Landing Craft Infantry pass Landing Ship Tank

Landing Craft Infantry pass Landing Ship Tank

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Landing Craft Infantry pass Landing Ship Tank

Here we see a line of Landing Craft, Infantry, passing a Landing Ship, Tank, with its distinctive line of funnels.

Compare American landing craft used during of World War II

A collection of United States landing craft used during World War II.


A collection of United States landing craft used during World War II.

Size comparison of landing craft from largest to smallest.

LST Landing Ship, Tank was 328 feet long

LCG(L)(Mk3) Landing Craft, Gun (Large) (Mark 3) was 192 feet long

LCT(R)(Mk3) Landing Craft, Tank (Rocket) (Mark 3) was 192 feet long

LCI(L) Landing Craft, Infantry (Large) was 158 feet 6 inches long

LCT(Mk6) Landing Craft, Tank (Mark 6) was 116 feet 5 inches long

LCVP Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel was 35 feet long

DUKW Amphibious Truck was 31 feet long

Sherman Tank was 19 feet 2 inches long

LST Landing Ship, Tank

Although the LST was nicknamed “Large Slow Target,” only 26 of the 10,520

American-built vessels were lost to enemy action during World War II.

The LST ranks with the aircraft carrier and submarine as one of the most significant ships of the war. Cargo for the LST consisted of 1 LCT, 18 Sherman tanks, and 160 troops.

Fire Support Landing Craft (includes LCG(L)(Mk3) and LCT(R)(Mk3))

Both of these vessels are modified LCT Mark 3s. The advantage of using landing craft for shore bombardment is in their ability to get closer to the beach than warships.

25 LCGs and 36 LCT(R)s participated in the Normandy landings.

LCG(L)(Mk3) Landing Craft, Gun (Large) (Mark 3) had a main armament consisting of two 4.7-inch naval guns.

LCT(R)(Mk3) Landing Craft, Tank (Rocket) (Mark 3)

The LCT(R) carried 1,066 five-inch rockets and fired them in salvos of 24. The rocket tubes were attached to the deck aiming was accomplished by steering the craft into proper firing position.

LCI(L) Landing Craft, Infantry (Large)

Infantry would descend from the deck using ramps located on either side of the bow.

Some 250 LCIs participated in the Normandy landings. Troop capacity for the LCI(L) was 200 (388 maximum).

LCT(Mk6) Landing Craft, Tank (Mark 6)

LCTs were built in a variety of sizes, the largest being 203 feet. Many LCTs were modified for close-in fire support. More than 900 LCTs, in their various forms, participated at D-Day. Tank capacity for the LCT was 4 Sherman tanks.

LCVP Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel

The most common landing craft of World War II thousands were built.

Troop capacity for the LCVP was 36.

Renowned for their excellent land mobility, DUKWs continued in service in military and civilian roles for decades after the war. Troop capacity for the DUKW was 25.


In essence, amphibious operations consist of the phases of strategic planning and preparation, operational transit to the intended theatre of operations, pre-landing rehearsal and disembarkation, troop landings, beachhead consolidation and conducting inland ground and air operations. Historically, within the scope of these phases a vital part of success was often based on the military logistics, naval gunfire and close air support. Another factor is the variety and quantity of specialised vehicles and equipment used by the landing force that are designed for the specific needs of this type of operation.

Amphibious operations can be classified as tactical or operational raids such as the Dieppe Raid, operational landings in support of a larger land strategy such as the Kerch–Eltigen Operation, and a strategic opening of a new Theatre of Operations, for example the Operation Avalanche.

The purpose of amphibious operations is usually offensive, except in cases of amphibious withdrawals, but is limited by the plan and terrain. Landings on islands less than 5,000 km 2 (1,900 sq mi) in size are tactical, usually with the limited objectives of neutralising enemy defenders and obtaining a new base of operation. Such an operation may be prepared and planned in days or weeks, and would employ a naval task force to land less than a division of troops.

The intent of operational landings is usually to exploit the shore as a vulnerability in the enemy's overall position, forcing redeployment of forces, premature use of reserves, and aiding a larger allied offensive effort elsewhere. Such an operation requiring weeks to months of preparation and planning, would use multiple task forces, or even a naval fleet to land corps-size forces, including on large islands, for example Operation Chromite. A strategic landing operation requires a major commitment of forces to invade a national territory in the archipelagic, such as the Battle of Leyte, or continental, such as Operation Neptune. Such an operation may require multiple naval and air fleets to support the landings, and extensive intelligence gathering and planning of over a year.

Although most amphibious operations are thought of primarily as beach landings, they can exploit available shore infrastructure to land troops directly into an urban environment if unopposed. In this case non-specialised ships can offload troops, vehicles and cargo using organic or facility wharf-side equipment. Tactical landings in the past have utilised small boats, small craft, small ships and civilian vessels converted for the mission to deliver troops to the water's edge.

Preparation and planning Edit

Preparation and planning the naval landing operation requires the assembly of vessels with sufficient capacity to lift necessary troops employing combat loading. It can also include conducting amphibious reconnaissance. The military intelligence services produce a briefing on the expected opponent which guides the organisation and equipping of the embarked force. First specially designed landing craft were used for the Gallipoli landings, and armoured tracked vehicles were also available for the Guadalcanal Campaign. Helicopters were first used to support beach landings during Operation Musketeer.

Hovercraft have been in use for naval landings by military forces since the 1960s.

Recorded amphibious warfare goes back to ancient times. The Sea Peoples menaced the Egyptians from the reign of Akhenaten as captured on the reliefs at Medinet Habu and Karnak.

The Hellenic city states routinely resorted to opposed assaults upon each other's shores, which they reflected upon in their plays and other expressions of art. The landing at Marathon by the ancient Persians on 9 September 490 BC, was the largest amphibious operation until it was eclipsed by the landings at the Battle of Gallipoli.

Marines Edit

In 1565, the island of Malta was invaded by the Ottoman Turks during the Great Siege of Malta, forcing its defenders to retreat to the fortified cities. A strategic choke point in the Mediterranean Sea, its loss would have been so menacing for the Western European kingdoms that forces were urgently raised in order to relieve the island. But it took four months to train, arm, and move a 5,500-man amphibious force to lift the siege.

Then, Philip II, King of Spain decided to train and assign amphibious-assault skilled units to the Royal Armada. These units were trained specifically for fighting on and from ships. The Spanish Marines were born. The idea was to set up a permanent assignation of land troops to the Royal Spanish Navy, available for the Crown.

Thus other countries adopted the idea and subsequently raised their own, early marine forces as well.

The first "professional" marine units were already task-trained amphibious troops, but instead of being disbanded, were kept for the Spanish Crown's needs. Their first actions took place all along the Mediterranean Sea where the Turks and pirate settlements were a risk for commerce and navigation: Algiers, Malta, Gelves.

The "Terceras Landing" in the Azores Islands on 25 May 1583, was a military feat as its planners decided to make a fake landing to distract the defending forces (5,000 Portuguese, English and French soldiers) also special seagoing barges were arranged in order to unload cavalry horses and 700 artillery pieces on the beach special rowing boats were armed with small cannons to support the landing boats special supplies were readied to be unloaded and support the 11,000-man landing force strength. The total strength of the amphibious force was 15,000 men, including an armada of 90 ships.

From the 15th to the 20th centuries, several European countries established and expanded overseas colonies. Amphibious operations mostly aimed to settle colonies and to secure strong points along navigational routes. Amphibious forces were fully organized and devoted to this mission, [ citation needed ] although the troops not only fought ashore, but on board ships.

By their nature amphibious assaults involve highly complex operations, demanding the coordination of disparate elements therefore disastrous results can ensue from insufficient planning. One of the most spectacular instances of such a failure occurred in 1741 at the Battle of Cartagena de Indias in New Granada, when a large British amphibious assault force with a divided command failed to overcome a much smaller but heavily fortified Spanish defence. Twenty years later, in 1762, a similar British force successfully landed at Havana in Cuba, besieged the city and captured it after a two-month campaign thanks to improved coordination of land and sea forces. [ citation needed ]

A major amphibious landing took place during the Siege of Quebec in 1759, as part of the Seven Years' War. The British produced the first specially designed landing-craft in order to enable their troops to cross the Saint Lawrence River in force. After considering and rejecting a number of plans for landings on the north shore of the river, General James Wolfe and his brigadiers decided in late August to land upriver of the city. [3]

The British prepared for their risky deployment upstream. Troops had already been aboard landing ships and drifting up and down the river for several days when on 12 September Wolfe made a final decision on the British landing site, selecting L'Anse-au-Foulon. Wolfe's plan of attack depended on secrecy and surprise — a key element of a successful amphibious operation — a small party of men would land by night on the north shore, climb the tall cliff, seize a small road, and overpower the garrison that protected it, allowing the bulk of his army (5,000 men) to ascend the cliff by the small road and then deploy for battle on the plateau. [4] The operation proved a success, leading to the surrender of the city, and heavily influenced subsequent engagements.

In 1762 British Royal Navy sailors and marines succeed in taking the capitals of the Spanish West and East Indies: Havana in Cuba and Manila in the Philippines respectively. In 1776 Samuel Nicholas and the Continental Marines, the "progenitor" of the United States Marine Corps, made a first successful landing in the Battle of Nassau in the Bahamas.

In 1782 The British rebuffed a long Franco-Spanish attempt to seize Gibraltar by water-borne forces. In 1783 a Franco-Spanish force invaded the British-held island of Minorca. In 1798 Minorca experienced yet another of its many changes of sovereignty when captured by a British landing.

Industrial era Edit

In the Mexican-American War, US forces under Winfield Scott launched the first major amphibious assault in US history in the 1847 Siege of Veracruz. During the Crimean War of 1853-1856 the anti-Russian alliance launched an Anglo-French amphibious operation against Russia at Bomarsund, Finland on 8 August 1854. During the American Civil War of 1861-1865 the United States made several amphibious assaults along the coastlines of the Confederate States. Actions at Hatteras Inlet (August 1861) and at Port Royal, South Carolina were the first of many attacks, others occurring on Roanoke Island, NC Galveston, TX Fort Sumter, Morris Island and James Island, SC and several more. The largest such clash happened in January 1865 at Fort Fisher - the largest and most powerful fort in the world at the time - which protected the entrance of Wilmington, North Carolina. The assaulting force consisted of over 15,000 men and 70 warships with over 600 guns.

During the American Civil War, the Mississippi Marine Brigade was established to act swiftly against Confederate forces operating near the Mississippi River and its tributaries. The unit consisted of artillery, cavalry and infantry with the United States Ram Fleet used as transportation. [5]

Amphibious warfare during the War of the Pacific of 1879 to 1883 saw coordination of army, navy and specialized units. The first amphibious assault of this war took place during the Battle of Pisagua when 2,100 Chilean troops successfully took Pisagua from 1,200 Peruvian and Bolivian defenders on 2 November 1879. Chilean Navy ships bombarded beach defenses for several hours at dawn, [ citation needed ] followed by open, oared boats landing army infantry and sapper units into waist-deep water, under enemy fire. An outnumbered first landing-wave fought at the beach the second and third waves in the following hours succeeded in overcoming resistance and moving inland. By the end of the day, an expeditionary army of 10,000 had disembarked at the captured port.

In 1881 Chilean ships transported approximately 30,000 men, along with their mounts and equipment, 500 miles (800 km) in order to attack Lima. [6] Chilean commanders commissioned purpose-built, flat-bottomed landing craft that would deliver troops in shallow water closer to the beach, possibly [ original research? ] the first purpose-built amphibious landing-craft in history: [7] "These [36 shallow draft, flat-bottomed] boats would be able to land three thousand men and twelve guns in a single wave".

Neutral military observers closely studied landing tactics and operations during the War of the Pacific: two Royal Navy ships monitored the Battle of Pisagua United States Navy observer Lt. Theodorus B. M. Mason included an account in his report The War on the Pacific Coast of South America. The USS Wachusett with Alfred Thayer Mahan in command, was stationed at Callao, Peru, protecting American interests during the final stages of the War of the Pacific. He formulated his concept of sea power while reading a history book in an English gentleman's club in Lima, Peru. This concept became the foundation for his celebrated The Influence of Sea Power upon History (1890). [8] [9]

An amphibious assault took place on the beaches of Veracruz, Mexico in 1914, when the United States Navy attacked and occupied the city as result of the Tampico Affair.

World War I marked the beginning of the first modern amphibious warfare operations. However, tactics and equipment were still rudimentary and required much improvisation.

At the time, British Royal Marine Light Infantry (merged with the Royal Marine Artillery in the 1920s to form the Royal Marines) were used primarily as naval parties onboard Royal Navy warships to maintain discipline and man ships' guns. The RMLI joined a new Royal Navy division, the Royal Naval Division, formed in 1914 (out of those not needed on ships) to fight on land however, throughout the conflict, army units were depended upon to provide the bulk, if not all, of troops used in amphibious landings.

The first amphibious assault of the war was the Battle of Bita Paka (11 September 1914) was fought south of Kabakaul, on the island of New Britain, and was a part of the invasion and subsequent occupation of German New Guinea by the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF) shortly after the outbreak of the First World War. [10] The first British amphibious assault of the war ended in disaster in November 1914. A large British Indian Army force was directed to launch an amphibious assault on Tanga, German East Africa. British actions prior to the assault, however, alerted the Germans to prepare to repel an invasion. The Indian forces suffered heavy casualties when they advanced on the city, forcing them to withdraw back to their boats, leaving much of their equipment behind. [11]

The Russian army and navy also grew adept to amphibious warfare in the Black Sea, conducting many raids and bombardments on Ottoman positions. [12]

On the 11 October 1917, German land and naval forces launched an amphibious assault, code named Operation Albion, on the islands of Saaremaa (Ösel), Hiiumaa (Dagö) and Muhu (Moon) they controlled the entrance to the Gulf of Riga. By the end of the month German forces had successfully overrun the islands forcing the Russians to abandon them with the loss of some 20,000 troops, 100 guns and the pre-dreadnought battleship Slava. The capture of the islands opened a route for German naval forces into the Gulf of Finland threatening the city of Petrograd, a fact that contributed to the cessation of hostilities on the Eastern front.

Gallipoli Edit

The first large scale amphibious operations, ones that were to heavily influence theorists in the decades to come, were conducted as part of the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915 against the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The Gallipoli peninsula forms the northern bank of the Dardanelles, a strait that provided a sea route to what was then the Russian Empire, one of the Allied powers during the war. Intending to secure it, Russia's allies Britain and France launched a naval attack followed by an amphibious landing on the peninsula with the eventual aim of capturing the Ottoman capital of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul). Although the naval attack was repelled and the land campaign failed, the campaign was the first modern amphibious landing, and featured air support, specialized landing craft and a naval bombardment.

The seaplane tender HMS Ark Royal supported the landings under the command of Commander Robert Clark-Hall. Seaplanes were used for aerial reconnaissance, ground support for the troops landing at Anzac Cove and the bombing of fortifications. Ark Royal was augmented by a squadron from the No. 3 Squadron of the Royal Naval Air Service, operating from a nearby island.

Initial landings took place in unmodified rowing boats that were extremely vulnerable to attack from the shore defences. The first purpose built landing craft were built for the campaign. SS River Clyde, built as a collier, was adapted to be a landing ship for the Landing at Cape Helles. Openings were cut in her steel hull as sally ports from which troops would emerge onto gangways and then to a bridge of smaller boats from the ship to the beach. Boiler plate and sandbags were mounted on her bow, and behind them a battery of 11 machine guns was installed. The machine gun battery was manned by Royal Naval Air Service men. Work began on painting River Clyde ' s hull sandy yellow as camouflage, but this was incomplete by the time of the landing. [13]

It was soon clear that the Turkish defence equipped with rapid-fire weapons, meant that ordinary landing boats were inadequate for the task. In February 1915, orders were placed for the design of purpose built landing craft. A design was created in four days resulting in an order for 200 'X' Lighters with a spoon-shaped bow to take shelving beaches and a drop down frontal ramp.

The first use took place after they had been towed to the Aegean and performed successfully in the 6 August landing at Suvla Bay of IX Corps, commanded by Commander Edward Unwin.

'X' Lighters, known to the soldiers as 'Beetles', carried about 500 men, displaced 135 tons and were based on London barges being 105 feet, 6 inches long, 21 feet wide, and 7 feet, 6 inches deep. The engines mainly ran on heavy oil and ran at a speed of approximately 5 knots. The sides of the ships were bullet proof, and was designed with a ramp on the bow for disembarkation. A plan was devised to land British heavy tanks from pontoons in support of the Third Battle of Ypres, but this was abandoned. [14]

The lessons of the Gallipoli campaign had a significant impact upon the development of amphibious operational planning, [15] and have since been studied by military planners prior to operations such as the Normandy Landings in 1944 and during the Falklands War in 1982. [16] The campaign also influenced US Marine Corps amphibious operations during the Pacific War, and continues to influence US amphibious doctrine.

During the interwar period the campaign "became a focal point for the study of amphibious warfare" in the United Kingdom and United States, [17] because it involved the four types of amphibious operations: the raid, demonstration, assault and withdrawal. [15] Analysis of the campaign before World War II led to a belief among many armed forces that amphibious assaults could not succeed against modern defences. The perception continued until the Normandy Landings in June 1944, despite some successful examples of amphibious operations earlier in the war, such as those in Italy, and at Tarawa and in the Gilbert Islands in the Pacific. [18] Although the negative perception prevailed among Allied planners in the interwar years, the war situation after 1940 meant that such operations had to be considered. However, despite early successes in North Africa and Italy, it was not until Normandy that the belief that opposed landings could not succeed was completely excised.

Interwar developments Edit

One of the first amphibious landings involving armour was conducted by the Irish National Army in 1922, during the Irish Civil War. Landings against Republican rebels at Westport, Fenit and Cork all involved armour. The Westport and Fenit landings involved light armoured cars and 18-pounder artillery guns being hoisted off the ships by crane. Heavier armoured cars were used at Cork, resulting in some difficulty. While Irish troops could reach the coast in small boats from naval vessels offshore, the ships had to dock to unload the heavy vehicles and artillery guns. These operations were a major success for the Irish government forces, mainly due to the element of surprise and the use of armoured vehicles and artillery. Government forces were able to capture all the major towns and cities in southern Ireland. [19]

The Alhucemas landing on 8 September 1925, performed by a Spanish-French coalition against rebel Berber tribesmen in the north of Morocco, was a landing where tanks were used for the first time and naval gunfire support was employed by the landing forces, directed by spotting personnel with communication devices.

Floating depots were organized with medical, water, ammunition and food supplies, to be dispatched ashore when needed. The barges used in this landing were the surviving "K" boats from Gallipoli.

In 1938, Japanese forces attacked Chinese defenders over the Yangtze River at the Battle of Wuhan. Soon, the Japanese would later further improve its techniques upon seaborne assaults by the Second Sino-Japanese War. By World War II, marines such as the Special Naval Landing Force, used amphibious landings to attack and sweep across territories in South East Asia. Their technique of surprise landings in continuous success and the support from the Navy, inspired the British and American landings in World War II such as D-Day and the Pacific Campaign. [20] [21]

Britain Edit

During the inter-war period, the combination of the negative experience at Gallipoli and economic stringency contributed to the delay in procuring equipment and adopting a universal doctrine for amphibious operations in the Royal Navy.

The costly failure of the Gallipoli campaign coupled with the emerging potential of airpower satisfied many in naval and military circles that the age of amphibious operations had come to a close. [22] Still, throughout the 1920s and 1930s, animated discussion in Staff Colleges in Britain and the Indian Army Staff College at Quetta surrounded the strategic potential of the Dardanelles campaign compared with the strategic stalemate of the Western Front. The economic austerity of the worldwide economic depression and the government's adoption of the Ten Year Rule assured that such theoretical talk would not result in the procurement of any large scale equipment.

Despite this outlook, the British produced the Motor Landing Craft in 1920, based on their experience with the early 'Beetle' armoured transport. The craft could put a medium tank directly onto a beach. From 1924, it was used with landing boats in annual exercises in amphibious landings. It was later called Landing Craft, Mechanized (LCM) and was the predecessor of all Allied landing craft mechanised (LCM). [23]

The Army and Royal Navy formed a landing craft committee to "recommend. the design of landing craft". [22] A prototype motor landing craft, designed by J. Samuel White of Cowes, was built and first sailed in 1926. [24] It weighed 16 tons and had a box-like appearance, having a square bow and stern. To prevent fouling of the propellers in a craft destined to spend time in surf and possibly be beached, a crude waterjet propulsion system was devised by White's designers. A Hotchkiss petrol engine drove a centrifugal pump which produced a jet of water, pushing the craft ahead or astern, and steering it, according to how the jet was directed. Speed was 5-6 knots and its beaching capacity was good. [25] By 1930, three MLC were operated by the Royal Navy.

For a short journey, from shore to shore, the cargo could be rolled or carried into the boat over its ramp. On longer journeys, ship to shore, a derrick would lower the MLC into the sea from the transporting vessel. The derrick would then lower the vehicle or cargo load. Upon touching down on shore, soldiers or vehicles exited by the bow ramp.

Although there was much official apathy toward amphibious operations, this began to change in the late 1930s. The Royal Naval Staff College at Greenwich, drafted a document detailing combined operations requirements and submitted it to the Chiefs of Staff in 1936. The document recommended the establishment of an inter-service 'Training and Development Centre', with a permanent force of Royal Marines attached to it. Its functions were to "train in all methods for the seizure of defended beaches develop the materiel necessary for such methods, with special regard to protection of troops, speed of landing, and the attainment of surprise and develop methods and materiel for the destruction or neutralization of enemy defenses, including bombardment and aircraft co-operation. [25]

The Inter-Service Training and Development Centre was established at Fort Cumberland, near Portsmouth in 1938, [26] and brought together representatives from the Royal Navy, Army, and Royal Air Force convened with the portfolio of developing methods and equipment to use in Combined Operations.

The Centre examined certain specific problems, including craft for landing tanks, beach organisation, floating piers, headquarters ships, amphibian tanks, underwater obstacles, the landing of water and petrol and the use of small craft in amphibious raids [25] By the end of 1939 the ISTDC had codified a policy for landings, and defended it at Staff College discussions. Operational experience during the Second World War introduced modifications to this landing policy, but it was essentially the policy used in the Torch and Husky landings four years later. [22]

The essential shape of this landing policy is described by Bernard Fergusson in The Watery Maze,

The system provided for an approach under cover of darkness in fast ships carrying special craft the craft being sent ashore while the ships lay out of sight of land small-craft smoke and gun protection while the beachhead was seized the landing of a reserve the capture of a covering position far enough inland to secure the beach and anchorage from enemy fire the bringing in of ships carrying the main body and finally the discharge of vehicles and stores by other craft specially designed to do so directly on to beaches. And in all this it was important to achieve tactical surprise. [25]

Among the many tactical innovations introduced by the Centre, codified in the Manual on Combined Operations and the Standard Naval Bombardment Code, was the use of Floating Piers (pontoons) to bridge the water gap, the creation of Smoke Generating devices to obscure the assault and the use of infra-red directional beacons for landing accuracy. The Centre also played a role in the development of the first specialized landing crafts, including the Assault Landing Craft, the Mechanized Landing Craft (LCM(1)), the Landing Craft Tank (Mk. 1), Support Landing Craft LCS(1), LCS(2) and Landing Ship Infantry. [27]

Divisional-sized amphibious landing exercises were carried out by the British Army in the 1930s. [28] [29]

United States Edit

In contrast to the British attitude, the U.S. military, especially the Marine Corps remained enthusiastic at the possibilities of amphibious warfare. The Marines Corps was searching for an expanded mission after World War I, during which it had merely been used as a junior version of the Army infantry. During the 1920s, it found a new mission — to be a fast-reacting, light infantry fighting force carried rapidly to far off locations by the US Navy. Its special role would be amphibious landings on enemy-held islands, but it took years to figure out how to do that. The Mahanian notion of a decisive fleet battle required forward bases for the Navy close to the enemy. After the Spanish–American War the Marines gained the mission of occupying and defending those forward bases, and began a training program on Culebra Island, Puerto Rico. [30]

As early as 1900 the General Board of the United States Navy considered building advance bases for naval operations in the Pacific and the Caribbean. The Marine Corps was given this mission in 1920, but the challenge was to avoid another disaster like Gallipoli. The conceptual breakthrough came in 1921 when Major "Pete" Ellis wrote Advanced Base Operations in Micronesia a secret 30,000-word manifesto that proved inspirational to Marine strategists and highly prophetic. [31] [32] To win a war in the Pacific, the Navy would have to fight its way through thousands of miles of ocean controlled by the Japanese—including the Marshall, Caroline, Marianas and Ryukyu island chains. If the Navy could land Marines to seize selected islands, they could become forward bases.

Ellis argued that with an enemy prepared to defend the beaches, success depended on high-speed movement of waves of assault craft, covered by heavy naval gunfire and attack from the air. He predicted that the decisive action would take place on the beach itself, so the assault teams would need not just infantry but also machine gun units, light artillery, light tanks, and combat engineers to defeat beach obstacles and defenses. Assuming the enemy had its own artillery, the landing craft would have to be specially built to protect the landing force. The failure at Gallipoli came because the Turks could easily reinforce the specific landing sites. The Japanese would be unable to land new forces on the islands under attack. [33]

Not knowing which of the many islands would be the American target, the Japanese would have to disperse their strength by garrisoning many islands that would never be attacked. An island like Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands, would, Ellis estimated, require two regiments, or 4,000 Marines. Guided by Marine observer aircraft, and supplemented by Marine light bombers, warships would provide enough firepower so that Marines would not need any heavy artillery (in contrast to the Army, which relied heavily on its artillery). Shelling defended islands was a new mission for warships. The Ellis model was officially endorsed in 1927 by the Joint Board of the Army and Navy (a forerunner of the Joint Chiefs of Staff). [30]

However, actual implementation of the new mission took another decade because the Marine Corps was preoccupied in Central America and the Navy was slow to start training in how to support the landings. The prototype advanced base force officially evolved into the Fleet Marine Force (FMF) in 1933. [34] In 1939, during the annual Fleet Landing Exercises, the FMF became interested in the military potential of Andrew Higgins's design of a powered, shallow-draught boat. These LCVPs, dubbed the 'Higgins Boats', were reviewed and passed by the U.S. Naval Bureau of Construction and Repair. Soon, the Higgins boats were developed to a final design with a ramp, and were produced in large numbers.

Second World War Edit

By the Second World War tactics and equipment had moved on. The first use of British landing craft in an opposed landing in the Second World War, saw the disembarkation of French Foreign Legionnaires of the 13th Demi-Brigade and supporting French Hotchkiss H39 tanks on the beach at Bjerkvik, eight miles (13 km) above Narvik, on 13 May during the Norwegian campaign. [35] [36]

The first major and successful amphibious operation was Operation Ironclad, a British campaign to capture Vichy French-controlled Madagascar. The naval contingent consisted of over 50 vessels, drawn from Force H, the British Home Fleet and the British Eastern Fleet, commanded by Rear Admiral Edward Neville Syfret.

The fleet included the aircraft carrier Illustrious, her sister ship Indomitable and the aging battleship Ramillies to cover the landings. The first wave of the British 29th Infantry Brigade and No. 5 Commando landed in assault craft on 5 May 1942, follow-up waves were by two brigades of the 5th Infantry Division and Royal Marines. Air cover was provided mainly by Fairey Albacore and Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers which attacked Vichy shipping.

Purpose built landing craft were among the vessels used at the evacuation from Dunkirk (Operation Dynamo) [37] and an amphibious operation was tried out at Dieppe in 1942. The operation proved a costly failure, but the lessons, hard learned, were used later. Many small-scale operations were conducted by the Allies on the Axis-held coast of Europe, including raids on the Lofoten Islands, St Nazaire and Bruneval.

Specialized infantry landing craft Edit

In the run up to World War II, many specialized landing craft, both for infantry and vehicles, were developed. In November 1938, the Inter-Service Training and Development Centre proposed a new type of landing craft. [22] Its specifications were to weigh less than ten long tons, to be able to carry the thirty-one men of a British Army platoon and five assault engineers or signallers, and to be so shallow drafted as to be able to land them, wet only up to their knees, in eighteen inches of water. [22] All of these specifications made the Landing Craft Assault a separate set of requirements were laid down for a vehicle and supplies carrier, although previously the two roles had been combined in the Motor Landing Craft.

J. S. White of Cowes built a prototype to the Fleming design. [38] Eight weeks later the craft was doing trials on the Clyde. All landing craft designs must find a compromise between two divergent priorities the qualities that make a good sea boat are opposite those that make a craft suitable for beaching. [39] The craft had a hull built of double-diagonal mahogany planking. The sides were plated with "10lb. DIHT" armour, a heat treated steel based on D1 steel, [40] in this case Hadfield’s Resista ¼”. [41]

The Landing Craft Assault remained the most common British and Commonwealth landing craft of World War II, and the humblest vessel admitted to the books of the Royal Navy on D-Day. Prior to July 1942, these craft were referred to as "Assault Landing Craft" (ALC), but "Landing Craft Assault" (LCA) was used thereafter to conform with the joint US-UK nomenclature system. [42]

The Landing Craft Infantry was a stepped up amphibious assault ship, developed in response to a British request for a vessel capable of carrying and landing substantially more troops than the smaller Landing Craft Assault (LCA). The result was a small steel ship that could land 200 troops, traveling from rear bases on its own bottom at a speed of up to 15 knots. The original British design was envisioned as being a "one time use" vessel which would simply ferry the troops across the English Channel, and were considered an expendable vessel. As such, no troop sleeping accommodations were placed in the original design. This was changed shortly after initial use of these ships, when it was discovered that many missions would require overnight accommodations.

The first LCI(L)s entered service in 1943 chiefly with the Royal Navy (RN) and United States Navy. Some 923 LCI were built in ten American shipyards and 211 provided under lend-lease to the Royal Navy.

Specialized vehicle landing craft Edit

Following the Inter-Service Training and Development Centre’s (ISTDC) successful development of the infantry carrying LCA, attention turned to the means of efficiently delivering a tank to a beach in 1938. Inquires were made of the army as to the heaviest tank that might be employed in a landing operation. The army wanted to be able to land a 12-ton tank, but the ISTDC, anticipating weight increases in future tank models specified 16 tons burthen for Mechanised Landing Craft designs. [22] Another governor on any design was the need to land tanks and other vehicles in less than approximately 2 ½ feet of water. [43]

Design work began at John I. Thornycroft Ltd. in May 1938 with trials completing in February 1940. [25] Although early LCM(1)s were powered by two Thornycroft 60 bhp petrol engines, the majority were powered by Chrysler, in-line, 6-cylinder Crown petrol engines. Constructed of steel and selectively clad with armour plate, this shallow-draft, barge-like boat with a crew of 6, could ferry a tank of 16 long tons to shore at 7 knots (13 km/h). Depending on the weight of the tank to be transported the craft might be lowered into the water by its davits already loaded or could have the tank placed in it after being lowered into the water.

Although the Royal Navy had the Landing Craft Mechanised at its disposal, in 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill demanded an amphibious vessel capable of landing at least three 36-ton heavy tanks directly onto a beach, able to sustain itself at sea for at least a week, and inexpensive and easy to build. Admiral Maund, Director of the Inter-Service Training and Development Centre (which had developed the Landing Craft Assault [44] ), gave the job to naval architect Sir Roland Baker, who within three days completed initial drawings for a 152-foot (46 m) landing craft with a 29-foot (8.8 m) beam and a shallow draft. Ship builders Fairfields and John Brown agreed to work out details for the design under the guidance of the Admiralty Experimental Works at Haslar. Tank tests with models soon determined the characteristics of the craft, indicating that it would make 10 knots (19 km/h 12 mph) on engines delivering about 700 hp (520 kW). [45] Designated the LCT Mark 1, 20 were ordered in July 1940 and a further 10 in October 1940. [44]

The first LCT Mark 1 was launched by Hawthorn Leslie in November 1940. It was an all-welded 372-ton steel-hulled vessel that drew only 3 feet (0.91 m) of water at the bow. Sea trials soon proved the Mark 1 to be difficult to handle and almost unmanageable in some sea conditions. The designers set about correcting the faults of the Mark 1 in the LCT Mark 2. Longer and wider, three Paxman diesel or Napier Lion petrol engines replaced the Hall-Scotts, and 15 and 20 lb. armoured shielding was added to the wheelhouse and gun tubs.

The Mark 3 had an additional 32-foot (9.8 m) midsection that gave it a length of 192 feet (59 m) and a displacement of 640 tons. Even with this extra weight, the vessel was slightly faster than the Mark 1. The Mk.3 was accepted on 8 April 1941, and was prefabricated in five sections. The Mark 4 was slightly shorter and lighter than the Mk.3, but had a much wider beam (38 ft 9 in (11.81 m)) and was intended for cross channel operations as opposed to seagoing use. When tested in early assault operations, like the ill-fated Canadian commando raid on Dieppe in 1942, the lack of manoeuvring ability led to the preference for a shorter overall length in future variants, most of which were built in the United States.

When the United States entered the war in December 1941, the U.S. Navy had no amphibious vessels at all, and found itself obliged to consider British designs already in existence. One of these, advanced by K.C. Barnaby of Thornycroft, was for a double-ended LCT to work with landing ships. The Bureau of Ships quickly set about drawing up plans for landing craft based on Barnaby's suggestions, although with only one ramp. The result, in early 1942, was the LCT Mark 5, a 117-foot craft with a beam of 32 feet that could accommodate five 30-ton or four 40-ton tanks or 150 tons of cargo. With a crew of twelve men and one officer, this 286 ton landing craft had the merit of being able to be shipped to combat areas in three separate water-tight sections aboard a cargo ship or carried pre-assembled on the flat deck of an LST. The Mk.5 would be launched by heeling the LST on its beam to let the craft slide off its chocks into the sea, or cargo ships could lower each of the three sections into the sea where they were joined together. [45]

A further development was the Landing Ship, Tank designation, built to support amphibious operations by carrying significant quantities of vehicles, cargo, and landing troops directly onto an unimproved shore. The British evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940 demonstrated to the Admiralty that the Allies needed relatively large, ocean-going ships capable of shore-to-shore delivery of tanks and other vehicles in amphibious assaults upon the continent of Europe. The first purpose-built LST design was HMS Boxer. To carry 13 Churchill infantry tanks, 27 vehicles and nearly 200 men (in addition to the crew) at a speed of 18 knots, it could not have the shallow draught that would have made for easy unloading. As a result, each of the three (Boxer, Bruiser, and Thruster) ordered in March 1941 had a very long ramp stowed behind the bow doors.

In November 1941, a small delegation from the British Admiralty arrived in the United States to pool ideas with the United States Navy's Bureau of Ships with regard to development of ships and also including the possibility of building further Boxers in the US. [46] During this meeting, it was decided that the Bureau of Ships would design these vessels. The LST(2) design incorporated elements of the first British LCTs from their designer, Sir Rowland Baker, who was part of the British delegation. This included sufficient buoyancy in the ships' sidewalls that they would float even with the tank deck flooded. [47] The LST(2) gave up the speed of HMS Boxer at only 10 knots but had a similar load while drawing only 3 feet forward when beaching.

In three separate acts dated 6 February 1942, 26 May 1943, and 17 December 1943, Congress provided the authority for the construction of LSTs along with a host of other auxiliaries, destroyer escorts, and assorted landing craft. The enormous building program quickly gathered momentum. Such a high priority was assigned to the construction of LSTs that the previously laid keel of an aircraft carrier was hastily removed to make room for several LSTs to be built in her place. The keel of the first LST was laid down on 10 June 1942 at Newport News, Va., and the first standardized LSTs were floated out of their building dock in October. Twenty-three were in commission by the end of 1942. Lightly armored, they could steam cross the ocean with a full load on their own power, carrying infantry, tanks and supplies directly onto the beaches. Together with 2,000 other landing craft, the LSTs gave the troops a protected, quick way to make combat landings, beginning in summer 1943. [48]

D-day Edit

The most famous amphibious assault of the war, and of all time, was the Normandy Landings on 6 June 1944, in which British, Canadian, and US forces were landed at Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword beaches in the largest amphibious operation in history.

The organizational planning of the landing itself (Operation Neptune) was in the hands of Admiral Bertram Ramsay. It covered the landing of the troops and their re-supply. Many innovative elements were included in the operation to ensure its success.

Operation Pluto was a scheme developed by Arthur Hartley, chief engineer with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, to construct an undersea oil pipeline under the English Channel between England and France to provide logistical support to the landed armies. Allied forces on the European continent required a tremendous amount of fuel. Pipelines were considered necessary to relieve dependence on oil tankers, which could be slowed by bad weather, were susceptible to German submarines, and were also needed in the Pacific War. Geoffrey William Lloyd, the Minister for Petroleum gained the support of Admiral Mountbatten, Chief of Combined Operations for the operation. [49]

Two types of pipeline were developed. The first type was the flexible HAIS pipe with a 3 inch ( 75 mm ) diameter lead core, weighing around 55 long tons per nautical mile ( 30 t/km ), was essentially a development by Siemens Brothers (in conjunction with the National Physical Laboratory) of their existing undersea telegraph cables, and known as HAIS (from Hartley-Anglo-Iranian-Siemens). The second type was a less flexible steel pipe of similar diameter, developed by engineers from the Iraq Petroleum Company and the Burmah Oil Company. [50]

In June 1942 the Post Office cable ship Iris laid lengths of both Siemens’ and Henleys’ cable in the Clyde. The pipeline was completely successful and PLUTO was formally brought into the plans for the invasion of Europe. The project was deemed "strategically important, tactically adventurous, and, from the industrial point of view, strenuous" [ citation needed ] . After full-scale testing of an 83 km (45 nautical mile) HAIS pipe across the Bristol Channel between Swansea in Wales and Watermouth in North Devon, the first line to France was laid on 12 August 1944, over the 130 km (70 nautical miles) from Shanklin Chine on the Isle of Wight across the English Channel to Cherbourg. A further HAIS pipe and two HAMELs followed. As the fighting moved closer to Germany, 17 other lines (11 HAIS and 6 HAMEL) were laid from Dungeness to Ambleteuse in the Pas-de-Calais.

In January 1945, 305 tonnes (300 long tons) of fuel was pumped to France per day, which increased tenfold to 3,048 tonnes (3,000 long tons) per day in March, and eventually to 4,000 tons (almost 1,000,000 Imperial gallons) per day. In total, over 781 000 m³ (equal to a cube with 92 metre long sides or over 172 million imperial gallons) of gasoline had been pumped to the Allied forces in Europe by VE day, providing a critical supply of fuel until a more permanent arrangement was made, although the pipeline remained in operation for some time after. [ when? ]

Portable harbours were also prefabricated as temporary facilities to allow rapid offloading of cargo onto the beaches during the Allied invasion of Normandy. The Dieppe Raid of 1942 had shown that the Allies could not rely on being able to penetrate the Atlantic Wall to capture a port on the north French coast. The problem was that large ocean-going ships of the type needed to transport heavy and bulky cargoes and stores needed sufficient depth of water under their keels, together with dockside cranes, to off-load their cargo and this was not available except at the already heavily defended French harbours. Thus, the Mulberries were created to provide the port facilities necessary to offload the thousands of men and vehicles, and tons of supplies necessary to sustain Operation Overlord and the Battle of Normandy. The harbours were made up of all the elements one would expect of any harbour: breakwater, piers, roadways etc.

At a meeting following the Dieppe Raid, Vice-Admiral John Hughes-Hallett declared that if a port could not be captured, then one should be taken across the Channel. [51] The concept of Mulberry harbours began to take shape when Hughes-Hallett moved to be Naval Chief of Staff to the Overlord planners.

The proposed harbours called for many huge caissons of various sorts to build breakwaters and piers and connecting structures to provide the roadways. The caissons were built at a number of locations, mainly existing ship building facilities or large beaches like Conwy Morfa around the British coast. The works were let out to commercial construction firms including Balfour Beatty, Costain, Nuttall, Henry Boot, Sir Robert McAlpine and Peter Lind & Company, who all still operate today, and Cubitts, Holloway Brothers, Mowlem and Taylor Woodrow, who all have since been absorbed into other businesses that are still operating. [52] On completion they were towed across the English Channel by tugs [53] to the Normandy coast at only 4.3 Knots (8 km/h or 5 mph), built, operated and maintained by the Corps of Royal Engineers, under the guidance of Reginald D. Gwyther, who was appointed CBE for his efforts.

By 9 June, just 3 days after D-Day, two harbours codenamed Mulberry "A" and "B" were constructed at Omaha Beach and Arromanches, respectively. However, a large storm on 19 June destroyed the American harbour at Omaha, leaving only the British harbour still intact but damaged, which included damage to the 'Swiss Roll' which had been deployed as the most western floating roadway had to be taken out of service. The surviving Mulberry "B" came to be known as Port Winston at Arromanches. While the harbour at Omaha was destroyed sooner than expected, Port Winston saw heavy use for 8 months—despite being designed to last only 3 months. In the 10 months after D-Day, it was used to land over 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles, and 4 million tonnes of supplies providing much needed reinforcements in France. [54] [55]

Other World War II amphibious operations Edit

Other large amphibious operations in the European theatre of World War II and the war in the Pacific include:

Location Operation Date Notes
Norway Operation Weserübung (German: Unternehmen Weserübung) 9 April 1940 German attack on Norway and Denmark
Cross English Channel Operation Sea Lion (German: Unternehmen Seelöwe) postponed indefinitely on 17 September 1940 Not carried out after Germany failed to gain air supremacy
Battle of Crete Operation Mercury (German: Unternehmen Merkur) 20 May 1941 Axis invasion of Crete. Primarily an airborne assault. The battle lasted about 10 days
Crimea Feodosia Landing December 1941 Soviet forces established a bridgehead on the Kerch Peninsula which they maintained until May 1942, but failed to prevent the fall of Sevastopol.
Crimea Yevpatoria assault January 1942 Stormy weather prevented the reinforcement of Soviet troops from Sevastopol who landed at Yevpatoria and occupied part of the town for 4 days.
North Africa campaign Operation Torch 8 November 1942 Three Allied task-forces covering the coasts of French Morocco and Algeria
Sicily Operation Husky began on the night of 9–10 July 1943 Largest amphibious operation of World War II in terms of size of landing-zone and number of divisions put ashore on the first day see also Operation Mincemeat (disinformation), Operation Ladbroke (glider landings) and Operation Fustian (parachute brigade, with glider-borne forces in support)
Salerno Operation Avalanche 9 September 1943 Also involved two supporting operations: in Calabria (Operation Baytown, 3 Sept) and Taranto (Operation Slapstick, 9 September).
Crimea Kerch-Eltigen Operation November 1943 Soviet landings preceding the recapture of the Crimean Peninsula from German and Romanian forces.
Anzio Operation Shingle 22 January 1944 Bridgehead pinned down until May 23, 1944, when a breakout (Operation Diadem) allowed a move on Rome
Southern France Operation Dragoon 15 August 1944 Operation Dragoon forced a German retreat and accelerated the liberation of France. See also preliminary effort (Operation Sitka), diversion (Operation Span), airborne operations (1st Airborne Task Force)

Korean War Edit

During the Korean War the U.S. X Corps, consisting of the 1st Marine Division and 7th Infantry Division landed at Inchon. Conceived of and commanded by U.S. General Douglas MacArthur, this landing is considered by many military historians to have been a tactical jewel, one of the most brilliant amphibious maneuvers in history [ citation needed ] (See analysis in main article).

The success of this battle eventually resulted in link up with U.S. Army forces that broke out of the Pusan perimeter, and led by the 1st Cavalry Division and its Task Force Lynch, cleared much of South Korea. A second landing by the Tenth Corps on the east coast approached the Chosin Reservoir and hydroelectric plants that powered much of Communist China's heavy industry, and led to intervention by Chinese forces on behalf of North Korea. Amphibious landings also took place during the First Indochina War, notably during Operation Camargue, one of the largest of the conflict. [57]

Suez Crisis and Falklands War Edit

The British Royal Marines made their first post-World War II amphibious assault during the Suez Crisis of 1956 when they successfully landed at Suez on 6 November as part of a joint seaborne/airborne operation code-named MUSKETEER.

Despite all the progress that was seen during World War II, there were still fundamental limitations in the types of coastline that were suitable for assault. Beaches had to be relatively free of obstacles, and have the right tidal conditions and the correct slope. However, the development of the helicopter fundamentally changed the equation.

The first use of helicopters in an amphibious assault came during the Anglo-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt in 1956 (the Suez War). Two British light fleet carriers were pressed into service to carry helicopters, and a battalion-sized airborne assault was made. Two of the other carriers involved, HMS Bulwark (R08) and HMS Albion, were converted in the late 1950s into dedicated "commando carriers."

Nearly 30 years later in the Falklands War, the 1st Marines Brigade of the Argentine Marine Corps along with Navy's Special Forces performed Operation Rosario landing at Mullet Creek near Stanley on 2 April 1982, while later the Royal Marines' 3 Commando Brigade, (augmented by the British Army's Parachute Regiment) landed at Port San Carlos on 21 May 1982 during Operation Sutton.

Landing at Cyprus Edit

The Turkish Armed Forces launched an amphibious assault on 20 July 1974, on Kyrenia, following the 1974 Cypriot coup d'état. The Turkish naval force provided naval gunfire support during the landing operation and transported the amphibious forces from the port of Mersin to the island. The Turkish landing forces consisted of around 3,000 troops, tanks, armoured personnel carriers and artillery pieces. [58]

Iran-Iraq war Edit

During the Iran–Iraq War, the Iranians launched Operation Dawn 8 (Persian: عملیات والفجر ۸), in which 100,000 troops comprising 5 Army divisions and 50,000 men from the IRGC and the Basij advanced in a two-pronged offensive into southern Iraq. Taking place between 9 and 25 February, the assault across the Shatt al-Arab achieved significant tactical and operational surprise. The Iranians launched their assault on the peninsula at night, their men arriving on rubber boats. Iranian Navy SEALs spearheaded the offensive despite a shortage of gear. Prior to this action Iranian Naval Commandos performed reconnaissance of the Faw Peninsula. The Iranian SEALs penetrated an obstacle belt and isolated Iraqi bunkers whose troops had taken cover from the heavy rains inside or were sleeping. Iranian demolition teams detonated charges on the obstacles to create a path for the Iranian infantry waiting to begin their assault.

Not only did the amphibious landings provide a significant lodgement behind Iraq's tactical front, but they also created a psychological shock wave throughout the Persian Gulf region. Soon after the initial landings, Iranian combat engineers were able to construct bridges to improve the flow of ground troops into the lodgement area. Iran managed to maintain their foothold in Al-Faw against several Iraqi counter-offensives and chemical attacks for another month despite heavy casualties until a stalemate was reached. The Faw Peninsula was later recaptured by Iraqi forces, by the massive and illegal use of chemical weapons, the same day as the US launched Operation Praying Mantis on Iran, destroying their navy.

Persian Gulf War Edit

During the Persian Gulf War, Assault Craft Unit 5 was able to position U.S. Marine and naval support off the coast of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. This force was composed of 40 amphibious assault ships, the largest such force to be assembled since the Battle of Inchon. [59] The objective was to fix the six Iraqi divisions deployed along the Kuwaiti coast. The purpose behind this amphibious maneuver (known as an amphibious demonstration) was to prevent 6 Iraqi divisions poised for the defense of the littorals from being able to actively engage in combat at the real front. The operation was extremely successful in keeping more than 41,000 Iraqi forces from repositioning to the main battlefield. As a result, the Marines maneuvered through the Iraq defense of southern Kuwait and outflanked the Iraqi coastal defense forces.

Iraq War Edit

An amphibious assault was carried out by Royal Marines, U.S. Marines and units of the Polish special forces when they landed at the Al-Faw Peninsula on 20 March 2003 during the Iraq War.

Invasion of Anjouan Edit

On March 25, 2008, Operation Democracy in Comoros was launched in the Comoros by government and African Union troops. The amphibious assault led to the ousting of Colonel Bacar's government, which had taken over the autonomous state of Adjouan.

Battle of Kismayo (2012) Edit

From September 28 to October 1, 2012, the Somali National Army led an assault in conjuncture with allied militia and Kenyan troops to liberate the city of Kismayo from insurgent control. The operation, known as Operation Sledge Hammer, started with the landing of Somali and Kenyan troops outside the city of Kismayo. By October 1, the coalition forces were able to push Al-Shabaab out of the city.

Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1940-1945

  • Displacement: 387 tons (full load)
  • Length: 160'4"
  • Beam: 23'3"
  • Draft: Landing: 2'10" forward, 5'3" aft (LCI(G)-1--350) 2'8" forward, 5' aft (LCI(G)-351 & above)
  • Speed: 15.5 knots
  • Armament: 2-3 40mm, 3-4 20mm, 6 .50 cal, 10 Mk 7 & 2 Mk 22 rocket launchers
  • Complement: 5 officers, 65 enlisted
  • 8 GM diesels, twin screws
  • Converted from Landing Craft, Infantry (Large) -- LCI(L) for close-in fire support of landing operations

LCI(L) -- Landing Craft, Infantry (Large)

LCI(L)-1 Class

  • Displacement: 387 tons (full load)
  • Length: 160'
  • Beam: 23'3"
  • Draft:5'4" forward, 5'11" aft (full load)
  • Speed: 15.5 knots
  • Armament: 4 20mm
  • Complement 3 officers, 21 enlisted
  • Capacity: 6 officers and 182 troops or 75 tons cargo
  • 2 sets G.M. diesel engins twin variable-pitch screws, 1600 BHP

LCI(L)-351 Class

  • Displacement: 385 tons (full load)
  • Length: 160'4"
  • Beam: 23'3"
  • Draft: 5'8" forward, and aft (full load)
  • Speed: 15.5 knots
  • Armament: 5 20mm
  • Complement: 4 officers, 25 enlisted
  • Capacity: 9 officers, 200 enlisted or 75 tons cargo
  • 2 sets G.M. diesel engins twin variable-pitch screws, 1600 BHP

LCI(M) -- Landing Craft, Infantry (Mortar)

  • Displacement: 385 tons (full load)
  • Length: 160'4"
  • Beam: 23'3"
  • Draft: 5'4" forward, 5'11" aft (full load)
  • Speed: 15.5 knots
  • Armament: 1 40m, 3 4.2 chemical mortars, 4 20mm
  • Complement: 4 officers, 49 enlisted
  • 8 GM diesels, twin screws
  • Converted from LCI(L) and LCI(G)

LCI(R) -- Landing Craft, Infantry (Rocket)

  • Displacement: 385 tons (full load)
  • Length: 160'4"
  • Beam: 23'3"
  • Draft: 5'4" forward, 5'11" aft (full load)
  • Speed: 15.5 knots
  • Complement: 3 officers, 31 enlisted
  • Armament: 1 40mm, 4 20mm, 6 5" rocket launchers
  • 8 GM diesels, twin screws
  • Converted while building from LCI(L)s and LCI(G)s

LCS(L) -- Landing Craft, Support (Large)

Click on "LCS(L)-##" for link to page with specifications, history, photographs (where available).

  • Displacement: 383 tons (full load)
  • Length: 158'5"
  • Beam: 23'3"
  • Draft: 4'6" forward, 5'10" aft
  • Speed:
  • Armament: 1 3"/50 DP, 2x2 40mm, 4 20mm
  • Complement: 5 officers, 68 enlisted
  • 2 G.M. diesel engines, model 6051, 1800 hp.
  • Converted from LCI(L) hulls, but entirely rearranged internally
  • Provides fire support for landing operations intercepts and destroys inter-island barge traffic

Additional Resources

    LCSL National Association (1-130)
      Mr. Jeff Jeffers
      PO Box 9087
      Waukegan, IL 60079-9087
      847-623-7450 (O)
      847-360-0560 (H)
      Central Point, OR: Hellgate Press, 2000
      ISBN 1-55571-522-2
      Turner Publishing Company
      ISBN: 1-56311-251-5

    LCT -- Landing Craft, Tank

    Additional Links

    Mark 5 Type

    Additional Links

    • Displacement: 286 tons (landing)
    • Length: 117'6"
    • Beam: 32'
    • Draft: 2'10" forward, 4'2" aft (landing)
    • Speed: 8 knots
    • Armament: 2 20mm
    • Complement: 1 officer, 12 enlisted
    • Capacity: 5 30-ton or 4 40-ton or 3 50-ton tanks or 9 trucks or 150 tons cargo
    • 3 Gray 225 hp diesels, triple screws

    Mark VI Type

    • Displacement: 309 tons (landing)
    • Length: 119'
    • Beam: 32'
    • Draft: 3'7" forward, 4' aft (landing)
    • Speed: 8 knots
    • Armament: 2 20mm
    • Complement: 1 officer, 12 enlisted
    • Capacity: 4 medium or 3 50-ton tanks or 150 tons cargo accomodations for 8 troops
    • 3 Gray 225 hp diesels triple screws

    Return to HyperWar: World War II on the World Wide Web Last updated: 23 September 2010

    Landing ship, tank

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    Landing ship, tank (LST), naval ship specially designed to transport and deploy troops, vehicles, and supplies onto foreign shores for the conduct of offensive military operations. LSTs were designed during World War II to disembark military forces without the use of dock facilities or the various cranes and lifts necessary to unload merchant ships. They gave the Allies the ability to conduct amphibious invasions at any location on a foreign shore that had a gradually sloped beach. This ability permitted the Allies to assault poorly defended sectors, thereby achieving operational surprise and, in some cases, even tactical surprise.

    Specially designed landing ships were first employed by the British in Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa in 1942. The British recognized the need for such ships after the debacle at Dunkirk in 1940, when they left behind tons of badly needed equipment because no vessels were available with the capability to bridge the gap between the sea and the land. Following the evacuation, Prime Minister Winston Churchill sent his minister of supply a memorandum posing the question,

    What is being done about designing and planning vessels to transport tanks across the sea for a British attack on enemy countries? These must be able to move six or seven hundred vehicles in one voyage and land them on the beach, or, alternatively, take them off the beaches.

    As an interim measure, three shallow-draft tankers were converted to LSTs. The bows were redesigned so that a door, hinged at the bottom, and a 68-foot- (21-metre-) long double ramp could be fitted to the vessels. These modifications made it possible for vehicles to disembark directly from the ship to the beach. Both the new design and the vessel were considered unsatisfactory, but the concept was sound.

    At the request of the British, the Americans undertook the redesign and production of LSTs in November 1941, and John Niedermair of the Bureau of Ships designed a ship with a large ballast system. Deep-draft ships were necessary to cross the ocean, and shallow-draft vessels were required to bridge the water gap. A newly proposed ballast system gave one ship both capabilities: when at sea the LST took on water for stability, and during landing operations the water was pumped out to produce a shallow-draft vessel. The American-built LST Mk2, or LST(2), was 328 feet in length and 50 feet wide. It could carry 2,100 tons. Built into the bow were two doors that opened outward to a width of 14 feet. Most Allied vehicles could be transported on and off-loaded from LST(2)s. The lower deck was the tank deck, where 20 Sherman tanks could be loaded. Lighter vehicles were carried on the upper deck. An elevator was used to load and off-load vehicles, artillery, and other equipment from the upper deck in later models a ramp replaced the elevator. The vessel was powered by two diesel engines, and it had a maximum speed of 11.5 knots and a cruising speed of 8.75 knots. LSTs were lightly armed with a variety of weapons. A typical American LST was armed with seven 40-mm and twelve 20-mm antiaircraft guns.

    The first mass-produced American LST, the LST-1, was commissioned on December 14, 1942. A total of 1,051 LST(2)s were produced in American shipyards during the war. Construction time declined so that by 1945 it took approximately two months to construct an LST—half the time it took in 1943. Through lend-lease the British were provided with 113 LST(2)s. LSTs were in great demand in both the Pacific and Europe. They were used in the invasions of Sicily, Italy, Normandy, and southern France. At Normandy the Americans’ employment of LSTs enabled them to meet their off-loading requirements following the destruction of their Mulberry artificial harbour in a storm. In the Southwest Pacific theatre, General Douglas MacArthur employed LSTs in his “island-hopping campaigns” and in the invasion of the Philippines. In the Central Pacific, Admiral Chester Nimitz used them at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. LST(2)s served as troop ships, ammunition ships, hospital ships, repair ships, and numerous other special-purpose vessels. A number of LST(2)s were even fitted with flight decks for small reconnaissance aircraft. During the war, 26 LSTs were lost in action, and 13 more were lost in accidents and rough seas.

    World War II Database

    ww2dbase Early in the European War, the British drew up a requirement for a design tentatively named as "Giant Raiding Craft", or "GRC". It was envisioned that large craft around the size o 150-feet in length would be able to deliver 200 soldiers directly to beaches up to 230 miles away from the United Kingdom to conduct occasional raids, which would attempt to tie down a significant German presence in occupied France to defend against such raids. As the development was underway, the British approached the United States Navy for potential construction contracts, but the US Navy was not interested. The United States Army, with its own need for landing craft, accepted the joint venture. The final design came out to be a craft with length of 160 feet, beam of 23 feet, forward draft of 2 feet 6 inches and stern draft of 4 feet 5 inches. The craft was designed to carry a crew of 24 (3 officers and 21 enlisted) and either 188 passengers (6 officers and 182 enlisted) or 75 tons of cargo. In addition to the cargo or passenger space, holds belowdecks were also capable of holding 120 tons of fuel, 240 gallons of lubricating oil, and 36 tons of fresh water each landing craft. The craft's design was kept very simple in order to speed up construction, thus the shape of the craft boxy. Initially, they were envisioned to be completely unarmed, but it was soon realized that it was unrealistic to assume that these transports did not need to be armed, as they would come under fire as they disembarked troops on hostile beaches. They were thus provided with light anti-aircraft armament consisted of four or five Oerlikon 20-millimeter Mk 4 automatic cannons. Some of them had a Bofors 40-millimeter cannon on the bow for greater firepower. The British planned to substitute in two 0.303-inch Lewis Mk I machine guns for air defense.

    ww2dbase The first contract was officially signed with George Lawley & Sons Shipbuilding Corporation (Neponset, Massachusetts, United States) and New York Shipbuilding Corporation (Camden, New Jersey, United States) on 3 Jun 1942, and production began in the following month, and shortly after the design was designated "Landing Craft, Infantry (Large)", or LCI(L) or even simply LCI for short. The first prototypes were launched, LCI-1 and LCI-209, and were tested in Sep and Oct 1942. In late 1942, a group of eight LCIs made their first journey into the Atlantic Ocean from Norfolk, Virginia, United States to Bermuda Islands they weathered Force 4 winds, proving themselves seaworthy, though they also rolled badly. 299 of the LCI-1 sub-class landing craft were built 45 in-progress LCI-1 sub-class craft were canceled in order to speed along the improved LCI-351 sub-class. 211 of them were transferred to the British Royal Navy under the Lend-Lease program.

    ww2dbase The LCI-351 sub-class landing craft had better accommodations and larger work areas for troops and crews, the hatches were enlarged to accept litters, and the bridge structures were rounder (bridge structures of the LCI-1 sub-class were rectangular). Their holds belowdecks held roughly the same amount of fuel and water as their predecessors (10 tons less fuel but 1 ton more water). The first LCI-351 sub-class landing craft was laid down on 5 Mar 1943, launched on 8 Apr, and commissioned on 14 May.

    ww2dbase Because LCI landing craft were designed to be versatile craft capable of sailing in shallow waters, and were already built to be able to withstand some enemy fire, some of them were converted so that they could serve as fire support craft. These converted landing craft carried a wide array of armaments such as 3-inch guns, 5-inch guns, 4.2-inch mortars, 4.5-inch barrage rockets, and 5-inch barrage rockets. Some of the other variants include command craft, ammunition transports, and home vessels for underwater demolition teams.

    ww2dbase The first combat mission that employed LCI landing craft was the Operation Torch invasion of North Africa in Nov 1942, where the British Royal Navy LCI craft sailed directly from the United Kingdom, while the American ones island hopped across the Atlantic Ocean. The first use of LCI landing craft in the Pacific War was during the Jun 1943 landings in New Georgia, Solomon Islands, where they delivered second and fourth echelons of troops to the islands. They were valued for their ability to travel in shallow areas of water at the atolls where the larger LST transports could not, and they were able to economically deliver small forces to remote island areas. They were also used during the invasion of Sicily, Italy in Jul 1943, where they landed troops during the pre-dawn hours while facing hostile fire. Back in the Pacific Ocean, in Jan 1944, the invasion of Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands were supported by 12 LCI(FS) craft, which were LCI craft fitted out with rocket launchers. While the rockets did not necessarily cause significant damage, nor the guns and cannons that opened up after the rockets, but they were valued for their demoralizing effects on the Japanese as well as to rally the spirit of the invasion troops about to disembark onto hostile beaches.

    ww2dbase Thus far, landing craft of both sub-classes featured ramps on either side of the bow for troops to disembark. A third sub-class, LCI-402, featured centerline bow ramps similar to those of the LST landing ships. After 1 Jun 1944, all LCI landing craft being constructed were equipped with bow doors.

    ww2dbase During the Okinawa campaign, 42 LCI(M) craft (equipped with mortars) supported the initial landings, firing 28,000 rounds on a strip 5.5 miles wide and 300 yards deep during the first hour of landings. As the fighting moved inland, they tend to circle around radar-equipped larger ships such as destroyers, and when called upon, the radar-equipped ships would relay the direction and distance of targets to the LCI(M) craft, which then would loose barrages of mortar shells at the suspected Japanese positions.

    ww2dbase In early 1945, 25 LCI landing craft were transferred to Russia. The Russian crews that later manned these landing craft were trained by United States Coast Guard personnel at Cold Bay, Alaska, United States.

    ww2dbase After the war, most LCI landing craft were inactivated by the Royal Navy and the US Navy within the first two years, though a few were used during the Korean War and a very small number of fire support craft were used during the Vietnam War. Most of them were scrapped, sold to foreign navies, or sold into the civilian market.

    LCI(L) 618 – History of LCI Flotilla 22

    Notice: Is your ship listed here? If so, then this is part of your history:

    Ship No. 62 – 63 – 328 – 333 – 334 – 335 – 357 – 358 – 359 – 360 – 433 – 434 – 435 – 436 – 443 – 444 – 445 – 446 – 518 – 519 – 614 – 615 – 616 – 617 – 618 – 619 – 688 – 689 – 690 – 776 – 777 – 985 – 986 – 987 – 1032 – 1033.

    The first 19 of these ships were from the old Flotilla 5. The first flagship was the 433 under the command of Commander Mc D. Smith, then the 618 under the command of Commander Marion M. Byrd and finally the 690 under the command of Commander Philip Porter.

    History of LCI Flotilla 22

    The USS LCI’s (Landing Craft Infantry) was the smallest sea worthy ships of WWII, they had a Hull length of 158 feet, a hull width of 24 feet and a draft of 4 feet forward and 6 feet aft. With a cursing range of 4000 miles, at a standard speed of 12 knots.

    It is said, the idea of calling it a Craft was that it was to be sent over seas in three pieces and to be put together over there. However, the Sunday they were to be tested, with Admiral Barbey aboard, he suggested to the builder representative, to run the Ship up on the beach at flank speed. After the Ship ran up on the beach and across a scenic costal highway and needless to say, disrupted traffic the Admiral said, “Put these things together at the Shipyard, if they will do this they will be perfectly safe on their own at sea.”

    The basic purpose of this small ship was to carry Infantry Troops for a short distance and land them on hostel beaches, all over the world. Each Ship could carry a maximum of a company of 200 fully armed combat ready troops.

    However, some of these small ships were converted to do other tasks. Such as Gun Ships, that carried 3 – 40mm single mount guns and 4 – 20mm single mount guns. Also some of them were converted to Rocket Ships that could fire 504 – 4.5 “ rockets at a range of 1000 yards also some of them were converted to mortar firing ships. These conversions were made to support the landing of the Infantry. Flotilla 22 was made up of 36 of these small ships, with 3 Groups of 12 each. Group 64, 65 and 66.

    Flotilla 22 Staff, for most of WWII was billeted aboard the USS LCI 618(FF)

    Flotilla 22 was formed in early August 1944 and Commanded by Commander McD Smith, as a spin off of old Flotilla 5, which was redeployed with new ships.

    For the first month of operation we were assigned to transporting troops and supplies of the 6th US Army for reinforcement in and around Finschhafen, Aitape and Biak Island and the New Guinea area. However, on September 16th we got our first taste of what it was all about, with the invasion of Morotai Island just west of New Guinea.

    The LCI Unit of Task Group 77.4 comprised of LCI’s 433(Flag), 435, 360, 446, 519, 334, 445, 444, 359, 357, 443, 63, 328, 333, 436,335, 447, 429, 364 and 62.

    The convoy proceeded, without incident, west to Morotai Island. At 0532 when the Task Group had reached a point just south of the southern tip of Morotai Island, orders were received by radio from the Task Group Commander in U.S.S. Nicholas (DD 449), directing the LCI’s to leave the convoy and proceed independently.

    At 0540 antiaircraft fire was observed coming from shore installations on the Dehegila Peninsula and smoke was seen rising from the area of firing.

    As the LCI’s passed between Mitita Island and Dehegila Peninsula, the U.S.S. PC1133 assumed station as escort, and in reply to a radio message received as to where the LCI’s were to beach, said to Command “Follow Me to White Beach.” Forming a column behind the Flag Ship, we reached the approach lane at 0642.

    Under a lot of pressure from enemy planes and our own nearby fighting, and we were taking fire from shore batteries, we proceeded to White Beach, however we were instructed by the Beachmaster of Red Beach to await an officer to show us the way, as White Beach was not marked. This Officer never did show up, so we were told to “do the best you can.”

    We got about 50yards from the beach and ran into a reef. None of the LCI’s could get any closer, so we were ordered to unload anyway. Here you have to use your imagination as to what happened,

    While the troops were being unloaded in water almost over their head, we received a radio message from the Beachmaster as to why we were not unloading at the “NEW White Beach.”

    At this point, needless to say Commander McD Smith, Flotilla 22 Commander was fit to be tied, and remarked that the Beachmaster was not up to date as to what was going on.

    Because of the shallowness of the water the 519 and 444 were stranded on the reefs and had to remain behind. The 357 were ordered to stay behind with the two stranded ships and render any assistance it could, and return later with another convoy. This, with the permission of the Task Force Commander.

    After putting all the troops ashore we were ordered to return to Hollandia New Guinea where we remained for the next few months.

    In late September we had a change of Command of Flotilla 22 and Commander M. M. Byrde assumed command of the Flotilla.

    We also received a number of new ships from the States. The 985, 986, 987, 688, 614, 615, 616, 617, 618 and 619. The Flag was transferred from the 433 to the 618. It was a new ship just out from the states and it had all the latest equipment and it was designed to be a Flag Ship. It had the latest Radar and Radio equipment and the troop compartments were all offices. In fact I had two radio “shacks”, eight radiomen and six radarmen.

    The months of October, November and December of 1944 were spent doing odd jobs of supplying troops and general supplies to the different combat areas in the region.

    On Christmas Day 1944 we left Hollandia and joined a convoy of several hundred ships, at Attape New Ginea.

    We all new this was the big one we were going to the Philippines!

    We arrived at Leyte on January 3, 1945 and joined another group of ships, even larger than the one we were in. This convoy was known as Task Force 78, assigned to invade the Island of Luzon at Lingayen Gulf.

    The convoy then proceeded through the Surigao Straits where we were attacked daily by aircraft and midget submarines. In fact one Japanese plane came so close along our Starboard side we could see the pilot saluting as he went by and crashed into an LST just behind us.

    Later the subs were reported as sunk by our escort and the planes were either shot down or chased away.

    On the night of January 7th while passing just west of Manila Bay, there was a running gun battle with and enemy destroyer and some of our escort ships. The enemy was sunk. January 9th we arrived and commenced the invasion of Lingayen Gulf. After the unloading of troops and supplies, our LCI’s were assigned to the outer edge of the gulf and to make smoke each morning and evening to cover the entire gulf and to hide all the ships present.

    After several days of dodging enemy suicide boats and enemy bombers, things got a little better, as we had sent some of our LCI gunboats up the Lingayen River to seek out enemy suicide boats and destroy anything they could find. I can remember going up river with Commander Byrd on one of these gunboats and we were so close to the shore you could hear the small arms bullets bouncing off the outside of the ship and they would pass the word over the intercom to stay inside. Then you could hear our guns open up and in a few minutes we could go out on deck again. We came to a large opening in the river and there must have been about 50 of these odd looking boats. They were just plywood in the shape of a V with no back on the seat. Some of them had a 1937 Chevy engine and the front end was loaded with TNT. One of the ships had some Army Engineers aboard who destroyed all the boats.

    Being on Staff, and the communications supervisor, I was privileged to be “In on the know” of things that the rest of the crew were not privy too.

    On January 28th, some of the Staff went aboard the 519 and proceeded in convoy, up the coast, about 50 miles behind enemy lines, to supply the gorilla forces in that area and to pick up the President of the Philippines wife and family and take them out of harms way back to Dagupan. With Mrs. Osmena were five other members of the family, nine servants and two infants. Also with the party were Col. R.W. Volkmann, USAFIP and Capt. Nebres Blenuenido D. PA Chief Surgeon USAFIP. Several wounded gorilla fighters, and several Japanese prisoners of war.

    After this some of our LCI’s were assigned to supply the gorilla forces in the north on a regular basis.
    Some of our ships were assigned to riverboat patrol on a regular schedule, flushing out enemy suicide boats up the Lingayen River, and destroying them.
    February 21st, Commander Flotilla 22 in 618 with 433, 518, and 690 escorting 60 LCM’s, 20 LCVP’s and “J” boats of the 594th Engineer Special Brigade and 3 Army Tug Boats and 10 LCT’s, proceeded to Subic Bay, Luzon. There we established our base of operations.

    March 1st 1945, Commander Flotilla 22 in 618 with 518, 63 and 714 of Flotilla 24, USS Day (DE225) and USS JOY escorting 12 Liberty Ships and LST’s 932, 592 and 593 into Manila Bay, Commander Flotilla 22 SOPA (Senior Officer Present Afloat). This was the first merchant shipping in Manila Bay since 1941.

    Using Subic Bay as our base of operations, we conducted a number of other hostel combat landings throughout the Philippines. Twenty-two in all. Here are just a few.

    April 1st Legaspi, April 17th Parang Mindanao, where we landed the 24th Infantry Division, May 11th Zamboanga, May 13th Basilan and many others in the Mindanao, Mindoro and Panay area, Polloc Harbor was my first observation of just how much destruction our LCI rocket ships could cause. Completely destroying a beautiful beach and everything on the shore, for five hundred yards in.

    From then on, it was just a matter of moving troops around and supplying them.

    On August 15th we received word that President Truman had ordered the cessation of offensive action, because the Japanese were about to surrender. It was suicide to go out on deck that night, because of the gunfire from the fleet being shot up in the air and the shrapnel raining down on us from the celebration.
    Commander Flotilla Twenty Two reported to Commander Philippine Sea Frontier for Operational Control.

    After this, the Flotilla began to break up. The 614, 616 and the 985 were assigned to Commander Minesweeping and Survey Group of the North China Forces. The 433, 434, 435, 436, 518, 519, 445, 446, 776, 777, 1032 and 1033 were assigned to Commander Yangtze Patrol Force. The 63, 333, 334, 335, 357, 358, 360, 443 and 444 were assigned to Commander Philippine Sea Frontier. The 62 and 328were assigned to Commander Service Force.

    On September 2nd 1945 the rest of Flotilla 22 left Subic Bay enroute to Leyte to join a convoy and proceeded north to Okinawa, arriving at 1430 on 13 September 1945.

    September 16th, after two days in Okinawa the convoy left for Jensen Korea as part of the Occupation Forces. The first day of this trip the convoy encountered a severe typhoon, complete with 50-foot seas and winds of 70 to 90 knots. All ships weathered the storm, even though we were blown within about 20 miles of the China Coast. We were six days late in arriving at Jensen Korea, on September 21st.

    On September 26th the convoy sailed for Taku Bar, China, where four days later the 3rd Marine Amphibious Corps was disembarked in an initial occupational landing. We proceeded 36 miles up the river to the city of Tientsin with the Seventh Amphibious Force. We were the first of the American Navy in this Chinese section since the Japanese occupation. October 10th we returned to Jensen Korea at which time Commander M.M. Byrde was transferred from the Staff to the USS Seminole AK104. The Flag was transferred from the 618 to the 690 under the Command of Commander Philip Porter.

    In December Flotilla 22 departed for the States where it was decommissioned in January 1946.
    Footnote: I would like to say that all the time I spent in the Navy, My life with the LCI’s was my best. We take a lot of ribbing from the “Big Ship” sailors, but while they were setting offshore throwing big shells at the beaches, we were approaching those beaches and had to get down and dirty and fight the real war. And I’m proud to have been a part of it.

    J.E. “Jim” Talbert
    Ex-Chairman of the Board
    USS LCI National Association

    Loyd Kampf November 25, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    My dad was on the LCI 445 his rank at that time (MoMM 2/c) aboard the LCI 445 Flotilla 22. His service number is 376-69-83. He enlisted 29 Sept 1942 at San Francisco, Calif. On 25 May 1945 he was received aboard the USS LCI(L) 445 and assigned to the ship by the Commander of LCI (L) Flotilla Twenty-Two (He was assigned to this as part of Flotilla 22. I need all the help to find my dad’s old service records. Can you help me. My email is stranپr401@hotmailˬom.
    Loyd Kampf . Son Of Emer Loyd Kampf

    Elisabeth Waters September 10, 2019 at 10:08 pm

    I think my father, Ralph Edward Waters, was one of your radiomen. He didn’t talk much about his service and never mentioned any place names, but he said he was a radio operator in the Pacific, and I found him on a muster roll of LCI(L) Flotilla 22 Staff. He once remarked, after we got caught in a storm while sailing a friend’s yacht between Cape Cod and Rhode Island that it was the roughest weather he’d ever encountered in his civilian sailing, but he’d been in a typhoon during the war.

    LCI(L) 85: The Four- Leaf Clover

    On June 6, 1944, U.S.S. LCI(L) 85 sailed through rough waters towards the Normandy Coast of France. LCI 85 was part of a vast armada of more than 5,000 ships and landing craft underway to deliver an army to liberate France from Adolph Hitler’s occupation forces. From France, the allies would push into the heart of Germany and end the most devastating war in human history. The seasoned officers and crew of LCI 85 were combat veterans of the invasions of North Africa, Sicily and Salerno, Italy. They were part of the fabled LCI Flotilla 4, consisting of 24 LCIs manned entirely by U.S. Coast Guard crews. Upon their transfer to England, the “Coasties” of Flotilla 4 joined twelve U.S. Navy LCIs to form Flotilla 10 for the Normandy invasion. On board LCI 85, was a crew of four officers and 30 enlisted men, including two additional Pharmacist Mates (medics) who were temporarily assigned to LCI 85. Allied planners of “Operation Neptune,” the code name for the seaborne invasion of Normandy expected high casualties.

    On the conning tower of LCI 85 was painted the crew’s good luck charm, a Four- Leaf Clover. It had served them well, keeping them safe through previous invasions. One particular incident of LCI 85 luck occurred during the night of September 7, 1943 in the bay of Palermo, Sicily. There, a German aircraft dropped a torpedo which passed amid-ship directly underneath LCI 85, narrowly missing her due to her shallow draft. The torpedo continued on and struck a Landing Ship Tank (LST), which exploded and burned.

    On D-Day, the 189 soldiers onboard LCI 85 were seasick and miserable. They had been in cramped quarters for several days because the invasion, originally scheduled for June 5, had been postponed due to stormy weather. The soldiers on board consisted of troops from the following units: Company C, 37th Engineer Combat Battalion, 5th Engineer Special Brigade – 26 personnel Company C, 6th Naval Beach Battalion – 40 personnel 210th Military Police Company – 13 personnel 294th Signal Company – 10 personnel Headquarters and Service Company, 37th Engineer Combat Battalion, 5th Engineer Special Brigade – 4 personnel Company B, 6th Naval Beach Battalion – 7 personnel and Company A, 1st Medical Battalion – 89 personnel.

    The Skipper of LCI 85, Lieutenant (j.g.) Coit Hendley Jr., was familiar with the troops on board. LCI 85 had landed them during practice runs at Slapton Sands, Devon, England. They included Combat Engineers consisting of both Navy and Army personnel, whose job it was to clear beach obstacles, mark beach exits and organize the unloading of men and supplies from landing craft. The Executive Officer of LCI 85, Lieutenant (j.g.) Arthur Farrar noted that two of the doctors on board were veterans of the Tunisian Campaign. One had been awarded the Silver Star Medal and the other had been awarded the Purple Heart Medal. Their job on D Day was to set up a first aid station one mile inland from the beach.

    The Silver Star Medal recipient was Captain Emerald M. Ralston of Company A, 1st Medical Battalion, 1 st Infantry Division. He was born in Oberlin, Kansas on April 25, 1906. He graduated from John’s Hopkins School of Medicine. Before the war, he lived and worked in Warren, Pennsylvania. He was 38 years old, much older than most of the men assembled to assault the Normandy beaches.

    Hendley, 23 years old, was a Southerner with a distinct southern accent. He was born July 17, 1920 in Columbia, South Carolina. His father was a bank president. Hendley began his studies at the University of South Carolina in 1936 at age 17. He graduated in 1939. Hendley moved to Washington, D.C. where he began work as a copy boy in 1940 with the Washington Evening Star newspaper. He joined the U.S. Coast Guard February 18, 1942 in order to make a contribution to the war effort. Hendley, like many others who joined the Coast Guard, expected to spend his time during the war patrolling the U.S. Coastline. He was wrong.

    Hendley was assigned to LCI 94 of Flotilla 4 in Galveston, Texas as the Executive Officer. He participated in three invasions with Flotilla 4 and sailed with them to England. There, he was promoted and took command of LCI 85 on January 13, 1944. He replaced Lieutenant Thomas R. Aldrich as skipper. Hendley’s reputation preceded him. During the invasion of Sicily, the troops were hesitant to descend the ramps under enemy fire. Hendley observed this from the bridge. He rushed down, pushed by the soldiers and marched down a ramp as if it was a drill. Either embarrassed or inspired, the soldiers followed him.

    Hendley enjoyed life in England while awaiting the invasion of Normandy. Comfort in England included a girlfriend, Wren Sylvia Grashoff. She was a member of the Women’s Royal Naval Service.

    Lt.(j.g.) Arthur Farrar Executive Officer

    Farrar was 30 years old. He was born July 12, 1913 in Graham, Texas and was raised in Elgin, Oklahoma. After graduating from college, he was a school teacher and by 1940, he was the Superintendent of Schools in Elgin. Farrar left his job July 1, 1942 and seven days later enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves in Nashville, Tennessee as an Apprentice Seaman. After completing a competitive exam, Farrar was transferred October 10, 1942 to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut for Reserve Officer’s Training. He joined LCI 85 in Galveston, Texas, February 1942 and four months later, he was sailing off to war.

    By the time LCI 85 sailed to England, Farrar had two souvenir German machine guns stored in his locker from previous invasions. He frequently practiced marksmanship with his Government issued, Navy 45 caliber, 1911 semi-automatic pistol. He nearly shot smooth the bore, shooting at unsuspecting sharks and seagulls. This combat veteran was ready for Normandy.

    The only other “Okie” on board LCI 85 was Coxswain Elmer Carmichael. He was 23 years old, born May 19, 1921 in Tonkawa, Oklahoma. Carmichael moved with his family to Crescent, Oklahoma in 1927, where his father was City Marshall for many years. Carmichael graduated from Crescent High School 1940. He was president of the senior class, president of the student council and graduated as salutatorian. After high school, Carmichael worked at the Crescent Lumber Yard until he joined the U.S. Coast Guard on June 21, 1942. He met Farrar when Farrar joined LCI 85 in Galveston, Texas. They bonded during a long conversation on deck. From then on, they worked the same watch together on board the “85”.

    Seaman 1st Class Gene Oxley

    Another crewman on LCI 85 was Seaman 1st Class Gene Oxley. With freckles and blue eyes, he stood 5’ 8”and weighed 130 pounds. He was 20 years old, born October 21, 1923 in the small town of Stilesville, Indiana. He was the youngest of six children. When he was four years old, his father committed suicide in front of the entire family. Gene was very close to his mother who was devastated by her husband’s suicide. She was a frequent patient in mental institutions.

    Oxley’s older sisters – Mildred, Mabel and Dorothy, all helped raise Oxley until they married and moved out of the house. Oxley persevered. He began swimming shortly after he could walk. He went swimming in all the local swimming holes whether swimming was permitted or not. Later, the family moved to Indianapolis where he joined a Y.M.C.A. He was a life guard at a local park. He was a Boy Scout and earned good grades in school. Oxley’s family moved back to Stilesville where he graduated from high school in April 1942. He joined the U.S. Coast Guard in Indianapolis on July 17, 1942.

    Seaman 1st Class Gene Oxley

    In England, at the end of May 1944, Hendley received a fifteen- pound canvas bag that was sealed and marked “TOP SECRET.” With the bag was a dispatch advising him not to open the bag until ordered to do so. He only had to wait a few days to receive the order to break the seal and open it. Inside the bag were orders, the plan of attack, maps, charts, and photographs of their targeted beaches. The troops who boarded LCI 85 in Weymouth on June 2nd were ordered to remain on board along with the crew of the “85” until it was time to sail. Secrecy was strictly enforced. Nobody could leave LCI 85 without having specific business to conduct, and without being escorted by an officer. Hendley had more than a week to study the plans.

    All Flotilla 10 LCI Commanders met in the hold of the Flotilla Flagship where a detailed map was painted on the wall and deck. The map depicted their target, the beach sectors and landmarks of Omaha Beach as if viewed from ten miles off shore. With briefing and training complete, all that remained was the tense waiting.

    General Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces for “Operation Overlord,” the air and sea invasion of Normandy, gave the orders for D Day to commence on June 6th. Thus, began what Eisenhower referred to as the “Great Crusade” to liberate Northern Europe from the Nazis. A special double daylight savings time was established for D Day. Therefore, it did not get dark until 11:30PM. LCI 85 and Flotilla 10 set sail from Weymouth at 3PM on June 5th and sailed the majority of the way across the English Channel in daylight with overcast skies.

    From midnight on, Farrar observed air activity over France. Cones of flak of various colors lit up the sky. Many expected to be bombed by German aircraft or attacked by torpedo boats during the voyage, but it did not happen. Flotilla 10 split with half of her LCIs headed for Utah Beach and half headed for Omaha Beach. By 3AM, the transport ships and landing craft had arrived at the assembly area, 20 miles from Omaha Beach. By 4AM, LCI 85 was circling in her assigned position, awaiting orders to head for shore. At 7:30AM, she headed full speed towards the battle.

    LCI 85 was scheduled to land troops on Easy Red sector of Omaha Beach, at 8:30AM during half-tide when many of the beach obstacles were exposed. Omaha Beach was two miles long and Easy Red sector was located in the eastern half. There were few signs of trouble ahead. The beach was shrouded in smoke and Hendley observed some black puffs from explosions along the shoreline. On schedule, a control vessel signaled the “85” to proceed to the beach. With Hendley on the Conn and Ensign Harold C. Mersheimer standing next to him, LCI 85 plowed through the waves at twelve knots.

    Chief Quartermaster Charles O. McWhirter was at the helm in the wheel-house below Hendley. Ensign Paul M. Petit, the Engineering Officer, stood at the winch on the stern. His job was to let the stern anchor out as they neared the beach so they could winch themselves back off the beach after landing the troops.

    Farrar was stationed between the two ramps at the bow. He was in charge of landing the troops. He and Carmichael, who manned one of the ramps, stood a few feet from each other. Carmichael had a lot of confidence in Farrar and was impressed with Farrar’s coolness under fire during previous invasions. As the “85” pushed through the rough seas, Farrar and those manning the ramps were soaked by waves splashing over the bow.

    As LCI 85 neared the shoreline, signs of a deadly, chaotic battle came into view. Numerous small landing craft careened about and many had been hit by enemy fire. Hendley directed McWhirter to steer the “85” through a small opening in the beach obstacles. Adorned with her Four- Leaf Clover, LCI 85 made her final push. Hendley could see a line of prone soldiers along the beach firing at German positions. Four American Sherman tanks were directly ahead. Three were ablaze and the fourth fired at the enemy intermittently but appeared to be disabled.

    Due to the strong cross current, LCI 85 landed farther east than planned on Easy Red, near Fox Green beach sector. The “85” crushed through obstacles and ground to a halt short of the beach. It was stuck on top of an unknown obstacle. Farrar ordered the ramps lowered. Oxley scurried down the ramp with a light tow line around his waist that was connected to a 30-pound anchor and a heavier rope – the “man rope.” His job was to anchor the man rope on the beach so that the soldiers, laden with heavy equipment in the rough surf, could pull themselves to shore. Oxley volunteered for this dangerous task as he had done so before during the invasion of Salerno, Italy. When Oxley jumped off the ramp, he immediately sank over his head in water. Clearly, troops could not be landed there. The soaking wet Oxley was hauled back aboard and Hendley ordered the “85” to be retracted from the beach so that they could attempt another landing elsewhere.

    While retracting, LCI 85 was struck by three artillery rounds from German shore batteries. One round penetrated troop compartment # 3. McWhirter could hear through the voice tube in the wheel house the screams of the soldiers below deck. During retraction, something hit the stern winch and disabled it. Petit would not be able to drop the anchor to assist retraction during the next beaching.

    LCI 85 rammed through obstacles a second time and beached approximately 200 yards to the west on Easy Red beach sector. When the “85” grounded about 70 yards from the beach, it struck a teller mine on an obstacle, which exploded under the bow. The explosion fractured the forward compartment and water poured in. When the ramp crew attempted to lower the ramps, only the port ramp hit the water. The starboard ramp became stuck on top of a beach obstacle.

    Once again, Oxley dashed down the ramp and into the water with the man rope. This time it was only waist deep at the end of the ramp. He swam with the line through withering machinegun fire. Each time, he attempted to duck under water to avoid the bullets, his life belt popped him back up. The strong cross current pushed Oxley east as he swam. When he reached land, he found that he was far off course from the bow of LCI 85. He ran exposed on the beach back to a point directly inland from the bow. He began pulling out the slack of the man rope only to discover that the anchor had been shot away.

    Hendley observed soldiers who had been prone on the beach, stop their firing to assist Oxley pull the rope taut while another soldier fired a bazooka at the Germans. Because there was no 30 – pound anchor attached to the man rope, Oxley turned his 130 – pound body into an anchor. He wrapped the man rope around his waist and dug his heels into the beach. Although, the Germans continued to shoot at him, he stood there alone holding the rope taut and awaited the troops to descend the ramp of LCI 85. He was amazed that the hail of German bullets did not strike him.

    Even though Oxley encountered deeper water closer to shore, Hendley decided to disembark the troops. Soldiers began descending from the ramp. Heavy German machinegun fire swept the water and the hull near the ramp filled with troops struggling to get ashore.

    After Oxley saw a group of four men descend the ramp, he observed the ramp twist off from what he believed to be a hit from German artillery. Soldiers toppled off the ramp. Farrar who stood mere feet from the ramp, observed the ramp get twisted off by the strong cross current. It dropped five feet, held only by the cables from the forward winch. In total, Oxley observed 36 soldiers disembark from LCI 85 via the ramp or by lowering themselves over the side. They struggled through the surf holding on to the rope. Oxley, steadfastly holding the other end of the rope, watched in horror as German machine gunners raked straight down the line of soldiers. Oxley saw only six soldiers make it to the beach.

    During this time, the Germans pummeled LCI 85 with many artillery rounds from various cannons including their dreaded 88 Millimeter. Originally designed as an anti-aircraft flak gun, the Germans used it effectively in a number of roles. It was their best artillery piece, and the “88” overlooking LCI 85 wreaked havoc on her.

    The Germans concentrated their artillery fire on the forward section of the “85” where the massed troops awaited to go down the ramps. Oxley, who believed that Hendley was the best skipper afloat, stated that the Germans “shot away everything around him on the exposed bridge but he stayed right up there without even taking cover once.”

    Hendley who had just waved at two of his friends standing below him at the base of the conning tower, watched both of the officers killed instantly by one artillery round that also wounded several others on the crowded deck. Killed in that blast were officers of the 6th Naval Beach Battalion, Beachmaster Jack Hagerty and Beachmaster G.E. Wade. Onboard LCI 85, three other members of the 6th Naval Beach Battalion were killed – Assistant Beachmaster, Lieutenant (j.g.) Leonard Lewis, Boatswain’s Mate George Abbott and Pharmacist’s Mate John O’Donnell.

    As soon as the artillery rounds began slamming into the “85,” Captain Ralston of the 1st Medical Battalion jumped into action. Two troop holds below deck were set afire. Ralston rushed down into one of them. There, he calmed the men and organized them to fight the fire. Although suffering from a painful burn to his face, and struggling against extreme heat and heavy smoke, he performed life- saving medical treatment on the wounded. He continued his heroics by pulling a critically wounded out of the other burning troop hold. In the meantime, shells burst through the wheel house and blew the clothes off of McWhirter. Miraculously, he only suffered a narrow scratch down his back.

    Farrar also had a very close call. While working the ramp, he was grazed in the left thigh, which took off a chunk of his left buttocks, creating a large flesh wound. He looked down and saw a hole the size of his head in the hull of the “85” from the artillery round that nearly killed him. In pain, he removed his gun belt with his trusty .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol and went back to work.

    Other than the scratch on McWhirter’s back, there were no small wounds on LCI 85. There were chunks of flesh, heads and limbs covering the deck. Ralston and other medical personnel administered plasma to the wounded and patched them up the best they could.

    Of the four wounded crewmen of LCI 85, the most serious was Radioman 3rd Class Gordon R. Arneberg. An artillery round ripped through the radio room and tore off one of his legs. He was dragged out of the room and onto the deck and were he received medical treatment. His severed leg was one of the obstacles for Hendley and others to negotiate around until someone kicked it overboard. Soldiers remaining on board could not move forward through the bodies and the blood- slick deck. With her ramps out of order, landing troops from LCI 85 came to an end.

    Hendley gave the order to retract as fast as possible. Oxley saw LCI 85 retracting from the beach and he held on to the man rope as he ran towards her. However, the German steel raining down on him forced him to drop the rope and run back to seek cover. Oxley was left behind on the beach.

    As LCI 85 retracted, the wounded Farrar climbed down onto the ramp in an attempt to rescue the wounded soldiers clinging to it. He pulled one man onto the ramp and held on to him. Another soldier clung to the ramp without assistance. Farrar tried to pull a third soldier up but the terrified man had a death grip on a lower stanchion of the ramp. Farrar could not break the soldier’s grip. Farrar realized that he could not save the man and let him go. Farrar and the other men on the ramp had a rough ride during the fast retraction away from the German guns. They got dunked several times into the waves as they clung to the dangling ramp.

    When LCI 85 stopped, Farrar crawled back onto the deck and Boatswain’s Mate Rudolf D. Hesselgren helped him drag the two remaining soldiers aboard. They discovered that one of them had succumbed to his wounds. Boats came alongside LCI 85 to rescue wounded and transfer the remaining able-bodied soldiers to shore. Ralston transferred wounded to one boat that came alongside to the rescue. The crew of that boat implored Ralston to come aboard. He refused. Instead, he ordered the remainder of his unscathed team members to board a Landing Craft Medium (LCM). They were transported to shore under heavy fire. Ralston was wounded while underway. He refused medical treatment and tended to the wounded on shore. Several times, under heavy fire, he rushed from the beach into the surf to rescue wounded soldiers and drag them to relative safety.

    After navigating LCI 85 away from the German guns, Hendley descended from the conning tower with Pharmacist Mate Simon Mauro to count the casualties and assess the damage. LCI 85 had been hit by 25 German artillery shells. They counted fifteen dead and 30 wounded on deck. Hendley decided to get the wounded to a medical ship.

    Three fires burned below in the forward compartments as LCI 85 limped seaward towards help. The crew of the “85” put out the fires and feverishly worked pumps to remove the water from the battered holds below. Pumping out the water was an important delaying action to keep LCI 85 afloat but in the end, it would be a losing battle.

    Elmer Carmichael manning the lines and Pat McGuire grasping the rail

    Ten miles off shore, LCI 85 came alongside the USS Samuel Chase, a transport ship, manned by “Coasties.” U.S. Coast Guard combat photographers on board, documented the event with still photos and a movie of the crippled “85.” Hendley transferred the wounded, including Farrar, to the “Samuel Chase.” Carmichael overheard a conversation between Hendley and an officer on the “Samuel Chase.” Hendley demanded that the officer take the dead off LCI 85. The officer refused and told Hendley to take the dead back to shore. Hendley replied that the “85” could not make it back to shore. He argued that if the officer did not remove the dead from LCI 85, nobody would ever know what happened to them. The officer finally gave in and the dead were transferred. Carmichael was very moved by Hendley’s effort to secure and respect the men killed on board his ship.

    Some Navy and Army doctors who were transported to the beach by LCI 85, remained onboard to treat the wounded until they could be transferred to the USS Samuel Chase. With that task completed by 1:30PM, they boarded a small boat in silence and were transported back to the hell of Omaha Beach where they knew they were needed.

    Meanwhile on shore, Seaman1st Class Oxley dug a shallow foxhole with his bare hands and feet on a very narrow strip of beach clogged with soldiers. They could not advance any farther without being cut down by enemy fire. Oxley was unarmed, barefoot and had lost his helmet. The tide began to come in and Oxley dug several more foxholes as he tried to stay ahead of the surging water. The soldiers around him did the same. Eventually, the water forced them over a three- foot high sandbar where they were completely exposed to German snipers. They dug in the best they could but the Germans found their mark over and over. Oxley conversed with a medic with his head down in a foxhole next to him. At one point, Oxley asked the medic what type of aircraft was flying overhead. When he received no reply, Oxley lifted the medic’s helmet and saw that he was shot dead.

    Tanks were unloaded from landing craft. Soldiers hugging their shallow foxholes saw the tanks as better protection from the German gunners. They got up, ran and huddled behind the tanks. Oxley was fortunate he did not join them. One by one the tanks were destroyed by German artillery and the troops hiding behind them were slaughtered.

    Oxley saw two soldiers with “tommy guns” get up and rush up the slope to attack the Germans. Both were shot and tumbled back down the hill. Medics who picked up wounded on the beach and placed them on litters were killed while carrying them to landing craft. The horror was relentless.

    Oxley got tired of waiting to get killed on the beach. He saw a Landing Craft Tank (LCT) 100 yards behind him near the water’s edge. Oxley jumped out of his hole and ran towards it. That got the attention of a German machine gunner who fired bursts at him. He “ran, stumbled and crawled” until he reached the LCT. Once again, no German bullet pierced his body. However, the gunners did manage to shoot off the seat of his britches. The exhausted Oxley climbed aboard the LCT believing that it was his ticket back to England. However, a 20MM gunner on the LCT could not resist shooting at a nearby German pillbox. Unfortunately, the Germans in the pillbox returned fire and within minutes, the LCT was sinking. Once again, Oxley jumped off a sinking vessel into cold waters.

    After again spending what seemed like an eternity on the beach, Oxley espied his next ride to freedom. “Coastie” LCI 93 was coming in to unload troops 150 yards from him on Easy Red sector. He ran along the beach chased by small arms fire. He boarded LCI 93, only to find out that it too was only a temporary reprieve. After landing the troops and collecting some wounded, the “93” sailed back out to the troop transport USS Samuel Chase to pick up another load of soldiers. To Oxley’s dismay, LCI 93 sailed back to the beach. On the way back to shore, Oxley told one of the crewmen on LCI 93, “I think I am a Jinx!”

    As LCI 93 landed her second load of troops, sixteen crewmen fled from the nearby LCI 487, having been disabled by a mine on the beach. They ran to LCI 93 to seek refuge. That attracted the attention of German gunners who shot the “93” to pieces. With the tide going out, exposing a sandbar behind it, LCI 93 could not be retracted off the beach. She was trapped. With LCI 93 getting pounded, Gene Oxley decided to take his chances on the beach again. For the third time in a matter of hours, Oxley jumped off a sinking vessel into cold waters.

    Ten miles off shore, LCI 85 pulled away from the USS Samuel Chase. The Salvage Tug (AT 89) came alongside and attempted to pump water out of the “85.” They could not pump fast enough. LCI 85 began to sink at the bow. The crew of the “85” scrambled onto the tug. LCI 85 rolled over with the bottom of her stern sticking out of the water. At 2:30PM, sailors from the tug, deployed an explosive charge on the stern. After sailing 165,000 nautical miles during her life, and earning four battle stars, LCI 85, with her “Four- Leaf Clover” sank in 14 fathoms of water. Her luck had run out.

    The crew of LCI 85 huddled together on the deck of the tug. Their Skipper, Hendley sat alone, away from the crew. He broke down crying, believing that he was responsible for the deaths and wounding of the many men on the “85” that day. His guilt was unfounded but his pain was real. Those feelings of guilt would haunt him for years.

    On the tug, the crew of LCI 85 was issued a Red Cross package containing a towel, sweater, pants, socks, shoes, toothbrush and razor. The clothes they were issued were intended for Merchant Mariners and were certainly not U.S. Coast Guard regulation. Fireman 1st Class S. Eugene Swiech of Chicago, Illinois was issued a yellow wool sweater and black trousers with pinstripes. His shipmate, Carmichael was similarly attired.

    Back at Omaha Beach, the intrepid Oxley huddled in a foxhole, surrounded by dead soldiers for three hours. He was finally rescued by a boat sent from the destroyer USS Doyle. He spent the next day on the “Doyle” and was then transferred to another “Coastie” LCI. Oxley assisted in pumping water out of the holed LCI for the next two days until it could join a convoy back to England.

    Oxley’s shipmates from LCI 85 were transported by the tug to a Landing Ship Tank (LST) in the assembly area that served as a hospital and temporary refuge for crews from vessels that were sunk. Three days later, the crew of LCI 85 was in Plymouth, England at a survivors’ camp. There, they were reunited with Gene Oxley in a raucous, joyous celebration. Oxley, whom his shipmates had given up for dead, was given the nickname the “Lucky Ox.”

    Hendley wandered around Plymouth that night in search of a pub. He could not find one that was open, so he purchased a bottle of scotch from a man who peddled black market liquor. Hendley then took a train to visit his English girlfriend who lived with her mother. It was a shocking reunion for the women. They believed Hendley had been killed in action. His girlfriend, Sylvia worked at a British Navy communications center where she received a false report that all hands were lost when LCI 85 sunk. It got worse. Days later, Hendley’s father was in a movie theater in South Carolina where he saw a newsreel of the film taken by a U. S. Coast Guard photographer on the USS Samuel Chase. The film showed LCI 85 transferring wounded to the “Samuel Chase” and then listing and floundering in the water. The narrator of the newsreel announced that the crew had gone down with the ship. For a week, Hendley’s father believed that his son was dead and tried in vain to get information from the Coast Guard. Fortunately, Hendley had worked for the Washington Evening Star before the war. He sent them his eye witness account of D Day. When they received the story, Herb Corn, the managing editor, contacted Hendley’s father by phone and assured him that his son was alive and uninjured.

    Elmer Carmichael at Survivors Camp 1944

    Back at the survivors’ camp, Carmichael grew restless. He needed a respite from the painful memories of the carnage on D-Day. He recruited a co-conspirator to leave the camp and visit a couple of fair English maidens who he knew in a nearby village. They slipped out of the survivor camp and soon they were socializing with the girls. Their fun was short lived. Few things go unnoticed in a small village, especially oddly dressed strangers. Carmichael was startled when the house was surrounded by police and armed men of the Home Guard who demanded that Carmichael and his cohort in crime exit the house. They had been reported as German saboteurs and they were being arrested. Carmichael informed the armed men that he and his companion were none other than proud members of the U.S. Coast Guard and survivors from the sunken LCI 85. He plead with his captors to return them to the survivors’ camp where his officers and shipmates would vouch for them. Reluctantly, his captors did so and Carmichael was reunited with the rest of the crew of LCI 85.

    Oxley was interviewed at the survivors’ camp by a U.S. Coast Guard Combat Correspondent, Everett Garner. The interview was released for publication on June 25 and was titled “Indianapolis Coast Guardsman Has Three Ships Shot Out from Under Him In One Morning: And Loses Only Seat Of Pants.” The Coast Guard saw the public relations value of Oxley and on June 26, Oxley received orders to report to the Coast Guard Public Relations Office in London.

    On June 24, Hendley submitted his after- action report for LCI 85 on D Day. He then traveled to Weymouth and located his friend Lieutenant (j.g) Henry K. “Bunny” Rigg, the Skipper of LCI 88. One of Rigg’s officers was wounded on D Day, so Hendley replaced him for several weeks. LCI 88 shuttled more troops to Omaha Beach and performed other duties. Afterwards, Hendley joined the headquarters staff of LCI Flotilla 10 at Greenway House for several months.

    Farrar was shipped via hospital ship to the U.S. Navy Hospital, Portsmouth, Virginia, where he was admitted on July 29, 1944. There, he received a whole skin graft on his left gluteal region for his wound sustained on D-Day. He was granted convalescent leave and he returned to Elgin, Oklahoma. On September 9, 1944, he married Ferne Castle in nearby Lawton, Oklahoma. Farrar was awarded the Purple Heart Medal and he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his heroism at the ramps of LCI 85 on D Day. On June 29, 1945, he was assigned to Coast Guard Operations Base, Galveston, Texas as Communications Officer and Port Security Officer. On September 1, 1945, he was transferred to Houston, Texas as the Port Security Officer. On October 3, 1945, Farrar was promoted to Lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves.

    Farrar requested to remain on active duty, but his request was denied October 24, 1945 due to a reduction of force of the military returning to peace time strength. Farrar was mustered out of active duty status in New Orleans on January 14, 1946. The following day, he began his inactive duty reserve status and returned to his job as Superintendent of Schools in Elgin, Oklahoma.

    Farrar earned his Doctorate of Education from the University of Oklahoma in 1957. He retired from his position of Superintendent of Elgin Schools in 1967. He finished his career in education as the Head of the Business Department at Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma.

    Farrar was an excellent athlete who was never hindered by his wound received on D Day. He and his wife Ferne raised three sons and a daughter, to whom he spoke very little about the war. Fifteen years after D Day, his fellow “Okie” shipmate from LCI 85, Carmichael, looked him up at his office at the school district. After a long conversation, they kept in touch and attended reunions for the crew of the “85.” In 1988 Farrar suffered a stroke that weakened him. He wrote his last letter October 26, 1989 and mailed it to Carmichael. He advised Carmichael that he would not attend the reunion that year but reminded Carmichael that they were to play a round of golf soon. Carmichael received the letter on October 30 th . He was stunned the following day when he read in the newspaper that Farrar had died October 29. Lieutenant Arthur Farrar was buried in Old Elgin Cemetery, Elgin, Oklahoma.

    Following survivors’ camp in Plymouth, England, Carmichael was shipped back to the United States where he was stationed in Port Arthur, Texas. There, he was put in charge of a 38’ picket-boat with duties to put commercial pilots aboard ships entering the inter-coastal canal at Sabine Pass. He married his sweet heart, Bette Lee Steen on March 27, 1945 and they set up house in Port Arthur. His older brother Dortis, a Navy Seabee, married Bette’s younger sister, Edna Jean.

    Carmichael mustered out of the Coast Guard as a Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class September 29, 1945. He returned to Crescent, Oklahoma and found employment as a bookkeeper at the Farmers & Merchants Bank. He worked his way up the ladder to Bank President. He was employed there for 28 years. Carmichael and his wife Bette adopted their two daughters with whom he spoke little of the war.

    In 1973, Carmichael took a job with the First National Bank in Okeene, Oklahoma, where he again worked his way up to the position of Bank President. He retired in 1985. He was a civic leader, serving as a board member and president of several organizations. He served on the Crescent City Council and was Mayor for four years. He also found time to be a member of the Crescent Volunteer Fire Department for 20 years and served as their Chief for 2 years.

    Always the patriot, Carmichael was a lifelong member of the American Legion and always promoted the U.S. Coast Guard and LCI 85. Carmichael conducted a campaign to have Flotilla 10 honored. After years of persistence and with help from Congressman Phil Graham, Carmichael succeeded. Fifty-seven years after D Day, Flotilla 10, Group 29 was awarded the Coast Guard Unit Commendation for their gallantry on June 6, 1944. They received the award from Admiral Riker, U.S. Coast Guard at a Flotilla 10 reunion in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

    Carmichael was a fixture at other LCI reunions including those of the USS Landing Craft Infantry National Association. He wrote articles about LCI 85 for Oklahoma newspapers. He wrote the article: “The Life and Death of LCI (L) 85,” for the book: “USS LCI, Landing Craft Infantry, Volume I” published by the USS LCI National Association in 1993. He also submitted articles for the “Elsie Item” newsletter.

    Carmichael later donated to The National D-Day Museum in New Orleans (Now, The National World War II Museum), the helmet he wore in the iconic photograph of him kneeling on the deck of LCI 85 on D Day surrounded by bodies of soldiers killed by German gunners. After the grand opening of that museum June 6, 2000, Carmichael received a letter from a man who wanted to remain anonymous. The man was a soldier who was wounded on LCI 85 on D Day. He wanted to thank Carmichael and his shipmates for saving his life.

    In his later years, Carmichael suffered from esophageal cancer and weakened arteries. His condition deteriorated after his beloved wife Bette died on February 21, 2011. Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Elmer Carmichael died September 26, 2011 and was buried in Crescent, Oklahoma.

    Captain Emerald Ralston of the 1st Medical Battalion, who acted heroically, saving the wounded on LCI 85, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on August 8, 1944 for his actions on D Day. On February 2, 1945, Ralston was awarded an Oak Leaf Cluster to his Silver Star Medal for gallantry in action on July 28, 1944 in Normandy, France. He survived the war and lived until age 83. He died May 22, 1989 and was buried in the National Cemetery of Arizona in Phoenix, Arizona.

    Oxley became a reluctant hero and celebrity after D Day. He was promoted to Coxswain and was awarded the Silver Star Medal. While assigned to the Coast Guard Public Affairs in London, the “Lucky Ox” story was featured in newspaper articles and a live interview, short wave CBS Radio broadcast from London to New York. He was interviewed by broadcast journalist Bill Shadel. He was sent to Glasgow, Scotland for a short time before being shipped back to the United States.

    The Coast Guard sent Oxley on tour throughout the Midwest at ammunition and armament factories where he told his story, raised morale and money for the war effort. He was photographed with other celebrities, Congressmen and Senators and was featured in many newspaper articles. Oxley was also featured in a chapter of the book “Sea, Surf & Hell” published in 1945. Jack Warner of Warner Brothers Studios suggested to Oxley that he write a book about himself and Warner Brothers Studios would produce a movie based on the book. The humble Oxley declined. He just wanted to return to a normal life.

    Oxley mustered out of the U.S. Coast Guard as a Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class in September, 1945. At first, he worked for his brother- in- law in the landscaping business. On August 17, 1956 he married Dorothy Mae Carr in Indiana. They adopted a son and daughter. Oxley did share his wartime experiences with them. They started a new life in Milford, Ohio, near Cincinnati. There, Oxley started his own landscaping business which flourished. He purchased 99 acres of land which he used as a nursery for that business. He spent the rest of his life in Milford. He was haunted by his experience on D-Day. He became an alcoholic and later became addicted to prescription drugs. He was a chain smoker and developed emphysema. Eventually his lungs and his heart failed. The “Lucky Ox,” hero and celebrity died May 16, 1992 and was buried in Milford, Ohio.

    The U.S. Coast Guard did not share Hendley’s belief that he was responsible for the deaths and wounded on LCI 85 on D Day. On the contrary, they recognized his heroics in his attempt to save LCI 85 and the personnel onboard. Hendley was awarded the Silver Star Medal and the French Croix de Guerre. Later, he was shipped back to the United States and was promoted to Lieutenant. He was assigned to Charleston, South Carolina, Baltimore, Maryland and finally, Washington, D.C. He mustered out of the Coast Guard December 14, 1945.

    Hendley went back to work for the Washington Evening Star Newspaper as a reporter. He eventually lost his southern accent. He worked his way up to Assistant City Editor. While working there, he met his future wife, Barbara Louis Davidson, who was also employed at the “Star”. Hendley and Barbara married July 18, 1948 and raised two sons and two daughters. He spoke little to them about the war. In 1965, Hendley joined the Gannett Group and was the Executive Editor of the Elizabeth Daily Journal. A young copy boy at the Washington Evening Star, Carl Bernstein followed Hendley to the Elizabeth Daily Journal. Hendley mentored Bernstein and gave him his first job as a reporter. In 1966, Bernstein left the Elizabeth Daily Journal for the Washington Post as a reporter.

    Hendley later became a newspaper trouble shooter, working from paper to paper. He was the Executive Editor of the Camden-Courier Post from 1968 through 1972. On October 10, 1972, Hendley’s wife Barbara died of a brain aneurysm. Carl Bernstein, then the Washington Post reporter of Watergate fame, took a break from the investigation to attend her funeral.

    Later, Hendley became the Executive Editor of The Herald News-Passaic, New Jersey, from 1972 until his retirement in 1980. He came out of retirement in 1982 to help start up a new newspaper, The Washington Times as the first Managing Editor for that paper.

    Hendley had contact only once with a shipmate from LCI 85 since he shipped back to the United States from England. However, in 1984, Fireman 1st Class Eugene Swiech of LCI 85, contacted Hendley after seeing him on television. He requested a reunion with Hendley on June 6, 1984. Hendley’s contact with Swiech brought back many buried memories. Before meeting Swiech on June 6, Hendley wrote an article for the Washington Times that was published on June 6. It was re-printed by the U.S. Coast Guard. It was a detailed story of his war history including the sinking of LCI 85 on D Day.

    Hendley continued working at the Washington Times until his death, at which time he served as an Associate Editor. Lieutenant (j.g.) Coit Hendley Jr. died at home in Washington, D.C. on May 16, 1985 of heart failure. He was buried next to his wife Barbara in Annapolis, Maryland. Many journalists attended the funeral service. Hendley’s sons and Carl Bernstein were pallbearers.

    Sadly, there are no LCI 85 crewmen alive today. May they and their “Four- Leaf Clover” find fair winds and following seas.

    USSLCI(L) 85 during her final hour

    Research Notes & Sources

    Coit Hendley Jr., Arthur Farrar, Elmer Carmichael and Gene Oxley wrote their personal wartime stories or dictated their stories to others. Of the four, Elmer Carmichael is the only one who I interviewed. This article is their story. They lived it. I merely weaved together their stories and other information obtained during my research into a chronological order of events.

    Coit Hendley Jr. wrote three stories used for this article. His personal account of D Day was published in “The Coast Guard at War: Volume XI, Landings in France,” published by U.S. Coast Guard Public Information Division, 1946.

    Michael Oxley, the son of Gene Oxley, sent me his father’s personal scrapbook. Inside was a copy of an undated war time document issued by a Public Relations Officer, U.S. Coast Guard, Washington, D.C. Labeled as “Immediate release/for release,” was a personal

    story of D Day, written by “Coit Hendley, Lieutenant (j.g.) USCGR, formerly on the staff of the Washington Evening Star.”

    The third story written by Hendley, used for this article was a story about his wartime experiences: “D Day: A Special Report” published by the Washington Times newspaper June 6, 1984. It was re-printed by the U.S. Coast Guard.

    Hendley’s son, Coit Hendley III provided me with biological information and Hendley’s work history in journalism, including his mentorship of Carl Bernstein. He provided information regards to cause and date of death of Hendley’s wife Barbara.

    Hendley’s son, Peter Hendley provided me with wartime photographs of his father, place of burial of Hendley and his wife Barbara, as well as specifics of Hendley’s funeral. He also provided me with a copy of his father’s orders to take command of LCI 85 in January, 1944. The source of Peter’s information was a book he was completing at the time of my research: “LCI 85: The Military Career of Lt(jg) Coit Hendley Jr. During the Invasions of North Africa, Italy and Omaha Beach on D-Day: His Papers and Photos”, published by Yewell Street Press, ISBN:978-0-9964993-6-1.

    Hendley’s daughter, Dale Hendley provided me with dates when Hendley joined the Coast Guard and was released from the Coast Guard as a Lieutenant.

    Arthur Farrar wrote one story used for this article. His story of his wartime experiences: “LCIs Are Veterans Now” was published December, 1944 (Vol VI, No. 9) issue of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Alumni Association Bulletin, pp. 181-191.

    Farrar’s son, Arthur R. “Ray” Farrar, provided me with wartime photos, biographical information, and military records of his father. He also provided a letter from his father to Elmer Carmichael days before he died and Carmichael’s letter to Farrar’s widow days after Farrar died.

    Farrar’s son, Edwin Farrar, provided me with stories of Farrar’s marksmanship training with his .45 caliber 1911 pistol, discarding that pistol after being wounded, his German machinegun souvenirs, and the lack of any hinderance from his wound in post war life.

    I found, the date of birth, date of death and date of marriage of Farrar and his wife on the web site

    Also, on that site was a photograph from a newspaper article of Farrar and notation that he was Superintendent of Elgin Schools.

    I found Farrar, next of kin and war time address on the list of WWII Navy, Marine and Coast Guard casualties on the web site

    Elmer Carmichael narrated one story used for this article. “The Life And Death Of LCI (L) 85” was printed in the book “USS LCI, Landing Craft Infantry”, Volume I, produced by the USS Landing Craft Infantry National Association and published through Turner Publishing Company, Paducah, Kentucky, 1993.

    I found Carmichael’s obituary on Carmichael’s daughter, Deborah Rice advised me that she and her husband submitted the obituary after editing a biography her father wrote October 22, 2004. She provided me that biography as well as an article referencing Carmichael’s success in securing a Coast Guard Unit Commendation for Flotilla 10, Group 29. Deborah provided me with a photograph of her father taken at the survivors’ camp in Plymouth, England, in June 1944. She also provided me with the date of birth and death of her mother.

    I interviewed Carmichael at a reunion for the USS Landing Craft Infantry National Association. He provided me with his story of his arrest after slipping away from the survivor’s camp after D Day. He described the clothing he was issued on the Tug which was different than the clothes he was photographed wearing later at the survivors’ camp.

    Gene Oxley first told his D Day story at a survivor’s camp in England to Everett Garner, a Coast Guard combat correspondent. The story: “Indianapolis Coast Guardsman Has Three Ships Shot Out From Him In One Morning: And Only Loses The Seat Of His Pants,” was released June 25, 1944. I found this document in the archives of the USS LCI National Association. A research team from our Association recovered this document during one of its trips to the National Archives. I also received a wartime copy of this document in the personal scrapbook of Gene Oxley, sent to me by his son Michael Oxley. This undated document was from U.S. Coast Guard Public Relations Division, labeled for “Immediate Release.” Also, in the scrapbook were other wartime copies for immediate release by the Coast Guard Public Relations Division in Washington, D.C.: “Gene Oxley Biography,” and “Indianapolis Coast Guardsman Braves Nazi Fire: Loses Pants, Three Ships,” in which Oxley praised Hendley for his action at Sicily when he marched down a ramp so that soldiers would follow him, and Hendley not ducking behind cover while under fire on the bridge of LCI 85 on D Day.

    Other copies of wartime documents in Gene Oxley’s scrapbook were: a transcript of live interview of Oxley by Willian Shandel, Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), short wave broadcast from London to the United States the original orders dated June 26, 1944 for Oxley to report for duty in London with the U.S. Coast Guard Public Relations Office.

    There were many wartime photos in Oxley’s scrapbook of him on speaking tours for the Coast Guard in the United States. There were several copies of newspaper articles in Oxley’s scrapbook reference his actions on D Day including an undated article in the “Indianapolis Star,” a St. Louis newspaper September 20, 1944 a “Daily Herald,” July 3, 1944 and an undated “Evening Standard.” There were three other unknown and undated newspapers with Oxley’s D Day experiences.

    Oxley’s daughter, Vikki Lamons, provided me with information regards to Oxley’s childhood, his father’s suicide, his mother’s mental instability, the CBS live broadcast/interview, his anguish over what he experienced on D Day, his life before and after the war and his cause of death. Her brother Michael confirmed the information she provided. Vikki was able to confirm information in newspaper articles about her father, such as the story of Jack Warner offering to make a movie about Oxley, and she was able to debunk a couple of exaggerations made by others in newspaper articles to inflate her father’s pre-war accomplishments.

    Andrew E. Woods, Research Historian for the Colonel Robert R. McCormick Research Center, First Division Museum at Cantigny Park, Wheaton, Illinois, contributed greatly to this article. He informed me that a soldier onboard LCI 85, Captain Emerald Ralston, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on D Day. Andrew sent me copies of Ralston’s citations and other military records which enabled me to tell his story. Andrew sent copies of “Top Secret Neptune” landing diagrams that included a list of units and numbers of personnel carried to shore by LCI 85. One of the units listed was the 6 th Naval Beach Battalion. They have an excellent web site, On their site I found letters dated October 21, 2002 and November 9, 2002, reference members of that unit who were killed on LCI 85 on D Day. One letter, written by Ken Davey identified those killed, including the two officers and friends of Hendley who Hendley waved to moments before they were killed.

    I found a copy of Hendley’s After Action Report for LCI 85 on D Day on, the website for the USS LCI National Association. It is listed under archives for the “Elsie Item” newsletter, Issue # 58.

    Molly Daniel June 6, 2020 at 12:24 pm

    Thank you for this excellent article and details of the sources of your information. My husband is a great-nephew of Lt. (jg) Jack Hagerty, the 5th ESB beachmaster who was killed by one of the shells which hit the LCI-85 as he was preparing to go ashore. We visited Omaha Beach in 1994 and 1995 and have since learned much more about the ship, her crew, and the Army and Navy units on board. Ken Davey has been an big help to us, and my husband also attended a reunion of the 6th Beach Battalion in 2002 and spoke with survivors of the 5th ESB. Bless them all.

    I appreciate very much your documenting and sharing this story.

    Matt Butcher June 6, 2020 at 5:15 pm

    This is amazingly well written! Difficult emotionally but should be read by everyone.

    Lisa Jones June 7, 2021 at 5:00 pm

    This was so interesting and informative. My dad, Charles Oktavec, was a crew member on LCI 85 during the Normandy invasion on D-Day (he was 17 years old). He never talked in much detail about that day except to say it was horrific and the boat sank. He said his job was measuring the depth of the water and calling it back to the pilot. He and Elmer Cartwright became re-acquainted later in life and came to be good friends. My dad passed away in 2012. I hope we never forget “the greatest generation”. Thank you for writing this account.

    Class: LCT(2), Tank Landing Craft, then LCT(R)(2) LCT Rocket Launched: 23 Sep 1941 At: Stockton Construction Co. on Thornaby, Briton Length: 48.5m, 159' 11" Beam: 9.1m, 30' Displacement: empty 300 ton, loaded 700 ton Armament: 2-2 lb. pom-pom AA, a few machine guns. Propulsion: 3 diesel eng. read more

    USS LCI(L)-713

    Type: Landing Craft Infantry (Large) Launched At: George Lawley & Son, Neponset (Quincy), MA. Commissioned: 18 September 1944 Length: 158' 5 1/2" Beam: 23' 3" Draft Light Landing: 2' 8" forward, 4' 10" aft Draft Loaded Landing: 5' 4" forward, 5' 11" aft Displacement: 387 ton. read more

    LCM 56

    Class: Higgins LCM (6) - LCM (3) with six feet added to the tank deck Type: Landing craft, mechanized Launched: 1950s At: Higgins Industries, New Orleans, LA Length: 56 feet Beam: 14 feet, 4 inches Draft: 4 feet, 3 inches Displacement: 52 tons (fully loaded) Armament: two .50. read more

    Type: 36' Higgins (wood) Capacity: 39 persons Length: 35 feet, 9 inches Beam: 10 feet, 6 inches Draft: 3 feet, 5 inches Displacement: 26,600 pounds Address: National Museum of the United States Navy 805 Kidder Breese St., SE Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5060 (202) 433. read more

    USS LST-325

    Type: Landing Ship Tank Launched: October 27, 1942 At: Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Commissioned: February 1, 1943 Length: 328 feet Beam: 50 feet Draft: 10 feet aft, 3.5 feet forward Bow door ramp: 14 feet Displacement: 3,310 tons Armament: two twin 40 mm, four si. read more

    USS LST-393

    Type: Landing Ship Tank Launched: November 11, 1942 At: Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Company, Newport News, Virginia Commissioned: December 11, 1942 Length: 328 feet Beam: 50 feet Draft: 10 feet aft, 3.5 feet forward Bow door ramp: 14 feet Displacement: 3,310 tons . read more

    LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushion)

    Authored By: JR Potts, AUS 173d AB | Last Edited: 05/02/2019 | Content © | The following text is exclusive to this site.

    The World War 2 Normandy invasion of Europe by Allied forces on June 6th, 1944, was comprised of thousands of ships of all types. The main task of the fleet was to provide shore bombardment and carry the troops, supplies, and armored vehicles going ashore in the 3,500 specialized landing craft.

    Up to this point, this operation became the largest recorded use of landing craft in history. LSTs (Landing Ship, Tank) were large craft used to shuttle tanks and armored vehicles to shore while LCIs (Landing Craft, Infantry) were built to accommodate up to 200 troops and the LCA (Landing Craft, Assault) was designed to carry a platoon of 31 infantrymen. By 6:55AM on Omaha Beach, one of the fived named beachheads during the first invasion wave, the 116th Regiment of the 29th Division suffered 99% causalities in just fifteen minutes. As the second wave approached the blood-soaked beach, the landing craft took artillery and mortar rounds fired from German positions ashore, some receiving direct hits and killing all those onboard. When some of the LCA's made it to the beach, the entry-exit ramp along the front of the hull was dropped down, instantly exposing the infantry to a waiting enemy, machine guns trained on the masses of body. It was only a matter of time before German machine gun fire ripped these men to pieces. As other LCAs approached the beach, some coxswains could not see through the smoke covering the beach and became disoriented, dropping their ramps in deep water, forcing the troops to wade ashore in water that was chest high. Many would fall into the sea, drowned by the weight of their own equipment and weaponry. It was obvious that the World War 2-era landing craft were a long way from being efficiently capable of safely landing men and material on enemy shores.

    In 1977, amphibious prototype designs were being evaluated for the American military - a program that would eventually produce the "Landing Craft Air Cushion" (LCAC) vehicle. The ambitious purpose of this new design was to supply American war planners with a craft that could effectively conduct an amphibious assault complete with troops, equipment and supplies, while being launched from ships "beyond-the-horizon". This vessel would wade across sea and reach shore and travel over the beach and beyond if need be. The selected prototype was a design sponsored by Bell Aerospace of New Orleans, Louisiana - a firm with experience in building hovercraft that were tested in the Vietnam War. Funding started in 1982 and, by 1987, the first LCAC 1 was deployed aboard the USS Germantown (LSD-42). The last craft, LCAC 91, was delivered to the US Navy in 2001. The largest deployment of these craft to date consisted of 11 examples deployed in the Persian Gulf War during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. None were combat tested however.

    The LCAC is launched by any US Navy surface ship featuring a "well deck". To operate the craft, she needs a base crew of five personnel. The craft measures in at 87 feet, 11 inches long (26.4m) and 47 feet wide (14.3 m). Her hull is supported by a cushion of high pressure air that is ejected downward towards the surface below and constricted by a skirt. The LCAC is powered by four main engines that provide lift and propulsion and, much like a helicopter, provides the LCAC with six dimensions of motion. The engines are Avco Lycoming TF40B gas turbines supplying a combined 16,000 shaft horsepower. Two are used for lift and the remaining two are used for propulsion. For propulsion, the LCAC sports 2 x 4 bladed reversible pitch propellers that are 11.75 feet in diameter and navigate the craft like a ship-born vessel's rudder system. For lift, there are 4 x 2 entry double exhaust centrifugal fans that measure up to 63 inches in diameter. The crewman who steers the craft is called the "craftmaster" - a yoke is used along with foot rudder controls to move the craft in any direction. The downward air is enclosed by a flexible rubber canvas skirt system allowing the hull to hover four feet above any surface.

    The LCAC maintains 5,000 gallons of internal fuel and the thirsty girl needs 1,000 gallons per hour to operate. Each LCAC fields two ramps - the bow ramp is 28.8 feet wide and the stern ramp is 15 feet. Men and equipment and be unloaded simultaneously to allow the LCAC to return to the fleet for additional men or supplies. The craft can make 40 knots (47mph) under load making her a valuable and fast transport along with her ability to come ashore on 70% of the world's coastlines. She can cross and operate over ice, soft sand, gravel and swampland. The vehicle needs 500 yards to stop and 2000 yards to make a radius turn. The LCAC's downward airflow creates high dust levels, and if disabled, the craft is difficult to tow. She displaces 170 tons when fully loaded while weighing 87.2 tons when light and allows for the transport of 82.7 tons of cargo with her 1,809 sq ft bay. This weight limit supports 180 fully equipped troops or an Abrams main battle tank as well as a variety of armored vehicles or cargo.

    In 1996 plans were made to modernize the LCAC. A standard "Service Life Extension Program" (SLEP) was approved in 2004 and called for upgrading all active LCAC's and extending their usefulness some 30 years at about $20 million each. The service program covered upgrades to the onboard electronics as well as a new buoyancy box replacement for each of the 74 craft. The expected new extended life will be from 2014 to 2027 (based on the craft's original launch date).

    The primary amphibious assault vehicle used by the USMC (as of 2010) was the AAV-7A1. This tracked armored system can hold 25 troops and can also be launched from well decked ships with a speed of 43 knots but can only access 17% of the world's coast line and has an operational range of 300 miles. However, unlike the LCAC, the AAV is not an "over the horizon" assault vehicle which remains the primary characteristic of the LCAC.

    With the shore-based defensive weapon systems available worldwide today, launching LCAC's up to 50 miles off shore proved to have obvious safety appeal for the US naval fleet. As the LCAC moves inland into a controlled staging area - supported by helicopters overhead - the enemy would shift its focus away from the fleet itself. A high-speed, over-the-beach craft able to make a possible tactical surprise with troops and material in tow and not exposing the fleet to enemy fire was the desired LCAC mission. Of course safety in any combat situation is impossible to control, however, and we have history to see the failings of amphibious assault craft in past wars.

    The LCAC has a number of short comings they are constructed of rubber and canvas with no armor protecting the crew or troops on board. A very large craft also provides for a very large radar image. Once on land her speed and maneuverability is greatly reduced down to 6 knots. The six gas turbines are noted as being very noisy and can be heard at a great distance. If damaged, LCACs have proven very difficult to tow and driving in reverse is taxing for the driver. Naval gunfire will be out of range to support the initial landing and the buildup of combat troops and material ashore will be slow due to the turnaround time for LCAC.

    It is of note that the LCAC, and the men and women who will come to count on them, have not been tested in combat.



  1. Armin

    I recommend that you visit a site that has many articles on this subject.

  2. Samushakar

    there are some normal

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