The USS LCS(L)(3) 112: A History
Jim Davis (formerly QM2/c)
The twin embryos that would unite to form the crew of the USS LCS(L)(3) #112 were joined one stormy evening in the Spring of 1944 at the Amphibious Training Base at Little Creek, Virginia. One of the newly-formed units had formed earlier at Solomons Amphibious Training Base in Maryland.
After some independent training in various specialties, the initial group set sail on a Landing Craft Infantry (LCI) to the base at Little Creek, at the southern end of Chesapeake Bay, to take on the remainder of the crew. Together, under command of Lt.(j.g.) Arthur Hungerford LaMotte, they would complete their initial training and meld into a single unit. Eventually, the crew, six officers and 65 enlisted men entrained for Boston for the next important leg of their cruise.
Housed in the Navy’s Fargo Building in South Boston, the crew of the 112 came in for additional training: classes, fire-fighting courses, ship and plan recognition drills, and the myriad other specialties their particular ratings would require in the future.
The George M. Lawley & Sons Shipyard in Neponset, Massachusetts was now working night and day to complete the 112. Its keel was laid 11 October 1944, and launching took place only eight days later, on 19 October.
On the morning of 6 November 1944 a cold, snow-laden wind was whipping around the edges of Boston Bay. Snow flurries from leaden clouds sprinkled the blue uniforms of the officers and men of the 112 as they stood at a numbed parade rest, arranged around the midships 20mm gun tubs and equipment still being brought aboard but not yet stowed. At 0758 Lt.(j.g.) Arthur H. LaMotte, USNR, escorted Lt. S.V. Wright, the commissioning officer, to a position just aft of the deckhouse. At exactly 0800 the commissioning officer presented Captain LaMotte his orders which he, in turn, opened and read to all present. The USS LCS(L)(3) 112 was commissioned a ship of the United States Navy.
The Port Watch was set with Executive Officer Roscoe R. Gibson, Ensign, USNR, assigned as the first Officer of the Deck. Work was resumed immediately on getting the 112 ready for sea and its career. Through the next two weeks, the crew of the 112 alternated between stowing all the additional gear coming aboard and going through endless drills and exercises. Now, however, the drills took on a new meaning because this was your ship, your home, your responsibility for no one knew how long or where.
There was liberty nearly every evening and these momentary releases became even more precious as each man aboard realized that the time for sea duty was getting nearer. The drills continued. Several days were devoted to docking exercises for all officers who would likely be standing deck watches or acting in emergency situations. There were ship-handling drills for the Special Sea Details and drills in handling emergency steering situations. And there were endless drills at General Quarters and Fire stations.
On 20 November 1944 the LCS 112 cast off all lines and slipped into the back waters of Boston Bay, headed for the open sea. In the face of a mounting blizzard, the tiny, unproved vessel moved resolutely southward toward the Cape Cod Canal. It was the advice of the Coast Guard pilot that, in the face of small craft warnings in Buzzard’s Bay, the ship would be wise to put into New Bedford, Massachusetts to wait out the blow. The ship moored to the State Docks in New Bedford at 2037. The first run of the 112 had been completed.
After observing Thanksgiving Day, the traditional luncheon meal was enjoyed, still moored to the New Bedford State Dock. At 1500 all lines were cast off and the 112 was underway once more, bound for Solomons, Maryland.
The 112 cruised on training runs, speed trials, running aground to see how to free herself or working with another LCS to free one another from the syrupy clutches of the soft sandy shore, and gunnery practice to see how armaments and gun crews would function. There was an excursion outside the protective confines of Chesapeake Bay, into the Atlantic and south to a practice beach near Dam Neck, Virginia, where the 112 would join other vessels of her class also on “shakedown”. They would ally themselves with an “invasion” force moving onto a lonely stretch of coastline south of Virginia Beach.
Surprisingly, it all ended abruptly on 5 December when the 112 proceeded to Norfolk Naval Base and availability. For a week the 112 lay at dockside waiting for her turn in drydock for painting and other modifications. 12 December witnessed an event for which the crew was extremely grateful. The ship moved into drydock and civilian painters came in to do the hull and superstructure. It was apparently part of a labor agreement with the civilian work force and there were no complaints from the men.
At 1500 hours on 23 December the ship moved away from Lambert’s Point, Norfolk, and lay to in the harbor area waiting for the other vessels that would make up her group. Accompanying the 112 on her trip south were six LCTs (Landing Craft, Tank). Making up the remainder of the “escort” convoy were the LCS 113 and LCI 325. It would be a slow trip to Key West.
Christmas Day 1944 found the convoy off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia, but even if the distance from the ships to the coast had been only several hundred yards the shoreline would not have been visible. The ships were encased in a dense, cold fog. Lookouts peering into the moist gray blanket were more concerned with the vessel ahead than they were about any possible submarines in the area.
Key West, Florida was the end of the first convoy duty for the 112, and a berth at the submarine base alongside Pier #1, moored to LCI 486. On 1 January 1945 the 112 was standing off Berth #5, Key West, waiting for other ships that would comprise Task Unit 20.19.4, on its way to the Panama Canal. We anchored in Lemon Bay, Colon, Panama, in the pre-dawn darkness on 6 January, moving later that morning to a pier in the Naval Operating Base of Colon. The 112 had touched land at its first foreign port.
The 112’s stay on the Atlantic side of the Canal continued until 14 January when the ship made way to Cristobal. The passage went smoothly, with the ship entering Gatun Lake by 0819. Miraflores Locks, the last on the Pacific side, were cleared at 1206. The passage through the Canal was completed and the 112 moved toward the point where the pilot would be dropped. On January 17 the 112 moved into the Pacific, underway for San Diego, and arrived there on January 29.
At San Diego there was more training in all the established drills and exercises. Each one of them, however, seemed to be taking on a more particular emphasis now. There were days of tactical maneuvering exercises conducted outside the harbor area, flag-hoist drills and other signal exercises. The 112, along with the other LCSs present would practice gunnery exercises by firing on San Nicholas Island off the California coast. They would fire all of their guns from all angles, dead ahead and broadside, and they would bombard San Nicholas beaches with salvoes of rockets.
Fueling at sea exercises were carried out during this time off San Nicholas. The shelling of San Nicholas continued for another two days before the group of LCSs would return to San Diego. Then, two days later, it was back to San Nicholas for more rocket bombardment, shelling, strafing, and small arms firing. There were exercises on firing at aerial targets. The 112 acted as fueling ship for the LCS 68, practicing transfer of fuel while underway. The LCS 112 returned to the San Diego base on February 20 after the gunnery exercises were finished.
On Saturday, 10 March, LCS 112 was in all respects ready for sea and, on 11 March the 112 and other vessels of the Task Unit were bound for Pearl Harbor. The 112 arrived at Pearl Harbor on 21 March. For the next week the 112 was moved to Kewalo Basin in the Port of Honolulu for repairs. On Easter Sunday, 1 April 1945, the 112 was underway with still others of its class, off the coast of Oahu, exercising in flag hoist drills and gunnery practice at towed sleeves. The ships in the group spent two days shelling and rocketing the island of Kahoolawe. The 3rd of April found our small flotilla underway returning to Pearl.
The ensign of the 112 joined the other ships of the fleets all over the world, going to half-mast, 12 April 1945, on the news of the death of the Commander-in-Chief, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
LCS 112 departed Pearl Harbor on 13 April with the other ships of Group 10. Other than the drills and exercises that made up a normal part of the day, all the ships in the group went to General Quarters regularly at sunrise and sunset, the time of day most favored by aerial attack from the enemy. Eniwetok Atoll was the next stopping point for our LCS Group 10. On 28 April the group got underway and resumed its westward-bound course. The 112 spent only a few days in Saipan, May 3-5, but was able to have minor repairs made on a split bulkhead seam.
The 112’s entrance to an active war zone footing came on 9 May with the sighting of a floating mine off the starboard bow. The mine was detonated by small arms fire, and at 2010 our convoy escort ship began laying down a barrage against a reported submarine. Zig-zag operations were in effect and General Quarters was ordered until 2110. On 10 May the island of Okinawa loomed like a long green whale, beached and floating on the surface, as our convoy made its way into Hagushi Harbor. At 0105 on 11 May the 112 and other LCSs began making smoke to shield the harbor from imminent air attacks.
The days and nights at Okinawa merged into one long series of General Quarters alarms. Patrols along the shoreline searched for enemy suicide boats. Constant raids by kamikaze pilots found the 112 either making smoke to hide supply and personnel transport vessels from the suicide planes or participating in the anti-aircraft barrages laid-up to stop them.
At 1910 on 12 May five Japanese planes came in low over Hagushi Harbor where we were anchored. All ships in the harbor opened fire. One of the planes exploded in mid-air, the second crashed into the USS NEW MEXICO, a third then crashed into the wreckage. From reports we later learned the attack had claimed 51 American lives.
On May 13 the 112 went on its usual routine of anti-suicide boat patrol, a duty that would occupy nearly all the night-time activities of the ship. While on patrol in Buckner Bay on May 14, the 112 spotted Japanese gun emplacements on the shore and began firing on them, with apparently good results. For this the 112, as well as LCSs 19 and 84 received a commendation from Admiral Hill, in which he said that the three LCSs gave an outstanding performance, and he added this statement, “To all LCSs which are our “Mighty Midgets” and to all other members of the anti-suicide boat patrols, “Well Done.”
LCS 112 was also given credit for destroying a gun emplacement and a Japanese tank on Kutaka island on 14 May, as a result of mistaking a signal from one of our fighter planes. Here are the circumstances surrounding this action: Operating in the area of southern Buckner Bay, a US Navy F4F fighter plane had overflown us, and then flew in toward the shore, firing his guns at a point onshore, then returning to us in a fly-over. Without radio communications between us, it was determined that he was signaling. The LCS 112 gunners were told to direct their 40mm fire at the point indicated by the F4F’s guns.
The varied abilities of the LCS ships were again proven on 17 May when the 112 put on its other “hat” as a fire-fighter. At 1705 a fire was observed on LCI 650. The 112 went alongside and put a fire-fighting party aboard as well as a rescue party for any possible injuries. The fire was quickly extinguished and all parties returned to their ships.
During the midwatch of 25 May at 0225, the flaming wreckage of an aircraft crashed into the water just off the port bow of the 112 in the area of Katchin Peninsula on the northeastern edge of Buckner Bay and the island Hamahika Shima. The wreckage was determined to be a Japanese plane that had apparently been hit in action nearby. A portion of the wreckage, an airplane wing section, was brought aboard. At 0420 that morning, a Japanese pilot was discovered in the water, swimming in the area of additional wreckage from his aircraft. He was hauled aboard, suffering only minor injuries, as well as shock and exposure. After receiving first aid treatment, the Japanese was confined, under watch, to one of the forward storage lockers beneath the #1 gun.
The 112 next moved southward toward Tsuken Shima, another small island on the eastern side of the bay. At 0849, a “bandit” was sighted approximately five miles to the east. It flew across Tsuken Shima, heading toward the Katchin Peninsula where it again changed course to the south, moving toward an anchored merchant vessel. The 112 opened fire on the aircraft at a range of about 2000 yards. Moving at an estimated 200 knots, the plane was identified as a “Tony”, flying at an altitude of 5,000 feet. The barrage continued for approximately 30 seconds, at which time a smoke plume trailed from the plane and it crashed shortly thereafter in the water about ½ mile from the merchant ship.
The sunrise routine continued 27 May with a heavy air attack that kept all ships in the harbor area firing for nearly two hours at the continuous waves of enemy aircraft. Each night the 112 continued its patrols against possible suicide boat attack. On 2 June the 112 departed Okinawa for Saipan and arrived there on 8 June as part of the Task Group.
Friday, 10 August was probably the most important day of the War in the Pacific! Word was heard, via Armed Forces Radio that the Japanese were ready to capitulate. The second atomic weapon, dropped on Nagasaki, had brought about the conclusion to the War.
It was over!
All the ships in the anchorage began sounding their horns and whistles, pyrotechnics were fired, and aboard the 112 we celebrated with beer and Pepsi Cola. On 15 August it was announced officially that Japan had agreed to our terms of surrender. We “dressed” ship, sounded the horns again, and threw some of the officers overboard. It was not an act of mutiny, just a mutual celebration.
On 14 September the 112 departed Saipan for occupational duty in Japan. We arrived in the Tokyo Bay area on 20 September and moved on with our task group to anchor in Mutsu Kaiwan, a bay in northern Honshu within sight of the city of Aomori. On 25 September we were underway at 0230, proceeding toward the south end of the bay. A rendezvous was effected at 0715 with the landing force three miles north of Aomori. There were two cruisers, ten APAs, six destroyers, five AKAs and 24 LCSs. Our mission was to provide support for the landing force, if needed. The LCVPs moved onto the beach at 0900. The landing was secured without incident by 0950. The LCSs moved into anchoring positions.
The Task Group moved on 3 October approximately 60 miles to the north, opposite the city of Hakodate. Again, troops were landed with the LCSs standing by as cover. None was needed. The apparent show of force was sufficient to quell any remaining feeling of hostility that may have been lingering.
On October 9 the 112 was back in the Tokyo Bay area in the Yokosuka Naval Base. This gave 112 crew members the opportunity to explore the caves and warehouses of Japan’s largest naval base. They saw stores of “Baka” bombs, two-man submarines and one-man torpedoes in waiting for the anticipated allied invasion of the Japanese homelands.
On October 27 the 112 departed Tokyo Bay bound for the Naval Base of Sasebo on Kyushu. A vicious storm struck as soon as the 112 and its group left Tokyo Bay. Shortly after midnight, the 112 lost the use of its starboard screw and was ordered to Yokosuka for repairs.
The LCS 112 entered Ise Wan in Nagoya Bay and proceeded to Yohkaichi to report for duty on November 19. This duty was not another form of duty on which LCSs were usually called. In this area, minesweeping operations were being conducted by British seagoing mine-sweeping vessels. We would act as their liaison and general utility. This was a unique arrangement for 112 since it was the first first-hand operation we had with ships of another country.
On December 17 the long-awaited orders came from the Port Director of Nagoya for the 112 to make ready for sailing to the States enroute Saipan. The 112 cast off its last ties to the Japanese mainland at 1200 on 18 December and moved toward the mouth of the bay and the start of the voyage home.
Christmas Day was spent moored in the harbor in Saipan. The 112 arrived at Eniwetok on January 2, 1946 and went on to Pearl Harbor, arriving there on January 14.
On January 20 we arrived in Seattle. The 112 was back in “the States”. Orders came on February 7 for the LCS 112 to move to Astoria, Oregon. The following day, entering the Columbia River, the 112 took its assigned berth at the Tongue Point Naval Station just outside Astoria to prepare for mothballing and storage.
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