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BY SEA AND BY LAND 




Official U. S, Nnvy Photograph 



DAWN LANDING 



LIEUT. EARL BURTON, USNR 

* 

BY SEA 

and 

BY LAND 

The Story of 
Our Amphibious Forces 



WHITTLESEY HOUSE 

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 



FOR 

THE MEN 
OF THE AMPHIBIOUS FORCES 



JUL 1 3 1944 



Foreword 



'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 
greater. 

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. 

7 



8 FOREWORD 

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. 



Contents 



PAGE 

Foreword 7 

CHAPTER 

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 



CHAPTER ONE 



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 
in Omaha. 

"Two gin and limes, please." The RAF pilot looked to- 
ward the bar. 

13 



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 
the bar. 

"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 
windows. 

The colonel completed his series of circle patterns on the 
bar counter. 

"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, 
militarily speaking. 

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 
magnet. 

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 
Admiralty Islands. 

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 
material. 

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 
men. 

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 
marked. 

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 
transports. 

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. 



CHAPTER TWO 



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 
these areas. 

Singapore fell. Java fell. The Japs moved south. And 
the German Army was in North Africa. Wherever the Al- 

26 



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 
words. 

"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 
in Arabic. 

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- 
vising. 

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- 
plained: 

"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 
begin. 

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 
transport area. 

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- 
barking troops. 

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. 
Brainard. 

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 
fact. 

"Now get me a staff," were Admiral Brainard's next 
words. 

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 
like days." 

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 
months away. 



CHAPTER THREE 



Building 138 



THE Atlantic Fleet Amphibious Force had been acti- 
vated. 
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 
whale." 

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 

37 



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 
training bases. 

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 
planning. 

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 
operation. 

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- 
ious Force. 

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 
Ground Forces* 

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- 
ing program. 

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, 
Texas. 

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 
office." 

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- 
ing. 

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 
rate." 

"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 
then. 

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- 
pig hutch. 

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 
headaches* 




^ S Ctf 
O g H 

wO 



X O. 



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. 



CHAPTER FOUR 



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 
Mediterranean." 

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, 

50 



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- 
board motor. 

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 
transport. 

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- 
ister ordered. 

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 
target. 

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 
unloading. 



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 
LCT. 



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 
under canvas. 

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 
finished boat. 

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 
program. 

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 
small parts. 

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. 



CHAPTER FIVE 



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 
ashore." 

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 

64 




8 





> 



W 



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- 
ports. 

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, 
1943." 

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 
officers. 

"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- 
ington. 

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- 
tingency. 

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 
to operate. 

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 
Troops. 

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 
officers immediately. 

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- 
struction. 

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 
can get." 

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 
his mind. 

"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- 
ginia. 

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 
force. 

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- 
yer. 

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- 
boat training. 

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 
World War. 

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 
here." 

"You volunteered, didn't you?" 

"Yes, but I'm a special case." 

"How?" 

"I'm a married man." 

"Yes?" 

"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- 
manding Officer. 

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 
with ease. 

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 
to 

Captain William P. O. Clarke, U. S. Navy 

CITATION 

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 
theatres. 

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 



CHAPTER SIX 



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 

81 



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 
sand. 

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- 
tain Clarke. 

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?" 

"Yes." 

"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- 
dence. 

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 
message. 

"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 
Blanche Channel. 

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 
unloaded. 

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 
damaged LST's. 

"Yes," said Lieutenant Baker, "we proved those ships. 
They're good." 

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 
jungle. 

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 beach. 

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- 
ber four. 

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 
chicks. 

AT SICILY 

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 
tanker." 

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 
shore. 



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- 
luctance. 

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 
list. 

"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 
Goums ! 

"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 
painful. 

"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 
duty. 

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 
voyage. 

Best of luck, 

The 



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 
exploding. 

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 
boat. 

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 
wounded side. 

These are some of the big men in some of this war's little 
ships. 



CHAPTER SEVEN 



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 
units overseas. 

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. 

101 



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 plant. 

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 
previously used. 

"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- 
ington. 

"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 
citation : 

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 
special. 

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 
turned over. 



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- 
splintered scars. 

Over 10,000 invasion boats had crossed this yard and the 
other parking area west of the assembly plant by October, 
1943. 

"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 
dream. 

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 
running condition. 

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 
repair shop. 

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 
will 

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 
money." 

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 
job, 

"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 
enemy shore. 

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 
be sold. 

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 
compass motors. 

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 
fire engine. 

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. 



CHAPTER EIGHT 



The Boys with the Stereopticon 

Eyes 




'I HE plane took off from a North African airfield 
and headed out over the Mediterranean toward 
Sicily. 

"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 ground. 

116 



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 
and pressed. 

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 
was pressed. 

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 
motorcycle. 

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 
barges. 

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- 
graphs." 

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 
supplied. 

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 
they were. 

"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 
be, however. 

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 
on Guadalcanal. 

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 
Bigelow. 

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 
admiral. 

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 
his film. 

"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 
Bigelow. 

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 
geographical locality. 

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 
sand." 

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 
Spooner. 

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 




THELCPR 

(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 
marked. 

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 
few hours. 

H-hour would test the accuracy of all the PI reports and 
recommendations. 



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 
sketch. 

"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. 



CHAPTER NINE 

The Very Model of a Modern 
Battlefield 



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 
slipping off. 

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, 

131 



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 
swimming hole. 

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 
their value. 

"Let us know when you need some for your next cam- 
paign," said Admiral Kirk, "and we'll see that you get a 
set." 

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. 
Wilson. 

This model was sent to the Amphibious Force with the 
request that additional casts be rushed for immediate de- 
livery. 

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 
models. 

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 
shop. 

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 
tight places. 

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 
a Liberator. 

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- 
boat coxswains. 

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 
and hillsides. 

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 
distance. 

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 
war. 

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. 

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 
reception office. 

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. 



CHAPTER TEN 



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 
target. 

The spotter, who sees this situation, glances at his map, 

143 



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 landed. 




I 





B 







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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- 
tors. 

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 
assembly area. 

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 
end. 

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 
guns. 

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 
against Sicily. 

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 
topography. 

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 
work. 

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 
plenty new. 

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 
troops. 

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 
Guadalcanal. 

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 
this fort. 

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- 
can lines. 

"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 
ship. 

"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 
his ankle. 

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 
would go. 

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 
team. 



CHAPTER ELEVEN 



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 
dumps. 

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. 

158 



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 
rank. 

They don't even have an exciting title for compensation, 
these men. They're known merely as "members of the Shore 
Party." 

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- 
plies. 

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 
go up. 

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 
overhead. 

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 
curling. 

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 
report." 

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 
job. 

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 
Shore Party. 

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 
Party. 

"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- 
quested pigeons." 

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- 
loaded. 



CHAPTER TWELVE 



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, 

167 



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 
old. 

"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 
COMBAT LOADING 

MODEL WITH TOP DECK LAYER REMOVED SHOWING 
CARGO STOW 



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 
between deals. 

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 
craft. 

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 
Quartermaster. 

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 
needs. 

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 
planned. 

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 
below. 

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 
plodders. 

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 
life. 

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. 



CHAPTER THIRTEEN 



The Amphibious Infantry 



A AMPHIBIOUS regimental combat team is one of 
the most highly trained groups of men in Army 
khaki. 

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 
war. 

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 

181 



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 
the beach. 

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 belt. 

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 
away. 

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- 
tine. 

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 
exercises. 

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- 
men. 

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 
assault-game convoy. 

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 
transports. 

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 
LCIL's. 

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 
mistakes. 



190 THE AMPHIBIOUS INFANTRY 

"He wears out a pair of shoes every month," one of his 
assistants said. 

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- 
tary weapons. 



CHAPTER FOURTEEN 



Small-Boat Men 



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 

192 



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 
craft. 

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 
midshipman school. 

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 
a wave. 

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- 
out watch. 



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 
know. 

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 
ramp." 

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. 

"Lower ramp." 

The iron door slaps the water and the bow of the boat 
is open. 

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- 
stellation board. 

They learn how to read the different beach markers that 
indicate where gasoline, water, and ammunition will be 
landed. 

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 
same rank. 

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 
sedentary life. 

Some time after this skirmish the two men became good 
friends. 

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. 



CHAPTER FIFTEEN 



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 
campaign ending. 

Plans started with a group of senior Army or Marine 
and Navy staff planners. From the decision of these men 

203 



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 
Engebi airfield. 

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 
naval forces. 

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 
their planning. 

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 
bloody price. 

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 
landed. 

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 
invasion. 

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 




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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." 



CHAPTER SIXTEEN 



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 
tactical use. 

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 

211 



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 
Shore Party. 

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 
lamps. 

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. 




B 


H 



i 









CO 



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 
resupply. 

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 
division. 

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 
his belly. 

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, 

217 



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, 
USNR 

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. 



i- 1 



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