to Guam as soon as we took on fuel, water, and provisions. While anchored here one night, we had a false peace rumor to the effect that Germany had surrendered. Ships present went wild, blowing whistles, firing pyrotechnics, and in general carrying on a first class celebration. Daylight brought down a deflated balloon when we learned the news was entirely false. From Eniwetok to Guam we had one submarine alert, but it passed with no enemy contact.
At Guam we learned for the first time that our destination was the newly invaded island of Okinawa. Now that we were actually going to participate in the war, there was a noticeable increase in the alertness of all hands.
We went to Saipan from Guam and picked up a group of loaded LSTs and started north for our first actual combat of the war. Our first few days out were spent in tactical maneuvers and evasive tactics intended to confuse any enemy submarines. Several submarines were contacted enroute but not until the last day out were any depth charges dropped. On the evening of the 16th of April a sudden emergency turn signal told us that something was amiss. Shortly after the turn, the destroyer escort on the port side of the column dropped several depth charges, but we never learned whether she was successful.
Shortly thereafter, a friendly corsair came by about 200 yards abeam and proceeded to the head of the formation where he dropped lower and lower in a circle around the leading DE. As we watched what we thought was stunting, the plane caught a wing and crashed into the sea. We were quite sure that the pilot did not survive, but later found that he was thrown clear and was rescued. He was attempting to pancake his plane as his compass was inoperative and he was lost. An interesting coincidence was the fact that the pilot was a good friend of our executive officer.
On the morning of 17 April, we sighted Okinawa for the first time, and while we were still many miles out, the smoke of battle could be seen covering portions of the island like a huge dark cloud. As we approached closer to the island, it seemed to us that firing was taking place in the same harbor to which we were bound, but as we moved into the bay--Chima Wan--we could see that the smoke was coming from artillery barrages on the island, and from other equipment such as flame throwers used by the marines to smoke out the Japanese dug into the hills of the island.
By Lt. (Jg) H. N. Houston
Following arrival at Hagushi, we were assigned "skunk patrol" in Chima Wan. On the morning of 18 April between Take Hanare we destroyed a small enemy barge. During the operations at Chima Wan, we had many air alerts but fired on no enemy planes.
On 21 April we supported the marine-army occupation of Take Hanare without meeting any enemy resistance. The entire crew was allowed to go ashore and see the J ap villages. The trips were very educational, and men got first-hand, untouched evidence of the Jap way of life. (Also, first hand, untouched souvenirs).
On 28 April we destroyed an enemy suicide boat on Mae Shima in the Kerama Rhetto Group while on skunk patrol.
From 30 April to 10 May we patrolled Radar Picket Station 3. Many enemy planes were in the area but only one came within range. That one dived on the LCS (L) (3) 63 and crashed just off its bow without a shot being fired. We were all "green." The plane had been visible for some time and officers and men on both ships saw it and argued as to its identity among American planes. All hands had a rude awakening.
Between 10 and 17 May we were on skunk patrol between Kerama Rhetto and the Hagushi anchorage. A great deal of enemy activity and many enemy planes came over us but we had no opportunity to fire.
On 18 May we returned to radar picket duty on Station 5. All went well until 25 May when we were attacked, and fired on our first planes. The destroyer Braine shot down 4 planes at midnight in less than 3 minutes. The fifth plane that escaped came over our fantail and dropped a large bomb that exploded about 100 yards away without damage to us. Next morning, 26 May, a Betty dropped a Baka bomb which missed us by 2 miles. The Betty was then shot down by the formation.
On 27 May, 3 Vals attacked the formation. We shot one down, but the Braine was hit by two of them, one on fire long before it hit them. The DD was a mass of flames. Smoke obscured her completely at times. She was out of control, steaming in erratic circles at 18 knots; men jumping off all the time. We picked up survivors, 45 of them, twice as many as any other ship. Most of them were badly injured. Others drowned before our eyes before we could rescue them. We finally got along the DDs port side forward--the first LCS to tie up to her. We rescued additional men, badly injured, and put out the bad fires forward and in her magazines. We were tied up right beside this magazine and none of us at the time gave any thought as to what would have happened to us if the powder in the vault had exploded. We have all considered it in detail since then. The fire had gutted the entire superstructure and below deck areas as well. Hours later--we were the last ship to leave her--the wounded were transferred to another DD, and we resumed patrol. Our starboard side was damaged during this work, and the following day we returned to port for repairs. All hands will remember that Burpee's # 3 gun was smashed in this operation, and as a result Burpee wouldn't speak to anyone for several days, in fact, not until we replaced his gun.
Between 6 June and 9 June we patrolled Radar Picket Station 15. Enemy planes closed the formation every few hours. We were at GQ 80 percent of the time. On 7 June one crashed the bow of a destroyer but did very little damage. A few men from the DD crew jumped overboard; some of these we picked up.
On 10 June, a lone plane struck the fantail water line of the destroyer U.S.S. Porter. She called for help and we went alongside, port side forward, again we were the first LCS to tie to the damaged vessel. For three hours we pumped her and tried to tow her, but it was a losing battle. At the last moment the balance of her men came aboard along with the commanding officer, and we pushed off. Three minutes later she sank. We were the first ship alongside and the last to leave. We had between 150 to 200 survivors aboard, including all 29 of the injured, and a great deal of valuable gear. Later, the men and gear were all transferred to a DM, and we resumed patrol.
On June 11, after several alerts, 4 Vals approached the LCSs. The first was shot down by our ship and the 122, crashing in flames midway between us. The second, although smoking and badly damaged from repeated hits by both ships, struck the 122. We believe the plane was aiming at us but when the 122 jammed her guns and stopped firing when the plane was 500 to 800 yards away, it switched to them. The plane struck them on the starboard side in the radio shack at the base of the conn and caused a great fire. The bomb carried by the plane went completely through the ship and fell harmlessly into the water on the port side. After the 122 was hit, the third attacking plane came in on our fantail from astern and was shot down by # 7 gun with 24 rounds of 40mm. The fourth plane then turned into the clouds and disappeared.
We picked up 23 survivors and then tied to the stricken ship on her damaged starboard side. Two other LCSs were tied to her undamaged port side. After the fires were out and the dead removed, we tried to tow her, but heavy seas made this impossible. None of her officers or men remained aboard. We rigged a battle phone from her conn to the aft steering, starting her engines, and recruited several of her uninjured crew members from the survivors on our ship and started for the anchorage. A few hours later we met a tug which had come out for her. We left her to the tug and a few more of her own men who went over from the LCS 19, and we came on in to rejoin our own ship.
Between 16 and 26 June we patrolled Radar Picket Station 16. Many enemy planes were in the area but while the DDs fired we had no opportunity. On the 22nd, the CAP shot down 16 enemy planes in our area, and we lost several planes. We were not directly attacked.
Between 1 and 9 July we patrolled Radar Picket Station 9. No enemy activity except occasional alerts.
During periods in Hagushi, we would obtain supplies during the day and hunt "skunks" or make smoke for the large ships during the night. Many planes were shot down over us during this time. One dived on us one night, we believe, at the light of our smoke generator and missed by a few feet. All hands will recall this very plainly.
On times too numerous to mention we saw Jap planes fall in flames or get splashed by other ships. Dozens were sighted, but only our action is recorded here. Many times during the hours of darkness enemy planes came directly over the ship at altitudes of about 50 to 100 feet, but we held our fire for fear of revealing our position with tracers. The shore bombardment by our big ships was continuous during this time.
As a result of our combat actions, the ship was recommended for the Navy Unit Commendation, and 12 of the officers and men are recommended by the skipper for individual awards. Lack of opportunity, or essential work on the ship, rather than the lack of courage, devotion or willingness is all that kept all men aboard from personal achievement. High praise is due all hands for courageous and efficient performance of duty.
OKINAWA TO LEYTE
By Ensign Maurice T. Jenson
We left Okinawa on the tenth of July, and it may be assumed that few if any regretted the fact. Everyone seemed very anxious to be on the move for Leyte, where it had been rumored, there was liberty, recreational facilities, beer and plenty of work and repairs to take care of. The trip was uneventful as far as enemy interference was concerned. We sighted a Jap reconnaissance plane; consequently, we expected he would be back with a few more to give us trouble, but to our relief we were not attacked. Later we met a convoy going on the opposite course that had been attacked by an enemy submarine, so we immediately commenced zigzagging. Again, we were spared, as no more was heard from the sub.
As we stated, enemy contacts were negligible; however, we were nonetheless very busy aboard the ship as we drilled constantly--fire drills, damage control drills, flag hoist drills, tactics, and target practice comprised the bulk of the exercises held. It may be assumed that we had our fill of drills by the time we sighted Leyte. We were all happy as we neared our destination, although it had been a very pleasant trip.
We entered San Pedro Bay the evening of July 14th. We knew all was well on the "86" when just a few minutes after the hook was dropped a small boat passed close aboard with a number of nurses aboard. From the howls, whistles, and what have you that arose from the fortunate part of the crew that happened to be topside at the time, one would think they hadn't seen a woman for quite sometime--which they hadn't.
Several days after our arrival, liberty was started, and shortly after a softball league within the flotilla was organized. We had a fine team, and the end of the season found us tied for first with the 61 for our group championship. For some unknown reason, the 61 was chosen to represent our group in the playoffs, even though we tied with her for first. However, she did nobly for herself as she won the flotilla championship. Fitzgerald was in charge of the team and did a good job, as well as playing nice ball as did the rest of the boys. Fennell was our hurler and backed by Snipes, Shy, Spencer, Carter, Soss, Leniek, Mason, Christe, Wilhelm, Crisan, and Mathews. The team emerged with a record of 7 wins and only 1 loss. All in all, we had a darn good team, and we all enjoyed playing and watching our team pile up the victories.
On August 10th, the Japs decided to call it quits. We received the news about 2100 and for several minutes all was quiet, then suddenly the sky was alight with hundreds of various colored flares and searchlights. Sirens wailed, whistles screeched, and bells clanged. Fire fighting ships shot streams of water into the air, and with searchlights shining into the streams and flares giving color to them a beautiful effect was produced. It was all very beautiful and touching. Some men were very quiet, some went wild, and some fell to their knees and gave thanks to God for victory. It was a night that will never be forgotten by any of us.
Then came the peace negotiations and we wondered if the war was really over. Scuttlebutt flew fast and furious and finally the war was over. One of the best of the rumors, and one we hoped would come true, was to the effect that we were going to Portland and decommission our ship. Another was that the Chinese were taking over our ship; and then later the Russians were so designated. Then the rumor which we hoped would be scuttlebutt was to the effect that we would be part of the occupational fleet and would go to Japan. The last didn't turn out to be scuttlebutt and we are on our way to Tokyo as this is written.
By William John Mason
On the third of September our rear area rest was at an end, and Flotilla Four's "Mighty Midgets" departed for Tokyo Bay as part of the Third Fleet's occupational force. After worrying about typhoons for a week, the LCS (L) (3) 86 arrived at Tokyo Bay on 11 September 1945 just seven months after leaving the States.
Upon arrival at Yokosuka Naval Base, Flotilla Four along with a few LCIs and LSMs were assigned to ferry liberty parties from BBs, CAs, CVs, CLs, and DDs to Tokyo, Yokohama, and Yokosuka. It was rather degrading to think that the "Mighty Midgets" after all their fine work at Okinawa would be given such a task. But orders are orders; therefore, true to form all hands turned to on the best taxi service Tokyo Bay has ever had. The "big boys" treated us well giving everything from ice cream to movie projectors.
At present writing, 25 September 1945, all our thoughts turn towards the United States, but no one knows how soon we will see the land that we all love.
It is believed that the date was 3 December 1945 when the U.S.S. LCS (L) (3) 86 departed from Yokosuka, Japan, for eventual stateside ports of Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon, and finally Astoria, Oregon.
During our three months in the Tokyo Bay, we were the taxi service for the Third Fleet. Nevertheless, we had our share of liberty as well. We were among the sailors who comprised the first liberty party from the Yokosuka Naval Base. It was another one of those experiences that none of us have forgotten.
As we would walk down the street, the Japanese men and women would step off the sidewalk as we passed and would bow to us. The women were very fully clothed from their necks down to their ankles, probably afraid that they may be abused by the new foreign occupation forces. However, we were given very strict orders not to harass the Japanese--both men and women. The orders were carried out.
Yokohama and Tokyo were devastated from our bombings. Surprisingly, there was no noticeable damage to the Yokosuka Naval Base. City blocks in Yokohama and Tokyo were leveled and all that remained were some ashes. The Japanese were busily cleaning up the debris and getting their lives back in order as best they could.
The officers and crew enjoyed liberty in Yokosuka, Yokohama, and Tokyo. Some of the them were fortunate enough to go to mountain retreats for rest and recuperation.
The ship had a basketball team. Again, we had our share of wins.
For the most part, liberty consisted of going to the Yokosuka Beer Hall, sitting around, talking, and drinking beer.
We lost our shipmate James Garfield "Timber" Burpee at 2110 on 15 November 1945. He was accidentally electrocuted in a switchboard shack on the base a short distance from where we were docked with the 87 and 64. To this day, we all mourn the death of our friend and shipmate. As was stated in the letter to his parents from our Commanding Officer, William C. Warren III, "His shipmates were very fond of him, and I can assure you they all miss his energetic personality about the ship." "Timber" was buried with full military honors in the United States Army Field Cemetery, Yokohama # 1, Honshu, Japan, on 18 November 1945 in Grave # 188, Row # 4.
Two of this ship's crew were visited by their brothers: Harry Mason visited his brother Bill and Tom Fennell shared time with his brother Jim "Rabbit" Fennell. Of course, the crew showed them a good time at the Yokosuka Beer Hall. Bill's brother never forgot how "Red" Durham accidentally knocked his army hat off into the oily water as he was boarding the 86.
Duties for the LCSs after arrival in Tokyo Bay consisted of acting as picket boats, despatch boats, and utility craft for Commander Fleet Activities and capital ships in Tokyo, Yokosuka, and Yokohama Area. Primary duty was transporting of approximately 7,000 liberty passengers daily from capital ships to Yokosuka, Yokohama, and Tokyo.
On one of these liberty runs, we picked up the "big boys" from a battleship. The sea was a bit rough and we were bouncing around and hitting the side of the battleship. Needless to say, we were dwarfed by the size of their ship. One of the boatswain's mates from the battleship was giving Ensign Warren a hard time about ruining his paintwork. In no uncertain terms, which surprised all the crew, Mr. Warren really gave him the message.
On another occasion, some of the crew were on liberty, and were returning to our ship. On the liberty boat were some of the "big boys" too. Evidently, one or more of them made some comments about our little ship. This was their mistake! Leading the foray were Carney and Christe. By the time our crew reached our ship, the "big boys" knew who the big boys really were.
The last heroic effort by the officers and crew took place on 4 October 1945 when our ship went alongside a burning Japanese ammunition barge in Tokyo Bay anchorage and extinguished the fire. The barge was carrying live ammunition which exploded, killing twenty Japanese and wounding three American sailors who were in charge of the barge. There was a fire still burning when the 86 went alongside the barge. With total disregard for their personal safety, a fire fighting party boarded the barge. After the fire was out, the barge broke loose and was drifting down on the U.S.S. Wilkes Barre, a mighty cruiser anchored nearby. We were able to secure the barge again without damage to the Wilkes Barre. Again, several members of the ship were awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism. Unfortunately, only two can be identified at this writing: Lt. (jg) Robert Clement Rives and George Jasper Martin.
Many of the senior shipmates had earned enough points to leave the ship in Yokosuka, head for home, and get their discharge from the service. That "ole gang of ours" was breaking up.
In the meantime, "Chief" Neighbors, Helburn, Paini, Ware, Shy, Gosbin, Muldoon,White, Clohessy, Hoberg, "Willie" Watson, and the rest of the black gang were getting the diesel engines ready for our departure to the States. As a fitting tribute to this hard working and talented crew, the U.S.S. LCS (L) (3) 86 never had a breakdown.
Likewise, the gunner's mates earned their stripes. Not once did the 20mm and 40mm guns fail us. Crisan, Lyles, McWhorter, Nichols, Paul, Russell, Soss, and Warren did a superb job keeping them in ready condition for all occasions. Thanks!
We finally departed Yokosuka, Japan, on December 3, 1945 for the United States. We all signed the "Going Home Pennant", which is now in the possession of David Elvin Paini, Jr. What a happy day it was to leave!
By William John Mason
Having left Yokosuka Naval Base, Yokosuka, Japan, on 3 December 1945, the U.S.S. LCS (L) (3) 86 had a leisurely voyage home. There were no serious flag hoist drills, general quarters, damage control drills, collision drills, zigzag maneuvering, and other exercises. The voyage was a sea-going adventure at the expense of the U. S. Navy.
Probably the most excitement that we had aboard ship on the voyage home was spotting an object in the distance. We couldn't initially figure out what in the world it was. Was it an iceberg? No, we realized we were too far south for one. As we approached it, we discovered that it was a sailing ship with its sails fully hoisted. It was the first one most of us had ever seen. How interesting! We passed close by and waved. They responded and made gestures of hitchhiking a ride with us. They were on their way to Australia.
The cooks prepared a royal feast for us on Chistmas day. (The butchers and bakers assigned to us by then learned how to cook!) Then, we crossed the international date line and had another Christmas dinner. One of the puzzles often posed as a result of this experience was, "I was 20 years old but had celebrated Christmas 21 times. How could this have happened?" The correct answer is seldom given.
Because of the limited size of our diesel storage tanks, we had to make several stops for refueling on the way to Seattle, Washington. We first arrived in Saipan on 9 December 1945 and left on 16 December 1945. Then we proceeded to Pearl Harbor and arrived on 30 December 1945 and left after some memorable times, pictures and some milkshakes. (Don't forget we were very young in those days!). Powdered milk may have sounded good to the researchers, but have you ever tried it for months? We left Pearl Harbor on 4 January 1945.
We finally arrived at Seattle, Washington, on January 16, 1946 and docked at Pier 91. Would you believe it took from December 3, 1945 until January 16, 1946 to come from Yokosuka, Japan, to Seattle, Washington? We thank God we weren't escorting LCTs again! However, it did seem this was the situation in all our anxiety to get to the States again.
After a few days of liberty in rainy Seattle, we headed for Astoria, Oregon, on 23 January 1945. What a voyage to Astoria and scare in jumping the Columbia River Bar on a rainy night! It was really a rough voyage. Seasickness was rampant among the crew. Everyone was sure the pilot was going to upset the ship that night. While he was leaving the ship, I mentioned to him that he had the ship listing close to overturning when he made a turn immediately after jumping the bar. His response was, "I haven't lost a ship yet". Well, we weren't so sure at the time that this wasn't to be his first.
We arrived in Astoria, Oregon on 24 January 1945 and then headed up the Columbia River into the Willamette River and Portland on 5 February 1945. It was a beautiful day and the shoreline along the Columbia River with all the green trees made a magnificent sight. Again, we had a real sightseeing trip at the expense of the U. S. Navy
The ship was docked in Portland near the Burnside Bridge, a few short blocks from the center of the business district in Portland. All the crew who had been there when the ship was commissioned at the Commercial Iron Works could hardly wait for liberty. Those of us who had joined the ship after it left Portland immediately agreed with them that Portland was one helluva liberty town. Being close to downtown, there were occasions when women were on board. The officers were kind enough not to come into the mess hall and crew's quarters and to disrupt the parties. Obviously, all this was much appreciated by the crew.
We stayed in Portland for awhile before departing again for Astoria, Oregon, and beginning the decommissioning process. Astoria wasn't much of a liberty town so the officers and men went to Portland for liberty on the weekends. While we were getting the ship ready for decommissioning, we were taken off the ship and billeted at Tongue Point Naval Base, which was a short distance from where the ship was docked.
Decommissioning was a lot of work and truthfully a sad experience for the officers and crew of the U.S.S. LCS (L) (3) 86. Many of us didn't have enough points to be discharged so we knew we would be assigned to another ship or shore station. It eventually came to pass. We were split up and sent in all directions. Thus, the historical, honorable, heroic, and legendary active role of the U.S.S. LCS (L) (3) 86 in the U. S. Navy ended in April, 1946.
I've always found it interesting, but curious, that sailors through history have always referred to their ships in the feminine. I and my shipmates, through our experiences, now understand the practice. She provided us with a home through the good times, the storms, and the battles. We fought for her survival. She didn't upset and capsize in the storms. She cared for us. She took us there. In essence, and more importantly, she brought us home safely. We respected her. We defended her honor by fighting with other sailors who made fun of her small stature. Wouldn't you have felt the same and done the same thing for your loved one? Only sailors can understand this respect for their lady--their ship. All this may sound strange, but please have empathy and understanding for those of us who have been there.
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