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Ens. A. L. Fox, Public Relations Officer
In the early summer months of 1944 nearly sixty-five men and six officers entered the Navy with adventure in their blood, wonder in their minds, and a little touch of loneliness in their hearts, for here was the beginning of a new life. Little did any of us know that one day we would form a part of the Mighty Midgets that were later to play such an important role in the closing months of the war against Japan.
By September most of us were past our Boot Training and had received specialized training and were gathering at various bases such as Little Creek and Dam Neck, Virginia; Fort Pierce, Florida; and USNATB, Solomons, Maryland. About the second week in September, 30 men and 5 officers joined at USNATB and were labeled Crew No. 3829. Thus formed the nucleus of the crew that was ultimately to take over the USS LCS(L)(3) 91 under the fine leadership of Lieutenant S. A. McCray of Dayton, Ohio.
But there was a great deal to learn yet, as we found when going through the training program at Solomons under command of Commander N. Phillips. There were classes in navigation, gunnery, chemical warfare, seamanship, communications and damage control, and every third week we spent on one of the LCI or LCS training ships. During these weeks afloat we put to practical use our classroom training. In mid-October the rest of our crew joined us. This part of our crew had been receiving training in gunnery at Fort Pierce and Dam Neck. Now a full LCS crew, we went into the final stages of preparation before taking over a ship of our own.
On December 8, 1944, we left Solomons Training Base with 65 men and 6 officers bound for Portland, Oregon, to pick up our ship, which was being built by Commercial Iron Works. We were all a bit weary of classes and anxious to get to work on a ship of our own, so we didn’t mind the long, tiring trip across the country on a crowded troop train. We arrived in Portland, Oregon, the City of Roses, on the 13th of December, and to us it was a welcome sight. Never will we forget the hospitality of that fair city or the cooperation and help rendered by the Pre-Commissioning Detail, the Bureau of Ships and the workers and management of Commercial Iron Works. This was all new to us and we needed plenty of help.
It was a thrill to witness the launching of our ship. This took place on December 17 and the few short weeks that still remained before the commissioning date of January 4, 1945 passed away quickly. It was the first time a lot of us spent Christmas away from home, but we made the best of it with the help of George White’s USO and the Officer’s Club at Portland Hotel.
And so the big day arrived, the day when the Ninety-One was turned over to us. We were on our own now and we had only a few short days in which to make her shipshape and ready for sea. We left Portland with regrets on the 15th of January in company with the LCSs 66 and 90, and started on our first and never to be forgotten cruise for San Diego, California, where we were to meet the other ships of our group and flotilla for further assignment.
The trip to San Digeo proved to be a rugged one for the green officers and men aboard. We started out in a storm and after being held up in Astoria, Oregon for several days, started out again in what we hoped would be fine sailing weather. However, our hopes proved false. Not only did it continue to storm for our entire journey but it was probably the worst storm that most of us had ever experienced. We were 65 happy men and 6 most relieved officers when we finally arrived at San Diego, California on the 23rd of January, 1945
Here we formed up and were assigned to LCS Group 12 under Lt. Commander Voegelin, and LCS Flotilla 4 under Commander N. Phillips. After spending the following month attending more classes, working on our ship and going through mock invasions on San Nicholas and San Clemente Islands, we left the good old U.S.A. for Pearl Harbor on the 22nd of February. Here at last we were headed for our crack at the Japs.
The next nine days were smooth sailing and when we pulled into Pearl Harbor on the 3rd of March we felt that the salt was in our bones and that we were now “regular amphibs”. Here too, we worked on our ship, took on supplies, and had practice invasions on Maui Island in the Hawaiian Group. Training never seemed to cease, but we soon found out that all this training was for a reason – a very good reason. The Japs fight for keeps and it was either us or them.
On the 15th of April we were on our way again, and after 14 days at sea arrived at Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands. We must have looked rather funny to the natives because on April 22nd we had crossed the 180th meridian of longitude, and as a result of initiation into the Royal Order of the Golden Dragon, three quarters of the crew had shaved their heads.
Our stay at Eniwetok was only a short one, and on May 1st we left for Ulithi. We arrived on the 9th, and after a short stay for refueling were on our last leg headed northwest; our destination, Okinawa, which at that time was the hot spot of the Pacific.
On the night of May Fifteenth, while still 50 miles from our destination, we watched gun flashes on the horizon. This was certainly a thrilling moment. Here was action with the enemy. On the morning of May 16th we pulled into the anchorage at Hagushi, Okinawa in sight of the battleships that were shelling Naha.
Here our work began. Our first duty was smoke coverage for the big ships in the harbor. Soon we were sleeping by our guns and making enough smoke to cover at least half of the United States. From the 16th until the 30th of May we operated in the Hagushi anchorage on skunk (anti-suicide-boat) patrol, anti-aircraft screening and smoke screening station. General Quarters was sounded so often that we saved time by staying at our stations. There were bogeys (enemy planes) every night and frequently in the daytime.
On the 30th of May we joined a Task Unit for the invasion of Iheya and Aguni Shima, Ryukyu Islands. On the 3rd of June the landing on Iheya Shima took place and we put into practice our training at Solomons, San Diego and Pearl Harbor. This time it was the real thing. To see the power of the assault of rockets, the guns of the destroyers, and the bombs and rockets from the air support was a sight never to be forgotten. After the landing we reported for picket duty north of the island and served there until the Task Unit reformed for the Aguni invasion. On June 9th we entered Red Beach at Aguni and repeated our performance against this island. On June 11th we completed the operation and returned to Hagushi anchorage for further assignment.
From the 14th of June until 16th of July we served under the Northern Gunboat Support Group as anti-aircraft coverage for ships at Ie Shima anchorage and Nago Wan Harbor. Throughout this period we acted as escort, anti-aircraft screen, smoke screen and patrol boat for the northern anchorage.
On the 16th of July we were relieved of duty with the Northern Support Gunboat group, and our LCS Group 12 made preparations to leave for a rear area, and what we all felt was a well-earned rest. Two months of duty in the campaign of Okinawa had us all on edge.
On the 26th of July we arrived at San Pedro Bay, Leyte, P.I. and began a period of repairs and recreation before a final thrust against the Japs. However, on 10 August we received the good news that Japan was willing to accept the peace terms of the allies.
At last the war was over. In a matter of minutes the sky in the Bay was a spectacular array of searchlights, rocket flares of all colors and whistles that would put Times Square to shame. Everyone was celebrating. This was the moment everyone had been waiting for, for the past four years. In a few days everything was quiet again but there was new spirit. This meant home. Home, yes, but not right away. There was still work to be done, peace terms to be negotiated and occupation forces to take over. Our next mission is still unknown but whether it will be Tokyo Bay, China, or the U.S.A., we of the Ninety-One are ready.
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Memo to all hands:
Let me say to you that I am grateful for your help in making this history. The part that each of us has played in this war has not been a large one, but the cumulative effect of your effort, and my effort, and the effort of each of our shipmates has made the LCS 91 an operating unit, capable of taking our place out on the fighting line. And this we have done. It should be a matter of pride for you to reflect on this.
I am aware of the difficulties you have had regarding crowded and uncomfortable living conditions, lack of recreation, and continued monotony and hard work. You have put up with it all without complaint and have kept on doing your job. Thank you for accepting that which could not be changed.
Our job is nearing completion and soon we may be breaking up. Before we do, however, I want you to know that I am grateful to you for all your help, that I will remember with pleasure our association together, and that I wish you good fortune in the future before you.
Lt. S.A. McCray, Commanding Officer
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