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BY SEA AND BY LAND
Official U. S, Nnvy Photograph
LIEUT. EARL BURTON, USNR
The Story of
Our Amphibious Forces
MC GRAW-HILL BOOK COMPANY, INC.
London ----- New York
* .*. **
.* ..*. ":: fcs?. sjSl AND BY ULCTD
by the McGRAw-Hn-i. BOOK COMPANY, Iizsrc.
All 'riglfts reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be
reproduced in any form without permission of the publisher.
PUBLISHED BY WHITTLESEY HOUSE
A division of the McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc.
Printed in the United States of America
OF THE AMPHIBIOUS FORCES
JUL 1 3 1944
'Tanks land on
Many times since December 7, 1941, headlines similar to
this have appeared in our daily papers, but comparatively
few persons, in or out of the military and naval services,
realize the backstage activities that made these announce-
ments possible. Most of us absorb only the thrill attending
the reading, similar to that feeling one experiences in wit-
nessing a gigantic stage spectacle ; and we wonder how it was
done. If the public had been permitted to see the detailed
planning and the time and effort the cast applied to make
the landing possible, the astonishment would be all the
Amphibious operations are dramas of life and death and
the members of the cast are our soldiers and sailors. Their
backstage life cannot be fully revealed at this time, but
suffice it to say it is hard and exacting and requires courage
of the highest order. The rehearsals preliminary train-
ing are shrouded in secrecy. It must be that way, and not
until the very minute of attack against the enemy-held
beach do many, beyond the members of the task force, know
anything about the operation.
I have lived with these men and have seen them train on
land and sea, under both ideal and miserable conditions. At
best it is a life of hard work. We know that, unlike any other
form of warfare, an amphibious operation cannot strike,
fail, retreat, and try again. It must succeed the first time.
This requires teamwork and the coalescing of the Army and
Navy components into a hard-hitting and fast-moving force.
That teamwork exists. This war has brought the Army
and Navy closer together than ever before in our history,
and Amphibious Forces are the epitome of everything that
is sought in military efficiency.
Without the success of the initial thrust over the enemy-
held beaches, our final effort could never materialize. It is
the Amphibious Forces who are carrying the vanguard of
victory of American arms to Japan and Germany, and
nothing either enemy has to offer can stop them.
It is to the men of the Amphibious Forces that this book
has been dedicated. Their accomplishments have been great ;
they will be even greater. They have won and earned our
thanks and gratitude.
BRIGADIER GENERAL FRANK A. KEATING,
U. S. Army.
1. Pattern for Invasion 13
2. This Most Difficult Warfare 26
3. Building 138 37
4. The Ships That Land Them 50
5. Landing Craft Group 64
6. Spit-kits and Tank Ships 81
7. It Doesn't Grow on Trees 101
8. The Boys with the Stereopticon Eyes 116
9. The Very Model of a Modern Battlefield 131
10. Artillery Sailors the NGLO's 143
11. We Call It a Party 158
12. The Attack Transports 167
13. The Amphibious Infantry 181
14. Small-Boat Men 192
15. D-day for Lollipop 203
16. Logistics for Lollipop 211
And They Will Land Again 217
BY SEA AND BY LAND
Pattern for Invasion
THE little bar at 116 Piccadilly was almost empty.
The radio was turned low. A BBC orchestra was
playing its jitterbug version of a current song. An
RAF pilot and an officer in the uniform of the Fleet Air
Arm sat in two of the modernistic maple chairs. They were
talking quietly. The RAF pilot dug deep in his blue pocket
for a package of Players and offered one to his companion.
116 Piccadilly was the Athenaeum Court, a steel and
concrete apartment hotel that had somehow escaped the
blitz bombs in that area. It had its brick blast-wall pro-
tecting the front door, sand bags were stacked high against
the basement windows, and in the lobby a red plush carpet
made a path to the desk where two aged attendants in green
uniform alternated in the duties of doorman and clerk.
Several officers, British and American, lived here. Nightcap
time usually found a few of them in the piano-sized bar,
getting their "one for the road" drink and talking to the
barkeeper. She was a blonde with hair the color of Cuban
gin. She called everyone darling and said that she was born
"Two gin and limes, please." The RAF pilot looked to-
ward the bar.
14 PATTERN FOR INVASION
"Right away, darling." She measured out the jiggers
of gintand then watched the green lime-juice extract spiral
through it and bounce up from the bottom of the glass as
she poured from another bottle.
"Much too nice a night to drink/' she said, to herself.
I had been in London less than a month, attached to IT. S.
Naval headquarters. It was a nice evening, a mid-August
London evening. Outside, you could hear the muffled tones
and the cackle of laughter from couples across the street
in Green Park. Heavy boots and light heels tinkled on the
sidewalks, and the possessive cries of "Taxi" rang in the
black-out. Conversation that day had been excited and
largely about one topic the raid on Dieppe. The morning
papers had carried the story.
"That in itself would indicate this is no mere Commando
raid," the man in his new "utility" suit had said while wait-
ing his turn for lunch at the teashop. "If it was an ordinary
raid we wouldn't know about it till it was over. And it's still
goin 5 on."
The RAF pilot picked up his glasses of gin and lime and
left two shillings sixpence on the counter. The door opened,
and an American Army colonel came in. He tossed his hat
into an empty chair and took the vacant stool next to me at
"Hello, darling." It was the girl with the gin-colored
hair. * Whisky and soda?"
"Yes," the colonel answered.
"Want some ice in it, darling?"
"Of course I want ice."
"My, my, we're grumpy tonight, aren't we?' y She
PATTERN FOR INVASION 15
stooped, out of sight, behind the bar to search for some ice
slivers. The colonel seemed not to have heard.
The music on the radio stopped. An incisive BBC news
commentator's voice began.
"We bring you the latest news on the Dieppe raid. . . ."
The colonel looked at his drink, watching the ice slosh
around, slowly disappearing, as he drew patterns on the
counter with the bottom of the wet glass.
"Two regiments, believed to be the Essex Scottish and
the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, went into Dieppe
proper, up a street called Boulevard de Verdun. Their task
was^to clean out fortified houses, remove all enemy opposi-
tion from the beaches so that tanks could be landed . . . ,"
the voice droned on.
I thought of the Dieppe I had seen 5 years ago, a peace-
ful Dieppe, offering her docks and pier to the Channel boats
from England. A colorless place, quiet, stone-built, and
sleepy. Now those cobbled streets were being slapped with
lead, and the gray buildings were red with fire and smoke.
A German soldier would feel quite secure behind those thick
stone walls, shooting at invaders through tiny, hard-to-hit
The colonel completed his series of circle patterns on the
"I don't understand it," he said. "I simply can't under-
stand it." He wasn't speaking to anyone in particular. He
was looking at the glass he held in his hand when he spoke.
"Men are dying over there right now. They're dying by
the hundreds. They can't hope to hold the place. This can't
be an invasion. We're not ready." He gulped the last of
16 PATTERN FOR INVASION
the whisky and soda. "Damn it. We're not ready." He
picked up his cap and left.
The colonel was right on two counts. Dieppe was not an
invasion, and we were not yet ready for an invasion. How-
ever, Dieppe was the largest "reconnaissance in force" using
amphibious instruments yet employed in this war. Its lessons
were costly but valuable. It was a prelude to the invasion of
Africa that was to come in November, 1942.
"Our troops have landed m North Africa . . ."
Those were the electrifying words that interrupted radio
programs and made banner headlines in the newspapers on
November 8, 1942. Three months after the gloomy colonel
gulped his drink and left the bar with a "Damn it, we're not
ready," those words announced to the world that the Allies
had struck. This was no raid. It was a gigantic, continental-
sized amphibious invasion. And the men were going in to
stay. They wouldn't come out until the last German in
North Africa was behind a prison pen.
After almost a year of delaying action America was on
the offensive. To a nation still galled by the attack on Pearl
Harbor, by watching Rommel's relentless march across the
desert to within smelling distance of Alexandria, and to a
nation with its internal problems of building tanks, bombers,
and ships in the face of incessant cries for a second front,
the news of North Africa was a great detergent.
It was the beginning; it was the first combined Army-
Navy, British-American assault on the enemy, the first
major amphibious adventure.
We gambled and won. We gambled that the Germans,
seeing our convoy pass through the Strait of Gibraltar, as
fial f 7 - 8. Wvy Photograph
LCT WITH A LOAD FOR SALERNO BEACHES
PATTERN FOR INVASION 17
they were certain to do with their "eyes" on next-door Span-
ish soil, would assume that these ships were bound for Malta.
We won that bet. We also gambled on the fact that if the
forces coming from America were sighted, the enemy would
believe their destination to be Dakar. We won that bet with
the aid of well-directed psychological warfare and news-
paper hints. Planners also gambled on a new type of war-
fare, amphibious invasion. But the American Amphibious
Force was used to gambling. Its 8 months of existence prior
to , November 8 had been a continual gamble. First, would
Army and Navy work together as a team? Would all the
strange, new amphibious craft that came out of the water
onto the beaches work; would the problems of supply, of
communications, of supporting naval gunfire, and all the
intricate pieces that go into the pattern of an amphibious
assault fit into place?
To the men of the Amphibious Force this was not much
of a gamble. It was more like placing money on a cinch bet.
They had confidence that the pieces they had formed would
fit. In the testing of this confidence they were lucky. Land-
ings were made in the face of only slight enemy opposition,
The North African invasion was, in a way, a test. It
brought out fundamental principles that could be applied
to any amphibious assault, from the shores of Europe to the
furthest Pacific island. The Amphibious Team had played
its first sandlot game. From hits, runs, and errors in that
game it could coach the players for the big-league contests
ahead : Sicily, Salerno, almost any place on the Pacific map
where you wanted to stick a pin, and, finally, for the series
pennant itself, the German-held continent of Europe,
18 PATTERN FOR INVASION
The first of the big-league series was scheduled for July,
1943. It was to be the island of Sicily. The pattern for this
invasion was more compact than for the assault on North
Africa, which had as its goal the landing on the shores of,
and the occupying of, Algeria and French Morocco. Here
the invaders had a choice of landing beaches from the city
of Algiers, west along the Mediterranean coast to Arzu,
Oran, down the coast of Africa from Port Lyautey, Fedala,
and Casablanca to Safi.
Sicily presented a different problem. In the first place,
to the enemy, Sicily was a logical place for the Allies to
land. They had only to look at the map of the Mediterra-
nean area to decide that. It was a short water hop from
Tunisia, and all the ports of North Africa were bulging
with invasion craft. The enemy knew that something was
brewing. That's why German reconnaissance planes made
so many trips over those ports. They thought they could
tell just when the blow was going to fall. However, our
reconnaissance planes were making even more frequent trips
over the island of Sicily.
First plans called for an assault on the northern shores
of the island, east and west of Palermo. But pictures
brought back by our planes showed that this was just what
the enemy expected. They were building defenses in that
area in preparation for an attack. We continued to let them
think we would attack to the north, while a quiet shift of
strategy took place.
Many stories have credited the success of our landing on
Sicily to the lack of enemy opposition. True. There wasn't
much opposition, but this was not the fault of the enemy.
The first rule in an amphibious assault is to land your sol-
PATTERN FOR INVASION 19
diers where the enemy doesn't expect them. On a coastline
that extends for hundreds of miles he is obviously unable to
defend every beach every inch of the way. It can be done
on a small atoll like Tarawa, but not on an area like New
Guinea or Sicily. The strategy of the attacker then is to
find the soft spot, the place where the enemy defenses are
lightest, and land soldiers and equipment quickly and in a
mass sufficient to hold that area.
Such a place was found on the southern coast of Sicily.
The final plans were completed. Commanding the entire
operation was General Dwight D. Eisenhower. The assault
strength was broken down into what we call task forces,
smaller units under separate command, working as members
of a team.
It was a great converging movement. Prom his palm-
terraced, bright-tiled headquarters in Algiers, the St.
George Hotel, General Eisenhower drew his forces in a
three-pronged assault. One force crossed the Atlantic from
America. Another left the British Isles ; and east from Alex-
andria, Egypt, and from all the little ports along the
Mediterranean coast of North Africa came other units
drawn toward the island of Sicily as if it were a great
Before the news of Sicily flashed to the world, our troops
had landed on Attu in the Aleutians. In the south, they had
invaded New Guinea and stormed ashore at Rendova. After
Sicily, the long amphibious arm stretched north again to
Kiska. Two days later, in the South Pacific, Vella Lavella
felt the thunder of invasion, and on July 30, troops were
on the beaches of Arundel Island in the Solomons.
September echoed to the landings on the Italian main-
20 PATTERN FOR INVASION
land, at Salerno, and in the Pacific at Salamaua and Fin-
schafen. Then in quick succession came Bougainville, the
Gilberts, bloody Tarawa, Maldn, and New Britain. In the
first month of 1944 our troops landed 30 miles from Rome
in a leapfrog jump up the coast to Anzio. Nine days later
Kwajalein in the Marshalls was virtually pulverized by the
greatest massing of assault strength ever used. February
had four D-days, an invasion a week. The first was Rooke
Island, between New Guinea and New Britain. Then came
the landings on the Green Islands which ended the Solomons
campaign, followed by Eniwetok and the invasion of the
It's pure cliche to say that war is a complicated business.
But I know of no simpler way to express this truth. And
amphibious warfare has a special complication all its own.
First comes a period of strangled emotions. A mild wind
blows the little waves, whipping their crests into a million
white eyebrows as you see the shores of home disappear.
Then you look at the strength around you. There's some-
thing very majestic about a convoy, even a dirty, slow mer-
chant convoy. But a parade of invasion-bound transports,
throwing their big wakes in perfect pattern, turning and
maneuvering with the escorting destroyers and cruisers,
gives you a picture not easily acquired, a glimpse of or-
ganized war before it becomes seemingly disorganized. It
gives you a feeling of the gigantic web of planning, train-
ing, and building that meant this massing of men and
The days pass and the men settle into a routine of trans-
port life. But the time of waiting is almost over for every-
PATTERN FOR INVASION 21
one. The days of training will soon be tested. Time seems to
lose its present tense. The future, which means action, 10,
15, or 20 days hence, is the common denominator for all
Certain things have to be done. Troops have to be fed,
watches stood. Men have to remember their mess hour and
the times fresh water is turned off and on. A transport's
water supply is limited and must be carefully rationed.
With thousands of men using it, little water can be wasted.
Boat drills take up some time. Soldiers practice getting
to their boat stations in the darkness of a blacked-out ship.
When H-hour comes they will have no lights to guide them.
They must know the labyrinth of the ship's passages, from
the troop quarters to the boat deck, and they must be able
to get to those stations in a hurry.
They have drilled in this on other transports during their
training period when they crawled down nets slung over the
port and starboard sides and dropped into waiting landing
craft below. They have been taught how to go over the
side and down the net in full battle dress, how to grip the
vertical, instead of the horizontal, strands of the rope net
so that the man above won't step on their fingers. They have
been trained in all the major and minor items that make up
an amphibious landing.
Transport life slips into a limbo of routine and waiting ;
of breakfast, lunch, and dinner; of work, play, and sleep.
Play is largely gambling in its various forms. No money is
seen, but it passes hands just the same, and the stakes are
big. These men have the biggest gamble of their lives just
ahead of them ; so money doesn't mean very much now. Guns
22 PATTERN FOR INVASION
are polished, cleaned, and polished again. Knives are
whetted and well-worn books pass from reader to reader.
On D minus 1, the day before the attack, the men are
told their destination. Last-minute plans are checked, and
intelligence information is passed out.
That night the convoy turns, and the mass of ships move
in to their anchorage. From the side of one transport a
small boat is lowered slowly into the water. Dark figures
grip the rope net, swing over the rail, and feel their way
down the rungs into the boat. The success of all the land-
ing boats to follow depends on the navigation and seaman-
ship of the scouts in this little craft. Its destination is an
unmarked spot in the dark water somewhere out in the dis-
tance. The troops are going to land somewhere north of this
spot. The scouts must locate the position, remain there, and
guide the waves of assault boats to shore.
By this time the moon is down. Aboard the transports
the low mumble of men working in darkness can be heard.
Troops 5 quarters are empty. The men, armed and equipped,
are filing up passages and standing at their boat loading
stations. The low whine of steel cable against pulley is the
sound of landing craft being lowered. Some boats are al-
ready in the water, moving in wide circles, their motors
muffled, ready to pull in to the foot of the net when signaled.
A quiet order is given, and four soldiers make a dark
silhouette as they start over the side and down the net.
Four more follow, and four more. Down they come in steady
columns, filling the boats below. One by one the transports
pass the word to the flagship.
"All boats off."
The last transport reports. Then the order is given,
PATTERN FOR INVASION 23
"Boats away. Go in."
This is the signal for the waiting warships, the cruisers,
the destroyers, and all the others. A blanket of fire leaves
their big guns and splashes over the beach. It's the job of
the big guns to pulverize the beaches, then, just before the
troops land, to lift their fire beyond the beaches. Perfect
timing all around is necessary. The barrage must lift be-
fore the troops land, but not soon enough to allow the enemy
defending the beach an opportunity to take advantage of
the lull and reman his positions on the. shore.
A few moments after the naval gunfire starts, the first
boats slide by the scout boat, get their bearings, and shoot
into shore. Another wave passes, then another. Up and down
the beaches come a steady stream of snub-nosed assault
craft, landing soldiers and returning for more.
Daylight brings the LST's and LCIL's with heavy equip-
ment and more cargo. The invasion is under way, but it is
by no means secure yet. These men ashore must have more
equipment and supplies to stay there.
All the parts of the Amphibious Team are meshing into
high gear. The Hydrographic Group has surveyed the
shore line for underwater obstacles and beaches suitable for
landing LST's and LCIL's. These beaches have been
The Beach Medical Battalion has set up a unit out of
fire range. It is bringing in the wounded, applying splints,
dressings, and loading the injured on boats to return to the
The communication teams are working. They have set
up message centers and are keeping contact with land, sea,
and air groups. The Beach Party on shore is directing the
24 PATTERN FOR INVASION
steady shuttle of boats, unloading the transport cargo, dis-
persing it along the shore, and routing it inland.
Somewhere back of the shore line are more Navy officers
with Army units. These are the Naval Gunfire Liaison Offi-
cers. They are calling for, and directing, the fire of the big
Navy guns at targets the Army wants annihilated. These
Navy men have found observation posts, a tree, a tower, or
a high hill and are controlling their shots with a short-wave
radio. In the air are scout planes and bombers doing the
same thing, spotting, bombing, and directing fire within
the intricate web of amphibious communications.
It is hard to see the pattern of war around you when
things are happening as fast as they do during an inva-
sion. When the job is finished it has been so hectic that men
are prone to say, "To hell with what made it. We did it.
The job's done."
But behind that job lies a pattern of unbelievably intri-
cate planning, the movement of thousands of men and mil-
lions of tons of material assembled from hundreds of war
ports. It means split-second timing to arrive at a place on
an hour called "H." It means the manipulation and direc-
tion and control of this power in a way to land it where
the enemy isn't expecting it. It's cooperation, in the fullest
application of the word's meaning, not only between the
men who draw a sight down a gun barrel, but also between
the services. It means not only the men of action, but also
the men left behind, the men who built, trained, and planned.
Very little was said or written about the Amphibious
Force following the North African invasion. There were
PATTERN FOR INVASION 25
many things still to be tried for the first time and many
more invasions yet to come.
But since that November Sunday in 1942, the news that
"our troops have landed" has flashed across the nation al-
most 30 times. The following pages have been an attempt
to tell part of the story behind that communique line.
This Most Difficult Warfare
WELL, we'll soon have our schedule down to an
invasion every 3 days!"
That's what one sailor said after he heard the
news of the Admiralty Island landings, the fourth in as
many weeks during the month of February, 1944.
T^wo years earlier, February, 1942, amphibious war was
a new term, as unknown to most people as the contents of
the King of England's breakfast menu. But everyone saw
the results of amphibious war in the Pacific. They had seen
pictures of the Japs coming in to Philippine shores in
barges. They had watched and pin-stuck maps as the Japs'
fluid drive spread south. All this had been seen with but
perhaps scant appreciation of tactics involved.
It was stark clear to some military minds how the Jap
was closing in on island after island. It was clearer still
when consideration was given to the retaking of these islands
in the future, especially since "future" meant that the Jap
would have ample time to fortify, strengthen, and supply
Singapore fell. Java fell. The Japs moved south. And
the German Army was in North Africa. Wherever the Al-
THIS MOST DIFFICULT WARFARE 27
lies struck, whenever we were prepared to shift from de-
fense to assault, the blow would have to be water-borne.
This point was hammered home to the press and the
people on the afternoon of March 11. The man who did it
was Admiral Thomas C. Hart. He was back from the
Philippines and the Dutch Navy in Java with a message.
It was Secretary Knox's weekly press conference. Admiral
Hart was sunbrowned and tired as he faced the roomful
of correspondents. He had a story to tell and he minced no
"The Pacific campaign has been and will continue to be,"
said Admiral Hart, "one of amphibious war, this most diffi-
cult and least known variety of warfare."
The stories that resulted from this press conference were
good. It was a firsthand account of the retreat from the
Philippines and the losing battle for Java and the Dutch
East Indies. It made good reading. But it also accented a
fact already unpleasantly clear to the war planners: this
amphibious warfare was the least known variety.
Lights had burned late many nights in a small 20 by 20
room in the old Munitions Building facing Constitution
Avenue. Men sitting around the U-shaped table had made
one decision, an obvious and easy one: we must have an
Amphibious Force of some kind. But the correlated prob-
lems : of what will it consist, how will it be done, and who
will do it were more brow-wrinkling than a crossword puzzle
There was the factor of time to be considered. Such a
force not only had to be organized, it had to be trained
and equipped, and quickly. There was no handy reference
book or War College course to turn to for training. There
28 THIS MOST DIFFICULT WARFARE
was no equipment depot or quartermaster with supplies for
amphibious warfare. It was like a man in a deep well, with-
out rope or ladder, being told he had just 10 minutes to get
himself out of that well, or else. . . .
With a review of what little amphibious experience
American forces had behind them, perhaps a few rungs of
a ladder could be built. The men taking this inventory
turned first to the Marine Corps and the Navy. Both had
some experience, but not on the scale now demanded.
The Navy's first amphibious experience had been a joint
effort with the Marines. In nearly every campaign in which
the Navy had participated, Marine units had landed on
enemy shores under covering naval gunfire. Usually, how-
ever, in these landings, the troop forces were assembled
from Marines of the ship's detachment and had little coach-
ing in the refined art of landing on a defended beach.
Specialized assault training within the Marine Corps had
begun as early as 1902, and by 1914 considerable progress
had been made in the training and equipping of advance
base brigades. The First World War halted this particular
type of training and it was discontinued until 1924, when
the Fifth Marines were sent to Panama on maneuvers. At
the same time, the east coast Expeditionary Force from
Quantico was making practice landings on the island of
Culebra. The following year, 1925, a joint Army-Navy
maneuver was held on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.
It was not until 1933 that an organized landing force
was created within the Marine Corps. This was the Fleet
Marine Force. In 1935 the Fleet Marine Force and the
Navy began a series of joint landing exercises which were
completed in 1939,
THIS MOST DIFFICULT WARFARE 29
The Army's amphibious assets lay largely with the corps
of engineers which had trained small-boat men who were
familiar with the ways of water. In the winter of 1939,
after the Navy had finished its last exercises with the
Marines, an independent Army amphibious program was
getting under way on the west coast with the 3rd Division.
Guiding the soldiers through the mysteries of assault by sea
was General Frank Keating with 4% years of experience
in Hawaii and still more in the Philippines.
Fort Lewis, Washington, near Puget Sound, was the
incubator for the general's amphibious theories. Equip-
ment was scarce and makeshift. This, remember, was the era
of "simulation" and "simulation" was the gag line of all
wisecracks. These were the days when Ford half -ton trucks
labeled "tank" played at war against wooden guns, and
engineer pontoons were paddled as war canoes to represent
motor-driven landing craft.
In Fort Lewis was a body of water, American Lake. This
lake, and a small, flat meadow near by, were to be the scene
of some strange sights, strange even to a master sergeant
whose service marks bore witness to years of Army impro-
It was General Keating's plan to give his men some basic
amphibious training. Boats were needed for this, but there
were no boats at Fort Lewis. There was the lake, perfect
for amphibious training, but no boats. Not to be outclassed
by other labelers, the general looked over the few acres of
flat meadowland and gave some orders. On one side of the
field was an embankment 15 or 20 feet high. The next day
carpenters brought out white-pine boards, and curious eyes
watched them saw and hammer the lumber into a little
30 THIS MOST DIFFICULT WARFARE
grandstand on the ridge. On the other side of the field men
brought out bundles of wooden stakes, sharpened the points,
and drove them into the ground.
The general was almost ready to explain what this was
all about, but he seemed to be waiting for one more thing.
A string of Army trucks bumped down the road and parked,
out of sight, beyond the row of stakes. Then came the ex-
planation. Without hint of a smile, General Keating ex-
"That row of stakes," he said, pointing to what looked
like a stubby picket fence across the field, "is the water line
of the enemy beach. When I signal, trucks will come down
the field toward the stakes. They don't look like it, but
they're boats, landing craft for an assault on that beach*
Now we'll show you how an enemy beach should be ap-
proached and taken."
The general walked over to the little pine bleacher,
climbed up, and sat down. From this point he, and his stu-
dents, had an unobstructed view of the entire field. The
officer in charge of the demonstration gave the signal to
To start this mountain-meadow training, it was necessary'
to show the green 3rd Division troops what a beach assault
looked like. The first demonstration was about to take place.
The men in the trucks were the demonstration team that the
general had formed from the 15th Infantry.
At the signal the trucks roared out of hiding, across the
meadow, throwing up a wake of dust and yellow mustard
flowers instead of salt water. The vehicles moved singly or
in tandem, but each one represented a landing craft. They
entered the meadow in typical approach formation. As they
THIS MOST DIFFICULT WARFARE 31
neared the line of white stakes they went into a V formation
and shot into the "beach" in waves. The men jumped from
the trucks, as they would from a landing craft, and rushed
the "beach." While this was going on, the instructor would
explain to his group what was taking place and outline the
tactical reason for doing so.
As each wave of trucks debarked the men on the "beach,"
they wheeled about and retraced their route back to the
assembly area exactly as boats retract and return to the
When the team had completed its demonstration, the stu-
dents would join their units and go through the same attack
with their own equipment.
This was the first of the alfalfa assaults.
With a little imagination on the part of the soldiers and
much coaching they got the idea. With trucks for boats and
a meadow for a beach they were shown the correct method
of approaching an enemy shore, how to land, spread out to
make smaller targets, and how to keep a steady stream of
supplies coming in to the troops that had landed.
This was the first part of the training cycle. But it gave
the troops no feeling of being on water regardless of vivid
imaginations. The boys would have to get their feet wet
before they'd really understand.
As soon as each battalion finished its "alfalfa assault" it
was taken down to American Lake, where the men used
floats and engineer pontoons to get the feel of actually
being on water. These floats were ponderous things, about
20 feet square with a 20-foot tower and upper platform.
They were floated on empty 50-gallon drums. The upper
platform of the tower was designed to hold one platoon of
32 THIS MOST DIFFICULT WARFARE
riflemen or heavy weapons. The debarkation stations were
reached by a narrow footbridge from the shore to the float
and by climbing vertical ladders through a trap door to
the upper platform, which represented the deck of a trans-
port. Two scaling walls were built on these towers, and sus-
pended from these were 30-foot cargo nets.
"Now you're coming over the side of a transport," the
instructor would shout to his men on the deck. "Climb
down, drop into this landing craft,' " he would point to an
Army assault boat, a little larger than a rowboat, "and go
like hell for the beaches."
These small boats were always paddled. Even sufficient
outboard motors were not available.
Training under these conditions was ragged, but the en-
tire 3rd Division was oriented and conditioned in basic
amphibious assault and theory.
The division was scheduled to leave for San Pedro, Cali-
fornia, in January for a joint maneuver with the Navy. A
few days before they left a couple of honest-to-god boats
arrived at Fort Lewis, which provided a wet-run before
joining the Navy units.
The troops left for San Pedro, Christmas Eve, 1939, and
returned in May, 1940, with many credit hours of training
with the Navy. But the division was ordered to reorganize,
and further amphibious training was postponed until fall.
The first sizable joint amphibious exercise which at all
resembled our current conception of such an operation was
scheduled for early winter of 1941. Participating in this
was the Army's 1st Division and the Marine 1st Division.
Commanding the Navy forces was Admiral E. J. King, then
CINCLANT (Command in Chief United States Atlantic
".. 4 ?~, w tj
sV .'" '.:>,
THIS MOST DIFFICULT WARFARE 33
Fleet). The Army complement was under the direction of
Brigadier General James G. Ord. The entire landing opera-
tions were to be under the command of Major General Hol-
land M. Smith of the Marine Corps.
This was the first joint maneuver entailing Army, Navy,
and Marine Forces. Included were many men later to be
key figures in the Atlantic Fleet Amphibious Force. Among
them were: Captain Lee P. Johnson, Commanding Officer
of the USS Tuscaloosa, later to be in command of the Am-
phibious Force; Captain R. R. M. Emmet, who was to be
Commander Transports for the force and a participant in
the North African invasion; and Colonel William D. Pas-
chal, who became General Keating's Chief of Staff.
The Army units sailed from New York in late January,
1941, on Army transports. The executive officer was Lieu-
tenant Colonel Adrian St. John who had been an observer
attached to the 3rd Division when it was training on the
meadow under General Keating.
Landing craft used in this exercise was a motley array
of various types: A, B, and C types, the "bureau boat" (a
metal craft not too seaworthy), motor launches from the
escorting naval ships, and the personal gig of Captain
Johnson which he had donated to the cause from the USS
Tuscaloosa. These were personnel craft only. They had no
ramps. When the boats beached, the troops crawled over
the gunwales, dropped into the water, and waded ashore.
The first type of Higgins boat used by the Army was
tried in this exercise. The Higgins boats had been delivered
to the dock in New York. Shipped out of New Orleans in
warm weather, someone forgot to drain the water, so that
when they arrived in New York a number of engine blocks
34 THIS MOST DIFFICULT WARFARE
were frozen. A lot of time going south on maneuvers was
spent on those engine blocks.
This was also the first time that transports were used in
a joint operation on the east coast. There was much to
learn in the preparation of a transport for assault. The
Brooklyn Army Base had built some cradles for stowage of
Higgins boats on the forward and after decks. Boats were
nestled, or jammed would be a more appropriate word, on
these cradles placed athwartships, as tightly as possible.
Booms were rigged to sling the boats over the side for de-
The transports themselves were captained by Army
Transport skippers. They were civilians, civil-service ap-
pointees, from the merchant marine. They wore a blue uni-
form with the Special Army Transportation insignia.
Colonel PaschaPs skipper was 2 weeks new on his ship
when they sailed.
"Every time we went out on a sortie," the colonel said,
"the old man aged 5 years. He had no formation experience,
particularly at night, and the problems of blacking out his
ship seemed insurmountable. However, most of the Army
were also novices in what we were doing. We all learned a
lot. We had excellent cooperation from both General Smith's
and Admiral King's Staffs."
The inventory on amphibious experience was brief, assets
not too cohesive or complete, but at least what we did have
held promise. It also showed the tremendous task of train-
ing, equipping, and organizing to be done before our am-
phibious strength could be used* The need of a unified com-
mand was apparent. This decision had been reached in late
THIS MOST DIFFICULT WARFARE 35
February, 194)2, by President Roosevelt and the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, and the man chosen to organize the nucleus
of the first Amphibious Force was Rear Admiral Roland M.
A few days after this appointment, Commodore, then
Captain, Lee P. Johnson left command of the USS Tusca-
loosa and reported to the Navy Department in Washington.
He was walking down one of the newly painted, endless
corridors in the Department when he saw Admiral Brainard.
"Johnson," Admiral Brainard said, "you're my new Chief
of Staff. Come into my office."
Captain Johnson followed the admiral into the office, more
stunned than pleased at the sudden news. Admiral Brainard
picked up the telephone, called the Navy's Bureau of Per-
sonnel, and 5 minutes later the verbal appointment was a
"Now get me a staff," were Admiral Brainard's next
Captain Johnson had many an opportunity in the fol-
lowing days to ponder the speedy fruition of the admiral's
call to BuPers.
"I started with a list of six likely candidates," the Cap-
tain said, "but that's about as far as I got for what seemed
Ten days to be exact, 10 days of receiving the inevitable
answer to requests for personnel, "Negative, can't be spared
from his present job." Finally, one by one, candidates for
the new staff were slowly confirmed by the all-powerful
BuPers. On Friday afternoon, March 13, dispatch orders
went out from Washington to eight men. The next day,
36 THIS MOST DIFFICULT WARFARE
March 14, 1942, Admiral Brainard directed that his flag
be hoisted without ceremony on his transport.
The Atlantic Fleet Amphibious Force had been created,
one ship and a staff of eight men.
America's first major amphibious invasion was 7 short
THE Atlantic Fleet Amphibious Force had been acti-
In rough terms, when a military unit is "acti-
vated" it is ready to take orders and plan for action.
"To us," someone in the force said, "it was like putting
Don Quixote on a sea urchin with orders to bring back a
What activation really meant was a series of windmill
battles with discouragement and confusion, achievement and
success against outrageous odds, and a period of organiz-
ing disjointed separate military groups. Day and night
planning ranged from how to feed 1,000 men on a new
base with only Civil War field kitchens, to training cox-
swains to bring landing craft ashore in pitch-black night.
It meant coordination of training both soldier and sailor.
It meant getting equipment where no equipment existed,
of ordering boats direct from the draftsman's board, unseen,
untested. It was a gamble in essential material, vital time.
This was the first move to unify Army and Navy am-
phibious experience and equipment. It was like fitting to-
gether the parts of a giant jigsaw puzzle, parts whose edges
38 BUILDING 138
had never been clearly cut, some entirely missing, and the
complete pattern itself virtually unknown.
This fitting together began on March 16, 1942, when the
first eight members of the Amphibious Force staff reported
to the Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, Virginia.
There is another military term which has more ramifica-
tions than an onion has layers. It's "security," and it means
secrecy, "Don't let the enemy know what we're doing." The
cold hand of security clamped around the Amphibious
Force, with the warning, above all, "Don't let the enemy or
anyone else know what we're doing in the preparation for
amphibious fighting." This was necessary; otherwise we
would lose one of our major weapons, surprise. It was not
until October and November, 1943, that newspaper corre-
spondents were allowed to visit and write about amphibious
This shroud of security around the force was so tightly
drawn that it was virtually kept a secret from those who
worked in it during the early Norfolk days.
The new staff arrived on the base on time, but no one
could direct them to the headquarters of the Amphibious
Force. Perhaps it is fitting that the location of the new force
should have been somewhat of a mystery. For most of the
eight staff men their first day's work in the force was an
office-to-office canvass of the base with the question, "Where
do I report?"
One by one they got the answer, "Building 138." As each
man reported to Building 138 he kept his first impression
locked within his official self.
Building 138 was not a staff officer's dream. It was a
two-story wooden shack, painted the color of mashed grass,
BUILDING 138 39
lying between the receiving station prison and an old sub
base north of Pier 7, The windows, what few there were,
looked out upon the murky, ship-dirtied harbor waters of
Hampton Roads. Near by was another building, housing
the Landing Force Equipment Depot, which was to grow
hand-in-hand with the force.
It might have been clever to think of concealing the secret
Amphibious Force headquarters in a little wooden building.
But this was not the reason for its selection. There was no
other building available.
Captain Johnson was waiting in Building 138 to greet
his staff as it reported. His welcome was more warm-hearted
and explanatory than the usual official "Glad to have you
aboard." When the men saw the inside of the building they
would need something of a chaplain's pat on the shoulder
and a word for courage under fire.
It was like the Joads moving in on country cousins. An-
other Navy unit with a long name. The Subordinate Com-
mand Service Force Atlantic Fleet, was already occupying
138. As a friendly gesture of one officer to another in need
of working space, this unit had merely compressed its desks
and yeomen on one side of the first floor, leaving the Am-
phibious Force a corner of the room. But there was more
available space than appeared at first glance. Several doors
opened from this corner of the room. They were bathrooms,
toilets, and a little bedroom. A small desk was squeezed into
each bathroom, two desks were pressed together in the bed-
room, and the others, with hardly passageway between them,
were in the corner of the first floor. Thumbtacks made little
bright pimples on the beaverboard walls. The light-oak
government desks were scratched and worn. Wet clothes,
40 BUILDING 138
carbon paper, and the odor of a heated wooden building
blended into an office-barracks room smell.
When the staff had assembled, the captain said, "Well,
gentlemen, here we are at last. We can get to work now."
At first Captain Johnson's invitation to "work" resolved
into a 90:10 ratio; 90 per cent of the time was spent in
trying to get office equipment and arranging it within the
space limits, and 10 per cent in the actual work of war
No one on the staff considered himself an amphibious
expert. Everyone immediately began to read all available
reports on ship-to-shore exercises. In a row of cabinets was
a set of files on transports that the Service Force had kept.
These were avidly studied. Office hours were from 7 in the
morning until 11 at night with no days off. Other files were
read and records of past maneuvers were studied.
This period was, in fact, rather like the commissioning
of a new ship and a shakedown cruise. The staff was settling
into position, new officers reported, and the force began to
take on shape. It was understood that this was a fighting
staff, whose mission was to prepare plans for an amphibious
The staff ate at the base and lived in the Chamberlain
Hotel, across the Roads, which had been leased by the Navy.
For transportation across the Roads, a landing craft was
borrowed from the equipment depot next door. Another
landing craft was borrowed. This was to be Admiral Brain-
ard's barge. Every admiral has a boat for his personal use.
Regardless of type or what the boat looks like, it's always
called the "admiral's barge."
Lieutenant Phillips, the flag lieutenant, with a crew of
BUILDING 138 41
enlisted men and ship's fitters, built a small cabin, covered
the open deck of the landing craft, repainted it, decked it
out with white canvas tassels, and christened it the LCB
(Landing Craft Brainard).
With all its growing pains, the force worked and swelled
with hyperthyroid speed. Security became tighter. The ad-
dress of the Atlantic Fleet Amphibious Force was "c/o
Postmaster, New York City." Few people on the naval base
or elsewhere knew of the force or its purpose. TJiose who
did were hard put to realize its permanency. But we were
still a long, long way to Port Lyautey.
In April, Admiral Bristol died in Argentia. Admiral
Brainard was given the third star of a Vice Admiral to take
over that command and Rear Admiral Henry K. Hewitt
became Commanding Officer of the Atlantic Fleet Amphib-
It was a southern April day when Captain Johnson and
Lieutenant Phillips drove out to the Naval Air Station in
Norfolk to meet their new boss, Admiral Hewitt.
During the drive back from the air station to Building
138, the admiral was given a quick review of the AFAF
status and, to a degree, warned about what to expect in the
way of an office. However, the warning was insufficient.
Admiral Hewitt had been smoking a pipe, which he held in
his hand when he entered the door at 138.
"This is your desk, sir," said Captain Johnson.
The admiral looked. His desk was jammed tightly against
the wall, phalanxed by the desks of Communications, Opera-
tions, Intelligence, Material, and yeomen desks for each of
these. The admiral said nothing, but in his astonishment,
he replaced his pipe in his mouth, bowl first.
42 BUILDING 138
In the meantime, the Army pieces of the invasion jigsaw
were talcing shape in outlying parts of the country.
One question which arose in the Joint Chiefs of Staff's
February meeting was who would man the invasion craft
used by American forces. Would it be Army or Navy? Since
the Army Engineers' Amphibian Brigades were experienced
small-boat men, the engineers volunteered to embark upon
an extensive training program for additional amphibian
brigades. These units would fill two requirements. They
would man the small assault boats, that is steer them and
do the navigation; and they would be responsible also for
getting supplies ashore for the troops that had landed. The
engineers began to organize these amphibian brigades in
April and May of 1942.
While this was getting under way. General Prank Keat-
ing was working out new tactical theories and problems
indigenous to amphibious warfare for an over-all Army
training program. The general was staying at the Army
War College in Washington. He was sitting on one of the
balconies that hang in tiers like the boxes at the Paris
Opera House, the day he received the training order, won-
dering how this assignment was going to be solved. He had
been given carte-blanche authority to call on any man in
the Army for what he wanted. At this time he was working
with General Mark Clark, Chief of Staff of the Army
The question in General Keating's mind was, what exactly
did he want, or need. Amphibious warfare had hardly pol-
lenized. Landings had been made; the Army had worked
with the Navy and Marine Corps in amphibious problems ;
but this was to be amphibious war on a scale that left
BUILDING 188 43
planners, who faced its tremendous problems with little else
than ideas, a bit breathless.
The only thing to do was to analyze previous amphibious
work, and upon that base the curriculum for the new train-
Before coming to Washington in the spring of 1942,
General Keating had been working with the chief of staff
of the 2nd Division at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio,
One midmorning the desk phone rang. It was a long-dis-
tance call from the War Department in Washington.
"Report at once to Washington, to General Mark Clark's
Neither General Keating nor his division commander,
Major General John C. H. Lee, knew the precise nature of
this summons. Orders were written and 2 hours later General
Keating was on a plane bound for Washington, expecting
to be gone a few days.
He arrived in the Capital the following morning and re-
ported to General Clark's office. General Clark was familiar
with General Keating's interest and background in amphib-
ious training, having been G-3 of the 3rd Division when
General Keating was routing his boys from meadow to lake,
experimenting and teaching what had then been considered
basic principles of amphibious landings. It was noted that
under General Keating's discerning eye, principles remained
"basic" only if they worked. It was this military pragma-
tism that had caught General Clark's interest and was the
bid for the much bigger job now assigned to General Keat-
The Washington interview was short.
44 BUILDING 138
"It looks as if we're going into this amphibious thing on
a scale much bigger than we ever expected/' General Clark
said. "I'd like you to go along with a site board that has
been selected to look for suitable land to build training bases
along the eastern coast. I'll let you know the word when the
board is ready to go."
After a great deal of swamp tramping and flying along
the eastern seaboard, a camp site was chosen in the Carra-
belle, Florida, area. The War Department had ordered that
training be under way by July 15. This was April. Even
by starting construction immediately the Carrabelle camp
couldn't be finished before September. In the interim a tem-
porary site had to be provided for the scheduled July 15
training. General Keating remembered a beach area about
7 miles from Camp Edwards, Massachusetts. This would
serve as a temporary base.
The training curriculum for this temporary organization
was what puzzled the general the day he sat on the balcony
of the Army War College in Washington.
He began figuring on a basis of hours, as if he were out-
lining a course for a college freshman, only this course was
to be 2 weeks long instead of 2 leisurely semesters. On a
schedule of 10 study hours a day, the 2-week course would
consist of 144 hours. On this basis, he began to apportion
hours to study courses.
At this point he remembered a rather important fact ; he
had no faculty for this college of amphibious knowledge,
and it would take time to secure and organize one. This was
t the end of the balcony planning period.
He went to General Clark's office.
BUILDING 138 45
"I think I can organize this training center with about
50 enlisted men and 14 officers," he said.
"All right," answered General Clark, "that's reasonable
enough. Get them immediately."
"Whom do you want?"
"Whom do you know?" was the answer.
Several names occurred to General Keating, including
Colonel George P. Lynch, and Colonel Peter T. Wolfe, both
of whom were ordered immediately.
Colonel Wolfe was the first to arrive. He was given the
task of administrative planning, while General Keating
began working on a curriculum. Together, they mapped on
paper what looked like a satisfactory course of instruction.
The next step was to get it approved. After some delay,
with no word of approval forthcoming from the War De-
partment, General Keating and Colonel Wolfe decided to
go to Washington to investigate. After the first day of
office shuttling, they were walking down a corridor in late
afternoon when Colonel Wolfe said in desperation,
"We'll never get this damned thing approved at this
"I have an idea," said General Keating. "I think I know
where to go."
They walked down the corridor, turned into another hall,
and opened a door.
"Well, what are you fellows doing here?" It was General
Eisenhower, whom General Keating had known in the
Philippines. "Come on in and cool off. You look mad.
What's the trouble?"
The problem of the unapproved organization chart was
explained. General Eisenhower reached for the phone. An
4 6 BUILDING 138
hour later, General Keating had his approval, written in
the longhand of a major general.
It was Sunday, June 14, when General Keating and
Colonel Wolfe returned to Camp Edwards. Part of their
faculty had already arrived. Carpenters were constructing
temporary buildings. Unpainted, pine-board classrooms
glistened white along new company streets. Signs pointed
the way to equally new and bare latrines. Rows of barracks
were strutting bare joists and open rafters. Dishes were
already rattling in the new mess hall.
The next day the rest of the faculty arrived. The general
had exactly 1 month in which to shake down, organize, and
begin training of troops in amphibious work.
On the first of his 30 days' grace, he called the faculty
to a meeting.
"The first thing I want you men to know is this," he said.
"We're not going to take one step in this program until
we decide upon a set of logical principles and doctrines gov-
erning amphibious warfare."
The meeting was dismissed with an order.
"Go into hiding and come out with an outline of what you
think we should teach."
The teaching 1 staff went into a huddle. When they
emerged they had a uniform plan of what to teach. Most
of the principles that resulted from that session of teachers
are, with a few exceptions, as sound today as they were
The hardest single thing to ensure at this embryonic stage
was consistency of thought within the faculty. There could
BUILDING 138 47
be no individuality. It was a training team and the facets of
each instructor's course of training had to be molded toward
a unified end, complete amphibious training.
"Confidence is a weapon," the general said. "We have to
instill confidence in the right way."
The procedure for this was to require every instructor to
prepare rough charts and write his complete lecture. When
he stated that he was ready for review the instructor came
before what the general called his "murder board." This
board consisted of the executive officer, the heads of the
various departments, and General Keating. The murder
board demanded a high standard and they got it, although
the price they paid was listening to lectures over and over
again until they were perfect.
By 8 o'clock on the morning of July 15, the school was
ready, the troop audience waiting, and the faculty confident.
The Army training program was under way.
Back in Building 138 the Atlantic Fleet Amphibious
Force had gone into high gear. Planning had started in
June for a major invasion, although few men knew that it
would be North Africa.
An Army staff now joined Admiral Hewitt's staff in the
green building that bulged with more life than a guinea-
In July came hint of a major shift. After the formation
of the Atlantic Fleet Amphibious Force, which was designed
as an Army-Navy team, the Marines under General Hol-
land Smith continued amphibious exercises along the At-
lantic coast. Now came word that all Marine amphibious
activity would move to the west coast.
48 BUILDING 138
The change occurred in August. The Marines moved
west to form the Pacific Fleet Amphibious Force under .Rear
Admiral Francis W. Rockwell, leaving only Army and
Navy components of the Amphibious Force in the east.
This shift was due more or less to general war strategy.
The Marines were trained as a striking force,, to land,
secure the beaches, and hold them until the occupying Army
forces arrived to take over and relieve; at which time the
Marine forces would withdraw, rest, and become available
for another thrust. The Atlantic and European strategy
differed. In North Africa and the Mediterranean when the
Army landed, it landed to fight a campaign.
The Atlantic Fleet Amphibious Force rushed training for
the impending invasion. The 3rd Division was ordered east.
The 9th Division finished training. The 2nd Armored Divi-
sion came for its amphibious tutoring. The 72nd Signal
Company was ordered east to join the 71st Signal Com-
pany Special at Camp Pickett, Virginia.
Building 138 now resembled something of an Olson-
Johnson crazy house. Generals and admirals rubbed stars
as they pressed into the little space for conferences. Meet-
ings were halted and conversation punctuated by a Yard
railway 6 feet from the windows. Diesel engines, squealing
wheels on iron rails, the switching of cars, and the unload-
ing of freight, all within whispering distance of 138 were
poor sedatives for taut nerves. Even the endless sight of
invasion craft passing the window on freight cars bound
for the equipment depot was light aspirin for the collective
^ S Ctf
O g H
BUILDING 188 49
In September, the force moved. A contract was signed
for the old stucco-Moorish Nansemond Hotel, 7 miles away
in Ocean View. After a 3-day fumigation attack on the
Nansemond cockroaches, the Amphibious Force headquar-
ters left Building 138.
The Ships That Land Them
FROM across the seas of two hemispheres they came,
anonymous, strange-shaped invasion craft known
simply as LST's and LCIL's 16,000 miles from
our east coast to Vella Lavella in the Solomons ; 5,000 miles
across the Atlantic to Sicily, to Salerno; up the Pacific
coast to Attu, Kiska, and on to Rendova, belching tanks
and invasion troops to blast a surprised enemy.
This was America's secret weapon, and the enemy was
surprised. An English-speaking Sicilian ship broker, who
had traveled in England and America, refused to believe
what he saw the shores of Sicily black with the beached
bows of LST's.
"I thought they were transports," he said to an Allied
officer, "loaded with high explosives, to be abandoned and
set off like giant land mines to blow the island out of the
It is true, high explosives filled those ships, but the cargo
was to be unloaded, the ships backed off the beach to come
back again and again. They would come back in the Medi-
terranean, in the Pacific, wherever American troops would
fight their way ashore.
The construction of America's amphibious invasion fleet,
THE SHIPS THAT LAND THEM 51
the small craft that invaded North Africa and the larger
LST's and LCIL's that joined them beginning with the
Sicilian invasion, is the story of builders, planners, and
workmen who met impossible schedules on time.
The invasion fleet divides itself according to size into
two brackets of large and small craft. The division of large
ships includes the LST (Landing Ship Tank), the LCIL
(Landing Craft Infantry Large), and the LSD (Landing
Ship Dock) . These were developed originally by the British
for cross-Channel runs.
The small family of the fleet includes : LCT's (Landing
Craft Tank) ; LCM's (Landing Craft Mechanized) ; LCV's
(Landing Craft Vehicle) ; LCVPR's (Landing Craft Ve-
hicle Personnel Ramp) ; and LCR's (Landing Craft Rub-
ber) ; LVT (Landing Vehicle Tracked) ; LCS (Landing
Craft Support). These are primarily of American design
for ship-to-shore traffic.
Shortly after the First World War the Navy began ex-
perimenting and developing personnel landing craft for the
use of Marine landing forces. By the winter of 1935-1936
the Bureau of Construction and Repair, which later became
part of the Navy's Bureau of Ships, had designed various
types of personnel landing craft to be carried on boat davits
of troopships and other auxiliary vessels. These craft were
to be used for landing troops and cargo where pier or dock
facilities were not available. Testing of these boats began in
the fall of 1936.
One 30-foot boat to be tested was designed after the
"Jersey sea skiff," a snub-nosed, flat-bottomed boat used
by fishermen along the Jersey coast. It was especially
adapted for launching and beaching in the surf.
52 THE SHIPS THAT LAND THEM
None of the designs proved to be as successful, however,
as the Eureka model of a craft built by A. J. Higgins in
New Orleans. This was a spoon-nosed, flat-bottomed boat
without ramp. After sufficient testing, design was frozen on
this 30-foot Higgins boat in May, 1940, and it was given
the designation of X boat.
From the X boat design came the later craft to be known
as the LCVPR. For this model, the X boat was widened and
a ramp placed in the bow. It was capable of carrying a jeep
or light gun mount and troops which were unloaded when
the boat beached and the ramp was lowered.
Other changes in the X boat produced the LCV, for
carrying vehicles without troops ; the LCP, for troops only ;
and the LCR, a rubber landing craft powered by an out-
Although the Navy froze the design of the 30-foot X
boat, the Bureau of Ships really wanted a 40-foot craft.
The following year a compromise was reached when Higgins
persuaded the Navy to accept his 36-foot boat which was
then in production for the British. This boat had no ramp
and was powered with gasoline.
In all these small landing craft, a prime requisite is to
be able to beach and retract, to run the boats ashore and
get them off quickly when the cargo leaves. They must be
strong enough to withstand the shock of hitting a coral,
sand, or rocky beach at full speed without crumpling the
bow; and they must be so constructed that the coxswain can
reverse his engines and pull off the beach to bring in other
loads of supplies or troops.
Getting the boats off the beach is made possible by plac-
ing a wooden tongue running down the middle of the boat's
THE SHIPS THAT LAND THEM 53
bottom. The propeller fits into a slotted niche in the rear
of this wooden bar. The bar keeps the craft from lying flat
on the beach and always affords the propeller a bite into
water without hitting sand. As long as the screw is in water,
these boats will dig themselves out of seemingly impossible
positions on the beach.
On the early models, the coxswain stood high in the stern
of his craft as he steered toward shore, a perfect target for
rifle fire. This has been changed, his position lowered, and
protection provided. The early models of small assault boats
also had a lever for reverse and forward gears plus a throttle
lever. On a beaching operation, guiding the boat in and re-
tracting in haste, the coxswain manipulating those levers
looked like a shadowboxer. There has since been designed a
simple lever combining forward, reverse, and throttle action.
The structure of these boats must also be strong enough
to withstand their own dead weight of about 13,000 pounds,
plus a full load, while being lowered from the side of a
While the Navy was testing its personnel landing craft
in 1936, it also undertook the development of "tank light-
ers. 55 Plans for the first experimental lighter, which could
carry one light Marine tank, beach in shallow water, and
permit the tank to run ashore over a ramp, were completed
in June, 1937. After testing, the Bureau of Ships began to
build these 40-foot, gasoline-powered tank lighters, or
LCM's. At the same time, Higgins was building a gas-
powered, 45-foot lighter. In comparative tests of the two
boats it was seen that Higgins' well-deck boat, although
somewhat less dependable than the Bureau boat and con-
siderably underpowered, was potentially very successful.
54 THE SHIPS THAT LAND THEM
Reports of the tests stated that it needed only Diesel en-
gines and more power.
There is the story of how Higgins, himself, was dissatis-
fied with this craft, and on the blueprints sent to Washing-
ton was scrihbled in his handwriting, "This boat stinks."
When the engines were changed from gasoline to Diesel
and 5 feet added to the length of the craft, in order to carry
medium tanks, the Navy standardized this lighter as the
LCM-3, in June, 1942. There's nothing pleasing about its
lines. It's an awkward, high-ramped, deep-decked affair
that looks like a baby LCT, but looks are of no importance
when you're putting tanks ashore.
By late 1941, the importance that armored equipment,
especially heavy tanks, would play in the war was apparent.
It was evident that some provision must be made for carry-
ing and beaching heavy tanks. The LCM-3 was suitable for
medium tank traffic, from ship to shore, but a tank lighter
would have to be built, larger than any previously con-
ceived, which would be completely seaworthy and capable
of Atlantic or Pacific crossings under its own power; for it
would be impossible to launch a vessel of this type from a
transport as was done with the smaller landing craft.
The same problem had occurred in England. The British
had started landing-craft experiments in 1936. After the
fall of France and the retreat from Dunkirk, a large-scale
construction program for invasion craft began. The two
major types of British landing craft being built were the
LCM-1, similar to our LCM, and the LCA (Landing Craft
Assault) which resembled our LCPR.
Early in 1940 the British Navy began work on an LCT
(Landing Craft Tank). There was no previous model for
THE SHIPS THAT LAND THEM 55
this ship. It went from idea to drafting board to shipyard.
The first model, the LCT-1, was completed in November.
It was 143 feet long, drew 7 feet of water aft, and carried
a row of tanks in line. Currently, another model was being
built, of approximately the same dimensions, only 2 feet
wider to carry two rows of tanks. When this ship was com-
pleted it was found that two tanks could not be loaded side
by side due to some pipes and fixtures along the sides of the
well deck ; so an LCT-3 was rushed to completion, widened
and lengthened to 180 feet.
First tests were very successful. She was built in New-
castle-on-Tyne, floated to the west coast of Scotland
through the Caledonian Canal and given trial beachings.
She was then taken to Glasgow, Scotland, and loaded in
sections aboard a transport bound for the Mediterranean.
Although the LCT-3 was a good ship, the Admiralty felt
that her type was still not large enough to freeze design for
the cross-Channel job. She simply could not carry in mass
the material and troops necessary to follow through the
shock of a continental invasion.
A proposal came from Prime Minister Winston Churchill
for a ship of 7,000 to 8,000 tons, with forward ramp, shal-
low draft, capable of beaching and retracting.
At this suggestion the thoughts of someone in London's
gray stone Admiralty building flew to South America, to
Colombia and Lake Maracaibo. Oil was shipped across the
lake and transferred to tankers which couldn't enter the
lake's narrow outlet because of a blocking sand bar. Special
ships had been built to take the oil out and across this bar
the old Maracaibo tankers. Why not use one of these?
They were shallow draft. You could cut off the bow, put
56 THE SHIPS THAT LAND THEM
in a ramp, scoop out the oil tank like a watermelon, put in
a flat tank deck, and you'd have just what the Prime Min-
That is exactly what was done. Two old Maracaibo tank-
ers were converted. That is how the LST began. The Ad-
miralty decided to build 10 new ships like this. Since the
Prime Minister had thought of the ship, its name would
be the Winette. Contracts for the 10 Winettes were let,
three in the British Isles and seven at Newport News, Vir-
ginia, with Gibbs & Cox as the design agents.
After the first Maracaibo tanker was scooped out and
fitted with a ramp she was taken up to Scapa Flow for a
test run. The skipper backed off and headed in toward the
beach. Observers watched intently. A lot of invasion plans
depended on this old tanker's action now. Her motors
pumped and the screws churned up cold, gray water. Sud-
denly there was a lurch that threw the observers face flat on
the deck. In the falling tide the little old tanker had struck
a sand bar and stuck, with many feet of deep water be-
tween her bow and the shore.
Word was flashed immediately to the United States to
halt construction on the seven Winettes until their design
could be altered. There could be nothing more deadly in an
invasion craft than to have it stick just offshore, a clay-ship
A few weeks later, in November, 1941, a small delegation
left the British Admiralty in London to confer with ship-
builders in the Navy Department, Washington. At first the
Bureau of Ships, already burdened with priority requests,
were hesitant in agreeing to turn out a large landing craft.
Then Admiral Vickery of the Maritime Commission, who
THE SHIPS THAT LAND THEM 57
had been with the Bureau, produced a rough sketch design
of an LST, a combination of his and the British ideas of
what was needed. This design was studied and it appeared
to be satisfactory.
On the basis of this, the British requested, under the terms
of the then recently enacted Lend-Lease Act, that 200 such
craft be built.
The new ship had to meet two design requirements: it
had to be seaworthy, capable of crossing an ocean, hence a
deep draft would be needed ; it also had to permit unloading
of tanks directly onto the beach, which meant that a shallow
draft was also needed.
The solution of this double threat to the ship's designers
was the use of a liquid loading plan. Giant water tanks
would be built into the hull. With these tanks full of water,
the ship would weigh down, lay low in the water with a draft
deep enough to cross any ocean. Pumps would be installed.
As the ship neared the beach, these would be manned. The
water in the tanks would simply be pumped out, much like
releasing the ballast in a submarine and, with the water out
of these tanks, the draft of the bow would be next to noth-
ing. She could drive it high and dry onto the beach.
During this conference with the British it was also de-
cided that we should build LCT's, an intermediate landing
craft, smaller than the LST and larger than the LCM,
which could be carried into war theaters in sections on the
decks of transports. The LCT could then be assembled,
welded together, and could carry a limited number of tanks
and equipment into shallow water and beach, affording the
advantage of dispersal in a locality where LST's would be
58 THE SHIPS THAT LAND THEM
This was in November, 1941, less than a month before
Pearl Harbor. With this construction task before them, the
officers in the design section of the Bureau of Ships began
outlining the major characteristics of the LST and the
LCT. They had to plan for speed, water displacement,
cruising radius, armament, load-carrying capacity, struc-
tural strength, stability; and, for the ships going to the
Royal Navy, provision had to be made for the inclusion
of a spirits room, a wine locker. Before any ship is built, an
accurate model is made for testing all these things.
The strange little models appeared and tests were rushed
at the Navy's David Taylor Model Basin in Washington.
They had to test propeller action under different sea condi-
tions. All things listed on the paper in the design office had
to be tested with the model ships. Everything had to be right
now. There was no time to build a finished ship, test her,
and then make corrections.
The LST was the tough baby. She utilized almost every-
thing new to naval shipbuilding, while the LCT was com-
paratively easy to build. This craft was really an enlarged
LCM. Its chief difference lay in the fact that it was to be
built in sections for shipping and assembly. It was decided
that these sections should be about equal in length, a stern,
middle, and forward section, which would be welded together
to make the complete craft.
When the model-basin tests were completed, design agents
for both types were appointed: Gibbs and Cox, Inc., New
York, were given the LST. The New York Shipbuilding
Corporation in Camden, New Jersey, and the Manitowoc
Shipbuilding Company in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, got the
THE SHIPS THAT LAND THEM 59
At the same time contractors who were to work on the
construction of these craft were called to Washington, shown
the basic plans, and told about the tremendous assignment
that was now in their lap.
Construction began in May, 1942. Hardly had the ship-
yards unfolded blueprints when there came an urgent dis-
patch from the British Admiralty outlining the needs for a
larger type of infantry landing craft. Draftsmen, designers,
and model makers began again, this time on an ocean-cross-
ing landing craft for infantry that could carry up to 200
men and beach like the LST. One month after receiving the
initial dispatch, the preliminary design of the LCIL (Land-
ing Craft Infantry Large) was completed and construction
contracts were placed. The New York Shipbuilding Cor-
poration added this to their LCT program.
The next month, June, 1942, the Joint Chiefs of Staff
called for the fleet of LST's and LCIL's to be ready and
manned by February, 1943.
Faced with this dead line, the Bureau of Ships was forced
to abandon all customary procedure of awarding govern-
ment contracts. The Navy's basic shipbuilding program
was already in full swing, utilizing all available normal
facilities. The landing craft order was superimposed on all
the rest. Preliminary orders and contracts were rushed to
yards by telephone, telegraph, and brief air-mail letters.
Navy yards at New York, Philadelphia, Norfolk, and
Charleston, all experienced builders of naval vessels, began
to work. Yards of the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock
Company; yards of the Bethlehem-Hingham in Massachu-
setts ; yards on the Gulf coast, on the west coast began work-
ing on the invasion fleet.
60 THE SHIPS THAT LAND THEM
But these were not enough. New sources had to be found.
The Navy turned to heavy industries along the inland
waterways, to former bridge builders, men experienced in
working with iron and steel, totally foreign to the intricacies
of ship construction, but men willing to learn.
Little ship factories sprang up almost in the space of a
day in motorboat sheds, in yacht basins, on property along
rivers and inland streams.
Shops sprang up in Kansas, in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana,
Texas, and Missouri, in Tennessee and Michigan. Thou-
sands of people who had never seen ships or salt water were
hired, quickly trained, and set to work. Some builders, hav-
ing no yards, set up tents and assembled prefabricated parts
Parts of invasion craft grew and assembled in half the
states in the Union. In shops along the Mississippi, the Ohio,
along the Great Lakes and down the Missouri River, men
and women, farmers, mechanics, laborers, and skilled
artisans were making invasion boats.
The Maritime Commission did its part by contracting
and supervising construction of craft in some of its yards
building merchant ships.
Problems arose as the work proceeded. The greatest of
these was a growing materials shortage. Other war agencies
had to be fed, bombers built, and tanks turned out. In some
cases this materials shortage affected small parts, seemingly
unimportant parts, but they held up the completion of a
In the early summer of 1942, as a result of this, the Bu-
reau of Ships organized a Materials Control Agency for the
landing-craft program, with its headquarters in New York
THE SHIPS THAT LAND THEM 61
City. This agency provided the most complete materials co-
ordinating system ever achieved by a naval shipbuilding
At the request of the Bureau, without profit, the Bethle-
hem Steel Corporation provided a number of keymen for the
agency. These men were given full authority by the Bureau
of Ships. They immediately organized several hundred key-
men to work with the Naval Inspection Service throughout
the shipbuilding areas. Their sole job was to trace bottle-
necks and break them, and to expedite the production of
The Materials Control Agency was so organized that the
officers in the Bureau of Ships could know each week the
exact status of every part of every vessel. The size of this
coordinating effort is apparent when it is considered that
the LST program alone involved over 1,700 purchase orders
covering millions of unit pieces. With this system of check-
ing, single bottlenecks down to the smallest subcontractor
could be located and erased.
But even this, eventually, was not enough. It was found
that, despite the efforts of the Materials Control Agency,
certain parts were unobtainable because of previous priority
commitments. With the cooperation of the War Production
Board, the Navy was given the right to issue overriding
priority orders for materials needed in landing craft.
It is worth mentioning that although the landing-craft
construction totaled more than $1,000,000,000 only three-
quarters of 1 per cent of the purchase orders were procured
by the use of this overriding priority right.
As the ships in the cornfield yards took shape, were com-
pleted and launched in the inland rivers, a landing-craft
62 THE SHIPS THAT LAND THEM
ferry service was started to deliver them to the naval operat-
ing bases. For the delivery of ships 105 feet long and larger
from these inland yards, supervision was vested in the Dis-
trict Coast Guard Office, St. Louis, Missouri. Here, old river
pilots, wearing the Coast Guard uniform, guided the craft
down the Mississippi River into the Gulf.
In November, 1941, the LST was a set of drawings on
paper. In October, 1942, the first completed LST was given
its trial run and acceptance test.
Four months after the LCIL was a design on paper, the
first completed ship left the ways, October, 1942.
In both cases there had been no time to delay construction
until the first ship had been tested. From design to delivery,
these craft had to be right. The entire program was one in
which no mistakes could be permitted. These boats had to
be mass-produced like Ford cars. And they were. They were
delivered on time and they worked. Chances were taken,
from the designer, who took a risk that his calculations
might be off, to the shipyards who said they'd produce on
time. It was a victory equally shared, on a basis of mutual
faith in accomplishment.
As the LST's started coming down the Mississippi River,
a base was built in Florida to shake down the new ships and
make them ready for service. Another base in Texas began
to fill with LCIL's built in Houston and Orange.
The record day for Landing Craft Group was December
5, 1942, when 5,000 men and 590 officers reported for duty
in the new craft. The sight of an LST was a surprise to
many new men reporting. Even though they had seen the
blueprints of the ship and had been told that this landing
THE SHIPS THAT LAND THEM 63
ship for tanks was larger than a destroyer, their imagina-
tion still pictured something like the old invasion c'raft that
swung down from a transport's rail.
But when they saw this ship, they knew that they were
going to go places and do things.
Landing Craft Group
WITNESSING one of the Army-Navy landing
exercises in the spring of 1942 was Lord Louis
Mountbatten. As he stood on the beach and
watched the incoming waves of troop-laden invasion craft
manned by Army coxswains, he made the observation :
"Let the boys in blue do it. I believe a soldier would be
happier if a sailor were running the boat that brought him
Sometime, between the start of the Army engineers' pro-
gram to train boat coxswains, and June, 1942, it was de-
cided that manning landing craft should and would be a
Navy prerogative. This decision meant a gigantic do-it-
immediately order for the Navy.
The man selected to organize and carry out this order was
Captain William Price Oliver Clarke, USN.
Captain Clarke is a large man. When he sits at his desk
in the Nansemond Hotel all his surroundings seem small in
comparison. As someone once remarked, he looks like Notre
Dame's heaviest lineman in a telephone booth. His dark hair,
lightened with gray, is usually out of place from finger
combing. When he talks he smiles, a broad smile that hides
LANDING CRAFT GROUP 65
the troubles and problems that put him 6 months in the
hospital after building the Landing Craft Group.
In January, 1942, Captain Clarke was the Executive
Officer on the battleship Washington, a job whose impor-
tance is second only to that of the commanding officer. In
February he was transferred to a transport, a former Amer-
ican Export Line ship that the Navy had purchased for use
in amphibious training.
She was fitted out and taken down Chesapeake Bay. This
trip was Captain Clarke's initiation into amphibious activi-
ties. It also showed how much was to be done in the way of
securing trained boat personnel. From the ship's comple-
ment of sailors, he had to select boat crews, train them, and
teach them their duties as landing craftsmen.
It was a hot day in mid-June when a message came over
the ship's radio to Captain Clarke, asking that he visit
Captain Emmet aboard the flagship of Commander Trans-
A more pleasant place would have been possible for break-
ing the news of a tough job. The flagship was an old trans-
port, built for the Army in the last war, dirty and hot. She
had just returned from India. The little popping crunches
heard along the passageways as men passed were cock-
roaches, too indolent to move.
Captain Emmet's desk was covered with charts and
papers filled with columns of figures.
"Here's a job for you." Captain Emmet handed Captain
Clarke a sheet of paper.
Two phrases stuck out like braille when he glanced at it.
". . . secure, organize, and train crews for approximately
1,800 landing craft."
66 LANDING CRAFT GROUP
Below that was the other phrase. ". . . by February,
Included in these 1,800 craft were LST's and LCIL's.
No one had seen an LST at this time. None had been built,
and no LCIL's had been built.
Crews for this program called for 22,000 men and 2,200
officers. This was without a training staff and its personnel.
Add those and the total manpower needed for Captain
Clarke's job would run something like 30,000 men and 3,000
"Where do we get the men?" asked Captain Clarke. "And
how do we train men for ships that have never been seeij?
LST's and LCIL's are still paper plans." Captain Clarke's
hair was unusually ruffled.
"I don't know," was Captain Emmet's answer. "But for
this job we have the highest priority in the service. We
work directly under COMMINCH (Admiral E. J. King),
and we'll do business directly with Washington."
With Captain Clarke at this time was Commander M. L.
Lewis. Another officer was borrowed from Captain Emmet's
staff, and the three men were given an office aboard the flag-
ship with the services of one yeoman.
At a temperature that seldom varied, night or day, from
120 degrees, they began plans to train 33,000 men for ships
no one had ever seen.
Captain Clarke recalled his first job on the USS Wash-
He had reported aboard in March, 1941, but the ship
was not commissioned until May 15. During this time he
wrote the complete Ship's Organization. A ship's organiza-
tion, in simple terms, is a list of the rules of the house. It
LANDING CRAFT GROUP 67
divides the ship's company into divisions, provides for eat-
ing and sleeping, outlines duties in case of fire, collision,
abandoning ship, and damage control It is, in short, a list
of the duties of every man for every possible ordinary con-
All this had been written before the Washington was
commissioned. When she went into commission and the or-
ganization was put to test, it was 95 per cent accurate.
Why not do the same thing for the LST's and the LCIL's
and let the men who were going to run the ships when they
were finally built study these organization charts?
Captain Clarke took the blueprints of the LST and the
LCIL and studied them. From these paper drawings he pre-
pared ship's organizations for each type. This was the first
textbook for crews assigned to the large landing craft. From
this, they were to be trained in what their duties were to be,
what the ship would be like, and how it would be expected
This was mid-June. An impossible date for training to
begin was set: 2 weeks away, July 1. By starting on July 1,
they would have approximately 11 training periods within
the February dead line, allowing a training period of about
8 weeks for small-boat men and less time for those who were
to man the larger ships. All this, provided, of course, that
the ships could be delivered on time.
First plans were completed in detail within 48 hours.
These plans provided for a pool of 1,000 men and 100 offi-
cers to enter small-boat training every 2 weeks. Personnel
for the larger ships, the LST's and the LCIL's, would be
handled as fast as the ships were delivered.
The staff which Captain Clarke formed to handle this
68 LANDING CRAFT GROUP
training assignment was called the Landing Craft Group,
the third section of Admiral Hewitt's staff. The other two
were Commander Transports and Commander Army
To make Captain Clarke's problem more knotty, the only
training spaces available at this time were the transports
themselves. To start the training, the group was assigned a
total of six transports, four large and two small ones. On
the large ships, a complete pool of trainees, 1,000 men and
100 officers, could be accommodated. The smaller ships were
unable to house a group this large. This meant the pool had
to be split, which complicated the training cycle.
Following the 48-hour planning period aboard the flag-
ship, Captain Clarke decided to make a hurried trip to
Washington. If he were to work this program directly from
the Navy Department, it was a good idea to establish liaison
Armed with a letter of authority from Captain Emmet,
he called on all the chiefs of bureaus in the Department.
His plan of action was to contact keymen in each bureau
with whom he could do business. When he left the ship, he
instructed Commander Lewis to prepare the texts for in-
The trip to Washington was highly successful as far as
contacting liaison officers. However, the visit to the Bureau
of Personnel was disappointing. The Navy's personnel prob-
lem at this time, a little more than 6 months after Pearl
Harbor, was acute. Enlistment was poor, falling about
120,000 a month behind what was needed. Trained men were
being sent to fighting ships. The Fleet needs were draining
all possible manpower sources.
LANDING CRAFT GROUP 69
On top of this came Captain Clarke's request for 30,000
men. It was staggering. He was promised men, but he was
also told that he would receive no regular Navy men or
officers. His trainees would be green "boots," men just out
of indoctrination classes at naval training stations. The
officers would be largely Naval Reserves, secured when and
where they were available.
The Bureau of Personnel immediately began to call in
men throughout the country who had had any boat experi-
ence whatever during the last war. These men were given
the two stripes of a full lieutenant as prospective command-
ing officers of LST's. The Coast Guard was approached for
men. Coast Guard men who were experienced in launching
and beaching lifeboats in heavy surf would make excellent
instructors for invasion craft. Orders went out to training
stations for the first l ? 000-man training pool.
Back aboard the flagship, Captain Clarke found that his
staff of two commanders and a yeoman had done a remark-
able job. The office was three-quarters filled with stacked
mimeographed pamphlets, texts for the incoming trainees.
On July 6, only 5 days behind the "impossible" beginning
date, the first 1,000 men reported. The 100 officers, which
would complete this pool, would not arrive for another week.
It was decided to split the draft, send part of the men up
the bay for boat training, and select those with mechanical
aptitude for a Diesel-engineering course.
This meant that an engineering school would have to be
organized ; and the group had no shore facilities. The Navy
had established regular Diesel-engine schools, but there
would be no graduates available for another 6 weeks. In
order to keep the Landing Craft Group training schedule
70 LANDING CRAFT GROUP
from slipping behind time, the men would have to get their
engine knowledge immediately.
A few days before the 1,000-man draft reported, a chief
machinist aboard the flagship had said to Commander Lewis :
"Fd like to get mixed up in the preparation of a training
course on Diesel engines."
The chief was a good man, and this was the right time for
him to mix, if he could do it.
"All right," said Commander Lewis, "weVe got to have
an engineering school. Go into the base and see what you
Ashore, Chief Clark began to look for a building in which
to instruct Diesel-engine operators. After some inspection,
he decided that a drill hall would be just the thing. He asked
permission to use it. It was refused. This was Friday. Com-
mander Lewis now forced Chief Clark really to mix.
"We've got to have a school for 300 men by Monday
morning," he told the chief.
This time Clark went to Captain Horace C. Laird of the
Landing Force Equipment Depot, which was next to Build-
ing 138. Somehow, as only chiefs seem able to do, he se-
cured permission to use one of Captain Laird's shops.
On Monday morning, Clark organized his men into squads
and marched them up to Captain Laird's shop. The captain
took one look at this small invasion of his shop and changed
"I know you, Clark," he said, "and if I ever let you get
organized in here, I'll never get you out. We have our own
work to do."
The chief pondered this problem for a moment. Captain
Clarke and Captain Emmet were up the bay on the flagship.
LANDING CRAFT GROUP tl
He had a school of 300 men standing at ease, no textbooks,
no instructors, no school. He marched them back to their
quarters and then went in search of more easily obtainable
materials, like some plywood and chalk. That night he bor-
rowed a paint gun from a shop and sprayed the plywood
panel that he had borrowed from another shop.
The next morning, with his plywood "blackboard" still
damp, he marched the 300 men off to the forbidden drill
hall and began to lecture on the guts of a Diesel engine.
The lectures began at 7 in the morning. The men were still
there at 10 o'clock that night. Instruction had moved
smoothly enough except for an almost constant ringing of
the telephone with people wanting to know what in the hell
was going on in the drill hall.
With all the rights of squatters on their side, Clark and
his men were given belated permission to use the hall. Dur-
ing the first week, Clark found some equipment, a few books
on the Gray Diesel engine, an old mimeograph machine,
and a public address system. By this time, Commander 0. H.
Hill, who had been on the flagship, came into the school and
to the assistance of the chief. He managed actually to get
some Diesel engines to supplement the school lectures.
The first class completed its course in 2 weeks, on sched-
ule. When this group moved up the training ladder, 50 of
the best men were held as instructors for the incoming
group. By now the original mimeographed pamphlet had
grown to an 80-page compendium of Information on the
Diesel engine, largely through Chief Clark's remaining in
the drill hall after 10 o'clock each night and writing the
next day's lecture.
The school also begged from Captain Laird, and this time
72 LANDING CRAFT GROUP
got, eight landing craft. A strange repair course was begun
in which men were sent offshore, told to think up every con-
ceivable breakdown, see that it happened, then bring the
craft in for the repair crew to work on.
These were the first of the green "boots" to come into
Landing Craft Group for training. They were just out of
indoctrination school; some had never received their full
bag of clothing. They were the butchers, the bakers, and
the light bulb makers of American youth. War was new to
them, and organized Navy life was strange. In the pressure
of the training they were undergoing, they had none of the
usual shipboard administrative command. But they came
hand to piston with a Diesel engine, and when they left they
knew what made these engines tick, and when they didn't,
the boys knew how to fix them.
As a new draft of men reported, those selected as seamen
and coxswains would go up the bay to the transports. Those
with mechanical ability were sent to the drill hall for 2
weeks. After their course in Diesel engines, they joined the
crews on the transports. This was a continuous process until
the Navy's regular Diesel schools were turning out a suffi-
cient number of engineers to supply the Landing Craft
Group's demand. When the first group finished training at
the end of 8 weeks, the men were given their cap-and-gown
graduation exercise on the beaches near Fort Story, Vir-
The day was rough and the surf pounding. This would
be a test of the efficacy of the past 8 weeks. The boat crews
loaded in Hampton Roads and rounded the breakwater,
heading down the coast to the Fort Story beach. They were
a strange procession and a strange sight to the summer
LANDING CRAFT GROUP 73
cottage people familiar with white sails. The 50-foot craft
were pounding the water; the roar of their engines and
width of their wakes indicated their power.
Abreast of the landing beach, the line of boats halted,
then came in to the shore in an arrowhead wave. Coxswains
reversed engines ; the boats pulled off the sand and went out
again to form a wall of boats abreast. They roared into the
sand in a perfect landing.
It was a "well done" they received from Captain Clarke
that day. In the evening at one of the Navy base motion-
picture theaters the men were given diplomas of graduation,
each bearing an emblem which had been drawn by a seaman,
inspired by the stories of the forthcoming tank landing
ships. It was a tremendous alligator spewing tanks on a
beach. This has since become the unofficial emblem of the
By now the force needed full-sized amphibious training
bases. The Marines had gone to the west coast to form the
Pacific Fleet Amphibious Force, leaving the Solomons
Island, Maryland, area available.
This site had been previewed by Captain J. W. Whit-
field, commander of a transport running up the bay on
training cruises. It was his first trip up the bay. He was to
meet the crews of landing craft sent up by the Landing
Force Equipment Depot to take part in the training. When
Captain Whitfield arrived and went ashore to see if the boat
crews were ready for the next day's exercise, he found
neither sleeping nor eating facilities for the men. He bor-
rowed a car and drove out into the country to see the lawyer
who had handled the lease details for the Marine Corps
when they were training on Solomons Island.
74 LANDING CRAFT GROUP
Solomons Island had for years been a local game spot for
Washington and Baltimore fishermen. It was a small, quiet
fishing village with a boat yard and no winter activity.
There was a village hotel, Rekars, that housed week-end
parties and went empty the rest of the week. Captain Whit-
field had his eye on this house when he went to see the law-
The lawyer talked to the proprietor, who was pleased to
get a long-term tenant in the form of the government, and a
lease was signed. The boat crews had shelter. Food was an-
other problem. Aboard the captain's transport were some
field kitchens. He sent for these and some supplies.
Base construction work began shortly thereafter to hold
three training units, about 4,500 men. From this beginning
grew the present base that trains LST and LCIL crews for
the entire Navy.
When the first I 5 000~man pool reported to the Landing
Craft Group for training, minus their officers, Captain
Clarke was fortunate to find at the naval operating base a
number of ensigns who had just graduated from the Naval
Academy. These men were "waiting new construction" ; that
is, they were assigned to ships being built, and had no press-
ing duties until the ships were completed. The captain bor-
rowed 30 of these officers for 2 months to assist in the small-
When the ensigns reported, they wanted to know more
about this "amphibious business."
Captain Clarke explained and added, "I'll be glad to have
you with me if you'd like to join the force."
There were no takers.
A few weeks later five requests came in from the men to
LANDING CRAFT GROUP 75
join the force. When these five men reported to him, Captain
Clarke asked, "How about the others?"
"They decided against it, 55 was the answer. "They said
that they'd heard this outfit was an 83 percenter."
"Was what?" asked the captain.
"An 83 percenter. Eighty-three per cent casualties."
A dozen invasions have proved that it's more nearly a
3 percenter club, but this is an example of the original re-
action and feeling toward duty with the Amphibious Force.
When the first group of officers arrived, a week after the
1,000-man pool reported, they could have passed for mem-
bers of the local chess club. They had all served in the First
One man in particular seemed to have outstanding quali-
fications. Although he hadn't seen the sea since 1918, he
had studied eagerly every development in navigation. He
knew all types of navigation and navigation aids. The first
Sunday aboard ship Captain Clarke sent him ashore in
charge of a swimming party. It was the first time he'd
actually navigated a craft in 20 years. There was little
navigation involved in getting from the ship to the shore,
but he was in his glory, happy as a toy-starved child. That
night he died of a heart attack.
Some of the men in this group of officers were over seventy
years of age. They were the old Fleet Reserve coming back
into a young man's war. At the time of their reporting they
didn't realize how truly it was a "young man's war."
Captain Clarke talked to them, explained that the going
was bound to be tough, the work strangely hard. He asked
them if they were sure they wanted to go through with it.
To a man, the answer was "Yes."
76 LANDING CRAFT GROUP
The captain smiled. These old sailors had pride, a pride
you couldn't hurt by bluntness. He'd let them find out,
quickly and easily. He sent them to a transport. In a few
days they were back. A delegation of four knocked on his
door. Their combined age was fully 250 years.
"You're right, sir," they said. "This is too much for men
seventy-five years old. But we want to help. Perhaps there's
something else we can do, some other job."
There were other jobs at which they, with their experi-
ence, would be invaluable. The majority of these men are
still with the force.
Another day a different delegate knocked on the cap-
tain's door. The boys called him a "tuna fish," a friendly
enough term, as far as terms go in the Navy, for Com-
mander Gene Tunney's athletic instructors.
In the search for personnel. Commander Tunney had
been asked if he could spare any men for assignment to the
Amphibious Force. Twenty men volunteered for the trans-
fer. Of these 20 men, one, Lieutenant Robert Halperin,
was later to get two spot promotions and the Navy Cross,
and another, evidently a perpetual volunteer, was the one
who came knocking on the captain's door. His conversation
began something like this :
"Sir, I didn't know what I was getting into when I came
"You volunteered, didn't you?"
"Yes, but I'm a special case."
"I'm a married man."
"Yes, I didn't get into the war to fight. I came in to do
LANDING CRAFT GROUP 77
this. , . ." Thereupon he began to illustrate his point with
a series of calisthenic gestures.
Captain Clarke finishes this story by calmly saying, "He's
no longer in the Navy."
By August, four pools of 1,000 men and 100 officers each
had been trained. Then word began to seep through that
the transports were going to be taken away from Landing
Craft Group for use elsewhere. There was something in the
air. No one knew quite what, but it looked like something
big. Eleven new transports had been ordered, and now there
was threat of losing the six old ones.
In the meantime plans had been made for another am-
phibious base. The old Whitehurst Farms had been bought.
This was beach and scrub-pine sand land about 4 miles
down the bay from Ocean View on Little Creek. If the trans-
ports were taken from the Landing Craft Group, small-boat
training could continue at Little Creek.
Loss of the transports was confirmed. A task force was
being organized for an invasion and those ships were needed.
In mid-September the group was notified in a landlordly
fashion that it would have to vacate the ships. Training
crews were removed and sent to the new base at Little Creek,
and Commander A. L. Haas was assigned as first Com-
There were no docks, only one small pier and no other
facilities. There were no roads and no barracks. But there
was plenty of mud knee-deep, sticky, blue-clay mud. There
were no mess halls or even kitchen equipment. A call to the
Army brought promise of some field kitchens. When they
came they were Civil War models, wood burners. The only
place to put them was in a garage. Food was purchased on a
78 LANDING CRAFT GROUP
day-to-day basis. There were no storerooms. In the midst
of this, men moved in, continued training, and left the mud
for barracks as fast as four walls and a roof could go up.
Across Hampton Roads in the Portsmouth area, Captain
Clarke had established a receiving station, a small Grand
Central that funneled out new recruits to Solomons Island
and Little Creek. This station was on the banks of Paradise
Creek. It was commanded by Lieutenant Commander Martin
B. Saportas, USNR, who began to refer to himself and his
men as the Birds of Paradise.
With trainees scattered between Solomons Island, Little
Creek, and Paradise, commuting became a problem. An old
Wilmington gunboat type of Diesel-engine-driven freight
lighter solved this problem. She was the Lillian Anne. The
first day Captain Clarke saw her she was loaded with sugar
for the Coca Cola Company. Captain Clarke chartered the
ship with her civilian crew and started converting her into
a ferry. With seats in her freight deck she carried 500 men
When the 11 new transports arrived, Landing Craft
Group was called upon to supply the boat crews. Time was
so urgent that it was also asked if the group could supply
the beach parties for each ship. Formerly, these beach
parties consisted of 27 men and 3 officers who supervised
the unloading of supplies on the beach. A call went to the
Bureau of Personnel. Orders were placed for the personnel
needed in the beach parties. Barely sufficient men were
available by drawing from a New York source. They arrived
in 2 days. On the day of their arrival, the captain received
word that each beach party must be increased from 27 to
48 men. At the same time he was ordered to set up a joint
LANDING CRAFT GROUP 79
communications school at Little Creek. More men. This was
all in addition to supplying the transports with boat crews.
But the invasion convoy left with all demands met.
"It was never a question, 59 said Captain Clarke, "of
whether we could do the thing ; it was a situation where the
time to invade was right and we had to do it."
Men of the Landing Craft Group worked until they were
ordered to take off one afternoon a week and every other
Sunday. Most of the staff were reserve officers, or Academy
graduates who had resigned their commissions at the end of
the last war.
"Everything done was done by the excellent work of
these men," said the captain. "It was done with sheer energy.
No one had seen landing craft before, to say nothing of
teaching others to operate them. 55
And to Captain Clarke came this citation:
The Commander in Chief, U. S. Atlantic Fleet, in the name of
the President of the United States, awards the LEGION OF MEBIT
Captain William P. O. Clarke, U. S. Navy
For exceptionally meritorious conduct in the per-
formance of outstanding service as Commander
Landing Craft Group of the Amphibious Force,
United States Atlantic Fleet, during the period of
preparation for major amphibious operations.
Commencing in the early part of 1942, Captain
Clarke with extreme initiative and outstanding ability
organized and established training facilities and car-
ried out an extensive training program to provide
efficient operating complements of officers and men
80 LANDING CRAFT GROUP
for all types of newly constructed landing ships and
craft. His aggressive leadership and perseverance
under many handicaps and trying conditions brought
these ships and craft to a high state of readiness for
combat operations and enabled them to participate
effectively in all subsequent major amphibious opera-
tions in the Atlantic, Pacific and Mediterranean
The professional skill, resourcefulness and out-
standing devotion to duty displayed by Captain
Clarke reflect great credit upon the Naval Service.
(s) R. E. IngersoU
7 December 1943
Spit-kits and Tank Ships
THE first full-born LST slid off the ways in Newport
News, Virginia, October, 1942, to wet her bottom in
the water of Hampton Roads. She was to be the first
of thousands of these strange new ships. These ships, 327
feet long, weighing 5,500 tons, with a crew of 7 officers and
75 men, are as big as a medium freighter.
The new LST was tied to a pier. The portable railing
had been removed from one side of her upper deck. De-
mountable stanchions and ventilators were out, and in their
place rested heavy cradles. A giant yard crane lowered its
hooks and grabbed an LCT on the dock. Cables turned, and
slowly this smaller craft, itself 100 feet long, came up and
over the side to rest on the cradles.
One of the design requirements of the Landing Ship Tank
was about to be tested, the launching from her decks of an
LCT. The LST moved out to deeper water. Orders were
given to man the starboard pumps. Very gradually, the
LST began to settle to port. The pumping continued and
the list increased. The launching crew, braced against the
angle of the deck, took careful measurement. All seemed
clear. The order was given to knock out the cradle chocks.
Sledge hammers pounded. The LCT began to creak and
82 SPIT-KITS AND TANK SHIPS
push against the restraining blocks. Then in one quick
surge she was gone, over the side of the LST. Salt water
dripped from the launching crew as they looked over the
side of the tilted ship. The LCT was floating, right side up,
ready to go in to shore. What had been asked for had been
done. LCT's could be launched from the deck of an LST.
Next on the schedule of the new ship was a beaching
demonstration. She was to be "combat loaded" for this. The
loading of an LST for combat is an art in itself. The tank
deck that extends behind those gaping bow jaws runs almost
four-fifths the length of the ship. It's wide enough for a
basketball court or a dance floor, and on the steel-plated
deck are cleats that provide traction for tanks and trucks
leaving in a hurry. Evenly spaced between the cleats are
"butterflies," holes with protruding edges to grab the ropes
that hold the vehicles steady in a pounding sea. Midway
down the tank deck is a huge elevator, like those for the
flight decks of aircraft carriers. This elevator allows double-
deck storage. Tanks, trucks, and half-tracks can be carried
up to the open deck above and lashed secure for passage.
Directly behind those yawning bow doors on an overhead
beam are red and green traffic lights just like the signals
that control the intersections of any city streets.
In combat-loading any ship, the thing to keep in mind is,
"Load last what must come off first. 55 There can be no delay
or disorganization when the ship hits the beach and the
jaws open. Those things have to get out and get out fast.
The ship was made ready for the first demonstration of
loading and unloading on a beach. On the night before the
demonstration day she was loaded and the crews ready.
Orders were to pick up the official party, British and Amer-
SPIT-KITS AND TANK SHIPS 83
ican naval officers, the following morning at Little Creek.
Then occurred the first hitch in well-laid plans. The party
arrived, but a 60-mile wind was blowing. It was impossible
to get the LST through Little Creek channel.
Captain Clarke, who was in charge of the party, sug-
gested they board the LST at the Portsmouth Navy Yard.
Word was sent to the skipper to pick up the party there.
The visitors borrowed a tug and crossed the choppy Roads
to where the LST was waiting. Once aboard, the order was
given to cast off, and the ship eased out.
She was hardly straightened out and under way when the
wind struck her. The bow spun around and a shudder ran
through the ship, reminding the British officers of the old
Maracaibo tanker at Scapa Flow. The LST was on a sand
bar. Signal lights flashed and two hemp-nosed tugs came
pounding up to ease the big ship free.
"There was enough official gold aboard that morning,"
said Captain Clarke, "to fill a vault at Fort Knox. But the
two officers in charge of the ship were old destroyer cap-
tains, good men, and I had confidence in them; so I didn't
stick my nose out to find what the tenor of official conversa-
tion was at that moment."
Whatever it had been at the time of stalling, it had
changed to full commendation by the time the LST reached
the beach and disgorged her cargo. Amazed observers saw
equipment for a small army pour out and spread over the
Most of the official party left at this point, but Admiral
Darling of the British Navy remained aboard to return to
the Portsmouth Yard with Captain Clarke. The wind was
still blowing in gusts of 45 to 60 miles an hour. The LST
84 SPIT-KITS AND TANK SHIPS
was light and riding bow high. Once in the Roads, she
couldn't make the pier at the Navy yard, and all requests
for a tug to come out and lead her in were ignored. They
were afraid to. The LST was whipping around like a leaf in
a mountain rapids.
"We decided to anchor and spend the night," said Cap-
Orders were given to drop the hook and the ship ceased
its wild gyrations, they thought. Admiral Darling stepped
out of the chartroom and looked at the shore lights. They
were whizzing past the bow lights, the shapes of buildings,
piers, and anchored ships, in a horribly mixed up picture.
He waited for something to happen. The lights and dark
shapes of buildings slowed, stopped; then the picture
started whooping back again in reverse.
Admiral Darling turned to Captain Clarke.
"Did you think the same thing I was thinking?"
"I never believed the anchor would hold her. I congratu-
late you. 5 '
It was fortunate that the anchor had held. Almost directly
behind them was a row of heavy piers which would have
smashed the ship, to say nothing of a good deal of confi-
INTO PACIFIC ACTION
Early in February, 1943, twelve LST's left a foggy east
coast port, bows pointed south. Prom the crews aboard
came excited questions of "Where are we bound?" and tense
last looks at the shores of home. For many, this was their
first voyage, their first job in the Navy after training school.
SPIT-KITS AND TANK SHIPS 85
Both the LST's and the men were heading into battle for
the first time. Their destination was the Solomons, 16,000
miles away, in the South Pacific.
For Lieutenant George F. Baker, one of the officers in
this group, it meant going into his second major invasion
of the Solomons in less than a year. Baker is what the Navy
calls a "mustang. 5 ' And it's a proud term to those who bear
it. It means a former enlisted man who has been commis-
sioned and wears the uniform of an officer.
Baker had 17 years in the Navy, and his father before
him was a warrant officer. On his uniform, when he dresses
up, are four banks of ribbons, including the Navy Cross
and the Purple Heart. On his yellow Pacific Theater rib-
bon are seven bronze stars, every star a major naval action.
He is a medium-sized man with thin, light-colored hair and
some gold in his teeth.
Baker was going back to the South Pacific where he be-
gan the war on the heavy cruiser Vmcermes, where he had
helped General Doolittle's bombers take off for Tokyo,
where he had fought in the battles of the Coral Sea and
north at Midway. He was going back where the Vincermes
had helped cover the Guadalcanal landing on August 7,
194*2, and where, 48 hours later in that dark night off
Savo Island, she had shot it out with the Japs and had gone
down fighting. This had been Baker's Purple Heart battle.
He was wounded from a shellburst. Headed back to the
Pacific, he still carried six pieces of Jap steel in his body,
pieces the doctors had decided not to probe for.
After he recovered from his wounds, the doctors recom-
mended that Baker be "beached" given a shore job. But,
after 17 years in the Navy and loving it, Baker had other
86 SPIT-KITS AND TANK SHIPS
ideas. He reported to the Amphibious Force and requested
duty with the LST's. Not only was this granted, but he was
given command of his own ship.
It was a long trip on the LST's to Guadalcanal, but they
arrived in time for their assignment. The night the infan-
try spearhead stormed ashore at Munda, Baker and his
LST's sailed from Guadalcanal, loaded with more men and
heavy artillery for the Munda beaches.
When they left. Admiral Turner gave them a parting
"The eyes of the Amphibious Force are on you. You're
the guinea pigs. It's up to you to prove these ships. Take
'em through and deliver the guns !"
The LST's got through and the guns were delivered. For
a solid month after that the LST's shuttled between Munda
and Guadalcanal. During those 30 days, Baker's ship was
at anchor for 6 hours. On the trips to Munda the LST's
were loaded with everything from chewing gum to 155-
miUimeter howitzers and high explosives. The return trips
carried the wounded and the sick. A schedule of a round trip
every 3 days was the average. And they weren't quiet trips.
The Japs saw to that. The LST's fought, dodged, and
escaped the enemy's bombers, his subs and surface vessels
and fire from shore batteries.
There was not a ship in the entire flotilla which was not
scarred by at least one hit. But they kept running. On the
fifth trip to Munda, three LST's were entering what was
called "torpedo junction," a stretch of deadly water in
A lookout on Baker's ship shouted. A school of torpedoes
was streaking toward the ship. The order was given for full
SPIT-KITS AND TANK SHIPS 87
right rudder and the ship swerved. The torpedoes missed,
but struck the LST in the lead. She had a capacity load of
155-millimeter ammunition and land mines. She blew up
like an arsenal.
When the smoke cleared and the fire died, there were
shouts of amazement. The entire bow of the torpedoed LST
was still intact, still floating. Two days later this hulk was
towed into port and the ammunition that was still inside was
A few days later an LST towed the bow all the way back
to the repair base at Tulagi. Bit by bit the plates on the
old bow were stripped and her parts taken to repair other
"Yes," said Lieutenant Baker, "we proved those ships.
Somewhere in the Pacific is another LST, captained by
Lieutenant Joseph M. Fabre, USNR, who was a research
accountant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, before the war.
Leaving his wife and two sons for the Navy uniform, Lieu-
tenant Fabre has totted up a lot of action in this war. He
was on a transport that was torpedoed and sunk in the
North African invasion. He came back to the Amphibious
Force headquarters and began training for LST work.
It is his ship, somewhere out in the Pacific, that has a
rim of color around her gray bridge, a row of seven little
Jap flags, seven Jap planes shot down by the gunners on
this LST. It was 2 days' work.
The first flag was earned one day in July, off Rendova
Island. A Jap bomber was sighted. It was a long shot. It
was not certain that the gun range would carry that far,
but she made a beautiful target, silhouetted against the hot
88 SPIT-KITS AND TANK SHIPS
blue sky. The gunners were given permission to have a try.
They wheeled the black barrel around, gave the plane a
little lead to allow for its speed in flight, and pulled the
trigger bar. It was a perfect shot. The bomber fell in flames
and the first Jap flag was painted on the bridge.
The other six flags were to appear after that hot August
day when Allied troops landed on Vella Lavella Island. The
attack was scheduled for dawn. Fabre's LST was approach-
ing the island, H-hour 60 minutes away, when the "general
quarters" alarm sounded. Men who had turned into their
bunks fully clothed, expecting sleep but finding little, rolled
out and up deck ladders to their battle stations. Every man
in the gun crews was heading into a 24-hour shooting match
with no relief and very little food.
Ahead, they could see the green shores of that island
with the singsong name, Vella Lavella. Troops from the
small craft had left their transports and landed as the LST
neared the beach with her heavy cargo.
A small boat was lowered over the side. The ship's Execu-
tive OfBcer, Lieutenant James C. Respess, USNR, of Nor-
folk, Virginia, was going in to shore. With him, he carried
a low-caliber machine gun. As he neared the beach he ex-
pected at any moment to hear the rattle of Jap bullets.
But there was no opposition. Then it came, not from the
jungle, but up in the air. Jap dive-bombers and fighters
clustered for a run on the ships below, three LST's, some
small boats, and five escort vessels.
Out of the sun they struck. Gunners on Fabre's LST
were ready. They opened fire. One bomber flamed and fell,
out of control. Whirling to sight on the bomber that had
just straddled the LST's bow with two bombs, the guns
SPIT-KITS AND TANK SHIPS 89
poured a stream of lead into the plane's fuselage. A third
bomb fell directly ahead of the ship, spraying the fore-
castle with shrapnel and wounding a medical corpsman. The
plane pulled out of its dive, wavered, flew low over the boat
carrying Lieutenant Respess ashore. He shouldered his
light machine gun and held hard on the trigger as lead
streamed into the belly of the Jap bomber. A thin column
of smoke and water marked the end of the plane. Another
flag for the bridge.
At the same time a Zero, flying low over the LST, lost its
tail assembly to tracer bullets, and was completely de-
stroyed by a near-by ship.
There was a short lull after this. The LST headed in
for the beach, her bow doors open and her ramp ready to
drop. The Gunnery Officer, Ensign Francis J. Dever of
Dorchester, Massachusetts, made a hurried inspection of his
guns. The ramp was lowered and two bulldozer tractors
crawled ashore. One began pushing dirt and sand out to
the LST's ramp, making a road for the other vehicles to
drive out on. The other started biting a path into the
Slowly, the cargo and troops began to move out of the
tank deck, onto the road, and into the jungle. Gunners
were still at their posts, pushing down some hastily pre-
pared sandwiches, when eight bombers escorted by Zeros
shot out of the sun in attack formation. The bombers split
into three groups, one for each LST. They met a blanket of
withering fire and their bombs overshot the ships, striking
The bow gun on Fabre's LST pumped a full magazine
90 SPIT-KITS AND TANK SHIPS
load into one bomber. Sliced almost in half, it exploded in
mid-air and burned.
"Number three flag," someone shouted.
Seconds later a spotter. Boatswain's Mate Chester Larson
of Aberdeen, Washington, shouted a warning.
"Zero on the starboard beam !"
Guns whirled again, and again tracers ripped into the
plane like buckshot shattering an orange crate. Flag num-
At 6 :25 the next morning, the LST, with two more planes
to its credit, pulled off the beach and headed back to its
base. The gun crews left their posts, and a tired sailor
went aft to the f antail to feed the ship's mascots, three baby
Most of the Army troops who drive their trucks or tanks
or jeeps down over the ramp of an LST onto an enemy
beach will remember a man at Camp Bradford, Virginia,
who showed them how to do it for the first time. He's Cap-
tain Bert M. Ruud of Montana. They will remember the
captain because of the blue coveralls he wore to distinguish
himself from the khaki-colored Army troops who were train-
ing on the beaches, and for the way he showed them how
to back a jeep up the steep ramp of the LST. It's not an
easy job to load vehicles up the ramp, especially in a high
surf, and Captain Ruud knew all the tricks.
On his blue coveralls, Captain Ruud wears the triangular
insignia of the Armored Force. Since he left his Montana
ranch, he has been with the Cavalry, the Air Force, and the
Armored Force. He was assigned to the Amphibious Force
SPIT-KITS AND TANK SHIPS 91
as an instructor for the armored equipment units. He has
a fondness for puns and likes to call himself an "amphibious
Captain Ruud has been with the force since June, 1942,
when he went to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, with a detail of 12
men and 6 tanks to test the first LCT. After Manitowoc, he
began training Army units in the art of loading and un-
loading an LST.
In April, 1943, a group of LST's left the east coast for
North Africa. Aboard one of these ships was Captain Ruud
on his way to an invasion to see just what should be taught
after witnessing a real assault.
The LST's landed at a North African base and began
days of intensive training, planning, and rehearsal. Crews
were given a taste of what was to come by enemy air attacks
every other day.
On July 9, the LST invasion fleet was ready to sail. This
convoy of little ships carried a representative load of every-
thing used by an invading force, but on Captain Ruud's
ship the cargo was particularly peculiar.
"We wanted to see," he said, "just what an LST could
do, just what she could carry."
The crew dubbed themselves the "guinea pigs" and
painted a huge fat guinea pig on her hull. They loaded on
airplanes, lashed tight to the port and starboard sides of
the deck. Two long pontoon bridges were tied secure. There
was a tank unit with men and tanks, there were radio equip-
ment and antiaircraft guns for beach defense. There was a
crew of Navy SeaBees to handle the pontoons which would
be used for floating causeways when the ship neared the
92 SPIT-KITS AND TANK SHIPS
This was not too abnormal a load for any LST. But at
the last moment came supercargo that made hands hold
heads. Thirty tiny little African mules appeared on the
dock, complete with food, hay, and grain. Orders were to
load them aboard. The tank deck was full. The only place
to put the mules was on the open deck above. Temporary
mangers were constructed across the deck, hay and grain
stacked behind, and the word was passed that the ship was
ready for the mules.
But the mules were not ready for the ship. Their eyes
bugged out like plums on stems when they saw the ramp
they were expected to walk up. No amount of halter pulling
would convince them that it was a safe or pleasant place to
go. Although small, they were too large to pull on by brute
strength. Then Captain Ruud's Montana horse memories
came to life.
"Back ? em on," he said.
And they were backed aboard ship with only slight re-
That day the LST fleet sailed. These were the ships we
had seen as our task force passed Bizerte.
The sky turned hazy and the seas began to chop. The
wind increased until, by late afternoon, it was blowing a
45-knot gale. The LST was giving its peculiar short, sharp
"She was rolling so you could lean over and pat the ocean
right on the back," said Captain Ruud.
The only happy life aboard was contained in the 30 little
mules. The wind had soaked their hay with salt water. Word
was passed to come up on deck and watch the mules. They
were having a wonderful time. They just stood there, feet
SPIT-KITS AND TANK SHIPS 93
braced against the roll of the ship, eating salt-covered hay
as if they'd never see another bite of food and shaking their
long ears with pleasure.
The most troublesome part of the ship's cargo, it turned
out, was the thing that did most for seasick morale. Men
forgot about themselves just watching the mules on their
first sea voyage.
The invasion began at 3 :45 A.M. By daylight the beaches
had been marked for the LST landings. The tank ships
came in and began to unload. Bombs were falling from low-
flying German planes that would streak in from behind a
ridge of low hills, release their load, and disappear. Anti-
aircraft shrapnel splashed the water and painted great puffy
mushrooms in the blue sky.
Tanks and wheeled vehicles were all ashore. By 11 o'clock
the last mule had been lowered down the deck elevator,
backed down the ramp, and loaded with equipment to take
inland. Wounded and prisoners began to come aboard.
From that time on, Captain Ruud's LST ran a shuttle
ferry service from Sicily to North Africa. On the second
trip to Sicily, the cargo was 300 horses and 300 native
"We suggested after that," said Captain Ruud, "instead
of being called Landing Ship Tank, it should be LSW,
Landing Ship Warehouse."
About the same time the LST's were making their first
ocean crossing, the LCIL's were shaking down, making ready
to hit high waves. These craft, which the enemy saw for
the first time nose high on Sicilian sands, are about 155
feet long, capable of carrying around 200 infantrymen on
94 SPIT-KITS AND TANK SHIPS
short trips, although there are neither quarters nor bunk
space for carrying this many on a transocean voyage.
The LCIL has an unorthodox appearance, too. Her
superstructure is stubby. From a distance she resembles a
surfaced submarine. On the two sides of her bow are little
terraces from which shoot the landing ramps for unloading
troops. Her galley is tiny, cabins for officers are small and
compact, her wardroom resembles a cafe booth. Your first
impression of an LCIL is that everything is in miniature,
from engine room to wheelhouse. But she's a sturdy little
ship with a crew of three officers, the commanding officer
usually being a lieutenant, junior grade, with two ensigns,
and a crew of 21 men.
This is the craft the men have labeled a "spit-kit. 55
The first flotilla of LCIL 5 s to cross the Atlantic to the
Mediterranean was commanded by Captain L. S. S. Sabin,
Jr. His memories of this crossing are vivid and at times
"Did you ever hear about sailors with all the courage
in the world, but no guts? If you haven 5 t you will now, be-
cause most of my sailors lost all their guts 24 hours after
sailing. We went to sea, the lawyers, the bankers, the gar-
age mechanics, the salesmen, and me, in our little spit-kits.
"The flotilla struck rain, fog, sleet, and snow. The days
passed. Some were sunny, but most of them were stormy.
The little ships kept moving, bounding and bucking and
twisting. The majority of the men were seasick, too sick to
leave their bunks except when thrown out by the lurch of
the ship. There was not refrigerating space to hold fresh
food for a long voyage, so they ate canned food. But it
made little difference.
SPIT-KITS AND TANK SHIPS 95
"Most of the old salts who didn't get seasick had to face
food mixed with the smell of oil fumes and the stench of men
too weak to clean up after themselves.
"At night you darkened ship so the subs wouldn't get
you. Then you expected a pot shot from one of the big
ships because you looked like a sub. You watched for colli-
sions. The water was cold and deep out there.
"The lookout shouts. Full left rudder. Hang on, boys.
Clutch the grab rail with one hand, hold your glasses with
the other, wrap your leg around the compass stand, and
peer into the darkness. And pray. Another spit-kit. He
missed us this time.
"Well, there's always breakfast in the morning. That is,
if you cook it yourself. Cook's sick.
"Got a star sight this morning. Turned the sextant up-
side down and watched the twinkle jump from sky to hori-
zon. You can't take a sight that way? Who says so? You're
standing on your head most of the time anyway.
"You watch the kids who are manning these things, offi-
cers and men. Almost all are reserves. A year ago they were
accountants and advertising men, grocery clerks, soda jerks,
and garage mechanics. Not so now. They're sailors. They
stink with it, those who can still move to their stations with
a bucket. A lookout peers, turns his head to feed the fish,
and peers again. The signalman pukes in his bucket in
steady rhythm with the flashing of a message.
"They haven't got any guts left, these kids. They've
spilled 'em all, but they've got what it takes. They're game
guys, big men in little ships ; American youth learning the
hardest way of all, on the high seas in a spit-kit going
through a war zone. They take it in their stride and some-
96 SPIT-KITS AND TANK SHIPS
how, God only knows how, they manage to smile. That's
why we'll win this war. You can't beat stuff like that. 55
It was just such a crew as this, men who had spit-kitted
across the Atlantic to a North African base in time for the
invasion of Sicily, that received the first Presidential Unit
Citation ever given to a landing craft.
It was the LCIL-1, the first LCIL built on the number
one government contract let for this type of boat.
Her captain was Lieutenant Carl F. Robinson, who came
from a little town near Ithaca, New York. He had had no
sea experience prior to joining the Navy in 1942. He was
a short, black-haired man, whose width of shoulders gave
him a stubby, packed-down appearance.
The ship had been built in New Jersey, the first LCIL to
be built and the second to be commissioned.
Early in the morning of July 10, she headed in for the
beaches of Sicily, loaded with infantry troops in the first
assault on a section of the island called Licata.
A short distance from the beach, a hail of enemy fire
splattered against her plates. A bullet struck the sailor at
the speed controls. He fell forward, pushing the engine-
room telegraph control lever and jamming it to the position
marked "full speed ahead." Below, in the engine room, this
unconscious signal was obeyed and the craft shot ahead.
At the same time, the helmsman was wounded. He
dropped, unconscious, leaving the wheel unmanned. In the
same barrage, the winchman on the stern of the boat, whose
assignment was to drop the anchor when the ship neared the
beach so that she could pull herself off again, was shot be-
fore he had time to release the anchor.
SPIT-KITS AND TANK SHIPS 97
At full speed, with, no guidance, and with no anchor drag,
the LCIL ran up on the beach, swung broadside and
grounded. The troops unloaded safely, but for 4 days this
craft lay helpless on the sand, her gun crews firing at re-
lentless air attacks and returning shore machine-gun fire
while the damage control crew worked to repair the ship and
get her off the beach.
The craft had long since emptied its larder of fresh meat.
During one of the lulls, three men went ashore to forage.
They returned with ten chickens in a gunny sack.
"They looked good," said the captain, "but they turned
out to be the toughest damn chickens we'd ever seen."
The cook fried them first. Knives bounced off the pieces
of brown meat as if they were made of rubber. Then the
meat was boiled. It was still too tough to eat. The cook
gathered up the pieces again and with a cleaver cut the meat
into a kettleful of tiny dices. Three days after cooking
began, the crew had chicken a la king.
At the end of the fourth day, LCIL-1 was a well ship,
repaired and floating again. She backed off the beach and
returned to active duty.
The Presidential Unit Citation is awarded by the Secre-
tary of the Navy, acting in the name of the President, to
naval or marine units which "perform services above and
beyond the high standard expected of our forces."
This is the text of the citation accompanying the award
to LCIL-1 :
For outstanding performance as a unit in a Task
Force during the initial landings on Sicily in July,
1943. Moving in under a fierce barrage of hostile re,
98 SPIT-KITS AND TANK SHIPS
the USS LCIL-1 suffered vital casualties which rup-
tured her communications and seriously wounded her
helmsman and lay on the beach, raked hy hostile
artillery and machine-gun fire but still fighting 1 gal-
lantly and silencing several enemy guns ashore de-
spite her helpless position. Repeatedly attacked from
the air, her officers and crew remained steadfastly
with their ship throughout the 4-day period until
she was again afloat and salvaged for further active
Another LCIL, during the invasion of Sicily, received
an award, unofficial and perhaps the strangest citation ever
given a landing craft. There is no ribbon to wear to show
for its receipt, but because of the circumstances and the
warmth of the giving it is treasured by officers and crew.
This LCIL began unloading troops about 9 o'clock on
invasion morning. Soldiers pounded down the ramps in
record time. The ramps were pulled up and the little craft
started to wind up her anchor and pull off the beach. Then
out of the sun came a German bomber. The crew saw its
bombs fall, miss, and land 75 yards away. The ship was off
the beach and under way a few moments later.
Only then did one of the officers take time to go below
to the wardroom. On the table he found a note, left by the
departing troops. He opened it and read:
To officers and crew:
Remembrance for a very enjoyable
Best of luck,
SPIT-KITS AND TANK SHIPS 99
Attached to the note was $25. The money was turned in
t6 the crew's welfare and recreation fund.
In the South Pacific, about 30 miles off Bougainville's
Empress Augusta Bay, a group of LCIL's, escorted by a
PT boat, were slogging along under a late sunset, when out
of the scarlet clouds came a squadron of planes with the red
ball of Japan on their wings. The lead plane roared in low,
low enough to take the radio aerial off the PT with one
wing tip. Guns blazed and the Jap plane made a crazy
wake in the water as it skimmed the surface and then sank.
The 20-millimeter guns on the LCIL's opened up at the
covey of Nip planes that followed. The first burst sent the
second plane roaring into the water. Two more followed.
Trigger-conscious thoughts failed to realize these planes
were dropping torpedoes. Then a lookout sighted them, at
least half a dozen steel dolphins leaping the waves, headed
for the tiny ships. Some were launched too close to the water
to arm themselves and exploded like bombs when they struck
the waves. One leaped completely over the stern of the PT.
Another struck the PT just above the water line, passing
cleanly through her bow and out the other side without
Another torpedo ripped into the plates of the LCIL. The
little craft shuddered, listed, then righted herself. There
was only one hole. The torpedo was still inside.
The Gunnery Officer, Lieutenant Pete Kirille, who used
to play professional football for the New York Yankees,
went below to investigate. There was the sleek, hard form of
the torpedo, resting securely against twisted metal, the war
head still unexploded.
100 SPIT-KITS AND TANK SHIPS
Signals were flashed for the PT to stand by to take off
the men of the LCIL. They were going to abandon ship. At
any moment the war head on that torpedo below might go
off, blowing the craft cloud high.
The PT came alongside. Men clambered over the rail and
stepped down on the wooden deck of the rocking torpedo
Then Lieutenant Kirille stopped. "I want five volun-
teers," he said. "I think we can save the ship if we can get
that war head off."
Five men volunteered and following Lieutenant Kirille,
climbed back aboard the LCIL and disappeared below.
The next day she limped into port to get a patch on her
These are some of the big men in some of this war's little
It Doesn't Grow on Trees
IT DOESN'T grow on trees."
That's the prime commandment given to officers and
men working under Captain Horace C. Laird of the
Naval Landing Force Equipment Depot.
"If you don't have it, then make it !"
That's the first lesson taught to men coming to work in
the depot or those leaving to set up landing-craft repair
After the Amphibious Force was organized and the small
landing craft, the assault boats, began to stream in from
shipyards and shops, it was apparent that a unit of some
kind would have to repair the boats that would be bent and
broken by sailors learning how to use them. Foresight also
dictated a place where boats damaged in an invasion could
be sent for salvage and reconditioning. Men would also have
to be trained to make emergency repairs in war zones.
The force turned to a unit already formed and function-
ing along these lines, the Naval Landing Force Equipment
Depot. In the Building 138 days of the force, the equip-
ment depot was two buildings away, a machine shop and a
carpenter shop. Here was a storeroom and an engine room
and a second-floor landing where the men slept.
102 IT DOESN'T GROW ON TREES
When the Landing Craft Group, under Captain Clarke,
began to train coxswains, it called upon Captain Laird's
depot for instructors. New men were given their first small-
craft seamanship lessons in the depot's boats in the Navy-
yard basin, and the Coast Guard men who came in as in-
structors took them around the basin to a long finger of
sand, called Willoughby Spit. Here, the sailors were taught
how to ram their boats up on the beach and get them off
again. Damaged boats were sent in to the depot for repair.
The depot at that time was a group of 8 officers and
271 enlisted men. The story of its growth to a current staff
of 70 officers, 1,117 enlisted men, plus a continual pool of
over 1,800 trainees, with 128 acres of land and a Ford
Motor Company assembly plant, is a story of incredible
achievement, efficiency, and savings.
It's largely the story of one man, towering, white-haired
Captain Horace C. Laird, a Naval Academy graduate who
retired from the Navy at the end of the last war and turned
his interests toward building pleasure craft and racing
yachts in Norfolk, Virginia.
Captain Laird is a long-range planner who considers it
good business to know what you're going to need tomorrow,
from the number of cans of gray paint needed to touch up
damaged craft, to the kind of tool kit needed to patch a
boat's belly ripped by the coral of a South Pacific base.
It was such planning that enabled him to secure a factory
site for his shops in March, 1943. Need for more than his
original two-building space was apparent by June of 1942,
for now the depot was maintaining a pool of 397 new boats,
equipped and ready for issue on a few hours' notice. In ad-
dition to these new boats he had 34s various types of other
IT DOESN'T GROW ON TREES 103
craft under repair. And his personnel had increased to 738.
There was a pool of trained operators to go with the boats
when they were issued. There was a stock of equipment and
spare parts on hand whose value exceeded $1,500,000.
The little depot was going into business in a big way, and
it needed more room. A few miles away, in South Norfolk
in a little residential section called Berkley, there was a
Ford Motor Company assembly plant. It was idle. New cars
had long since given way to war production. Captain Laird
investigated and in short order negotiations were under way
between the government and the Ford Company to purchase
The contract had hardly been signed before Captain
Laird began a deft, but persistent, infiltration movement.
As soon as one section of the plant had removed Ford equip-
ment, Landing Force material was moved in and set up.
In October came the order to equip the convoy of inva-
sion transports. This depleted the stock of 397 assault boats
on hand, but, to indicate how rapidly these craft were being
built, by the day of invasion, November 8, the depot had
on hand 652.
The order to supply the transports with assault boats
was easy. They had been held ready for that purpose. But
the next order was an unexpected one. The convoy was
poised for sailing. An urgent message was sent to the depot,
saying that it was absolutely imperative that the transports
be supplied with 400 units of a certain type of gun mount.
In the last-minute rush, this detail had slipped by the check-
off list. They couldn't be found anywhere. Could the Land-
ing Force Equipment Depot do anything about it?
It could and did. Captain Laird called in his engineers
104 IT DOESN'T GROW ON TREES
and told them the story. There was not a single unit of these
gun mounts on hand to copy from. Could they design one
and start building them? The engineers went to work. In a
day and a half, 400 gun mounts were designed, built, and
delivered to the ships. And they were better than the ones
"They're now standard equipment/ 5 says Captain Laird,
a bit acidly, "called Army mounts."
This was not the first, nor was it to be the last, time that
Captain Laird heard, "We can't get it anywhere else. Can
you make it for us ?"
In July had come a large order for a certain small-boat
part needed by the Marine Corps. Captain Laird had heard
nothing about such an order prior to this, so he called Wash-
"The Marine Corps is supposed to be supplying that
one," was the answer.
He called the Marine Corps.
"No, Washington was to deliver the order, but their con-
tract is divided, one half the parts to be delivered in Sep-
tember and one half in October," they said.
"We can't wait. We need them now. Can you do it?"
In a day and a half the machine shop at the depot made
3,000 of these parts and in 2 days they were delivered.
It was work like this on invasion craft that won for Cap-
tain Laird the Navy's Legion of Merit award with the
For exceptionally meritorious conduct in the per-
formance of outstanding services as Commanding
Officer, Naval Landing Force Equipment Depot,
Norfolk, Virginia, prior to the landings in French
IT DOESN'T GROW ON TREES 105
Morocco on 8 November 1942. Captain Laird, while
serving under the command of Commander Amphib-
ious Force, United States Atlantic Fleet, expertly
organized, equipped, and operated with great effi-
ciency repair facilities for the overhaul, maintenance,
and refitting of ship-borne landing craft. He was re-
sponsible in great measure for the high state of ma-
terial readiness of the landing craft assigned to the
ships of the assault convoy both during the long
months of training and preparation, as well as the
actual participation in the assault operations.
The extraordinary ability, initiative, and outstanding
devotion to duty displayed by Captain Laird reflect
great credit upon the Naval Service.
"When we started this job," says Captain Laird, "we
burned all the red tape. We've requisitioned no more, and
if I catch anybody with it . . ." Here his voice trails away,
with the menacing threat unsaid.
From the outside, the old assembly plant housing the
equipment depot's shops looks like any modern, well-kept
factory. The roof is serrated to allow sunshine inside. The
front is faced with clipped lawn and hedges. It's only after
looking through the high, stiff Cyclone fencing that sur-
rounds the 128 acres that you realize this is something pretty
On cradles, row after row, separated by well-kept, graded
roads, sit gray, waiting invasion boats. You don't count
them because the total number would be secret anyway, but
your impression is that here sit literally hundreds of boats,
waiting . . . On their sterns is a list of dates, each 2 weeks
apart, marking the last time the engines were tested and
106 IT DOESN'T GROW ON TREES
The man who is continually amazed at this sight, the
view of his own work, is Commander George Burl Llewellyn,
the Executive Officer of the depot. Commander Llewellyn is
another "mustang," but, unlike most, he wears the scrambled
eggs of a full commander on his cap brim. Last August 7
he celebrated his forty-second year in the Navy. He is one
of the "old men" who came back and stayed to do a good
job. He entered the Navy on August 7, 1901, with a rating
few people now have heard, "landsman for sea training."
He got this landsman for sea training aboard the USS
Lancaster, a full-rigged sail and steam vessel.
Commander Llewellyn is short, stocky, and his gray hair
accents small blue eyes puckered tight in a way befitting
a man who has sailed on a full-rigged ship.
"If you could only have seen this last year," he says,
pointing to the graded yards holding the racked boats, "if
you could only have seen it then. Nothing but swamp water
and mud. They called it Llewellyn Lake. But we filled it in
and drained it, and now look at it !" And he rides away on
his bicycle. It's a heavy, red bicycle. Even the lard-pail-
sized claxon horn clamped on the handle bars is painted red.
He rides this bicycle around the yard wherever he goes.
Another source of pride to Commander Llewellyn are the
railroad lines running through the yard.
"We built 'em all ourselves," he says.
But that's only part of the story. How stock for this little
rail system was acquired would make a "Saturday-sale"
shopper blush with inadequacy. It was necessary, in the first
place, to have hauling vehicles of some kind to transport
the boats from the water up to the parking area. The most
feasible would seem to be cranes to lift them out and place
IT DOESN'T GROW ON TREES 107
them on dollies, and dollies to run along rail tracks, pulled
by an engine, to the point of unloading.
Many things most feasible are not the easiest obtained,
however. A traveling crane was borrowed from the Navy
yard. But this was unsatisfactory and impermanent. The
Navy yard insisted on getting it back. Finally, cranes were
purchased and the men of the depot assembled them, sink-
ing some in permanent concrete blocks where they knew
they would always be used.
Then from the Norfolk and Western Railroad Company
Captain Laird bought some old rails, 3 miles of them, rails
that had been discarded by the railway company and sold
as junk. These rails were hauled to the depot's land and laid
out. From another dealer in heavy junk, old railway wheels
were bought and carried in. Springs and cradles were built
on these wheels to form the dollies.
The system was ready to operate now, except for the lack
of an engine to haul the dollies. The answer to this need was
the "Yard Bird."
Yard Bird began his career in France during the last
war. He was built for the narrow-gauge French railways,
looking as much like a toy locomotive as the LCIL does a
miniature ship. Somehow Yard Bird had found his way
from France to another junk dealer near Norfolk. This is
where Captain Laird found him the day he was looking for
wheels. He bought Yard Bird for $300 and trucked him
back to the depot. Although the motor hadn't been turned
over in 18 years, Yard Bird is now polished and shining,
and chugs along the yard rails with a mighty load.
With the yard dispersal system working, boats could be
handled at a faster clip. They came in by rail and by ship,
108 IT DOESN'T GROW ON TREES
from training bases, from North Africa, from Iceland. You
don't realize the size of any ship until you see it in dry dock.
This is especially true of invasion boats. We call them small
craft, but when you see the part that's usually hidden be-
neath the water, they look pretty big. When they come back
for repairs they look like wounded soldiers coming home for
treatment. They look out of place on railroad flatcars,
naked and embarrassed without water, their bottoms
pounded and dented, with gashes in their sides and bullet-
Over 10,000 invasion boats had crossed this yard and the
other parking area west of the assembly plant by October,
"That yard was another fill-in job," says Commander
Llewellyn. "See that road?" He pointed to a graded road
running between more rows of boats. "They called that
'Dream Highway.' "
The name stuck. It's still called "Dream Highway" by
the men of the depot. It started when the depot first moved
in and there was nothing but salt marsh and water. Com-
mander Llewellyn had said one day, "We'll fill that in and
build a road across here," pointing to nothing but deep
water. Some of the men thought he was having an idle
Both Captain Laird and Commander Llewellyn are proud
of the fact that they've never turned down a job.
After the invasion of North Africa, eight damaged land-
ing craft were returned to Charleston, South Carolina. The
men there took one look at the boats and sent the depot a
letter requesting permission to sell them for scrap. They
had been offered $500 apiece, and, for boats not considered
IT DOESN'T GROW ON TREES 109
worth salvaging, this was thought to be a good price, even
though construction cost runs about $8,000 apiece.
Captain Laird sent a negative to this request, saying,
"Let the depot see them first."
All eight of those boats are now repaired and back in
Another example of poor salvage judgment, caught in
time by the depot, occurred when four LCT's and 82 en-
gines were considered worthless by another yard and sold to
a junk dealer for $2,800. This sale was rescinded by the
depot when it learned of the deal. The company was re-
funded its $2,800 and the boats and engines were recalled.
The damaged LCT's and engines were shipped to the depot.
All of this equipment has been rebuilt and either sent out
to sea or to schools for demonstration items. On this salvage
job the government was saved an estimated $320,000; over
$88,000 on engines alone.
When a landing craft comes in for reconditioning, de-
pending upon its need, it goes either to the hull repair shop,
or if the engine is bad, it is stripped and sent to the engine
The hull repair shop, under the direction of Lieutenant
Commander H. P. Cummings, began with a team of nine
carpenters, three shipfitters, and two painters. It now occu-
pies one end of the huge assembly plant, has over 800 men
working in a carpenter shop, a pattern shop, a shipfitter's
shop, a sheet-metal shop, a foundry, and a plumber and
welding shop. This unit of the depot has never found a
hull too badly smashed to repair.
The hull repair shop is a strange mixture of smells, of
hot metal and planed wood, of brass drippings and sawdust.
110 IT DOESN'T GROW ON TREES
On one cradle is a boat with her entire side bashed in, bot-
tom gone, and bow ramp twisted loose. The men have been
working on her. New ribs are going down the sides. New
plywood has been formed over the open scars. Measure-
ments have been taken for a new mahogany bottom. In a
few days she'll be a well and watertight ship.
In another cradle lies an old LCV. They're tearing off
the old bow, putting in a new ramp, patching up holes.
She'll never see combat action, but she'll train coxswains who
Near by is the propeller shop. A propeller or its parts are
never thrown away no matter how badly bent or broken.
Here, welders build up chipped blades, curve them, balance
them. They can turn out 20 to 30 boat-ready propellers a
day here, and by using bronze scrap to build up broken
blades they save more than $500 a week in what would be
spent for new metal.
As these figures would indicate, a working motto for the
Landing Force Equipment Depot is : "Save the government
Again, Captain Laird looked to the day when the myriad
parts necessary for the upkeep of assault boats would be
unobtainable anywhere. He ordered a foundry to be built.
Off to the left of the assembly plant, this little foundry now
melts its metal and casts parts that even an overriding
priority order couldn't get.
The machine and engine shops are a steady drain on the
foundry's production. Lieutenant William F. Lehr, a me-
chanical engineer and machine designer for the Standard
Oven Company of Pittsburgh, and later its Vice President
and Chief Engineer, runs the engine shop. He's like a father
IT DOESN'T GROW ON TREES 111
talking about his child when he takes a visitor through his
plant. But that's the thing that impresses you about the
depot. Everyone feels that way about his own particular
"See those stands?" says Lieutenant Lehr, pointing to
where a row of Gray Marine engines is resting. "Well, if
you bought them, they'd cost $200 apiece. We made 'em
from scrap metal, and gave our student welders good prac-
tice at the same time."
Lehr's shop is really an industrial assembly line on a re-
verse basis, a repair basis. The dirty, rusted, damaged en-
gines begin at one end, to be torn down, and in 24 hours
they emerge at the other end, reassembled, tested, their run-
ning records tabulated, ready for reissue to any craft need-
ing a new engine.
One tricky thing in rebuilding an engine is to be sure that
its parts are whole. You may say, "Oh, that's simple. If a
part is cracked you can see it." You can't always see those
cracks that might stop an engine and a craft halfway to an
But there's one sure way of getting at those cracks you
can't see. It's done by a machine called a "magnaflux." Parts
are dipped into this vatlike box and magnetized. Then pow-
dered iron oxide is poured on the parts to be tested. Par-
ticles of this reddish powder will show in outline any minute
crack not discernible to the naked eye or to the touch. If
this line appears, the parts are rejected, to be salvaged and
used for something else.
If you bought a magnaflux machine it would cost around
$8,000. Lieutenant Lehr, out of salvaged parts and $300
for new pieces, built one in 2 weeks.
112 IT DOESN'T GROW ON TREES
Beyond the engine shop there's the instrument and tach-
ometer shops where delicate mechanisms are adjusted,
cleaned, and repaired. There's even a typewriter shop, whose
value, if anyone has tried to have his old Underwood fixed
these days, will be realized. And there's one bench where
men of the depot can get their watches repaired. Ernest C.
Anderson, a Motor Machinist Mate Second Class, of Twin
Valley, Minnesota, is the man who does this. When he re-
ported to the depot and found many men timeless, due to
the fact that Norfolk jewelers guarantee only a minimum
of 3 months to fix a watch, he sent home for his repair kit.
He'd been a jeweler himself before the war.
Lieutenant Lehr also joins the chorus of "there's nothing
we can't do." He cites, for an offhand example, the time
someone wanted two boats completely changed from gasoline
to Diesel. They didn't think it could be done in the time
allotted, 4 days. Then the Bureau of Ships in Washington
said, "Send your job to the equipment depot."
The engine shop in the depot did the job in 3 days and
delivered the boats under their own powei*.
The machine shop, which operates on a 24-hour basis,
runs on equipment which, with the exception of two pieces,
is entirely salvaged material. Planers, lathes, and similar
heavy equipment were taken from other yards which had
discarded them as worn out. They were reconditioned, re-
built, painted, oiled, and put in perfect working order.
Many of the parts made in the machine shop are destined
for repair bases overseas. This meant a need for wooden
boxes to ship them in. The depot built a little box factory
for this purpose, which turns out an average of 75 wooden
shipping crates a day.
IT DOESN'T GROW ON TREES 113
There was a paper shortage in the country and waste-
paper could be sold. The depot had quantities of waste-
paper, so Captain Laird bought an old hay bailer from a
Virginia farmer for $100, rebuilt a little gasoline engine
to run it and now bales a truckload of paper every week to
As the personnel increased in the depot, cafeteria and
cooking facilities were needed. It was impossible to buy a
steam table, so the metal shop made one.
Instead of sending out crankshafts and cylinders of dam-
aged engines to be chromium plated, the depot constructed
from salvaged material its own chromium-plating room.
A parallel job that runs simultaneously with repair work
is the training of men to go out to advanced Navy amphib-
ious bases. These men are trained to fix any part of any
landing craft under any condition. That is why Captain
Laird had told them, "It doesn't grow on trees." At the
depot they are given a sound working knowledge as a foun-
dation. Then, if the men have to work under improvised war
conditions, they will at least have a standard of work from
which to begin. The aim of the depot's training program
has been to make that standard an excellent one.
"We don't give a damn," said Captain Laird, "if a man
can't read or write. If he can fix a damaged engine, that's
all we care about. One thing we try to do here is to keep the
men ignorant of what they can't do. If they make an engine
part here, when they get to a foreign base they'll know how
to do it again.
"An example of this was an order we got one day to weld
some bullet-proof steel. We started on the job. Then came a
follow-up letter saying, 'Never mind, you can't do it, you
114 IT DOESN'T GROW ON TREES
can't weld bullet-proof steel.' But in the meantime we'd ex-
perimented. We found a way to do it, and wrote back say-
ing, 'Sorry, we're just ignorant. We didn't know it couldn't
be done. We tried it and did it.' "
The captain figures that his pool of 1,800 trainees, who
sleep in quarters where Ford parts used to be stored and
mess where the old assembly line stood, produce about 50c
on the dollar in production output as they learn their jobs.
As they train they also work in turning out production
items. They begin on scrap metal that is useless for any-
thing else. In the blacksmith shop and the welding shop,
instruction material is all scrap. Huge waste buckets are
filled with weld-ribbed scrap. Every weld turned out by a
student is tested. It is put in a viselike machine and bent.
The weld must be good enough to stand anything from a
45-degree bend to a flat bend without breaking. If it does
break, the student is shown his mistake and welds a piece
until it will stand the bending test.
The men are sorted and shifted according to their abili-
ties. In the compass shop is a boy who began work on heavy
lathes in the machine shop. It was discovered that he was
good at precision work, and he now winds intricate electrical
These men may not have the equipment on the spot, in
Africa, Italy, India, or any of the Pacific islands, to do a
job, but they will have the knowledge of how it should be
done and how it can be done with what they do have.
They could even build a fire engine like the one guarding
the depot. It was built by the men there. It vies with the
Yard Bird in looking like a toy, but it works. The source
of its parts was as varied as the figures on a compass face,
IT DOESN'T GROW ON TREES 115
but when the parts were assembled it was an efficient little
Four Ford wheels, an old salvaged pump, a hose attach-
ment with five outlets, and a reconditioned motor, placed on
a frame and all painted as red as Commander Llewellyn's
bicycle, and there it was.
The whole tenor of training and of the philosophy that
built this depot is expressed in a statement that Captain
Laird made one day when an officer reported that a man on
a certain job was stumped, couldn't figure out how to do it.
"Who the hell is going to fill their bottles and put on the
nipples for them when they leave here? Let him find out
how to fix it !"
The man found out. It took a little plain sit-down think-
ing, but he figured out how to do it. The next problem that
arose he knew how to tackle.
These are some of the men behind those invasion boats
that carry the troops ashore.
The Boys with the Stereopticon
'I HE plane took off from a North African airfield
and headed out over the Mediterranean toward
"This is your objective," the officer in the operations
room had told the pilot, handing him a map of Sicily. He
had pointed to a square section of the beach on the south-
western shore. "It's very important. It's our last run."
The shore line of Africa melted into blue water. The pilot
checked his course, settled back in the seat and looked at
the spot of Sicilian beach marked on the map. Over 500
times, planes had left their North African bases like this.
The pilots had been given a map with a little square marked
on it and were told, "This is your objective." This trip
would finish the job.
Clouds floated by below, milk spots on a blue carpet.
These trips were not larks. Those white clouds often had a
dark lining of enemy aircraft. Only about one plane in 10,
out of the 500 that had headed in for their objective, did
so without meeting enemy planes or antiaircraft flak from
THE BOYS WITH THE STEREOPTICON EYES 117
The gray island coast line appeared, like a chip of bark
floating in the water. The pilot checked his map again. His
target was a little to the north. The green hand on the
altimeter pointed to 30,000 feet as he started the target run.
In a few seconds he was over it, a tiny spot of land about
the size of a silver dollar. A gloved finger found the button
The plane banked and turned for another run.
"One for good luck," the pilot said to himself.
Sometimes the planes had to go in for a second run, if
flak from below jarred their craft as it passed the target.
This day there was no flak nor any enemy planes to mar
the sight. But it was the last trip and it had to be good.
At best, this job was like trying to hit an ant with a marble
from the top of a barn.
Again the small bit of land, corresponding to the area
marked on the map, appeared below, and again the button
That should do it. The job was finished now. Not quite
it was almost finished. The pilot had to get safely back and
deliver a precious package the photographs that he had
been taking. In that black package was film, a picture of
the land marked on the pilot's map. This area was near one
of the beaches on which we were to land. Previous pictures
of this strip of island had indicated the enemy was building
something. We had to find out what it was. If it was a big
gun nest, then it was a target that rated first priority from
ship and artillery fire.
Over the North African airfield again, the plane circled,
waiting for the signal to land. It came, and the plane eased
118 THE BOYS WITH THE STEREOPTICON EYES
down in a long glide. Wheels slapped the gravel and rolled
to a stop at the end of a taxi run.
The pilot stepped out. Under his arm was a small black
package. A dispatch rider in khaki battle dress and round
bucket-helmet was waiting. He signed a receipt, put the
black package in his shoulder bag, and roared away on his
As a result of this flight and the 500 odd preceding ones
over Sicily, the converging task forces closing in on the
island on the night of July 9, knew, with 98 per cent accu-
racy, the exact location of enemy guns and troops. That
is why we landed in the south of Sicily instead of in the
previously planned northern sectors where the enemy was
expecting us. That is why our invasion force was not con-
fronted with really stiff opposition. We were able to land
troops where the enemy wasn't expecting us to laiid troops,
where he was unprepared to repel an amphibious landing.
The night of the invasion we knew the locations of every
airport, the length of runways, the number of hangars, the
kind and number of planes there. Along the beach where
we were to land we knew the location of ammunition dumps,
fuel dumps, gun positions and the caliber of the guns. And
we knew what the beaches were going to be like where we
landed, the height of the sand dunes, the kind of trees and
bushes behind them, and where barbed wire was stretched.
Before an amphibious landing is made on any coast line,
these things, and many more, have to be known. How they're
found out is one part of the pattern of amphibious warfare.
The men who tell us what the films show are the photo-
graphic interpreters, the "PI" boys.
Several sets of negatives are developed and delivered by
THE BOYS WITH THE STEREOPTICON EYES 119
plane and dispatch rider to the Pi's of the various units,
British and American, waiting to strike.
Each of those 500 plane trips to Sicily had brought back
film. The entire 12,000 square miles of the island was on
film. Those early flights were as hazardous as a bombing run
on Berlin. Most of the Axis air force was then based on
Sicilian fields. The reconnaissance pilots who flew on these
picture-taking hops had to be just as good on-the-nose
fliers as men dropping bombs on a target, and their camera
targets were just as hard to hit. They had just as little time
to press the trigger on the camera shutter as the bombardier
had to release his load of precision-aimed bombs. From
30,000 feet those miles of land below present an area of
about 1% square inches.
The camera pilot had to be something of a twisting, turn-
ing, evasive fighter pilot as well, because the enemy doesn't
want his secrets photographed. This no-poaching rule was
enforced by enemy fighters and antiaircraft fire. You can't
take a picture with a Focke-Wulf on your tail pouring
buckets of lead at you, and you can't get a clear shot when
the ack-ack is throwing your plane around like a Russian
thistle in a March wind. When that happens you try to get
away, then sneak in the next day, get the picture, and sneak
out, you hope. Anyway, you keep going in until you get it.
The Pi's have to have it.
The Pi's job isn't so dangerous as the camera pilot's,
but it's just as nerve-racking like trying to find a needle,
not in a haystack, but in a Montana wheat field. Try iden-
tifying a 12-foot-long automobile some time on one of those
aerial pictures. It's less than a dot on the photograph, about
1/100 inch long. Then, remember that the gun pit of a
120 THE BOYS WITH THE STEREOPTICON EYES
20-millimeter antitank gun is only about 6 feet wide and on
top of that it will have camouflage.
Not only do the Pi's tell you it's a gun pit, but they also
tell you the caliber of the gun underneath the camouflage.
It isn't easy. It means hours of eye-aching work, of check-
ing and double checking hundreds of photographs. But
they get the answer, and usually they get it right. A lot
of plans and lives depend on the PI reports made from those
pictures. The answer has to be right.
About 90 per cent of our military intelligence comes from
the combination camera pilot and the photographic inter-
preter. A refugee, a prisoner of war, or a spy may forget or
confuse information. The camera's hard to fool. The in-
formation is right there in black and white. It comes in
small pieces, but it's there.
After the fall of France, it was of particular importance
to the British to know what Germany was doing on the
Continent. The former easy process of crossing the Chan-
nel and looking was closed, so planes armed with aerial
cameras were sent up and down the "invasion coast" of the
Continent. They brought back uncontested evidence of Ger-
many's plans. In port after port were nests of invasion
Following the camera planes would go the heavy bombers
to blast those nests. It was a continual process, out for pic-
tures and back with bombs. And England was not invaded.
We sent a man to London to learn how the British could
read pictures taken at such altitude so accurately. The
answer was the old public-library stereopticon machine gone
to war. Two of these aerial photographs, looking like a
blurred patch of soiled oilcloth to the naked eye, when placed
THE BOYS WITH THE STEREOPTICON EYES 121
under the powerful eyepieces of the new stereopticon, showed
amazing detail, and in relief. It was like looking at a minia-
ture town through the wrong end of field glasses. It was a
long jump down to those buildings and boats, and at first
you felt dizzy. Then detail after detail cleared through your
consciousness. You could pick out houses, streets, people,
and ships. You thought you were pretty good.
Then an expert >told you what you were really looking
at : a harbor, filled with two 20-ton transports, 5 destroyers,
75 invasion barges, 15 antiaircraft gun emplacements. The
transports were loaded to the Plimsoll line. The invasion
barges were armed. And off to the left was a railway yard,
unloading ammunition which was stacked in 10 separate
dumps. And away in that clump of trees was a fuel storage
tank. Here was a story with all the pieces filled in.
Now look at this picture. This was taken of the same
place a week later. Ammunition gone, transports gone, de-
stroyers gone. Where? Look for more pictures and more
pictures. You'll get the answer, and the enemy can't hide
it. You found the ammunition later, in what the enemy
thought was a camouflaged dump, near a new ring of gun
pits. Those guns now rest in what used to be an innocent
little field in one of the earlier pictures.
The man sent to learn this system of intelligence was
Commander Robert S. Quackenbush. A flier himself, red-
faced and steel-gray-haired, he spent weeks learning the
British system of photographic interpretation. It took him
only a few days to learn its value.
He returned to Washington, sold the idea to the Navy's
Bureau of Aeronautics, and organized a PI school at the
122 THE BOYS WITH THE STEREOPTICON EYES
Anacostia Air Station down near the Washington Navy
Yard in January, 1942.
After the 6-week course, the first class graduated and
went to the Pacific. On February 24, 1942, PI had its "first
night. 55 It was the attack on Wake Island. We had lost
Wake on December 23, 1941. Plans had been made to give
the Japs on Wake a taste of what the defending Marines
had digested in their 18-day stand.
Only once, after the island fell, had American fliers
photographed the Wake area. An Army plane had flown
over at high altitude, but clouds covered most of his pic-
tures. It was understood that the Japs were working night
and day on new fortifications. We could destroy these if
we knew what and where they were, but details were lacking.
The naval attack force sailed without them. But a Flying
Fortress headed out for Wake. This time the sky was clear.
The Fort returned to Pearl Harbor with a roll of film. It
was developed and printed. The pictures were excellent. A
Navy PBY, Consolidated patrol bomber, then flew the pic-
tures to the aircraft carrier of the Navy force steaming to-
ward Wake and dropped them on the flight deck. The pic-
tures were quickly interpreted by the Pi's. Their report
went up to the task force commander and detailed sketches
were made and the attack planned.
The public report of this attack was Communique No.
62. It read : "Two enemy patrol boats were sunk, three large
seaplanes at anchor were demolished, and the airfield run-
ways and a part of the defense batteries damaged. Our loss
in this engagement was one aircraft. 55
A photographic interpreter, or a PI, has been described
THE BOYS WITH THE STEREOPTICON EYES 123
as "a fellow who gets intelligence out of aerial photo-
As the title indicates, he must be able, not only to dis-
tinguish what he sees in a picture, but also to interpret it
in a military and economic sense. This interpretation is
especially valuable in the pattern for amphibious attack.
To carry out the first amphibious commandment, to "land
where the enemy doesn't expect you," we must first find out
where that spot is. Once this is established, then every avail-
able drop of information must be sucked out of that area
and supplied to the men who are directing the force and the
men who are landing. They've got to know if the beaches
in that area are feasible for landing and if they are what
points are best. The coxswain, a few minutes before H-hour,
as he swings his assault boat around in the water alongside
his transport, has to know, in better terms than a mere
compass course, where he's going and what to expect when
he gets there. The men standing by the guns on the Navy's
big support ships have to know where their targets are so
that when the hand drops for H-hour's beginning, they can
train sights on it and blast all possibility of its interfering
with the landing.
Our troops have landed because this information was
In the PI class that graduated in April, 1942, four en-
signs went to the Pacific : George F. Bigelow, William Mc-
Carthy, Donald Telford, and Albert Sommer. At this time
there were no Pi's based west of Pearl Harbor. These four
men were to do the first interpreting for Pacific amphibious
landings. When they reported aboard Admiral McCain's
124 THE BOYS WITH THE STEREOPTICON EYES
flagship, the executive officer naturally wanted to know what
"We're photo interpreters, sir."
"What'll they think of next?" the Exec was heard to
mumble. It was still a new term, a new job. Neither it nor
its results were widespread knowledge. Both were soon to
The Pi's first turned their glasses to harbor photographs
and identified Japanese shipping in the Solomons area.
Then, gradually, as the plans grew for the invasion of
Guadalcanal, they began to study and report on Japanese
airfields and gun positions. Very careful study was made
on the field we now call Henderson.
All this was done aboard ship. In January, following the
August invasion of Guadalcanal, a small unit of Pi's was
detached from the ship and assigned to the Marine Corps
This was the unit that discovered the airfield at Munda
from studying pictures taken of that area. They could see
through the trees that the work of clearing the ground in
a long runway stretch had begun. The trees hadn't been
cut yet, but work had started on this airfield. American
bombers left immediately and started pasting what the Japs
had thought was a secret.
"The Japs didn't do so well on that strip," said Ensign
Another airfield was discovered on Kolombangara. It was
Vila airfield and almost completed when the Pi's caught it.
A month earlier, pictures had shown nothing but solid vege-
tation. In 30 days the Japs had practically constructed a
complete airfield. Ground reports had brought indication
THE BOYS WITH THE STEREOPTICON EYES 125
of suspicious activity on Kolombangara, in the New Georgia
Islands, so planes went out to take pictures. The field was
cleared and level, except for a tuft of palm trees still re-
maining in the center.
The field was bombed steadily and PI reports found that
only one lone Jap plane had ever used the field.
One day a pilot delivered a packet of film, one strip of
which had no caption. The pack was developed and printed,
and the Pi's began to look at the day's run.
About 10 o'clock at night an excited shout from one of
the Pi's brought the others running.
"Look what we have here !" he said, eyes bugging. It was
a new base, construction almost complete, with airfield, run-
ways, and Quonset-type huts.
"The admiral better see that. A base like that is hot
stuff," someone said.
The first PI, knowing the admiral would immediately ask
its location, started to find the pilot who had failed to
identify his shot. The pilot was sound asleep in his bunk
when the PI finally found him and routed him out with a
rush of words.
"Where the hell did you get this?" the PI asked, showing
him the printed picture of the new base.
"Oh, that," the pilot said, sleepily. "I had one more pic-
ture left on the roll of film when I finished today, so I made
a picture of our base here when I came in."
The Pi's went to bed, thankful they hadn't called the
Another job of the Pi's here was to confirm hits on enemy
shipping. Pilots coming back after a run on an enemy ship
were certain they had scored. They'd seen smoke, the ship
126 THE BOYS WITH THE STEREOPTICON EYES
covered with water, and all evidences of a bomb-punched
Jap vessel. It was up to the PI boys to make the decision.
It's pretty hard to tell for the few seconds you're over a
boat being bombed whether you've hit it or not. But the
cameras attached to the plane would bring back the story.
Time and again it was, "Sorry, Joe, no soap. You got a
good near-miss, but no direct hit."
"It was very discouraging for some of the bombers," said
Ensign Bigelow. Finally two of them had a $50 bet on the
first to get a direct hit. About a week after the bet was con-
tracted, one of the pilots came rushing into the PI lab with
"Come on, boys, doctor this stuff in a hurry. I wanta
pocket my fifty."
The film was printed and the pilot stood around on im-
patient feet, waiting for the verdict. The PI boys were en-
joying the suspense as much as the pilot was annoyed by it.
"It's a damn near-miss. Mack," came the fateful decision.
"It took that pilot a week before he'd speak to us," said
In July, Commander Quackenbush joined the unit, bring-
ing more men and more photographic equipment. As in-
vasions spread, units followed to Rendova, the Russells, New
Guinea, Vella Lavella, Bougainville, the Gilberts ; north in
Attu and Kiska, Pi's were methodically jotting down secrets
the Jap couldn't hide.
Commander Quackenbush was awarded the Legion of
Merit, and the Pi's on Guadalcanal were given the Presi-
dential Unit Citation along with the Marines.
Interpretation of aerial photographs of Sicily began
several months before the invasion and in widely separated
THE BOYS WITH THE STEREOPTICON EYES 127
places. Army and British units in North Africa began col-
lecting pictures and scanning them, jotting down notes and
reports. In the Nansemond Hotel, Pi's of the Amphibious
Force were doing the same thing.
Pictures came from a variety of sources. The recent ones
were obtained by XL S. Army and British reconnaissance
pilots. There were also old pictures in the files. When war
first began, both Army and Navy had let it be known that
they could use any pictures that Brownie-packing tourists
might have brought back with them from globe-trots.
These pictures poured into Washington in profusion.
Most of them were absolutely useless. One in 500 might be
good, one in 1,000 might have valuable information in it.
They were all inspected, the good ones filed according to
The amphibious Pi's had one of these donated pictures
thumbtacked on the wall of the office in which they worked,
as a constant reminder of the specialized interpreting needed
for amphibious assault. The caption on this picture was in
large, inked letters. It read : "An example of rugged beach
terrain with three dangerous obstacles firmly implanted in
It was a beach in Southern France with three blonde
beauties lolling in the sun.
The man in charge of the Atlantic Fleet Amphibious
Force Pi's who worked for our task force on the Sicilian
job was Lieutenant Commander George Dunbaugh, USNR,
an expert photographer himself, who wears the silver wings
of last war's Army Balloon Corps.
Twelve to 14 hours a day were spent on the stream of
pictures pouring into amphibious headquarters. When
128 THE BOYS WITH THE STEREOPTICON EYES
strategy shifted from the north to the south of Sicily, the
hours behind the locked doors of the old Nansemond Hotel
increased. Some of the men suffered from eyestrain, or the
"stereo-shakes" as they called it. The hall silence was some-
times shattered by a whoop of delight. A PI had discovered
the answer to a knotty problem. Maybe the problem had
been a small blurred mass that appeared regularly in every
sequence of pictures on a certain area of land. No one could
say definitely what it was. Then a picture came in that had
caught the enemy with his camouflage down. It was a 40-
millimeter gun pit, and the secret was marked.
Reports grew from the hours spent on these pictures.
The beaches took shape in long strips of mosaic, showing
defenses, inland terrain, and harbors. The Air Department
got reports on airfields within striking distance of the
beaches, in Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, and lower Italy. The
Gunnery Department wanted grid coordinates, aerial maps,
of enemy defenses within the reach of naval gunfire. These
would be used by both the ships and the naval gunfire liaison
officers who went ashore with the Army.
When the task force left in June, four Pi's were aboard
the flagship: Lieutenant (jg) Charles Coleman, Ensign
Frank Earle, Ensign Lester Haas, and Ensign Charles
When the dispatch rider raced off with the packet of film
from the North African airfield, one set of negatives was
destined for these PI boys who were waiting with the task
force in Oran harbor.
With this latest information, final PI reports were com-
pleted. To the gunnery officers went gridded mosaic prints
of the landing area. These were received with such praise
(Landing Craft Personnel-Ramp)
THE BOYS WITH THE STEREOPTICON EYES 129
that similar prints were given to the air-liaison people,
transport commanders, and Army battalion commanders.
Ready for distribution were the beach reports in a small
folder, containing an oblique view of the beach, a sketch
of the shore line with a legend giving the dimensions of the
beach, a description of the beach, surf figures, outstanding
landmarks, the best approach to the beach. For the Army's
use, terrain inland and on the flanks of the beaches had been
described, showing exits from the beach where rolling equip-
ment could be taken, locations of airfields, places suitable
for concealment, areas for dispersal, and strategic distances
A conference was called when this material was ready to
hand out. The ships of the convoy had been sealed. No one
was allowed to go ashore or come aboard. The PI reports
were passed out, company and battalion commanders were
briefed in just how the operation was to click. The pictures
were explained and all questions answered. Coxswain groups
and platoon leaders were shown exactly where they would
land and what kind of beach their bow ramp would lower on.
The same briefing meetings had occurred in the other
task forces. Gunnery officers knew their targets and from
the gridded mosaics could get the range with the first salvo.
Pilots of cruiser planes and the naval gunfire liaison officers
had identical mosaics to check the fire. Coxswains were
armed with the confidence of knowing they were landing
on a beach, not at the base of a 100-foot cliff. Army officers
had a preview of the land they would be fighting on in a
H-hour would test the accuracy of all the PI reports and
130 THE BOYS WITH THE STEREOPTICON EYES
A few hours after the first wave landed, two Pi's, Lieu-
tenant Coleman and Ensign Haas, went ashore to check the
ground with what their stereopticon had shown from 30,000
feet. They were certain of their reports, but things have a
way of looking different when seen from a vertical view of
an aerial photograph.
Early in the day an Italian colonel was captured. Here
was an excellent check for the PI data. Ensign Haas could
speak Italian. The colonel, a small, paunchy man with a
clipped, black moustache, was willing to talk.
The Pi's had discovered 4 gun batteries with 34 ma-
chine guns along the beach area. The colonel, when asked,
gave the figure of 3 batteries and 29 machine guns.
"Come now, you have more than that. We know it," he
was told, and Haas began citing their locations. The colonel
marked a "perfect" after every location named by Haas,
then explained his discrepancy by stating that several gun
posts were not manned, hence he hadn't considered them.
The colonel was then shown a copy of the shore-line
"That's the best map I've ever seen of the Scoglitti area,"
he answered in excited Italian.
Haas then proceeded to point out on the map the exact
location of his batteries and gun positions, even giving him
dates when some were first occupied.
"What good intelligence!" was the only thing the aston-
ished colonel could say.
The Very Model of a Modern
A FEW days before the Sicilian task force left
America, truckloads of big, long, thin crates were
dumped on the docks to be loaded aboard the trans-
ports. On the rough wood of each crate was stenciled the
code number of a transport. A group of these crates had
the number of the flagship on their boards. All other trans-
ports were to get one crate each.
Just before the ships sailed, the crates were loaded. Spe-
cial crews handled them. Extreme care was used in getting
them up and over the rails to the deck. They were not stored
in the cargo holds, but taken to certain cabins where tables
had been made to hold them. The tables were of ordinary
height, but slanting, like the reading tables in a library,
with a flange along the lower edge to keep the crates from
The crates remained on these tables throughout the At-
lantic crossing. No one touched them, and the rough wood
slats remained nailed tight against curious eyes.
Very few people knew the contents of the crates and they
weren't talking. Those people knew what the crates held,
132 VERT MODEL OF A MODERN BATTLEFIELD
knew our invasion objective, and couldn't talk until the
ships had been sealed and we were under way on the last
lap, of which the next stop would be enemy territory.
During the layover in Oran the four men that accom-
panied the crates worked very closely with the photographic
interpreters, taking notes on their latest information and
studying with minute care the last pictures received.
Then came the order that ships of the task force were
sealed. No one was to leave or come aboard without specific
orders. The night the ships filed out of the harbor entrance
and formed their convoy pattern, the slatted covering over
the crates was removed.
We had been told we were going to Sicily. And now, on
those slanting tables, with their protective covers removed,
we saw perfect plaster models of the entire area to be at-
tacked. The model was in sections, butted together, forming
the complete coast line of Sicily from east of Scoglitti to
west of Gela. No detail was omitted, from the soft-blue
Mediterranean running up to the buff-colored beaches, to
buildings, streets, and fields beyond the shore.
Incredulous eyes examined this miniature battlefield and
curious fingers disregarded the "Do Not Touch" sign to
feel the contour of the beach, the soft curve of a hillside,
and the waffle-iron pattern of little villages.
The flagship had a complete set of these models, showing
the entire task force area. Aboard the other transports
were single models, in larger scale detail, of the exact beach
on which the troops they carried would land.
From last-minute photo interpretation, details were
checked, some added, and some changed. Troops had before
them, for study, as nearly a perfect model of the beaches
VERY MODEL OF A MODERN BATTLEFIELD 133
and land on which they would fight in a few days as com-
bined intelligence could supply.
By the time they had studied and memorized the details
of the model it would be like leading a tour to the old
When the Pi's held their briefings, it was in the cabins
containing the models. Men could check their beach reports
and aerial photographs against a three-dimensional model.
When the report spoke of a certain beach, there it was, on
the model in detail. Roads running from the beaches were
marked in red lines. Fields, hills, and shore-line landmarks
were there. When the assault-boat coxswains met for brief-
ing they were taken in to the models, shown the position in
the water where the transports would anchor, and the beach
where they would land their craft. The model had directional
aids marked on it ; some, for the use of the Gunnery Depart-
ment, were gridded. Targets to be blasted were marked. The
gunnery officers could study the position of these targets
days before they would train guns on them.
This particular preparation for an amphibious landing
represents months of minute research and thousands of
skilled man-hours of labor.
The models on the ships bound for Sicily were a second
set. Another complete set of the northern coast line of Sicily
was stored, back in America. Work on the first set began
in the spring. One hundred and forty plaster models were
completed when word came that the southwestern coast line
would have to be modeled. The modelers hastily assembled
new information and started casting. In 4% weeks, 150 new
models were finished, crated, and packed aboard the convoy
bound for Africa.
134 VERY MODEL OF A MODERN BATTLEFIELD
General Clark, Commanding General of the 5th Army,
at that time waiting and finishing final rehearsal for the
September 9 thrust at Salerno, saw the models and realized
"Let us know when you need some for your next cam-
paign," said Admiral Kirk, "and we'll see that you get a
General Clark's order for a set of models came to the
Amphibious Force in late summer via the chief engineer's
office of the War Department.
An original model and mold of the area in which General
Clark was interested had been made by the engineers at
Fort Belvoir, Virginia, under the direction of Major F. K.
This model was sent to the Amphibious Force with the
request that additional casts be rushed for immediate de-
Between the time the plaster models of Sicily were made
and the time this request came through, experiments had
been made in finding a new model material. Plaster had
definite disadvantages. It was heavy and fragile. If not
handled very carefully, it would crack and break.
Working with the rubber experts of the United States
Rubber Company, the Amphibious Force model shop had
discovered a rubber plastic that was easily modeled, flexible,
and light in weight.
When the Belvoir original arrived, with it came word that
this was a super-rush job. There was not enough rubber
material on hand at the model shop to turn out the order,
so Captain J. W. Whitfield, Commanding Officer of Camp
VERT MODEL OF A MODERN BATTLEFIELD 135
Bradford, Virginia, where the model shop is located, placed
a truck at the disposal of the modelers.
Two drivers were assigned to the truck with orders to get
to Connecticut and back pronto with a truckload of rubber.
While the drivers were making a taxi dash look slow, the
other men in the shop began building molds, based on the
original Belvoir model, from which to cast the new rubber
By the time the truck returned, the molds were ready.
Shop personnel was split and put on a two-shift basis. The
first shift worked from 8 A.M. until 10 P.M. ; the second shift
from 7 P.M. until 6 :30 A.M. The men ate and slept in the
In 3 weeks, 168 models of the Salerno area in Italy were
cast, hardened, painted in natural color, crated, and on
their way to Washington. They were rushed to the airport,
loaded on a bomber bound for North Africa. They arrived 2
days before General Clark's task force left for Italy.
This transport problem would have been impossible with
plaster models. With rubber, the plane was able to load and
fly the complete set to the waiting ships. The weight differ-
ence was considerable. Plaster models weighed 75 pounds
per four square feet, while the rubber weighed only 15
pounds and could be rolled, if necessary, for stowage in
Many models like these are being built today in Allied
shops throughout the world, from advance Pacific outposts
to the British Isles. The Army engineers are also model
builders and there's a model shop on the Anacostia Naval
Air Station in Washington. But few, if any, turn out mass-
136 VERY MODEL OF A MODERN BATTLEFIELD
produced models in quantity equal to the Atlantic Fleet
Amphibious Force model shop.
The birthplace of these model battlefields for an amphib-
ious landing reminds you of a combination bank vault and
a kid's dream of Santa Claus's workshop.
The shop at the Amphibious Training Base, Camp Brad-
ford, Virginia, is a two-story former barracks building,
converted into a fantastic little factory of make-believe.
It's like a group of H. Gr. Wellsians creating little worlds
behind locked doors. Only these worlds are real, localities
held by Axis armies doomed for amphibious invasion. You
see man-made mountains, lakes, and islands. You see trees
whose foliage is green sponge and whose trunks are copper
wire, which do not look like sponge or copper wire at all.
They look like real trees seen from the bomb-bay doors of
You see table after table of tiny, red-roofed houses, bright
little oil tanks, and water towers, Lilliputian cities with
spreading avenues, and fields, whose crops even a city-bred
invader could identify. The smell of banana oil, clay, and
metal shavings wafts through this toyland assembly line.
These are serious toys, to be studied by pilots, bombar-
diers, and landing-craftsmen. All these things will go into
models, so real that a boy from Brooklyn, when he lands
on that spot, will feel like saying, "I've been here before."
When the model is finished, it is photographed under
varied light and cloud conditions, clouds being painted on a
backdrop to the rear. Silhouettes and shore lines of places
we can't get to come out in pictures as clear and correct as
if the photographer had stood on the actual beach with a
wide-lens camera. These pictures follow the models aboard
VERY MODEL OF A MODERN BATTLEFIELD 137
the transports. They are the simulated day and night shots
of shore lines with compass bearings for the use of small-
The easiest way to make these models, and no method is
"easy," is from maps. On a map of two dimensions, the con-
tours, heights, valleys, and mountains are shown by lines
and legend. With this as a basis to work from, the map is
blown up photographically section by section to the scale
desired for the model. The contour lines of these sections are
then traced on plywood or other material. Layers of this
material are cut in the shape of the contour.
Mountains and valleys are made by stacking these layers
one upon the other like a set of pyramid blocks. The ter-
races between the layers are then smoothed over with a
plastic clay, ravines molded in, crags and peaks put on. In
order to do this realistically, aerial photographs are studied
and the photographic interpreters help locate with their
stereopticon glasses the size of cliffs, the shape of canyons
Rivers, towns, and all the landmarks of the vicinity are
put on this master model. Prom this plywood and clay crea-
tion the female mold is made.
A firm frame is built around this model and plaster
poured in. When dry, the frame is removed, leaving a
smooth, indented impression of all details. This is the mold.
From this the final models are made. The plastic is sprayed
into the mold, dried, and removed. The finished model is a
smooth relief, identical with the first, an intricately put to-
gether clay and plywood model. From the indented mold,
countless models may be cast in mass.
Details too intricate to be molded are painted in, enemy
138 VERY MODEL OF A MODERN BATTLEFIELD
defense positions marked, roads painted, everything given
the color that it would naturally have when viewed from a
For a model of areas that have not been mapped, the pro-
cedure is somewhat longer and more difficult, but the result
is just as accurate and the detail as correct as if the modeler
had spent his boyhood there.
For these models the beginning is an aerial photograph.
From this picture, a photogrametist makes a map. By inter-
preting his picture with the stereopticon glass, he indicates
the contours on his map. It is unbelievable what modelers
can do working only from a picture. It's like giving someone
in India, who has never been to America, or seen a North
American map, an aerial photo of Long Island and having
him turn out a relief model with every bay, inlet, road, and
town so accurately placed that when he came he could drive
from Brooklyn to Shelter Island without once asking a
traffic cop for directions.
On other tables throughout the shop are rows of little
ships, every type used in amphibious warfare, correct in all
surface detail. These are the model ships used on the maneu-
ver board, an aid employed in the training of new troops
and officers in the tactics of an amphibious landing. They
see in miniature what they never see in an actual landing.
They see how the transports assemble off the beach, how the
assault craft rendezvous and go in, where the naval support
ships anchor, and what each type of vessel looks like. They
see the tactical pattern of the entire task force, which in
full scale is too large to comprehend easily. They see how
each ship fits into its place and how it functions. In this
way each man better understands his own small job.
VERY MODEL OF A MODERN BATTLEFIELD 139
The model shop lies at one end of a Company street,
nestled in high pine trees. Guarding it is a high, strong
cyclone fence. On the gates of the fence is tacked a sign,
"Keep Out." The gate is locked and it's easier to enter a
metropolitan bank vault without identification than to get
by the sentry at this gate unless you have business inside.
When the men in the shop are working on operational
models, no one leaves the building. Food is brought in and
the men sleep in bunks on the second floor, for behind those
locked doors lie many secrets.
The modelers are responsible men. They are skilled
artisans with prewar art, modeling, or sculpting experience.
The man working on an LCT model, fitting it together with
a careful touch and painting the sides with deft, sure
strokes, has had 15 years' experience in the automobile fin-
ishing business, and before that he built racing cars. The
Shipfitter Second Class, Clyde Code, who is working on a
model LST, was a plumber before the war. He knows the
metal he's working with and what he can do with it. The
man who takes the pictures of the models showing how the
invasion coast will look at dawn is Photographer First Class,
Arthur Tole, of Summerville, Massachusetts, a photog-
raphy-laboratory specialist with General Foods before the
Most of the men working here are older than the average
sailor. They have been picked for the job because they're
experts in this field, and this is a job for experts. Among
the modelers is Seaman First Class John Haley, who was
an art professor at the University of California. Working
side by side with Haley in his sailor's dungarees are Ser-
geant Ivan Bigby and Corporal Robert Kalli of the Pratt
140 VERY MODEL OF A MODERN BATTLEFIELD
Institute of Art. And there's another Army man, Corporal
Anthony Vaiksnoras, an artist from Cleveland.
The man who supervises the model shop is Lieutenant
Commander George Dunbaugh. The officer directly in
charge of the men in the shop is Lieutenant (jg) Robert
Zeidman began his career making little models of big
things in Pittsburgh's Carnegie Tech., where he studied in-
dustrial design. After this, he worked for Designers for
Industry, Inc., consultant designers for industry, making
industrial models. These are more than drawings on paper.
They're complete models. In other words, an idea for a new
typewriter, theater chair, a piece of glass furniture, or a
machine tool was first drawn on paper, then modeled to give
visual appreciation. Industrial design is really "appearance
design," a combination of engineering and art, or art as
applied to industry.
In June, 1941, Zeidman enlisted in the Army. He was
sent to the Armored Force School at Fort Knox, Kentucky,
which, at that time, had the largest technical school in the
world. With his model-making background he was assigned
to work on a new project under way, a model of the Gettys-
burg, Pennsylvania, area. This is an area of land about 300
square miles, a favorite Army spot for teaching map survey
and tactical courses, and for tank maneuvering drills.
After terrain models of this area were made, the shop
turned its tools to making models of German tanks. A min-
iature Panzer division was soon rolling around the Fort
Knox model shop. Then came models of every Allied and
Axis type tank. It was the most complete model set of its
kind in the country.
VERY MODEL OF A MODERN BATTLEFIELD Ul
The model shop at Fort Knox was the pet of the Tactical
Section Head, Colonel E. J. Johnson. It was Colonel John-
son who came to Building 138 of the Amphibious Force to
be Admiral Hewitt's Army adviser.
As plans crystallized for the North African invasion, the
job of making models of the assault areas was turned over
to the Fort Belvoir engineers. The models were made and
placed aboard the flagship. They proved to be so successful
that the recommendation was made to have all ships in the
next invasion supplied with models. This meant a mass pro-
duction of models would be necessary.
Colonel Johnson remembered his Fort Knox modeler,
Sergeant Zeidman. Going to Commodore Johnson, he said :
"Why don't we get Zeidman up here with the Amphibious
Force and organize a model shop of our own?"
"Fine," agreed Commodore Johnson. "If it's agreeable
with you, we'll ask for his transfer from the Army to the
Navy and have him assigned to us."
The transfer was negotiated and Sergeant Zeidman of
the Army became Ensign Zeidman, USNR, of the Amphib-
ious Force. He reported to the Nansemond Hotel and began
organizing his shop. Space was again at a premium. He was
given an office in the photographic laboratory, already
bulging with camera products and equipment. By the time
he had outlined his program and needs for a model shop,
it was seen that nothing short of an entire building of his
own would suffice.
There was an empty barracks at Camp Bradford. Cap-
tain Whitfield had the base carpenters remodel the first
floor, tear out the bunks and put up the protective fencing
around the building.
142 VERY MODEL OF A MODERN BATTLEFIELD
On April 1, 1943, Zeldman with 11 Army and 34 Navy
enlisted men entered their new shop and began to work.
In their spare time, what little there was, between orders
for operational models, they made terrain models of the
amphibious training bases along the Atlantic coast, and as
a breather from this, they built their own office furniture,
designed by Zeidman. There were modernistic chairs and
desks with curves that would feel at home in any New York
The men working in the model shop have a feeling of
direct contact and contribution to the war possibly more
keenly appreciated than in any other unit. Their work is
tediously painstaking, but at the same time creatively ex-
citing. They have the knowledge that at some future date,
those little harbors they build, those beaches and mountains
and villages will be stormed and taken by Allied landing
teams. And they know that hours spent here on creating
each detail from little more than a mere photograph and
getting the details correct, will save lives of many men.
After Sicily, Admiral Kirk said, "In future operations
there will be a model on every ship for every man to study. 5 *
This is what the model makers are doing.
Artillery Sailors the NGLO's
H-HOUR has passed. The sudden shock of a silent
night being ripped and sliced with rainbows of
fire from a ring of big naval fighting ships is over.
Waves of infantry have landed. Artillery and big guns are
going inland from the beaches.
These guns know their targets from the battlefield models
and aerial photographs. The sound of their barrage comes
from a distance like muffled tap dancing on kettledrums.
But there may be unexpected targets, enemy reinforcements
brought in to smash the baby beachhead. Maybe the enemy
will route this strength in a way to fool our artillery. But
we have a surprise up our sleeve for him, too.
One of our forward spotters inland sees the enemy sneak-
ing in a big mobile gun, setting it up, the crew working with
mechanical precision to get the gun trained on our flank
position. In a few minutes that ugly long snout of the
Krupp barrel will belch flying steel from a position which
our troops think is safe. Our artillery is fully engaged with
another enemy gun position firing directly ahead of our
advancing troops. It can't take on an order for another
The spotter, who sees this situation, glances at his map,
144 ARTILLERY SAILORS THE NGLO'S
makes a quick notation, and writes a message on a piece
of paper. He hands the paper to a radio operator next to
him. This message is going to a cruiser waiting out beyond
the transports. The ship has been waiting for something
like this ever since the last wisp of blue smoke curled away
from its gun muzzles at dawn.
The gunnery officer on the ship looks at the message,
checks the position on his map, orders the guns trained and
fired. A salvo of tons of metal shakes the ship as it leaves
in a high arch. The spotter behind the beach watches. The
shells fall and send up a fountain of sand and twisted brush
roots. Through his glasses, he sees a surprised enemy gun
crew look around as if asking, "Where in the name of Hitler
did that come from?"
The spotter sends another message.
"Down, 200 yards."
The gunnery officer aboard the cruiser relays this mes-
sage to his crew. The adjustment is made and another salvo
leaves the ship.
The spotter looks. This time there's metal in that shell-
exploding geyser, the base of the Krupp gun, and Nazi
blood colors the dead grass. It's a direct hit.
That spotter was a Navy ensign, an NGLO, Naval Gun-
fire Liaison Officer. Nine of these Army-dressed Navy en-
signs went ashore with the troops invading Sicily. You
couldn't tell they were Navy men unless you noticed the
small gold ensign bars on light khaki shirt collars. They
wore Army shoes, the green Army coverall, and helmet.
Each man was attached to an Army unit whose commander
could call for the fire of naval support ships before his
ARTILLERY SAILORS THE NGLO'S 145
The Navy man is part of a small group called the Shore
Fire Control Party. This party consists of one naval gunfire
liaison officer, one Army first lieutenant who is an artillery
observer, and nine Army enlisted men with a sergeant in
charge. The enlisted men are divided, four going with the
NGLO and five going with the Army lieutenant. These men
are all radio technicians, wire men, phone men, and opera-
When the Shore Fire Control Party sets up for operation
it forms a triangle. One corner of the triangle is the Army
lieutenant, the forward artillery spotter; a second corner is
the Navy officer, who sets up his command post with his four
enlisted men and radio. The third corner of the triangle is
the group of Navy ships, called the Naval Bombardment
Group, or the Fire Support Ships. A system of communica-
tion between each corner of the triangle is set up, so that
when the Army spotter needs Navy fire, he calls the NGLO,
who relays the target to the ships.
The naval gunfire liaison officer acts as liaison to the
Artillery or infantry combat team commander. A combat
team is a reduced battalion. The NGLO assigned to a com-
bat team is usually an ensign. A lieutenant, junior grade,
NGLO is assigned to the commander of a regimental cam-
bat team, which is three combat teams. An NGLO, of either
the same rank or the rank of a full lieutenant, is assigned to
a combat division, which is three regimental combat teams.
These NGLO's are the ones who go ashore with the Army.
There are also others who remain aboard the fire support
ships to act as liaison with the ships' gunnery officers.
One of the NGLO's who went ashore in Sicily was Ensign
J. V. Cavanaugh, USNR.
146 ARTILLERY SAILORS THE NGLO'S
Ensign Cavanaugh was working with the 3rd Battalion
of the 45th Division's 180th Infantry. They landed on the
beach about 9:30 A.M., just south of the Acate River a
few miles below Gela. The immediate objective was a little
town called Biscari. Biscari was important because it had
an airfield, and airfields had to be captured quickly.
The beach held only American soldiers and warehouse-
sized stacks of material when the 180th landed. They crossed
the mined sand-dune area back of the beach and headed for
the battalion assembly area about a mile and a half away.
By this time the first assault troops had pushed their way
inland. There was no semblance of an organized front. It
was a small group of men fighting their way inland. Some
had been cut off and surrounded by German infantry and
tanks which claimed severe casualties. Luckier units had
moved forward without finding enemy opposition and were
far in advance.
With such a staggered line, it was impossible to use naval
gunfire without injuring our own men.
By evening our lines were more clearly defined. This was
due largely to the enemy, who had organized a defensive
line of resistance about 2 miles beyond the 3rd Battalion's
Orders came for the 3rd Battalion to reinforce the assault
groups going forward to engage this enemy line. As the
troops advanced, the shore fire-control party looked for an
observation post, a crest of a hill, a tree, or any high object
which would give them a good view of the enemy positions.
Finding nothing suitable, Cavanaugh and his men de-
cided to leave the radio in a jeep, which could be concealed
from the air by a clump of trees. The line men then ran a
ARTILLERY SAILORS THE NGLO'S 147
wire from the jeep to the edge of a large vineyard where
our front-line troops were dug in.
The grapevines stretched out in long, well-cultivated
rows. The big green leaves, curling fronds, and branches
sagging with clusters of half -ripe grapes separated German
and American soldiers. The German lines began at the other
end of those rows.
It was quiet. The dusty smell of grapes heated by a July
sun mixed with the sweat of trench-digging soldiers. The
ruffle of grape leaves was a velvet silencer on the clink of
spades biting dirt.
"I'm going down there and see if anything's happening."
It was Lieutenant Laverson, the Army artillery spotter
in the Shore Fire Control Party. He pointed to one of the
rows leading down to the German lines. With a phone in one
hand and reeling out wire behind him with the other, he
started. The grape leaves overlapped on the top of the row,
making a long, shady tunnel converging in darkness at the
Lieutenant Laverson had crawled about 20 yards when
the summer field shed its peaceful camouflage and became a
battlefield. The Germans started a mortar barrage, well
seasoned with small-arms tracer fire. Grape clusters danced
little marble jigs at every concussion. Vines tore, and pur-
ple juice muddied the earth. The Shore Fire Control Party
was pinned to the ground, unable to move. Then the guns
of the 3rd Battalion opened up. For 45 minutes it was a
terrific short-range duel. Spotting was impossible.
"I'm going to get the hell out of here and take the jeep
where we can contact a ship."
It was the driver. He crawled back to where the jeep
148 ARTILLERY SAILORS THE NGLO'S
and radio were parked under the trees. He made a quick in-
spection to see if the equipment was damaged and then
jumped in and drove that jeep as few jeeps have ever been
driven. Bullets poured after him like slanting rain, but he
wasn't hit. The two rear tires were hit and flattened, and
bullet holes on either side of him crunched into the dash-
board, but driver and radio were unscratched.
The rest of the Shore Fire Control Party took a slower,
but more cautious exit and joined the jeep on a concealed
high spot. It was almost dark by this time and the firing
on both sides had slowed to an occasional shot.
The men around the jeep looked at their map and the
grid lines that crossed at the end of the vineyard where the
German troops had elected to spend their last night. A mes-
sage went out to the Navy fire support ships. And again
the night was bright with exploding fire. Shells from de-
stroyers were landing at the far end of the grape field.
By the time firing ceased, half the vineyard and the
enemy lines were shredded. Cruiser fire was thumping into
targets off in the distance. Those shells were falling on a"
similar target standing in the way of the 1st Battalion.
The rest of the first night ashore was spent in a slit
trench at the battalion command post trying to sleep and
keep warm without blankets. Artillery played an intermit-
tent peekaboo game with enemy batteries.
Sometime during the night new enemy forces had moved
up to the vineyard line. At dawn they began a counterat-
tack. Our lines waited the order to advance. The Shore Fire
Control Party returned to its post on the hill to the left,
overlooking the Acate River valley. The lower end of the
valley ran down to the beach where the transport cargo
ARTILLERY SAILORS THE NGLO'S 149
made great dark mounds on the sand. Beyond the trans-
ports, Cavanaugh could see the destroyers crisscrossing, on
the move, ready to deliver fire when called for. Then enemy
firing increased, and for several hours the situation was
critical. Cavanaugh called for a special delivery of some of
those destroyer shells. They began to fall on enemy positions
along a ridge above the 3rd Battalion. Gradually, the ridge
contour changed like the rim of a piecrust being pinched
by a cook. Then the destroyer fire was shifted to the valley
where German infantry was edging around in a flank move-
ment. At the same time, a German battery began shelling
our only artillery emplacement, forcing it back to the sand
dunes a half mile from the water's edge.
All the ships were firing now. Further up the valley, a
group of German tanks were nosing their way down the
natural approaches of the land, stream beds and ravines, in
an attempt to penetrate our infantry lines. Their progress
was slowed, but not stopped by bazookas and anti-tank
Another NGLO, Ensign Augustus Allen, watched this
tank menace and called for destroyer fire, giving the posi-
tions, range, course, and speed of the tanks. These targets
were small and they were moving constantly. It would take
good shooting and good direction to hit them, but the tank
concentration had to be stopped. Eighteen hundred rounds
of destroyer fire came crashing over the hills and around
the tanks. Five tanks were splintered with direct hits. Even
a tough Panzer man had never expected to face destroyer
fire. The remaining tanks in the column reversed and dis-
appeared inland. Ensign Allen was awarded the Navy cross
for this bit of spotting.
150 ARTILLERY SAILORS THE NGLO'S
About 4 o'clock that afternoon, the 180th Infantry began
its advance. By dark it was several miles inland. Paratroops
had been dropped near the enemy lines during the night.
They fought along a road called Highway 115. By morning,
only a few snipers remained to harass the advancing 180th.
Crossing Highway 115 men saw the tattered score of an
unequal fight, our troops against German tanks, but the
first objective, Biscari, was ours.
The 180th advanced through the area given up by enemy
troops. It was 4 miles to Biscari, through vineyards, almond
orchards, and olive groves. Behind almost every tree was
a neatly concealed slit trench.
The town of Biscari was not shelled. The enemy had left,
slipped back to the hills. We entered with no opposition, but
as soon as the first vehicles rolled into the narrow streets,
the enemy began an artillery barrage. The battalion dis-
persed and dug in for the night on a hill on the opposite
side of town.
Biscari airfield was the next day's objective. The enemy
had blown up a bridge on the main highway from town to
the field, which meant a 5-mile detour for all vehicles. Rifle-
men pushed north on the direct route, covered by a heavy
artillery blanket of our own fire. We were still within cruiser
range, but our Army batteries were all in place now and
pumping out more shells every half hour than they had fired
during the first 3 days.
The naval officers were recalled that afternoon on the
road to the airfield. They returned to Scoglitti and boarded
their ships. At 6 o'clock came the news that the 45th Divi-
sion had taken the Biscari airfield.
ARTILLERY SAILORSTHE NGLO'S 151
Sometime before H-hour we waited aboard the transports
for a certain message. "Eighty Second Airborne Infantry
landed, planes returning."
When that message came it would mean the paratroopers
had landed behind the enemy lines. It would also mean that
two NGLO's had landed with them, two Navy paratroopers,
an experiment tried for the first time in the operations
The story of the Navy gunfire liaison paratroopers goes
back to the spring of 1943, to a midshipman school at Cor-
nell and Northwestern Universities. Potential ensigns were
studying navigation, seamanship, communications and gun-
nery for their reserve commissions.
In March, the Amphibious Force Naval Gunfire Support
School requested 24 of these officers, who had made good
marks in gunnery. Twelve were selected from the class at
Cornell and 12 from Northwestern.
They reported to the gunfire school and began immedi-
ate training in map reading, Army organization, and the
study of military tactics with heavy stress on reading relief
They began to learn spotting by practicing on a terrain
board. This was a rough model of mountains, valleys, and
roads. It had grid marks and map aids. A target would be
selected by the instructor. The student would take his bear-
ings, relay them to another officer who would adjust a slid-
ing carriage underneath the model. When the student spot-
ter thought he had the correct reading on the target he
would order "fire." The man who manipulated the under
carriage according to the spotter's readings would press a
bulb which had a rubber tube filled with chemicals. A puff
152 ARTILLERY SAILORS THE NGLO'S
of smoke would curl up through the burlap bottom of the
model, showing the spotter the location of his shell hit.
This board gave the spotter practice in reading a map to
locate the target. This was an all-important first step which
must be mastered in order to relay the position of the target
to the ship when actually ordering fire in the field. The
smoke in relation to the target on the board was visual proof
of the spotter's accuracy or error. At the same time it gave
him correction practice. The operator of the underslung
gear would intentionally place the smoke off the target and
the spotter had to read the correction necessary to get the
smoke billowing directly on the target.
By the time the students were proficient in the use of the
practice board, they were sent to Port Eustace, Virginia,
to work with the Army.
Here, they learned the Army system of spotting, which
differs in terms used from those in vogue in the Navy. It is
necessary for an NGLO to know both systems. He may be
in the field and have his Army partner killed. If this hap-
pens, he must be able to spot Army artillery fire in that
position until a relief comes, and he must be able to do it
in Army terms.
For example, suppose he is spotting fire for a Navy gun
and the shell misses the target by, say, 500 yards. The
NGLO relays this information to the ship by saying,
"Down, 500 yards." If an Army man were spotting, he
would relay that error by saying, "Over, 500 yards."
In other words, the Army spotter gives his gun crew the
exact spot where the shell landed. In the Navy system, the
NGLO makes the correction needed for a direct hit first,
then relays thai position by saying, "Down, 500 yards,"
ARTILLERY SAILORS THE NGLO'S 153
bring your trajectory down 500 yards and you'll be on the
nose. Or "Left, 500 yards," if the error is. in deflection.
The students learned this system and practiced artillery
spotting at Fort Eustace. Up until this time, all 24 men
were receiving ordinary training for naval gunfire liaison
Nearing the end of the course, a request from the gunfire
support school came for four of the students to work with
airborne divisions. It was put up to the men on a volunteer
basis. No" other information was given, just four men to
work with an airborne division.
Nine ensigns volunteered. These men were told that they
would have an intensive 2-week parachute training course
at Fort Benning, Georgia. They all left together by train
and were met at Ford Benning by the public relations offi-
cer in a Recon car with trucks to carry their luggage. They
were quartered with a company of Army officers just be-
ginning their training. Word had passed around the base
that the Navy was training paratroopers and some had
arrived. The entire barracks turned out to see these strange
fish out of water, Navy men turned paratroopers.
"What'er they gonna do, drop you guys on subs?" Or
"Well, well, the new anti-sub weapon, eh?"
Anything new in barracks life is welcome, and this was
After qualifying in 2 weeks as paratroopers the men re-
turned to the gunnery school. Four ensigns were told to
leave their things packed, that they were flying to Africa.
Bill King, George Hulton, James Groesbeck, and Robert
Seibert were the men chosen for this assignment.
They arrived in Africa and reported for duty. The orig-
154 ARTILLERY SAILORS THE NGLO'S
inal estimate of four NGLO's to go with the paratroopers
had now been reduced to two men. King and Groesbeck were
assigned staff jobs, and Seibert and Hulton were ordered
to the 82nd Airborne Division for additional training.
It was Bill King and James Groesbeck who were espe-
cially anxious during those waiting minutes before H-hour
when the paratroop report would come in. It was a still
longer wait for word of the NGLO's with the airborne
The report of George Hulton came in first. He had landed
safely behind the lines. But his body was one of those found
after German tanks had left Highway 115. Seibert reported
4 days later with a story of wild hide-and-seek with the
enemy. He, too, had landed safely, but found himself caught
between two enemy machine-gun nests. He spent 2 days in
a hole at the foot of a big tree with Germans soldiers almost
within whispering distance.
North Africa was the first major amphibious invasion
utilizing naval gunfire liaison officers, and the second time
the team had been tested as an amphibious unit. NGLO's
had also landed August 7, 1942, with the Marines at
Fifteen Shore Fire Control Parties hit the beaches of
North Africa. Three landed at Safi ; nine at the Casablanca
area, and three at Port Lyautey.
The three parties that landed at Safi had little to do be-
cause of the light resistance. The nine in the Casablanca
area had only a slight workout due to the confused nature
of the fighting. But the three Shore Fire Control Parties at
Port Lyautey found targets to fire at.
Ensign John Perry was an NGLO who landed in the first
ARTILLERY SAILORS THE NGLO'S 155
wave of assault troops at Port Lyautey. Perry was twenty-
two years old at the time, softspoken, with a moustache that
made him look like Errol Flynn. One of the first objectives
of this landing force was an old fort that overlooked the
harbor. Perry's orders were to direct naval gunfire against
For 3 days the fort held out against bombardment, re-
turning fire that pinned down the troops advancing on it.
A mortar squad began lobbing its explosives into the Ameri-
"I called for a destroyer, which was lying offshore, to
direct its fire at this mortar location," said Perry. "That
emplacement was silenced, and we went on.*'
On the third day, air support was called. The ground
forces converged at the same time that Navy dive-bombers
loosed their load on the old Moorish stronghold. Perry, who
was in the forward position, with a group of about 30 sol-
diers, was the first to enter the fortress gates.
After this aerial assault the garrison was ready to sur-
render. Perry helped supervise the rounding up of pris-
oners, mostly Senegalese and Foreign Legion troops,
stripped them of arms, and placed them under guard.
Six days after landing, Ensign Perry returned to his
"The first thing I did when I got back," he said, "was to
take a shower. It was the best shower I've ever had."
For his naval gunfire liaison work in North Africa, En-
sign Perry was awarded the Silver Star Medal.
On the Sicilian invasion Perry was assigned as gunfire
liaison officer to General Troy H. Middleton, Commanding
the 45th Division. Ensign Kermit Peterson was another
156 ARTILLERY SAILORS THE NGLO'S
NGLO who landed at Port Lyautey with a Shore Fire Con-
trol Party. The objective of this battalion was an airfield
8 miles inland. After a 2%-day push toward the airfield in
the face of considerable enemy artillery fire, which Peterson
spotted, food began to run low.
This was when Peterson noticed a tramp steamer entering
the river with the apparent objective of scuttling herself to
block Allied entry. Peterson immediately called for air sup-
port, explaining what was happening. Planes came and
dropped bombs ahead of the ship, forcing the captain to
beach his craft. This not only saved the entrance for Allied
ships, but provided the battalion with welcome fresh food
and some blankets. Peterson led a boarding party, stocked
up on canned goods, including peas, horse meat, fruit, and
some woolen blankets.
"That night we mixed a big bucket of hash, peas and
horse meat," said Peterson. "It was good, if a little strange."
The next day, the airfield was occupied and Peterson re-
turned to his ship. For his leadership and gunnery liaison
work, Peterson was awarded the Silver Star Medal. On the
Sicilian invasion he was aboard a cruiser as NGLO on the
assault against the city of Licata. There's something about
being trained as an NGLO that makes you want to get in
a real fight and see if you're as good as you seem to be on
paper. This was the case of Ensign John P. Gately, who
had been assigned to go into Sicily with the 9th Division.
The day before the task force left America, Gately slipped
on a Jacob's ladder while going down the side of a transport.
He fell into the bottom of a landing craft below and broke
Ensign Joseph Amendolora, who had been disappointed
ARTILLERY SAILORS THE NGLO'S 157
at being selected only as Gately's alternate, was now over-
joyed at Gately's misfortune. It meant that Amendolora
Gately was rushed to the hospital, mad at the world. He
was to be madder still, until the humor of his situation
struck him. Arriving at the hospital with Gately was an
MP guard. The guard was placed in front of his door.
Twenty-four hours every day the guard stood in front of
Gately's door. Word circulated among the nurses that
Gately was a spy, that's why he was being guarded.
It was all very embarrassing, but with a simple explana-
tion. In his job Gately, naturally, had seen some maps. In-
telligence officers were taking no chances on this informa-
tion slipping out at an unguarded moment and getting to
the wrong person. Sometime around our own H-hour, off
the coast of Sicily, Gately had his own private H-hour.
The guard was removed.
Of the nine NGLO's who went ashore in Sicily, only one
was injured. One was awarded the Navy Cross, and seven
received the Silver Star Medal.
The NGLO is truly a combined-service man. Each man
lives, works, and trains with the Army division months be-
fore they land together. They even look like Army men with
Army helmets, coveralls, leggings, and field shoes. It's a
strange Navy job, and, as someone said, "You can always
tell an NGLO by the medals he wears."
They're an important part of the Army-Navy invasion
We Call It a Party
BREAKFAST is eaten on the transports at daylight.
The mess boys bring up on deck big cartons of
Army K rations and pass them out to the officers
and men. There is Navy coffee on deck, too, in 10-gallon
tins. The strange, salty-sweet concentrated vitamin wafers
in the K rations need dunking in strong coffee.
Reaction has set in. Nerves that had been tight as a bull-
fiddle string relax and tired men catch a snatch of sleep in
sheltered deck space. The sun comes up over melon-green
water and our planes circle in spiraling patrol.
You can hear gunfire behind the gray beach line, and
nearer, the staccato fire of antiaircraft guns blazing at a
low-flying enemy plane that tried to bomb one of our supply
Even from this distance you can see the beach, dotted
with boats, small craft and the LST's and LCIL's, and be-
yond the boats are mounds of materiel. The transports have
begun to unload. Spots of color fleck the beaches. Those
colored banners are the beach markers, identifying certain
beaches for certain kinds of cargo. They are the signs to
guide the coxswains to the proper beach. The shuttle sys-
tem from transport to shore has started.
WE CALL IT A PARTY 159
The first phase of an amphibious operation is over. A
"beachhead" has been established. That is, we have landed
assault troops, destroyed enemy shore defenses, and the
beach area is in our control.
The second phase is starting. This is the unloading of
the transport cargo, and getting the supplies ashore to
follow up the advancing troops, so that the transports of
the task force can leave.
There are men specially trained for this moving job. In
most amphibious landings, this team is an Army-Navy mix-
ture. It's a job full of more headaches than a case of Bour-
bon. It means answering a thousand questions and meeting
an equal number of demands simultaneously. A Friday-
night order to move the contents of 10 Macy Department
Stores across the river to Jersey City in time for a Saturday
morning sale would be comparable.
The men who do this job are never heroes in a com-
munique. They never storm a pillbox or execute a brilliant
flank movement, but without them, the men who are the
heroes would go begging for that next ammunition clip,
that extra 10 gallons of gasoline, and all the parts that
make an Army move. If at the end of "moving day" the job
has been done cleanly and efficiently, it's taken for granted.
If supplies are misrouted and the unloading bungled, it's
the moving men who get chewed all the way up the line of
They don't even have an exciting title for compensation,
these men. They're known merely as "members of the Shore
Moving day for the Shore Party begins after the first
waves of assault troops have landed. The first job is recon-
160 WE CALL IT A PARTY
naissance. The Shore Party Commander, an Army officer,
has gone over the maps and models of this beach area with
his men before they land. They know pretty much exactly
how their beach organization will be laid out before they
touch the sand, so the reconnaissance is more or less a check
on pre-made plans.
One of the first things the men on reconnaissance look for
are good gun positions. The beach area must be defended.
A weapons reconnaissance corporal makes certain the loca-
tions marked on the map for gun positions are suitable.
The men of the Shore Party have to play storekeeper to
the cargo-loaded transports, full of supplies for the troops
pushing inland. Positions, some distance behind the beach,
for these supplies to be stored in are marked and divided
according to commodity. There will be gasoline dumps, am-
munition dumps, ration dumps, and others for general sup-
Working with the Shore Party Commander is his Navy
counterpart, the Beach Master, who is boss of the Navy's
part of the Shore Party, the Beach Battalion.
While the Army men are marking the location of supply
dumps, the Beach Master is hiking up and down the beach,
marking places where small boats can land. Aiding him in
this is the Hydrographic Group, who survey the deep water,
looking for shoals, rocks, or any underwater obstacle that
might stop a landing craft before it reached the beach with
its load. If any such obstacle is found, it's charted, marked
for the Demolition Group, which follows, and blasted clear.
Standing by will be more Navy men, a boat-repair sec-
tion. It's the Beach Master's responsibility to keep the boat
traffic under control. If a damaged boat is left on the beach,
Official U. 8. N<tvy Photograph
A TRANSPORT Is A CROWDED PLACE
WE CALL IT A PARTY 161
it is a hazard for other boats coming in. It has to be re-
paired, if at all possible, and returned to a transport. If a
boat broaches, that is, washes up parallel to the beach so
that it can't retract, a repair and salvage boat will attempt
to drag it off with a line.
As the beach is marked, the Beach Master is notified of
locations and the progress of the marking. The colored flags
The Shore Party Commander keeps a check on progress
from his command post. His men have selected the dump
areas and will next mark places where an exit road, if one
doesn't already exist, may be built from the beach to the
dump area. The communications team of the Shore Party is
setting up a message center where it can contact both flanks
of the beach, the ships, the inland troops, and the planes
The defense weapons have been set up. The range and
gun mounts have been checked. Scouts have been sent out to
locate possible enemy patrols.
Other Shore Party units have now arrived, the service
platoons. These boys are the piano carriers in this am-
phibious moving van. They are the ones who will unload the
small craft as they come in to the beach. They jump across
the ramp of the landing craft and run across the beach to
start their first job in a hurry digging fox holes. Each
man digs his separate hole. He won't have time to complete
it now, but he can get it started and finish during a lull in
the boat unloading. These holes may be home for a day or
so. The beach is a vulnerable place and the only protection
for a man on this sandy stretch is his fox hole.
Bulldozers come off next, those great dirt-pushing, blade-
162 WE CALL IT A PARTY
front tractors. The drivers are shown where feeder roads
are needed to lead from the beach area to the dumps. The
bulldozers begin pushing sand and dirt into a smooth road-
way. Wheeled vehicles are going to run over that road, and
sand is worse than snow to drive in. But the Shore Party
has a solution for this difficulty. With the bulldozers come
thick rolls of heavy wire mesh. The men grab the mesh and
unroll it behind the bulldozer, smooth along the new road.
Stakes are driven along the sides of the mesh to keep it from
While this has been going on, a beach medical unit, com-
posed of both Army and Navy men, has set up a temporary
evacuation station. Medical supplies, drugs, tools, and
blankets were brought ashore in waterproof packs designed
especially for an amphibious landing. A Navy medical offi-
cer with his pharmacist's mates assists the Army doctors
until a medical station can be organized.
By now the communications team has run its phone wires
to a central switchboard connecting the lateral lines of the
beach and a radio post. Signal lamps have been set up for
making visual contact with the ships. When all lines are up,
it is reported to the Shore Party Commander. He, in turn,
checks with the Beach Master, who reports that the beach is
ready to receive boats and cargo.
A semaphore flag chops out the "come in" signal and the
landing craft start for the beach.
The Beach Master, through his signalmen, controls the
incoming traffic. This shuttle system must be as orderly as
possible. When the ramp of a supply-filled craft drops, the
men of the service platoon start to unload it. They pass the
WE CALL IT A PARTY 163
supplies in a hand-to-hand bucket-brigade fashion to where
tractor-drawn sleds or trucks will carry it away to the
dumps. A checker stands by, keeping a running inventory
of all material unloaded. This is forwarded to the Shore
Party Commander, where it becomes part of his "situation
Trucks, jeeps, tanks, and half-tracks roll out of the
LCT's and LST's. Members of the Shore Party military
police act as traffic cops, directing the vehicles over the exit
roads to the assembly area.
Near by is a unit equipped to repair any vehicle damaged
in landing, to repair it and get it off the beach in a hurry.
Stretcher-bearers bring in the wounded to the evacuation
station. Those cases able to be moved are taken down to the
beach and loaded aboard landing craft equipped with racks
to hold the stretcher bars. These men will be taken back to
the transport, hoisted aboard, and given medical care.
Supplies are coming in now as fast as the service platoons
on the transports can load the landing craft and the men
on the beach can unload them. Up and down the length of
the landing area, this traffic comes from ship to shore. At
first glance, this is one of the war's more disorganized mo-
ments. But behind this confusion of supply is organization
the Shore Party.
Men of the Shore Party need very special training. To
begin with, they're a combination of sailor, quartermaster,
and stevedore, plus being experts in their own particular
Every amphibious landing teaches a lesson in the organi-
zation of the Shore Party ; every transport unloaded points
164 WE CALL IT A PARTY
up new methods and past errors. We learned a lot from the
North African landings that was applied at Sicily; and
we learned a lot from scratch that was applied in North
Africa. The Shore Party reaEy started from scratch, or
rather it started from a bean patch.
In the Navy's early landings, troops had been put ashore.
Marines had landed, but it hadn't been necessary for the
men to play turtle and take with them everything they
would need in the way of supplies. They depended on more
or less regular naval supply for future needs. However, in
current operations, it's not a landing the Army is making ;
they're going in for a campaign, and they need all the sup-
plies and equipment, delivered right behind the men, to
fight that campaign.
How to do this was the question. The answer was the
In late summer of 1942, just after the land for the train-
ing station at Little Creek, Virginia, was purchased, the
first training for the Navy members of the Shore Party
started. The Army had something of a foundation from
which to work on its Shore Party complement the en-
gineers, and the Engineer Combat Group is still the core of
the Army members of the Shore Party. The Navy, on the
other hand, had little more than the idea of what had to be
done to go on.
Lieutenant Clarence R. Conger and two Coast Guard in-
structors at Little Creek were given the job of teaching 500
men the organization and duties of members of the Shore
"Put 'em up in tents on the field," was the answer to the
WE CALL IT A PARTY 165
housing question when the men reported. The field was an
old bean patch, and neither Conger nor the Coast Guard
men knew how to sling a tent. They quietly found an Army
sergeant, took a few quick lessons, and went out to the bean
patch to supervise the erection of tents.
Working with what boats were on hand, loaded with any
miscellaneous cargo available, the men tried out on the
beach what had first been written on paper as the proper
procedure. Gradually a Shore Party system evolved. Then,
lessons learned in North Africa were applied to a Shore
Party school at the Amphibious Training Base, Fort Pierce,
Florida, where students are given a 6-week course in train-
ing for the Shore Party.
In the Shore Party, as in the NGLO's, it is almost impos-
sible to distinguish Army from Navy, and officers from
enlisted men. You'll find an officer up to his waist in water,
working alongside drenched enlisted men.
How well this seemingly disorganized phase of the oper-
ation was going in Sicily for example is described in an
intercepted carrier-pigeon message sent from the Italian
Army's 206th Division to the Italian 12th Army Corps on
the second day of our landing.
It said, "Hundreds of anchored ships unloading material
undisturbed. Our aviation absent. . . . Please send re-
This unloading continued night and day. The few people
still left in the little village of Scoglitti watched with won-
der in their eyes as they saw the transports disgorge, and
caravans of loaded trucks move up from the beach and over
the wire-meshed roads. Staff cars, jeeps, and tanks rolled
through the dusty limestone streets in a steady stream.
166 WE CALL IT A PARTY
General Pattern had said it would take 8 days to unload
the transports of our task force. Admiral Kirk had said
7 days or less. A quart of whisky was the bet.
The ships left on the third day, with all transports un-
The Attack Transports
WE WAITED on the dock for the mine sweeper
that would take us out to the transport on which
we would sail with the task force. As we stood
there we watched the activity on the war-waiting ships and
the straining, sweating, dock hands. You could smell the
new wood of rows of boxes, stenciled and stamped. A red
truck with a flaring banner, "Danger High Explosives,"
weaved a path down the cluttered pier.
The gray ships were smoking. Signal flags were hanging
in the sun to dry, like crayon-colored rainbows. Officers
were standing in groups, with hands on side arms, guarding
the secret mail and rolls of charts. Those charts were going
out to transports already loaded and waiting.
The mine sweeper came in and tied up. We climbed over
the rail and dropped to the narrow deck. The sacks of mail
and charts followed. Ever so gently the screws began to stir
up the oil-scummed pier water. Like an agile snake, the
little mine sweeper seemed to bend herself around the bow
of a destroyer that blocked our way.
Beyond the destroyer, the mine sweeper headed into clear
water and we began our search for the transport berthing
area somewhere out there out of sight of land. The crew,
168 THE ATTACK TRANSPORTS
in dungarees, shirtless, and brown and hairy as coconut
shells, went about its business. Four Army officers sat near
their khaki-green luggage. They were going out to board
transports. There was a major, a captain, and two lieuten-
ant colonels. One of the lieutenant colonels looked about
thirty years old. He had rope-colored hair and eyeballs the
color of buttermilk, deep set in a bony face. He had a dry,
sagebrush, dust-bowl expression.
There were four Navy officers attached to the mine
sweeper. The captain, a lieutenant, junior grade, hot as it
was, had that cool, lawn-party look. There wasn't a sign of
a sweat spot on his pressed khaki shirt. Creased trousers
fell sharply to white canvas sneakers. From his appearance
he might just as well have been on his yacht that he'd sailed
to Bermuda every summer before the war.
The executive officer was the same. He had a Gary
Cooper face, expensive brown shoes, crisp shirt and trous-
ers. He looked as cool and tight-lipped as he did when he
sat in his Wall Street brokerage office. But the engineering
officer, an ensign, was sweating in skivies and no shirt, and
he had a broad smile that exposed his Teddy-bear disposi-
tion. The communications officer upheld the theory that all
communicators are a group apart. He was tall, and tapered
from the waist up, inversely, like an overripe pear. His
hands hung limp, even when sitting, and his only communi-
cation seemed to be by ship's radio. He never spoke.
The little ship was new. It had been completed less than
a month before, and the shakedown cruise was only a week
"We had fun along the Maine coast, and down near Bos-
ton. The Exec met a lady," said the engineering officer,
17. S. Navy Photograph
MODEL LST COMBAT LOADED
cial U. S. Navy Photograph
MODEL AKA BUILT IN FOUR LAYERS TO TEACH
MODEL WITH TOP DECK LAYER REMOVED SHOWING
THE ATTACK TRANSPORTS 169
accenting the last word, "who had a cottage near the shore.
Gee, that was wonderful !" At this memory, his face, like a
boardful of baker's dough, kneaded itself into a wide smile.
"I still remember those lobsters and cold beer."
An officer messenger who was delivering the charts and
secret mail to the transports said, "Oh, God, shut up ! I'm
hungry enough as it is."
The ensign engineer placated him.
"Well, we don't know exactly where the transports are
or how long it'll take to find them, so I'll break out some
chow in a few minutes. We haven't much, only some cold
cuts and potato salad."
We urged him not to waste time.
In a few minutes the table in the little wardroom was
spread. On the seat behind the table the bony-faced lieuten-
ant colonel was sprawled in undignified sleep, his neck un-
comfortably twisted. The other lieutenant colonel was
elected to wake his sleeping partner. This he did after sev-
eral soft-spoken repeatings of, "Colonel, wanta eat?"
After about four of these, the little man sat up, shaking
his head and said, "Uh, huh." He slipped a fork into the
potato salad before he knew what it was.
Thirty cents was our mess bill on the little mine sweeper.
In the distance we could see the line of transports against
dark clouds. They looked like Norman Bel-Geddes models
on a gray-velvet swath.
Our skipper proved his skill when he drew alongside the
first transport. It's a hard job to maneuver a mine sweeper
secure to a big ship and hold her steady enough for a man
to board without scratching paint and cracking railings,
but he did it.
170 THE ATTACK TRANSPORTS
The transports kad been loaded and waiting here for sev-
eral days. For the men, who had been moored here, the mere
event of a small ship coming alongside was exciting. Un-
even lines of faces with the ugly shapes of shaved heads
watched as if this were a show put on solely for their benefit.
Some of the men lost interest and returned to their pocket-
book detective stories and Street & Smith magazines. Others,
in shorts, their legs hanging over the sides of the stubby
landing craft on which they sat, played cards and watched
These transports, as do the landing craft, represent a
new part of our Navy. They're the "attack transports" of
an amphibious task force. And, like the PT for patrol
torpedo-boats, PC for patrol craft, and BB for battleships,
these transports have an initial identity. They're known as
APA's and AKA's. The APA stands for Auxiliary Person-
nel Attack. They are the Navy's troop transports. The
AELA is the cargo transport, Auxiliary Cargo Attack ship.
These strange, boom-studded, boat-racked transports,
whose pictures you see coming back from an amphibious
landing, had the same trial-and-error evolution as other
parts of the Amphibious Force. Like the efforts of a man
with a poor mare, determined to get a Derby-winner off-
spring by long breeding to prize stallions, our present at-
tack transports are the offspring of old merchant marine
cargo and passenger types.
In the early amphibious experiments with the Marines,
in the ship-to-shore movement, the Navy used two old Grace
Line transports. Some changes had to be made in these
ships, but even with the changes they were a far cry from
our current combat-loaded transports. The first change
THE ATTACK TRANSPORTS 171
made was to put in a big sick bay to care for injured train-
ees, and to put guns on deck, four 3-inch, a 5-inch, and some
30-caliber machine guns.
These were the first transports to have special boats in-
stead of the old motor launches. They carried the bureau-
type tank lighter and the 36-foot Higgins-type landing
These transports had no special davits, the mechanism
that lowers the landing craft from the deck to the water.
The regular merchantman lifeboat davit was used.
The ships were taken south to Guantanamo to train
Marines under General Holland Smith. The transports were
as temperamental as mules and just about as reliable. Cap-
tain J. W. Ware, TJSN, was Commander Transports ; Lieu-
tenant Commander J. W. Jamison was Operations Officer;
Commander, then Lieutenant, Arthur E. Owen, was Ma-
teriel Officer, and a Marine major was the TQM, Transport
It was a tossup as to which man had the most miserable
job. Commander transports had the responsibility of seeing
that his transports were operated according to the landing
plan. The operations officer had to see that the plan was
carried out. The materiel officer's job consisted of groom-
ing, petting, pleading, and teasing the machinery into work-
ing, and the Marine major, as TQM, had a new horizon all
his own, combat loading transports, a new idea which had
to be perfected for an amphibious landing.
Captain Ware immediately saw the need of special davits
to sling the landing craft over the transport's side. The old
lifeboat davits were impossible. Watching the materiel offi-
cer would have given an animated cartoonist new ideas.
172 THE ATTACK TRANSPORTS
Booms for unloading the holds broke, the refrigerating
system snapped. In rough weather the shipload of metal
landing craft caused the transport's electrical system to
blink out. There was no special boat-handling equipment.
One transport had Manila rope instead of steel cable to
lower its landing craft. All time between landings was spent
in untangling this twisted, kink-infested rope.
No provisions had been made for special stowage or safety
precautions which are necessary for the transport quarter-
master to combat load his transport. Small boats broke
down and there was no carpenter or repair shop aboard.
Booms to lower the tank lighters were not strong enough
and bent, and the winches were not adequate.
These were some of the defects that had to be rectified
before a ship could serve as an attack transport.
It takes time to build a new transport from keel up, and
we didn't have that time. Transports were needed for train-
ing both troops and landing-craft crews in the art of get-
ting off the ship and in to shore. Ships were also needed to
train transport quartermasters in combat loading.
If we couldn't get a ship made to order, the next best
thing was to take what we had available and adapt it to our
After Pearl Harbor, the Navy began buying merchant
marine passenger and cargo ships. They were taken to yards
and converted. Some of these ships were fairly new; others
had already seen 25 years of service. Heavy booms were
planted on deck. Holds were rearranged and enlarged to
carry an amphibious landing assault load. New davits were
designed which could lower a row of landing craft in record
THE ATTACK TRANSPORTS 173
time. For the APA type, the troop transport, space for
feeding and sleeping troops had to be planned.
In the spring of 1942, delivery began on these converted
transports. They came down the Chesapeake Bay for trial.
In appearance, they fitted well into the new amphibious
picture. They were strange ships, too. Their 40-ton booms
stuck up through the deck like redwood stumps, and on
their sides were three and four tiers of davits holding ter-
races of landing craft. The new davits were designed for
"rail loading." The boat could be lowered to the level of
the transport rail and troops loaded aboard there instead of
going down a net into a boat in the water. On the decks were
guns and other new equipment. They were still transports,
but they were fighting transports now.
It was from the deck of one of these converted transports
that we waved good-by to the little mine sweeper. Our trans-
port was ready for action. She was combat loaded, manned,
and armed, waiting only for the task force to form.
The biggest single job in getting this transport ready
for her tee-off position had been that of the transport quar-
termaster, the TQM. It is the Army's responsibility to
gather and load all the material that it will need to fight
with and live on when it lands. More specifically, this task
falls into the lap of the TQM.
The loading plan is the TQM's first concern. This plan
is the keystone of his job and of the success of the oper-
ation. There is a priority rating for unloading given every
article brought aboard. Everything must be so loaded that
what is needed first will be loaded last. The last thing loaded
is the first thing off the transport. This loading must be
so arranged that when the troops leave, every man has
174 THE ATTACK TRANSPORTS
exactly what he will need in his hands. This same meshing
of supply to man applies to the military units. When a bat-
talion leaves the transport, all its equipment must leave in
order of priority.
The loading plan depends on the landing plan. Suppose,
according to the plan of assault, a certain tank is scheduled
to be unloaded and carried ashore by Number 17 boat. That
boat is scheduled to strike a certain beach when the troops
land. If, during the unloading, the tank is loaded onto, say,
Number 18 boat it will land out of position, possibly having
to travel the length of the beach in the face of cross fire
to get to its correct position.
Everything, down to details like this, must be planned
in advance and carried out on the scene of landing as
The first step in preparing the landing plan for a com-
bat-loaded transport is a survey of the ship. Despite the
fact that from a casual glance all transports look alike, each
one is different from the others. Before the TQM can start
to plan his loading he must visit the ship personally, go over
it from top to bottom, examine every hold, every possible
stowage space. However, this is not a simple matter of cargo
loading where every inch of space is used. This is a pay load
whose bonus is paid off in terms of quick unloading.
There's also the matter of safety precautions. After the
load is planned, the chart must meet with the approval of
the ship's captain, whose job it is to carry this combat
material. Gasoline and ammunition, for instance, must be
stored separately and in such a manner that if the ship is
torpedoed and catches fire, the chances of flame spreading
from fuel to gunpowder are negligible.
THE ATTACK TRANSPORTS 175
The TQM knows exactly what his load is going to be,
down to the number of K-ration cartons. From his survey
of the ship, he charts the load, indicating where and in what
position tanks, guns, trucks, gasoline, ammunition, and food
will be stored.
All this has meant contact with Navy people, dock hands,
and port authorities. It has meant checking volumes of rail-
road timetables, warehouse people, supply depots, and it
also means, on a troopship, very close teamwork with the
commanding officer of troops, who has his say on the load-
ing plan to see that it conforms with the tactical plan.
The TQM must know the characteristics of all transport
types, plus those of the LST and the LCIL. Since he is
working with the Navy and on Navy ships he must know
a little Navy jargon. When someone mentions a "honey
barge" he knows it's a garbage scow. When he asks about
refrigerator space, he says "reefer" space. He must know
dead-weight tonnage, the number of tons (2,240 pounds)
of cargo that a ship can carry. He knows this is the differ-
ence between the number of tons of water displaced when
the ship is unloaded, and the displacement of the ship when
full, riding submerged to the load or Plimsoll line.
The TQM can figure his cargo tonnage either by weight
or measurement. The weight ton is 2,240 pounds and the
measurement ton is roughly set at 40 cubic feet. When
someone mentions the ship's "gross registered tonnage," he
knows this applies to the closed-in spaces of the ship, di-
vided by 100. A registered ton is 100 cubic feet. If it's
"net registered tonnage" he's interested in, that means the
ship's gross tonnage minus all space used for crews, engine
176 THE ATTACK TRANSPORTS
rooms, and fuel storage. In other words, it's the space avail-
able to him for stowing cargo and berthing troops.
To teach the art of combat loading, a Transport Quar-
termaster School was started at the Amphibious Training
Base, Camp Bradford, Virginia. Here, Army men, unfa-
miliar with both the job and Navy ships, are taught this
complicated part of an amphibious operation.
In one end of the classroom are models of an APA, an
AKA, and an LST. They are beautiful and expensive. The
transport models represent about $15,000 apiece and the
model LST was insured for $6,000.
The transport models are built in layers, each layer rep-
resenting a deck. The smooth, hardwood surface is blocked
out in diagram showing exactly each part of the deck, the
cabins, the wardrooms, the passageways, galleys, and offices.
The holds and stowage spaces are hollow.
The student TQM's make a survey of this model, then
combat load it with toy tanks, guns, trucks, and colored
blocks, each color representing a different article such as
ammunition, gasoline, or food. Each article is given a prior-
ity rating according to the tactical plan of the classroom
assault. In this way, they grasp the problems involved in
combat loading a full-sized transport.
The transports we saw around us, as our convoy left
America for Sicily, had been loaded by TQM's who had
studied these models. Their job is strenuous and nerve-
racking, combining all the qualities of a diplomat and a
section-gang boss. One man was left behind. He had done
a good job. His transport was loaded and loaded on time.
But he suffered a nervous breakdown after the last hatch
had been battened down on his ship.
THE ATTACK TRANSPORTS 177
The transports have an organization much like that of
other naval ships. The captain, who is called "Captain"
regardless of his rank, is in full charge of the ship and is
responsible for the welfare and safety of all aboard.
Next in line to the captain is his executive officer. He
manages all personnel, routine, and disciplinary matters.
His orders have the force of coming directly from the cap-
tain. The TQM usually deals directly with the executive
officer, except in minor details, which are taken up with the
first lieutenant. This naval officer is responsible for keeping
the ship clean, attending to repairs needed on landing craft
as well as the general structural parts of the ship. He is also
in charge of stowing the Navy's cargo.
There is the navigation officer who charts the course of
the ship, and the gunnery officer who keeps an eye on all
ordnance equipment aboard and acts as head master for
the gun crews. The engineering officer sees that the trans-
port's machinery is kept in running condition. He is the
contact for the TQM on such things as lights, ventilators,
and water hoses in the troop compartments.
Deck officers, usually junior officers, are divided into
watch and division officers. If the TQM finds it necessary
to use a boom or winch, he goes to a division officer who
puts his crew to work. The supply officer runs the general
mess and the ship's store. He is notified by the TQM when
the troops are expected to come aboard. If special equip-
ment is needed to handle any Army gear coming aboard,
it is the supply officer to whom the TQM goes.
In addition, there is a chaplain who conducts regular
Sunday services, and a special service on the night before
the assault. The dental and medical officers are equipped
178 THE ATTACK TRANSPORTS
for regular and emergency work both in transit and when
the wounded come in from the beaches.
There is not much deck space on one of these transports.
It's taken up by the tiers of davits and the rows of land-
ing craft. Additional landing craft may be resting on
cradles, with only room enough for a man to walk between
them and the ship's bulkhead. Debarkation stations are
marked. Telephone circuits web the ship. There are loud-
speakers to announce meetings and give orders, and a por-
table speaker is supplied to call the boats in to the side for
loading after they have been lowered.
Special mess halls and galley equipment take up more
of the transport space, and water tanks that carry up to
40,000 gallons of fresh water are out of sight, somewhere
Transport life is usually dull except for the loading
period and the few hours around H-hour when nothing is
dull. These ships are the draft horses of the task force, the
Sometimes there's action. The flagship signals, and you
feel your chair slide as the big ship lurches in a fast turn.
Then come the dull thuds of depth charges and you wonder
if the destroyers got the sub or if the next moment that
noise will be right under you a thousand times louder. If
you haven't been torpedoed, you wonder what the first warn-
ing blast of noise will sound like.
Or the klaxon may sound the air-raid alarm, and guns
fire, and for a while you forget the endless days of transport
Again, you might have a race as the men of the Listmg
Lena did. That isn't her name, but everyone called her that,
THE ATTACK TRANSPORTS 179
and sometimes names much, worse. She was an old passenger
ship that had developed what the boys called a "menopause
shake." She would be going along beautifully and then
without warning start to list. The cause was never deter-
mined, but it was provokingly uncomfortable to be in your
bunk when it happened and have your face slapped hard
against the steel frame of your bunk.
Lena was scheduled to leave with a task force on the North
African assault. The night before sailing time she was
lying anchored in her berthing area offshore. Captain J. W.
Whitfield was her skipper. At 1 minute past midnight he
was called by a watch officer who reported that one of the
turbines had burned out. The rest of the night was spent in
rousing duty officers at the base, reporting the damage,
and requesting assistance. A little seagoing tug that was
to sail with the convoy hooked a towline on the limping
transport and started in to the base.
By 10 o'clock the nest morning the damaged turbine
was by-passed by the engineers who had switched to a low-
pressure turbine. Running at 5 knots, Lena edged in to a
pier at 10 :30 that night.
On hand at this time was a new transport. She had been
commissioned about 10 days earlier. Owing to priority given
other ships for the North African trip, the new transport
was standing by without equipment and unable to make her
shakedown cruise. But she was going to get one. Her maiden
trip into war would be her shakedown cruise.
She was ordered in to the docks and tied up to the Listing
Lena about 3 hours later.
The task force had sailed and Captain Whitfield was
faced with the prospect of unloading everything from the
180 THE ATTACK TRANSPORTS
Lena to the docks, then loading it on the new ship in re-
verse order, to conform to the combat-loading plan, and then
try to catch the convoy.
Not only would the cargo have to be changed, but a
counter-exchange of about 250 officers and men from the
Lena to the new transport and vice versa would have to be
effected. AU of the Lena's boats and gear and all the com-
missioning equipment which the new ship did not possess
would have to be switched.
Work began at 1 o'clock on Friday. Unloading such
things as gasoline tins and ammunition was a slow, careful
job. You can't throw cargo like that around helter-skelter.
Most of it must be handled by hand.
It had previously taken 8 days to load the Lena for com-
bat. The work of shifting cargo began at 1 o'clock Friday.
By midnight Saturday it was completed.
The new transport sailed on Sunday and caught the con-
voy 5 days later. On November 8 she was unloading again
at Safi, French Morocco.
The Amphibious Infantry
A AMPHIBIOUS regimental combat team is one of
the most highly trained groups of men in Army
These men begin their amphibious training as a unit al-
ready equipped for field service. They are already trained
soldiers, ready for combat duty. Their amphibious training
is a postgraduate course for a master's degree in modern
The troops that trained with the Atlantic Fleet Amphi-
bious Force were all graduates of this course. Their alma
mater is one of the first and largest amphibious training
bases in the United States Camp Bradford, Virginia. This
base has turned out over 100,000 of these soldiers trained
for amphibious warfare.
Each class was an entire Army division. The division to
be trained reported first to Camp Pickett, Virginia, where
the troops were given a primary, dry-land course. They
scaled towers, slung with nets. They were taught how to
adjust equipment, waterproof cases, and shoulder packs.
Packs must be worn so that they can be easily slid off and
dropped with almost a shrug of the shoulders. There were
knot-tying classes. Vehicles and rolling equipment must be
182 THE AMPHIBIOUS INFANTRY
tied securely to the decks of LST's and LCT's, and those
lashings have to be unfastened quickly when the craft nears
When the troops reached Camp Bradford they began
training in the attack phase. The division was split into
its three regimental combat teams; each of these, in turn,
was divided into its three combat teams ; and each combat
team was separated into three battalions each.
The three battalions of the combat team then began their
beach training. The division's staff officers, in the mean-
time, were attending specialists' schools at Bradford such
as the Staff and Command School, the Transport Quarter-
master School, the Joint Communications School, and the
Shore and Beach Party School.
A training day for the soldiers began at 5 :30 A.M. After
a march to the beach they were ready for the day's work
at 8 :30.
The men began their combat phase of amphibious train-
ing with mixed emotions. It was something new, and no one
questioned its potential excitement. Many had never seen
salt water before and many others had never seen any body
of water larger than a creek. With some there was a fear of
water to be overcome.
The first step in training these men was to overcome that
nervous feeling about being on water. Each man was
equipped with a carbon dioxide life belt. He was shown how
to adjust it and how to squeeze the trigger that inflated
The men were then shown how to dig anti-tank fox holes
on the beach. There are tricks even to digging holes in the
sand. They shouldn't be too close together for one thing,
THE AMPHIBIOUS INFANTRY 183
and the rule is one man to a hole. The holes should be a cer-
tain shape and size for both efficient use and the comfort of
the soldier who might have to live in a fox hole for some
time after landing.
Before the trainees rode in the landing craft, they were
given a demonstration of how this boat approaches the
beach, how the ramp lowers, and how it retracts. They were
told how to sit in the craft, to keep head and shoulders low.
An amphibious operation was explained. The men were
told how the landing craft circle in the transport area,
come in to the side of the ship where the rope net hangs,
and load with troops. They were given the picture then of
how the landing craft move away from the transports to a
rendezvous area, wait for the signal of H-hour, and charge
in to the beach in wave formation.
After getting this picture fairly well in mind, the bat-
talion was divided into boat teams. Each team was assigned
to a landing craft for their first ride out. The craft beached,
lowered its ramp for loading. The boat team, at a signal
from the instructor, ran to the craft, jumped onto the ramp,
and squatted down in the bottom of the boat. The Navy
coxswain then gave the order "up ramp" and the boat pulled
The first trip was a short one. The boat went out a few
hundred yards, circled, and came in to the beach. At the
signal from the coxswain, the ramp was lowered and the men
raced off, yelling at imaginary enemies, surprised that a
boat could land them on dry sand with no dock.
After this the boat teams returned to the instructor and
little things were pointed out that would make a great dif-
ference in a man's successful landing in a real assault. Most
184 THE AMPHIBIOUS INFANTRY
of the soldiers, their first time across the ramp to the beach,
had jumped straight across the ramp's top edge. This was
bad form. It was dangerous.
"Suppose you landed in a surf," the instructor said.
"That ramp wouldn't be very stationary. The movement of
the water would cause the boat to swing and the ramp to
chop up and down, a mighty easy way to have a leg or a
back broken if you slipped and the ramp caught you."
The men were then shown the correct way to leave an
assault boat, not directly over the front of the ramp, but at
an angle on the ramp's sides.
Also in this first ride, some of the men were still afraid of
the water despite the fact that all wore life belts. Those life
belts didn't mean anything until they'd been tested, actually
used in supporting a man in water over his head.
Boat teams formed again, loaded, and went out. This
time the boat stopped about 400 yards short of the beach.
The order was given to inflate life belts. Then the entire
team, officers and men, were told to jump overboard and
swim ashore. For some of the men this was the worst moment
in their entire Army career. One by one they jumped. Those
who had no fear of water jumped first, bobbed down, then
popped up, their life belts swelling around them like huge
doughnuts. The men who had such a psychological fear of
water that they absolutely refused to jump were weeded out,
given other jobs.
Now was the time to catch a quirk like that, not halfway
to an enemy beach. For most men this 400-yard trip from
boat to beach was a shot in their confidence arm. Not all
men in any military unit are swimmers, but if every man
knows that he can get to shore with a life belt he feels much
THE AMPHIBIOUS INFANTRY 185
easier about playing Navy for a while. In the real assault
not every landing craft is going to make that beach. Men
have to know how to get to shore through deep water as
well as stepping out on a dry beach from a boat.
After this, the training progressed to landing on the
beach in boat waves. Boat teams of each battalion lined up
on the beach, boarded the assault craft, which retracted and
went out to what would be the rendezvous area in the ship-
to-shore movement. The assault craft then started for the
beach in waves. When the ramps lowered, the soldiers hit
the beach, running.
They were taught the importance of spreading out, dis-
persing to make a smaller target for an enemy gun.
The next lesson was a simulated ship-to-shore movement
in full. The men who went down the transport nets in North
Africa, Sicily, Salerno, and Anzio, Italy, will remember this
period of training, their first time down a net from a trans-
port. She was the YAG, an old five-masted wooden barken-
The YAG, which is Navy for Yard Auxiliary Guard, was
built for the Italian Navy in 1886. She was named the
Marsala, after the wine city in Sicily. Later, our maritime
service bought her for a training ship, painted her a gleam-
ing white, and rigged full sails. She made a trip to Green-
land and weathered every storm but one, a hurricane off
Cape Hatteras in 1938. She lost all of her five masts in this
gale. The hulk was towed up the James River and left, tied
to a dock.
One day in 1942, Colonel Smyser, who was then Admiral
Hewitt's Army adviser, flew over the port in which the old
hulk was resting.
186 THE AMPHIBIOUS INFANTRY
Amphibious training at this time had been handicapped
by a lack of transports. Investigation by Colonel Smyser
found that the hulk was being used, but only as a residence
of the former captain and his family, who lived aboard her.
The Navy bought her and towed her by tug to a yard where
davits were built along the old wooden rails. She was then
towed down the bay and anchored off Camp Bradford's
beaches. Debarkation stations were numbered, platforms
built on her wooden decks, nets slung over the side, and
training officers had a "transport" for their ship-to-shore
When the boat teams formed for their first complete
ship-to-shore drill they were taken out to the YAG. They
climbed up the nets to the deck and formed in boat team
stations as they would do on a transport prior to debarking.
The instructors then called the boats in by number. As a
boat team's number was called, it took position by the net.
The men were shown how to go down four abreast, each man
throwing his right leg over the rail first. This chorus-girl
precision was necessary. Every man must go over the side
the same way. If one throws his left leg over first and the
man next to him goes over right leg first, they are likely to
strike each other and one may lose his grip and fall.
They were shown how to grasp the vertical strands of the
net, not the horizontal strands. The horizontal strands are
for the feet. If a man goes down with hands on these strands
the man above may step on his fingers. A man with crushed
fingers is also likely to lose his grip and fall.
When the boats were loaded again they pulled out to the
rendezvous area, formed into waves, and started for the
beach. Men on shore, in the meantime, had been preparing
THE AMPHIBIOUS INFANTRY 187
as nasty a reception as possible for the landing infantry-
The "objective" of the landing troops was in the sand
dunes, 500 to 800 yards from the water's edge. In that space
were flesh-cutting strands of barbed wire. There were mines,
lots of mines, because a landing force must become ac-
quainted with this type of defensive action. They'll run into
a great deal of it. There were other traps, all the obstacles
a man would be likely to find on a defended enemy beach.
As the men left the boats and advanced upon the dunes,
blank-cartridge fire blasted their ears and ground shook
under their feet as the mines were electrically discharged.
With the feel of the small assault boats under their belts,
the trainees moved up the scale of ships to the LCT and
the LCIL. The same procedure was followed here, of troops
loading, getting acquainted with this strange new ship the
Navy was offering them. They were taken out, given an
opportunity to feel the craft under way, then returned to
the beach for unloading. Again they were reminded to get
across that beach in a hurry.
By the time the LCIL phase was completed, the craft
could be emptied of all troops in 3 minutes.
While the infantry assault troops were doing this the driv-
ers of tanks, trucks, jeeps, and half-tracks that reinforce
the infantry were being trained in loading and unloading
on an LST. Each driver backed his vehicle up the steep
LST ramp. Inside, he jockeyed it into the loading position
either on the tank deck or up the elevator on the top deck.
When all vehicles were loaded, the order was given for the
unloading to commence. The tank deck, which carries the
188 THE AMPHIBIOUS INFANTRY
priority cargo, the equipment that is combat loaded to get
off first, can be emptied in 10 minutes.
These vehicle men had also gone to a waterproofing
school where they were taught a process by which their
machines could be driven through water deep enough to
' submerge the engines completely. This process had been
developed in case the landing ship, in an operation, was un-
able to beach high on the shore. A waterlogged tank or
truck, stuck in the bow doors, would mean dangerous delay.
The next phase of training was a full-scale invasion in
the Chesapeake Bay. Each regimental combat team staged
its own assault. Training had been geared so that all the
units of the regimental combat team finished their classes
at the same time. The planning officers mapped an amphib-
ious landing on a beach near Drum Point, east of Solomons
Island, Maryland. Intelligence officers supplied reports of
the area. Photographic interpreters had submitted reports
of the beaches. The transport quartermaster had studied
the model APA and was ready to combat load his first trans-
port. The Shore Parties had their plans for the war game.
The attack was scheduled for dawn. The objective was
one of the little towns a few miles inland from Drum Point,
with the ultimate goal being Washington. The beach where
the practice was to take place was heavily mined, but just
where those mines were, the assault force did not know. It
had to find out. It also had to find out what kind of defen-
sive installations had been set up by the "defending forces."
All units of the regimental combat team boarded the
transports. LST's, LCIL's, and LCT's joined to form the
The troops were alerted at 2 :30 A.M. The last prepara-
THE AMPHIBIOUS INFANTRY 189
tions were made before going to the boat stations on deck
as they had been taught to do on the YAG. By dawn the
assault waves were landing. Sound of blank machine-gun
and rifle fire, sand-shaking explosions, smoke, and the blast
of underwater mines gave the men a taste of battle noise.
The LST's came out of the mist and beached. LCIL's and
LCT's crowded to the shore.
The exercise went well for a first dress rehearsal. Mis-
takes were made, but they were pointed out and corrected.
All plans of the amphibious assault had been made by the
men in training and tested.
With the "objective" taken, the men returned to the
Back at Bradford beach, the instructors had started on
another class. Captain Bert Ruud, who had brought the
first LCT down from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, was coaching
the drivers on loading and unloading the LST's; Major
Clinton Goodwin was doing the same for the men being in-
troduced to the LCT's. Lieutenant Bill Fuller was handling
the assault boats ; and two Navy Lieutenants, J. F. Mickey
and Lex Moser, were loading and unloading men from the
And there was "that big major from Bradford." That
was what the small-boat coxswains called Major Eugene
Lewis, who buzzed up and down the beach in his jeep,
watching the soldiers clear the ramp and cross the sand,
showing a driver how to get his truck up an LST ramp. He
was everywhere, shouting orders, untangling snarls of
puzzled men, answering questions, passing out encourage-
ment, and swearing like hell at what he thought were stupid
190 THE AMPHIBIOUS INFANTRY
"He wears out a pair of shoes every month," one of his
He was the "iron major" to men working with him on the
beach. Some of the trainees may have forgotten him, but
one boat team will remember him for a long time. It was a
dress-rehearsal invasion on Drum Point. A general was down
from Washington for the review.
A landing craft was about 500 yards from shore when
the coxswain gave his order "prepare to lower ramp. 35 The
cogs on the ramp brake slipped and, instead of merely pre-
paring to lower the ramp, the ramp went down completely.
With the ramp open, scooping up water, the boat drove
herself under in a matter of seconds.
Major Lewis, who happened to be directly behind in a
DUKW, an amphibious truck, saw what had happened.
With a silent prayer that the general and his party ashore
hadn't seen the accident, the major steered for the mass of
bobbing heads. Fortunately, all men had followed orders
and had entered the landing craft equipped with life belts.
All were afloat. One by one the major helped them board
the DUKW. A little later, and a little wetter than had they
made their landing in the assault craft, the boat team hit
the beach. They passed the general's review with no mention
of the accident. It had happened so quickly and the recov-
ery had been so fast no one on shore had seen it.
The men who trained at Bradford in the summer will re-
member the night exercises and the moonlit beach that
reminded them of parties and peace, but this beach was
churned to a froth by tanks, trucks, and running feet.
Those who were less fortunate and began their training in
THE AMPHIBIOUS INFANTRY 191
winter will remember few things colder than hitting the
beach in weather 10 degrees above zero.
It was rough work, but it paid dividends. It made the
amphibious soldier and his unit one of America's best mili-
THE torpedo crashed into the stern of the transport.
The big ship swung around like a sick animal in a
trap as the rest of the convoy disappeared in the
night. She was a troopship in the North African invasion,
bound for Algiers.
Troops were ordered to boat stations. Landing craft were
lowered, the men loaded, and the coxswains began one of
the longest assault-boat trips in history. Their destination,
Algiers, was 180 miles away. On D plus 1, 1 day after the
invasion, they entered the half -moon harbor of Algiers.
The Captain Blighs of this trip were the small-boat men
of the Amphibious Force, the men who take the assault
troops ashore from the transports and follow up with the
shuttle trips of cargo.
The officers and men of these small boats are trained as
a team, and they leave on an operation with the same
team members intact. They are organized into what we
call flotillas, with a full lieutenant as flotilla commander.
The flotilla is made up of three groups, each being com-
manded by a group commander who is a lieutenant, junior
grade. The three groups of the flotilla are further divided
into divisions. Twelve divisions make a group, and three
SMALL-BOAT MEN 193
boat crews make a division. The division officer is usually an
ensign. Each boat crew consists of four men.
Most of the small-boat crews of the European and Medi-
terranean invasions were trained at the Amphibious Train-
ing Bases, Fort Pierce, Florida; and Little Creek, Virginia,
the camp that grew from bean fields, oyster-shell dumps,
and swampland to what resembles a training city with streets
named after battle areas, such as Tulagi Street, Casablanca
Street, and Midway Street.
Men are ordered for small-boat training as a housewife
orders a week's supply of groceries. The training command
has certain orders to fill, so many boat crews to train and
deliver to transports. The supply department, in this case,
is the midshipman schools, where men are under training
for officer commissions, and the "boot camps" where en-
listed men are being indoctrinated in Navy ways.
The officer material for a group to be trained is ordered
first. These men report to Little Creek 4 weeks in advance
of the enlisted men who will make up their boat crews. This
is done so that the officers, who will have been trained by
the time the men arrive, can then train their crews. The offi-
cer of a small-boat flotilla must be able to do everything
the enlisted man does. He must know the job of every mem-
ber of his boat team.
When the officer trainee arrives at Little Creek, he has a
midshipman-school background in gunnery, seamanship,
communications, and engineering. It's a matter of applying
this general knowledge to the specific needs of small assault
In these small craft communications must be good. The
officer must be able to talk the amphibious language with
194 SMALL-BOAT MEN
both semaphore flags and signal lamps. He must become an
expert in his little craft's guns ; he has to know what makes
them fire, how they're put together, and what to do if one
of them jams. He must know his power plant, that marine
Diesel engine, and he attends lectures on the theory of the
ship-to-shore movement, strange words for men just out of
The men then reach the stage of training that corre-
sponds to an aviation cadet's making his solo flight. They
are put in one of the gray, boxlike boats and told to "take
? er out." And out they go, through the inlet into the bay
water. Each man is graded on how the boat is handled on
this solo trip. Sometimes, if weather is rough, it really
seems like a flight, with the bow running high in a take-off
position, then falling in a smashing blow in the valley of
When the men pass this test, they start formation work.
The 36 boats of a flotilla are taken out together, maneuv-
ered in the ship-to-shore pattern, beached, and taken off
the beach. The boats pound through maneuvers like a
squadron of bouncing bombers, and it takes a lot more
muscle to keep a wave-tossed landing craft in formation.
There's no easy rudder control. It's your own weight thrown
against the wheel, pushing against the stubborn rudder,
that does it.
By this time the enlisted men have arrived. They have
been going to school and studying harder than a sixth-
grade prodigy going after a prize. They have lectures and
lessons in engineering, seamanship, signaling, ship-to-shore
movement, gunnery, and they're shown how to stand a look-
SMALL-BOAT MEN 195
The men are tested for night vision. A good coxswain
should have better than cat's eyes. His most crucial work
will be done at night, trying to see a beach in darkness,
steering his boat through obstacles, missing rocks.
Some of the men see much better in darkness than others.
It was found that boys from the country who for years had
been walking through orchards and fields, jumping ditches
and dodging fences at night, had unconsciously developed
a good night vision, as compared to the city-bred boy who
was used to street lamps wherever he went. Without know-
ing it, the good night-sighters had discovered the trick of
seeing things in the dark. That is, you don't look directly
at the object you want to see. You look below it, or above it.
For a lookout, or a coxswain, this is an important thing to
For testing and training men in night vision, a labora-
tory was built, under the direction of Lieutenant J. H. Sulz-
man, Medical Corps, USNR, an eye specialist from Troy,
New York, who was attached to the Amphibious Force.
Lieutenant Sulzman could probably sell his lab to a car-
nival for a Crazy House. It's a blackout maze-obstacle
course. In the maze, men are shown the value of dark-
adapting their eyes, that is, allowing no light to enter the
eye for at least 30 minutes prior to the time they will have
to "see in the dark."
If a man enters the maze immediately after his eyes have
been exposed to sunlight or even a tiny white electric light
bulb, he realizes the doctor knows what he is talking about.
He finds himself in a large square room with four walls
and the ceiling painted black. Of course, he can find the
door out of the room by feeling his way around the walls.
196 SMALL-BOAT MEN
After that it's not so easy. The door opens onto a maze of
corridors, likewise painted black. They are lighted by a
tiny, shaded lamp bulb high in the ceiling, which gives
approximate starlight on a dark night.
The man's first misgiving when he enters the corridor
maze and stumbles forward is a cracked shin. He didn't see
that two-by-four, about 8 inches high, nailed across his
path. He yells and grabs the side of the railing. Another
shout. He's touched some copper screen along the railing
which has a light electric charge. He learns not to take
great strides in the dark and not to feel his way along the
maze. The only thing he can depend on to guide him is his
eyes. Finally, he gets out of the maze and stumbles up un-
even steps. There's a platform at the top of the stairs and
more steps going down on the other side. He thought they
were stairs. Instead, it's a sloping ramp. Expecting steps,
and not looking, he falls down the incline and cracks his
other shin on a crossbar.
Then he hears water dripping. He'll have to use his eyes
on this part of the maze. By now he can see fairly well, and
notices stone steps sticking up out of the water. Beyond
that step is another and then a third. Confidently he
strides forward. But the fourth step isn't where he thought
it would be. Again, he failed to look. There's a splash and
he falls face down in some 12 inches of water.
After this, he follows the doctor's instruction:
"Don't look directly at what you expect to see. Look
below where you think the object will be, or above it, or to
the side. Keep your eyes moving."
The man soon learns that this method is a good one. His
SMALL-BOAT MEN 197
shins are bumped less and he doesn't fall. He can actually
see things that way.
The trainee then goes through the maze again. This time
he waits, seated in the large black room, for 30 minutes
before tackling the trip. The corridor maze has been
changed. Sliding panels have been moved and new exits
made so that he can't memorize the passage system.
At the end of the 30 minutes he finds that he can see
amazingly well. He goes through the entire obstacle course
with only a few bumps, and those were acquired when he
forgot his instructions, "Don't look at the object directly,
keep your eyes moving."
This maze acts both as a training aid and a sorter. The
men who have poor night vision which cannot be corrected
are weeded out of the coxswain pool and given other jobs
where success does not depend on night sight.
When the crew members finish their classroom work they
are divided, according to aptitude, into the crew jobs: cox-
swain, signalman, engineer, and gunner. The coxswain is
in command of the landing craft. He is the most important
member of the crew. Upon his judgment, skill, and naviga-
tion depend the lives of all the troops he will carry. The
signalman may not be able to flag out or flash the words of
"God Bless America," but he must know amphibious sig-
nals and be able to send and receive them. The engineer
must have the details of his Diesel engine as firmly memo-
rized as the street address of his best girl. The gunner acts
as "bow-hook," the man who prepares to lower the ramp
and raise it at the coxswain's order. He also gets gunnery
practice with a toy machine gun that shoots BB's at re-
volving model planes. The BB shot are brass and reflect the
198 SMALL-BOAT MEN
light as if they were actually tracer bullets. This teaches
him to lead the plane, allow for the plane's speed in flight.
When the enlisted men have been assigned their jobs, in
the boat crews, the flotilla forms. The division officers are
assigned three boat crews each, or 12 men. This is his com-
mand ; the men are his responsibility.
The next 6 weeks are spent in training the group to-
gether, officers and men. The last exercise is a dawn land-
ing with the entire flotilla participating. The officers and
crews of the 36 boats leave the base at 2 A.M. Their first
stop is the YAG, anchored midway between Little Creek
and Bradford beach. The dawn landing is to be a ship-to-
shore exercise. Aboard the YAG is the instructor. He calls
the boats into the net by number, for a simulated loading.
When the last boat of the flotilla is "loaded" and in the
rendezvous area, they wait for H-hour. Then the control
boat leads the way to the beach which has been mined. The
support boats have spread a smoke screen for the landing.
The flotilla approaches the beach in wave formation.
The coxswain shouts his first order, "Prepare to lower
The gunner unfastens a pin in the ramp cogwheel and
applies the brake. When the boat beaches, all he will have
to do is release the brake and the ramp falls. The boat's bow
touches sand and the coxswain shouts another order.
The iron door slaps the water and the bow of the boat
The first time the coxswain beached his landing craft he
felt apprehensive, afraid of hitting the shore too hard, won-
dering how it would feel when the bow first touched land.
SMALL-BOAT MEN 199
Now he knows, and he drives the boat fast, smashing onto
the sand. There's a slight jar, a jab, and his craft stops.
On one exercise, the smoke screen was particularly thick
and a strong wind was blowing. The "bow-hook," the gun-
ner, who was waiting for the order "prepare to lower ramp,"
could see nothing because of the smoke.
The order came. But by the time the sound reached the
bow-hook, the wind had killed the "prepare to." All he heard
was "lower ramp," Not being able to see and thinking per-
haps the boat was actually near enough to lower the ramp,
he followed the order. Down went the ramp and the boat.
Later, when the coxswain was asked what he did when
this happened, he answered, "I said, 'Abandon ship P "
The first time the coxswain retracted, started to back his
boat off the beach, the instructor shouted a cardinal rule:
"Now get your rudder midship, square with your stern, and
put your knee on the wheel."
This weight against the wheel would keep it from spin-
ning when waves struck the rudder. With the rudder mid-
ship, the surf would tend to butt the boat square on the
stern and hold it in position. If the waves struck it broad-
side, the boat would probably broach, turn sideways along
the beach, making it impossible to retract.
The coxswain was also told to keep his motor running
while on the beach, driving the boat into the sand all the
time. This gave him control, by using either right or left
rudder, which would decrease the possibility of broaching.
Just before a coxswain leaves the beach he guns his motor.
This tends to kick out a channel in the sand back of his
stern, and it also throws his rudder midship for a straight
retreat. Then the gears are reversed. The propellers throw
200 SMALL-BOAT MEN
a wake of water high on the beach under the inverted-V
bottom of the craft, floating it free.
The boat is kept in reverse gear until it backs free of the
line of breakers. Turning and trying to travel bow first
before the line of breakers is past is dangerous. A wave
might catch the craft broadside, causing the coxswain to
lose control. The training has been rugged. Those 2 A.M.
trips out of the base and up the bay to the YAG were not
pleasure cruises, especially in winter. The only pleasant
aspect about them was the huge steak dinner served the
crews at 11 o'clock.
Small-boat officers are carefully chosen. They must pass
a physical examination as strict as that given to pilots and
submarine men. In addition, they are examined by a psy-
chologist to determine if they are temperamentally suited
for this work.
At first, duty with the Amphibious Force, and especially
in small boats, was considered a suicide assignment. The
job was new and unknown. Men were afraid of it. That con-
dition has changed by now, to the extent that men are
volunteering for amphibious service.
A small-boat man is busy from the moment he first sees
the camp piers with their landing craft carpeting the water,
nestled closer together than a stockyard full of beef cattle.
From the time he starts his "marlinespike seamanship"
through the last chalk-talk blackboard class, he is absorb-
ing the part that small boats play in amphibious warfare.
He gets strange new clothing, blue jungle-cloth uniforms
whose jackets have an inner lining of paper to break the
wind and insulate body heat. He gets a face mask, helmet,
SMALL-BOAT MEN 201
gum-bottomed shoes, and heavy mittens. He'll need all this.
His job is a cold and wet proposition.
He learns that his landing craft is not just a smalltime
ferry, but a definite cog in the landing plans that depend
on split-second timing. He learns that there is more to pilot-
ing a boat than just steering it. He is taught to compensate
his compass. He learns about tide and currents, both im-
portant factors in a shallow-draft boat. The officers are
taught how to stand deck watches, because on the transport
they will become part of the ship's company. They are
taught gas defense and first aid, how to salvage boats on
the beach, and how to read the stars by studying a con-
They learn how to read the different beach markers that
indicate where gasoline, water, and ammunition will be
There are two types of small-boat officer : the "mustang,"
former enlisted men, petty officers, who have been commis-
sioned; and the reserve officer out of midshipman school.
Throughout the training period there is a friendly rivalry
and competition between these men. The mustangs are prone
to condescension, wondering about the fact that it took them
20 years of hard Navy work to get a commission, while a
youngster just out of college, with no experience, gets the
The midshipman says, "Why not? I'm smart. I can do
the job. The Navy's not my career. But I'll do a good piece
of work while Fm in it and then go back to my old job."
This has led the mustangs to call the reserves "feather
merchants," an old Navy term applied to a man who was
looking forward to the end of his enlistment period, at which
202 SMALL-BOAT MEN
time lie was always going to leave the Navy to buy a farm
and raise some chickens.
Most of the mustang kidding is just that and nothing
more. They see the new men learning and doing a good job.
But they have a proprietary feeling about the Navy. It's
theirs. These other fellows are in for the ride, and when
the bus stops they'll get off.
One mustang reproached a new man one day who had
made a mistake.
"Look here, you feather merchant " he began.
"You're damned right," said the new man, who had left
a good job and his home to join the Navy, "and I've got a
feather and a nest to put it in, too !"
It was a telling blow. The old mustang was one of the
men who, for the last four enlistment periods before the
war, was going to get that chicken ranch and live a
Some time after this skirmish the two men became good
This is a fast bus the small-boat men have hailed for the
ride, and they're proud of their seats. Likewise, most of
them complain. Grousing is a good old American habit ir-
respective of rank.
"It's a hell of a job we've got here, ain't it, Mac?"
But don't let that coxswain fool you. He's proud of that
title "Coxswain," even though at times he hates that flat-
bottomed boat with a passion.
D-day for Lollipop
D-DAY for Lollipop is S plus 1A"
This sentence is hardly more intelligible than
the jibberish chant of a tobacco auctioneer. It
means that an amphibious operation has been planned.
"D-day" is the day on which the assault will take place.
"S plus 14" means 14 days after date of sailing. "Lollipop"
would be the code name far the operation, the enemy beaches
where our troops will land.
Lollipop was planned for strategical and tactical reasons
as an offensive operation. It may be on virgin enemy terri-
tory as yet untouched by us, or it may be a leapfrog land-
ing such as the one south of Rome, near Anzio, to force an
enemy withdrawal from established lines with a minimum
of Allied casualties.
The men who planned Lollipop, which is any hypothetical
amphibious operation, were faced with a very particular
kind of planning. It was different from either a regular
Army or Navy campaign. It was a combination of both.
The action would have a naval beginning and an Army
Plans started with a group of senior Army or Marine
and Navy staff planners. From the decision of these men
204 D-DAY FOR LOLLIPOP
come the orders for an operation with four broad points
outlined: where to strike, what to strike with, the names of
the men to direct the operation, and the date.
Where to strike, the objective, is usually stated in broad
terms. In the North African invasion, for example, the ob-
jective was "the occupation of Algeria and French Mo-
rocco," while in the Marshalls landings, the real objective
was first Kwajalein atoll. In Eniwetok it was the strategic
The second point, what to strike with, the means for
executing the operation are listed, so many troop divisions,
and aircraft support, and so many naval ships listed by type.
The third item, the leaders who will command the opera-
tion are named, and a D-day, or a period within which
D-day will fall, is designated.
Using the invasion of the Marshall Islands as an example
for the last three points, the means for this invasion were
both Army and Marine troops. The Army men were from
Major General Charles H. Corlett's 7th Division, veterans
of the Attu landings. The Marine troops were from Major
General Harry Schmidt's 4th Marine Division. Admiral
Richmond Kelley Turner, USN, was in command of the
D-day for Kwajalein was January 31, 1944.
With the four parts of the plan drawn by the higher
echelon of command the objective, the means available to
attain that objective, the commanding officers named who
will use those means, and D-day named the detailed plan-
ning of the landing then falls to the men who will direct it.
This is where the parts of the amphibious pattern start
to weld together.
D-DAY FOR LOLLIPOP 205
The military "estimate of the situation," or prepared
outline of what is necessary and what will be done to achieve
the objective, is to be submitted first. At the same time, the
naval plan is being written. All phases of military and naval
intelligence and every available source of information are
at the disposal of the military and naval commanders in
The plans must be combined and fitted together into one
play that will satisfy both sides. Suppose, for example, one
part of the military .plan calls for a landing on a certain
beach area. This is proposed to the Navy, which objects,
saying that the beaches there are not suitable, that there
are rocks and shoals that will make a landing impossible.
A compromise is reached. There is a beach a few miles north
or south at which a landing can be made successfully and
the military tactical plan is changed accordingly.
In drawing the plans for the Marshalls invasion, Tarawa
was remembered. The Japs had 20 years to fortify their
Marshalls defenses, and little Tarawa was taken at a very
It was decided, therefore, not to land on the Marshalls
bases, Wotje and Maloelap, nearest Pearl Harbor, or even
on those nearest the Gilberts on the south, Jaluit and Mili.
Again, using the first amphibious commandment, "Land
where the enemy doesn't expect you," Kwajalein atoll in
the heart of the island group, largest and most important,
was chosen as the landing target.
Remembering that 3,000 tons of bombs and 4 hours of
shelling had little effect on Tarawa's cement and coconut-
log defenses, the softening of Kwajalein began 17 days be-
fore the invasion by Army and Navy bombers. Bombard-
206 D-DAY FOR LOLLIPOP
ment of the atoll from the sea began 3 days before troops
By the time troops were ready to land 15,000 tons of
exploding metal had gouged the Jap island. At H-hour the
Army troops struck south at Ninni. Around the ring of
coral to the north the Marines landed at Roi and Namur.
Two million tons, more shipping than we had in our en-
tire prewar Navy, and 30,000 men were employed in this
In planning any Lollipop, the unexpected must be con-
sidered. Since the Army is landing for a campaign and not
just a raid, and since it must also plan to meet the maximum
resistance, thought must be given to the vulnerability of
troops in transit. If a ship is torpedoed and no provision
made in the plans for such a contingency, when the landing
occurs the invading force will be undermanned and hard
put to meet its tactical demands.
"Maybe we had too many ships and men for this job,"
Admiral Turner was heard to say after the Marshalls land-
ings, "but I prefer to do things that way. It was many
lives saved for us."
Plans must be flexible to offset a loss of any kind, and
also to meet any last-moment changes of strategy. This
flexibility is one of amphibious warfare's greatest assets.
Its strength is concentrated and mobile. The object of any
amphibious landing is to place our forces where the enemy
isn't expecting them. If you discover the enemy is expecting
you to land at the place you had picked out you can shift
if the plan is flexible, land elsewhere, and strike before he
can move his strength overland to resist.
The types of ships, planes, and troops must be planned
D-DAY FOR LOLLIPOP 207
for. If the Army feels that it will need shore bombardment,
the Navy must plan for the battleships, cruisers,, or de-
stroyers needed. If the objective is beyond the range of our
land-based planes, aircraft carriers may be included in the
plans. The number of paratroopers, armored units, en-
gineers, antiaircraft battalions, and all the types of troops
to supplement the infantry must be chosen and incorporated
in the planning stage.
In carrying out the plans for an assault, a priority rating
is given the operation and all orders carrying its code name.
If our hypothetical Lollipop, for example, were given high-
est priority, any ship, gun, man, or tank whose order car-
ried the designation Lollipop would take precedence in
delivery over lower priority ratings.
It takes time to plan a Lollipop. All the section officers
under the Army and Navy directors have their specific
plans to write and incorporate with the major plan. The
gunnery officer writes the plan for naval gunfire. There's
the joint communications plan, unbelievably intricate, link-
ing land, sea, and air units. The air plan must be worked
out with the Air Force that supplies fighter and bomber
coverage. The intelligence reports are prepared and briefed,
terrain models made, and the transport quartermaster must
have his combat-loading plans prepared.
The Navy's Transport Division Commanders must com-
plete boat assignments and unloading plans for the troop
commanders. Rendezvous, cruising, and convoy plans are
made for the crossing. This may entail a splitting and di-
viding of task-force groups at a certain position and time.
The master timetable is drawn. Every activity has a
dead line. Supplies must be ordered, delivered, and loaded
8| NOMOI or &
*l MORTtOCK IS.
C 1 ''^, \
PAKINor SENYAVIN IS.
PAGENEMAforfSA pQNAPE I.
KUSAIE or A
UJAE or FERINE
210 D-DAY FOR LOLLIPOP
by a certain day. The task force of Army and Navy must
leave on a certain day to be at their destination at H-hour.
The time for H-hour is set, and the unloading schedule
synchronized in relation to that hour, as well as the shore
bombardment which must lift just before the first wave of
troops lands. Everything must be planned with split-second
timing 1 .
The larger the operation, the more complicated is the
timing and the fitting together of the parts. Even with all
the amphibious elements at a planner's command to use
and pick and choose from, it's a long step from a staff meet-
ing to a day called "D" and an hour called "H."
Logistics for Lollipop
EVERY amphibious landing teaches us something new
about tactics, the use of men and material, and
logistics, the supplying of men and material for
The job of supplying several Army divisions already
established and fighting in the field is a gigantic task in
itself, but it is simplified by several means of transportation
from central supply dumps. Trucks, trains, and transport
planes can make regular daily trips with food, ammunition,
and supplies for men at the front. However, supplying these
troops with everything they need to fight with until they
have control of an area where convoy shipments can be
dumped and the central supply system organized is one of
the items that makes amphibious warfare the most difficult
to wage as well as to plan.
The ships that carry the landing troops must also carry
the supplies they will need for 15 or 20 or 30 days. This
includes everything from the largest artillery gun and its
ammunition to water canteens for the infantrymen.
The amount of enemy resistance the troops will meet must
be estimated before any planning can be done on what sup-
plies to take along. The units of fire must be estimated, the
212 LOGISTICS FOR LOLLIPOP
amount of food and water must be carefully and accurately
estimated and loaded before the transports sail for the in-
vasion. If this estimate is low and the resistance is stiffer
than expected the invading' troops may be forced to with-
draw and the landing become a failure because of poor
planning, lack of supplies. To avoid this, microscopic plan-
ning and good intelligence information are necessary.
The first test of amphibious logistical planning, and at
the same time the most crucial one the planners faced, was
the invasion of North Africa. This was to be an entry into
a new war theater. There were no sources of resupply in
Africa. If supply plans were short of needs, the nearest
sources were England, Eritrea, and Massaua. If the inva-
sion ships had carried only a 10-day supply of material for
the landing forces, for example, it would have meant un-
loading, returning immediately to England for additional
cargo, and going back again to Africa. Obviously this could
not be done. Enough material had to be taken in with the
invading forces to last until ports and harbors were cap-
tured, convoys came in, and a central supply organized for
overland delivery by truck and train.
By now both the Mediterranean and the Pacific are well-
organized war theaters. This was not the case when we first
began to worry about amphibious logistical problems, which
are the nerve center and backbone of an amphibious opera-
tion. They are also probably the one thing that injects the
most trouble in training. Putting a man with a rifle ashore
is duck soup, but keeping that man supplied with what he
needs and keeping it coming on schedule as he advances,
without sacrificing naval craft is a tough assignment in a
ship-to-shore invasion. Shorter distances make this problem
LOGISTICS FOR LOLLIPOP 213
somewhat easier in a shore-to-shore movement, but in the
ship-to-shore landing the transports must be unloaded and
out of range of enemy aircraft and shore bombardment at
the earliest possible moment.
The answer to this amphibious logistical problem was the
transposing and adapting of the Army ground-supply or-
ganization to the beaches and water. The result was the
transport quartermaster, the boat unloading plan, and the
When planning begins it is important that the tactics be
flexible, but this does not mean flexibility because of lack
of detail. Tactics and logistics go hand in hand, planned
together, down to the details of each man, his equipment,
where each will be employed.
If it is known from the tactical plan that the supplies
are going to have to be moved quickly and in quantity from
the Shore Party's beach dump inland for some distance, it
will be necessary to include large trucks in the cargo. If
someone had misinterpreted this plan and loaded only light
trucks, the movement of supplies would be slowed, the ad-
vance would be slowed, and probably a precious first-day's
chance to strike the enemy before he recovered from the sur-
prise landing would be lost because of poor planning.
As the tactical plans for a Lollipop D-day are outlined,
the supply needs are charted. The military units are as-
signed to their transports. The weight and cubic displace-
ment of the units' bulk supplies are computed. Their sup-
plies are prorationed to ships and combat loaded according
to the transport quartermaster's survey and loading plan.
What this unit's supply consists of has been determined
by the nature of the operations. Reconnaissance photo-
LOGISTICS FOR LOLLIPOP
graphs will indicate the extent of engineering construction
material needed. The type of terrain where the troops will
land dictates the kind of weapons best suited.
The men in the units must be inspected for equipment
shortages. Every man must have his normal fighting gear
plus items for the amphibious landing, such as waterproof
gas masks, gun covers, rope, wire mesh, beach lights and
Care must be taken to ensure that supplies ordered are
as logical as possible, that food, clothing, and extra equip-
ment balance with guns, ammunition, and fuel in order-
of-fighting priority. Small things like shoes and the type
of sole must be considered. Footwear should be waterproof
and the shoe soles nonslippery. A stumbling, sliding soldier
is more of a hindrance than an asset in the rush of men from
landing craft to beach.
The supply schedule must be synchronized with the
master timetable and loading plans. The supplies must ar-
rive on time for the transport quartermaster to load. Food,
bulk and canned emergency rations, is provided. Fresh
water must be stored aboard. Each man landing will carry
a full canteen of water strapped to his belt. Additional
water tanks will be set up on the beach and filled by boats
carrying water from the transport's tanks. Providing this
water is the Navy's responsibility. The Navy distills it and
delivers it to the beach, at the time of landing, where the
Army stores it in canvas tanks.
Gasoline and oil for the vehicles must be supplied, and
in quantity estimated to last until the normal supply system
is running. Gasoline is almost as important as ammunition
to a mechanized army. This estimate must be very accurate.
LOGISTICS FOR LOLLIPOP 215
Until dock facilities are available where tankers can come
in and unload in quantity, the landing forces run on a sup-
ply carried ashore in tin cans and stored by the Shore Party
in the fuel-dump area.
Dock and harbor facilities within reach of the beachhead
area will influence the supply planning, as will the number
of ships employed and the estimated time interval before
A ship-to-shore movement has two phases : the tactical, in
which the assault troops and fighting equipment are un-
loaded; and the logistical, which is the unloading of sup-
plies from transport to small boat, from small boat to sleds
or pallets on the beach, and the transporting of these sleds
to supply dumps. This is a man-power job which is cir-
cumscribed by human limitations. It's a backbreaking, dan-
gerously exposed, top-speed job.
A ship's officer is in charge of unloading the transport.
Standing on the bridge or near an aft gangway, he controls
the loading and dispatching of boats at each unloading
station. Working with him is another ship's officer at a
signal station, who calls the boats to the transport's side
from their assembly area, an open space of water where
they circle while waiting their turn to load. The transport
quartermaster acts as assistant debarkation officer. An en-
gineer ship platoon works in the holds, filling the rope nets
with supplies. These net slings are operated by the derricks
that lift the load from the hold and swing it up and over
the rail into the landing craft.
Both time and volume are factors in unloading these sup-
plies. The troop commanders need them as soon as possible
216 LOGISTICS FOR LOLLIPOP
and the transport commander is anxious to lift anchor and
cease being a target for enemy planes.
The unloaded supplies pass through three stages: land-
ing team, regimental, and divisional. A landing team will
establish an initial reserve supply dump near the beach
where it lands. As additional supplies come ashore, the Shore
Party sorts the material into larger dump areas for the
regiment, and then into still larger dumps for the entire
From these dumps, the supplies are moved by truck to
regimental and divisional posts where they are fanned out
to the fighting lines.
Teaching the men who handle supplies and getting them
enthusiastic over the job is a hard task for an amphibious
training instructor. On the beach, the men are targets of
persistent strafing. Those supply dumps are choice bull's-
eyes and the natural reflex of self-preservation is a thing to
contend with. A man's first instinct when he hears a plane
is to dump his load of supplies or a shovel or whatever he's
doing, and either run for a gun to shoot or just slide to
It's sometimes hard to convince a man that his job of
handling supplies is just as important as that of his pal
who is pumping 155-millimeter shells into enemy lines. But
if it weren't for his work and the men who planned the ship-
load of supplies, Pal wouldn't have those shells to fire, and
Lollipop would never have a D-day.
And They Will Land Again
THERE will be many more D-days in 1944 and 1945
following the biggest one of all, D-day for the Ger-
man-held continent of Europe.
As the war shifts from Europe to the Pacific, our forces
will be spread in a theater of 70,000,000 square miles, rang-
ing from the Aleutians to New Zealand and from the China
Sea to the west coast of the Americas.
For these D-days to come, planners will have at their
command an invasion fleet of 80,000 craft. Even if this
figure were just an idea, and no keels had been laid, it would
be a long, vindicating step from the March, 1942, days.
Those were days of skeptical meetings and back-to-the-wall
plans, when it was sometimes alarmingly difficult to get out-
side enthusiasm for amphibious operations.
There was the staff meeting in which proposals were met
with stony silence until one officer rose and said, "Gentle-
men, if we are to win this war we are going to do it on the
outskirts of civilization. We are going to have the subject
of amphibious operations with us until the end. It's going
to become more and more important in our strategical con-
cept of the war."
Since that time, and before the major invasion of Europe,
218 AND THEY WILL LAND AGAIN
our forces have landed almost 30 times on the outskirts of
civilization, on enemy beaches. More than a dozen amphib-
ious forces have been formed, trained, equipped, and pre-
pared to strike where plans call for troops to be landed.
On February 14, 1944, our troops landed on the Green
Islands, ending the Solomons campaign. On the same day
our planes were dropping bombs on what the Japanese
called impregnable Truk.
Three days later another force landed and established
beachheads on Eniwetok atoll, the most western of the Mar-
shall Islands. Twelve days after the Eniwetok landings a
communique announced that another force of American
troops had landed on the Admiralty Islands, outflanking
New Ireland and New Britain. It said: "The end of the
Bismarck campaign is now clearly in sight."
Strategy for the defeat of Japan has been planned.
The D-days are going down on the calendar.
LJeufefmftf EARL BURTON,
left the Washington office of Time to
join the Navy In August 1941- A native
of Oregon and a graduate of George
Washington University, he had travelled
as a free-lance journalist in England,
France, Germany, Italy, Greece and
Africa before joining Time's staff. In the
Navy he has served at London Naval
Headquarters, at Allied Force Head-
quarters in Algiers, and with the Atlan-
tic Fleet Amphibious Force in the Sicilian
invasion. At this writing (April 1944) he
is assigned to the Headquarters of the
Atlantic Fleet Amphibious Force Train-
ing Command; but he may well be else-
where by the time you read these lines.