MEDITERRANEAN IN 1944
An Account as given in the C. G. Association Bulletin of August, 1945.
The USS MENGES, torpedoed in May, 1944, while on convoy duty in the Mediterranean, was saved by the prompt and determined efforts of her officers and men. Under the direction of Lieutenant Commander Frank M. McCabe, she rescued more than one hundred survivors of the USS LANSDALE, when that ship went down under the bombing attack of fifteen German planes. Two of the bombers were shot down; guns of the MENGES accounted for one of them. Among the survivors picked up from the oily, debris-littered water was Lieut. Robert Morgenthau, USNR, son of the then Secretary of the Treasury. In the same action the MENGES captured two German airmen, survivors of the plane her guns had hit.
In May, 1944, just a short time after the LANSDALE was sunk, the MENGES was on convoy duty in the Mediterranean. A German submarine attacked with acoustic torpedoes. Smashing through the ship's propellors, two torpedoes blasted off the stern section and blew the jagged ends skyward. Hurling all the ship's depth charges into the sea, and even tossing a washing machine 150 feet forward and upward until it smashed against an anti-aircraft gun on the upper deck, the explosion demolished the after third of the ship, killed 29 men and two officers, and wounded 20 more.
Although the ship was listing badly and taking in water fast, Lieut. Comdr. McCabe gave no "Abandon Ship" order. The officers and men who were uninjured went to work. The explosion had started the engines of the MENGES' torpedoes; crewmen rendered them harmless. Others of the crew freed their shipmates from a compartment in which they were trapped by wreckage. Two men, blown over the side, were rescued by a radioman who lowered the ship's small boat. Damage control parties secured broken water lines and shut off electricity to oil soaked cabins. By the time a British tug reached the MENGES, watertight integrity had been established.
The submarine crew did not have long to gloat over what they must have considered a certain "kill." Less than 26 hours after they hit the MENGES, Coast Guard-manned USS PRIDE and the Navy DE JOSEPH E. CAMPBELL depth-charged the German craft to the surface and disabled her. French and British ships joined the action, the submarine was destroyed, and many of her crew were captured.
The MENGES was first towed to an African port where temporary repairs were made, and then to the Navy Yard, New York. Shortly afterwards, the USS HOLDER, DE-401, which had been hit amidship by an aircraft torpedo was docked alongside. The Bureau of Ships determined that one complete ship could be salvaged from the wreckage of the two vessels. Accordingly a 94-foot section of the HOLDER'S stern was cut off and moved into position behind the MENGES. When the keels were aligned, in no place in the two hulls was there a difference of more than an inch and a half. Slight
differences were corrected and the two sections were welded together to form the new MENGES, that name being adopted because the old MENGES formed the greater part of the new vessel.
In commenting upon this work, Captain R. B. Lank, Jr., USCG, said, "We were aware of the excellent job accomplished on the MENGES, but as the responsibility for keeping this type vessel in repair rested with the Bureau of Ships, the Coast Guard had no part in the matter. It appears to have been an excellent job, and I think present high development of welding technique permits this type job being accomplished rapidly and in a satisfactory manner."
The repair work was not in vain. Several months after being torpedoed, the-MENGES and another Coast Guard-manned DE sank a German submarine, the entire crew of which went down with their ship. In that action the MENGES found her revenge, and the difficult repair job undertaken by the Bureau of Ships was amply justified.
In August, 1945, Lieut. Comdr. McCabe still commanded the MENGES but of the other survivors of the torpedoing only four petty officers were still aboard the "ship that was doomed but lived to fight again,"
Joseph T. Dickman, Report of Operations, Sicily, July 10-12, 1943
From: Commanding Officer, USS Joseph T. Dickman
To:Commander in Chief, United States Fleet
"1.This unit landed troops of the Special Force, 1st Division on beaches alongside the mole at Gela, Sicily on the morning of 10 July in accordance with reference orders.
"2. Heavy weather was encountered during the day of July 9, 1943, which moderated sufficiently for good small boat operations at H-hour. This adverse weather had no adverse effect on the Dickman and the LCI's and the LST-381 made good their runs; but it may have been responsible for the delay in arrival of the control boats PG-624 and SC-676.
"3. The approach was accurately made using the submarine beacon
HMS SHAKESPEARE as a departure point, the shore-line was ringed by intermittent flares and search-lights but neither these nor the SH radar gave positive data for close position findings. Soundings were a useful check. A beach marking boat was placed in the water at 0044 and it found and marked the center of the beach without difficulty. Lowering of landing boats commenced at 0045 and was completed at 0125. Twenty-six boats were preloaded with troops and four with equipment only, receiving their troops via the nets.
"4. The primary and secondary control vessels were not in the rendezvous area and the boats were held off the bow to await their arrival. At 0155 they were directed to proceed without the control vessels. As they were leaving the SC-676 arrived and was directed to lead the boats in. About ten minutes later the PC-624 arrived and was sent in to the line of departure. All boats landed on the correct beach but were 30 minutes late in scheduled time. Boats encountered some machine-gun and small calibre HE shell-fire. The later waves and the LCI's received most of the HE fire. Casualties were light. Six. members of the boat crews were wounded, one mortally. One Army officer was killed before he could disembark at the beach. The LCT-17 was stranded for some time and hit by shell-fire but managed to unload and return to the Dickman for a cargo load. The Dickman lost one boat when the ramp dropped and the boat sank. Another empty boat was broached by an explosion close aboard when retracting from the beach. The troops crossed the beach fairly free from fire and suffered few immediate casualties. Most of the fire appeared to be directed at the boats. Rockets fired from the support boats are believed to have been instrumental in silencing several machine-guns on the beach.
"5. Unloading proceeded expeditiously on D-day. The mole at
Gela was found to have been broached and unusable for the LST vessels. The LST-381 was finally unloaded at beach Green 2 which had a more favorable gradient. LCM's from the Dickman were used for this purpose. Unloading lagged during the evening due to lack of labor on the beach (Red-Green). Most of the unloading from boats on the morning of the 11th was done by the boat crews and a party sent in by the Dickman. Fifty Army men from the Port Battalion were sent to the beach at noon of the 11th. All unloading was completed by 2000 of D plus 1 day. The beaches were thickly mined and several of the first vehicles landed were destroyed.
"6. Enemy bombers dropped bombs close aboard on the morning of the
11th but no damage was sustained. About 1550 of the 11th a large formation dropped bombs around the ship but no direct hits were received. Minor damage was sustained and six men were wounded by fragments. The damage consisted of numerous holes through the side ranging up to four inches In diameter and many dents and small holes in superstructure. Two boat davit wire ropes were cut. A second attack occurred about 1640 by a few planes but no bombs fell close to the Dickman. The SS ROBERT ROWAN was observed to have been hit during the afternoon attack and to have smoke coming out of her hold. Boats with portable fire pumps were dispatched to her assistance. It was too late to use the pumps but the boats picked up 92 survivors and brought them aboard. The Dickman weighed anchor to clear SS ROBERT ROWAN and was about 1,000 yards off when she blew up.
"7. Probable hits were scored on three enemy planes by the Dickman but there is no definite way to substantiate the claims. An enemy fighter plane was shot down near the beach by .50 calibre fire from a Dickman LCM(3) boat. Fire discipline on the Dickman was good as far as firing on friendly planes is concerned but with conditions prevailing it is unlikely that a determined enemy plane assault could have been beaten off.
"8. Communications were generally satisfactory. The signal light furnished the beach platoon was not strong enough for effective use. The TBY sets in the boat circuit functioned better than they have on previous occasions,
"9. Ninety-nine casualties were evacuated from the beach and received treatment on board. The number was well within the capacity of the ship.
"10. Vehicles were carried on #7 hold as general cargo and gasoline and ammunition placed in them at the time of unloading. This method caused no delay and was a great safety factor during the time of transit.
"11. Eighteen boats were stranded, or sunk during the operation. Eight of these were recovered by the Dickman and repaired. It is believe
that eight or nine of the ten lost could be or have been salvaged by the beach platoons, three LCA's from the British LSI's were also stranded. Damaged rudders and steering gear comprised most of the boat damage. Boat-handling was very good throughout."
/s/ C. W. HARWOOD
(81.2.1) Section 1 -- Capt. Harwood, USCG (Dickman)
USS JOSEPH T. Dickman (F)
HMS PRINCE CHARLES
HMS PRINCE LEOPOLD
(81.2.11) LCI Div. 1 -- Capt. Leppert, USN(17)
(61.2.12) Control Group 1 -- Lt. Comdr. Lauther, USN
Official Facts About the Chase
The USS SAMUEL Chase, Commanding Officer, Commander Roger C. Heimer, was attached to the command of the Commander U.S. Amphibious Force, Rear Admiral John L. Hall, Jr., USN, who had his headquarters aboard the ship.
On July 6, at 1657, the Chase, moored since July 1, at Bassin de Vieux, Algiers, combat loaded, started heaving around to take position in cruising disposition 1 for NCF1 convoy proceeding in accordance with ComAmphForNAW Operation Order 2-43 in Operation "HUSKY"--the invasion of the Italian Island of Sicily on "D" Day, July 10, at "H" hour 0245. Aboard at the time of sailing were 157 officers of the U. S. Army and U.S. Navy and 1102 enlisted personnel of both services who would be landed at our objective.
UNITS IN TRANSPORT GROUP
Other units in the Transport Group (81.2) were; Section (81.2.1), with Captain Harwood, USCG, aboard the Dickman, HMS PRINCE LEOPOLD, and HMS PRINCE CHARLES; Section (81.2.2) with Captain Edgar, ComdrTransDivThree in the BARNETT, with the LYON, OBERON, and MONROVIA aboard which was the Commander of the Western Naval Task Force, Vice Admiral Hewitt, USN; and Section (81.2.3) under Captain Cierdorff aboard the STANTON, with the THURSTON, BETELGEUSE, and Chase.
SMALL CRAFT AND OTHERS
Additionally there were the LST Group (81.3) of fifteen LST's under Commander Wright; the LCI Group (81.14) of twenty LCI's under Captain Leppert; the Support Group (61.5) under Captain Thebaud in the BOISE, with the SAVANNAH. The screen under Captain Madeira comprised the NELSON (F), MCLANAHAN, MURPHY, GLENNON, MADDOX, SHUBRICK, GHERARDI, BUTLER, HERNDON, JEFFERS, DALLAS, BERNADOU and COLE. The Control Group (81.7) under Lt. Comdr. Lowther; the Salvage Group (81.9) under Lieutenant Huff; the Sweeper Group (81.6) under Lt. Comdr. Karris; and the Reserve transports (80.6.1) the ORIZABA and CHATEAU THIERRY under Captain Reed.
APPROACH IS BEGUN
On July 9, at 1912, after zigzagging at various speeds, the convoy began an approach disposition. The approach disposition was led by the SAVANNAH and then the ships in the order in which they would face the beaches. Ahead of the Chase was the LYON, while astern followed the BETELGEUSE, THURSTON, and STANTON.
PARATROOPS FLY OVERHEAD -- TO TAKE AIRFIELD
While in the approach formation heading toward Sicily, flares were observed dead ahead, at about 2230, approximately 25 miles away. Radar reported IFF reception from planes in this area. Following this, ack-ack fire and bomb bursts were observed. The bombing caused fires inland which silhouetted the outer shore line. At midnight, while the Chase was at General Quarters, planes carrying previously arranged recognition lights passed low on her port side. These planes were bearing paratroops which were to take Ponte Olivio airfield, five and one-half miles to the north of Gela.
The Chase, arrived in the "Dime" Transport area at 0037, July 10, stopped engines, and after setting Condition Four, lowered her boats. Twenty-one boats of the first three boat divisions were lowered by 0115, eight scheduled to the THURSTON and thirteen to the STANTON. Several of the Chase boats were to land with the fourth wave of these two ships, while the balance were delayed due to the condition of the sea and other difficulties. As a result, they were forced to proceed without a control vessel to the beach. The wave commanders recorded their waves landing on Green-2 at 0420 and 0515. The transports in the area were illuminated several times by searchlight prior to H hour or 0245. Heavy gunfire was observed at H hour and after, including machine-gun fire and medium artillery, most of it being concentrated near Gela. Shortly after H hour, the SAVANNAH and the BOISE combined to knock out at least one searchlight. The remainder of the Chase boats were placed in the water at 0430 and the unloading of Army personnel and equipment was begun. The unloading was continued as boats became available on their return from the beach.
ENEMY PLANES SINK SHIP
At 0430, enemy planes began dropping light bombs and flares in the transport area. The USS MADDOX was sunk at this time far out in the patrolling area, its commander and executive officer being reported missing. At 0545, friendly planes began patrolling the area. It was reported that the MADDOX had been hit by a dive bomber. The Chase maintained its position in the transport area while unloading. By 0848 the disembarkation of U.S. Army officers and enlisted men and beach party -- who were not members of vehicles or unloading crews -- had been completed.
ENEMY PLANES STRAFE BEACH
During the late morning and early afternoon, the two U.S. cruisers and the monitor HMS ABERCROMBIE shelled shore installations. At 1345 and again at about 1530, FW190's and Me109's dropped light bombs and strafed the beach in "Tip and Run" raids coming from low and to the NW of Gela, attacking and then shooting away close to the hills. One LST was hit in another raid at 1835 and burned continuously during the night. It had been beached to unload equipment but had not made rapid progress. Its ammunition, exploding while burning endangered small boats and their personnel at the beach while they were unloading.
OUR PLANES ENDANGERED
Friendly craft patrolled the skies till dusk, but drew much anti-aircraft fire from 2000 to dark from LCI's, LST's, and from Shore Installations. At about 2210, a dive glide bomber dropped a string of five 50# bombs from bow to stern of the Chase and was away before a shot could be fired. The last of the stick was 50 feet away from the starboard side of the fantail.
GLUT OF SUPPLIES ON BEACH -- OFFER TARGET
By 0130 on the morning of July 11, there was a glut of supplies on the beach, necessitating Chase boats 22 of them -- to tie up alongside loaded until the beach was cleared, at 0600. Our boats crews were being forced to unload their own boats at the beach because there were no members of the shore party establishment to assist them, and apparently none to make proper disposition of supplies. Considerable delay was likewise caused by the beaches being mined forcing boats to concentrate their landing at only two of the beaches. Such concentration of supplies consequently offered a good target for divebombers and for strafing.
UNLOADING UNDER FIRE
At 0655, four JU88's flew over the transport area, dropping sticks of bombs in a medium level attack. The nearest of these to the Chase was 75 yards off the port quarter. The USS BARNETT was hit by a skip bomb which ended up in her partially unloaded No. 1 hold. A fire was started which was rapidly brought under control. Several casualties resulted.
NAVAL GUNS BOMBARD SHORE
All during the morning of July 11, the cruisers, and at times U.S. destroyers, bombarded shore targets. It was understood that of an assault force of 60 Axis tanks, the naval gunfire accounted for 43. This bombardment kept up until the LST's could unload their tanks and other vehicles via pontoon piers. LST's and reserve LST's of the "Dime" attack force were unloaded by 2400 of July 11. On the morning of the 11th, at 0745, warning had been received that Axis planes were headed for the area, so the Chase got underway preparatory to maneuvering. However, information was received that Allied planes had intercepted the enemy mission and turned it back. So the' Chase anchored again. That afternoon, at 1450, a JU88 that was on reconnaissance at very high altitude, was fired upon. And at 1547, General Quarters was sounded when a flight of thirteen JU88's flew over the transport area, without radar warning, and dropped bombs in a medium level attack, One 10,000-ton liberty ship, with its cargo still intact, was hit abaft the foremast. A fire started and was not brought under control so the ship was abandoned at 1610. All available boats were despatched to pick up survivors of that vessel, the SS ROBERT ROWAN. At 1645, four other JU88's dropped bombs about a mile to the north of the transport area. At 1702, the ROWAN exploded with terrific force and concussion, flame rising in a huge mass several hundred feet high and dense black smoke at least a thousand feet into the air. The oil then caught fire and burned fiercely, feeding a continual column of smoke into the air. This spread like a ceiling over the transport
area. The remaining ammunition continued to explode as the ship burned, leaving the mast and part of the superstructure above water. Then the destroyer MCLANAHAN, in an effort to hasten the flames, began to fire into the bulk at 1915- A lone JU88 chose this time to come over the area but on being taken under fire reversed its course and left only to be engaged by Spitfires. At 2130, the Chase began heaving around and got underway. As dark closed in, enemy planes began dropping flares, which were followed by light bombs dropped by dive-bombing and low-flying planes. The combined flares and the still blazing liberty ship silhouetted the ships in the area. Presumably, the transports were the chief targets, for three sticks of bombs were observed to drop close to the Chase, the closest being 75 yards astern. At least one of the planes was identified as a ME110 when seen against the fire. One stick of bombs was right in line with the BOISE but short and astern by 25 yards. A near miss on the ORIZABA caused her to take water.
"Chase" UNLOADED FOR TWO DAYS
The Chase started unloading at 0430 on July 10, and completed unloading at 0445 on July 12th. All the Chase cargo was unloaded by her boats in about 247 trips, in addition to two trips by LCT's and 21 trips by DUKWs. Between 2330 on July 11, and 0545 on July 12, the small craft unloaded for transfer from the Chase to the Army, twenty-six tons of flour. "During the unloading period," the official report states, "we unloaded 18 trips for the OBERON and several LCI's. Additional unloading was stopped for four hours on the morning of July 11, at the request of the beach-master, due to the fact that it was necessary to clear the beach."
CRAFT LOST AND SALVAGED
On the first day the Chase lost one LCVP, even though during most of this time the cargo was removed by her own boats crews while at the beach. During the entire operation only five boats were lost. On the other hand, thirty-one boats were salvaged by the Chase crew in the specially equipped salvage boat (a converted LCM). Boats in need of repair were brought aboard immediately on their return and after repair again placed in the water. LCVP's from LST's were likewise repaired and serviced. Refueling was done from either side as boats were free, thus keeping tanks practically full.
CASUALTIES BROUGHT ABOARD
Beginning at dawn of D day, the boats began bringing back wounded from the beach. As such boats came back they were hoisted to the rail and there the hospital corpsmen took the casualties to the sick bay for treatment. Boats were then lowered to continue unloading.
AN ME109 SHOT DOWN
At 1740 on July 12, and again at 1745, an ME109 flew low into the transport area (at about deck level), headed into the beach, there dropping light bombs. On the second trip he was shot down, skidding and bursting into flames on the beach.
AIR BATTLES IN THREE DAYS
Actually enemy planes were over the transport area for a very little while during the three days, offering few targets. Total ammunition expended was 100 rounds of 3"/50, 330 rounds of 40MM, and 2000 rounds of 20MM. In locating aircraft, the proximity to shore for SO radar and the drifting of the ship made it difficult to pick up aircraft echoes as against land echoes. As for IFF, this device did not work so well as it might have, since few of the friendly aircraft -- fighters particularly -- were so equipped. CINCMED D/T 111654 reported that 31 enemy aircraft were shot down by sorties flown from Malta, while Flying Fortresses did heavy damage at Catania and airdromes.
CONGRATULATIONS FROM CHIEFS
In his 141000 of July, ComEightFleet, addressed ComAmphForNaw, sayings "General Eisenhower desires me to express his sincere congratulations and deep appreciation of the splendid manner in which the operation carried out." ComPhibNaw in his 141300 July, said to ComTransDivThree and the ships in his command: "I gratefully commend you, your commanding officers, officers and men for outstanding achievements in the attack on Sicily. The success and spread of your operations amply demonstrated fine leadership, sound organization and training, and loyal performance of duty by all hands."
"WELL DONE. CARRY ON."
ComEightFleet,, in his 141541B of July, said to all ships and units of the Western Task Force: "Due to careful planning excellent seamanship, gunfire and engineering and a high standard of proficiency and devotion to duty by all hands, the most difficult and complicated task of landing our troops on hostile shores has been successfully accomplished. Informed reports of specially meritorious acts and accomplishments have been many. I consider that all from the task force commanders to the lowest rating have performed splendidly and are deserving of the highest praise. Well done. It is now our duty to support, maintain, and build up the forces which have been landed. Carry on."
SEA CONDITIONS FAR FROM IDEAL
Sea conditions were far from ideal for an amphibious operation. On the afternoon of the 9th, a strong westerly wind had been blowing, creating a choppy and heavy sea. It was not until 2000 that the sea began to lose its chip as the wind quieted down. However, swells remained which continued through three p.m. of July 10. At this time, the wind again picked up from the west, quieting down somewhat after dark. The Chase completed hoisting all boats at 1835, on July 12, and at 1837 was underway. At 0545, on July 15, the convoy began forming a single column approaching Algiers, and entered swept channel at 0600. Transferred 89 casualties to the U.S. Army Hospital Ship ACADIA, these including 6 Italian prisoners of war. Moored at Algiers at 2134, July 16. A violent explosion of ammunition occurred at 1519 near Mole Louis Billiard and involved two liberty ships. At 1700, one burning ship which had not sunk was towed clear of the dock and harbor. Towards the end of the month, the Chase was moored at Mers-el-Kebir.
The following is quoted from a letter written by William G. LAWRENCE, Chief Boatswain's Mate, to the Commanding Officer of the Chase
Friday the 9th was a day of apprehension, not as much for the invasion, which was certainly enough, but for the weather. The wind blew all day, whipping itself into a frenzy - the seas building up more and more as the day wore on. Around dusk, we passed Malta, while approaching a rendezvous area where hundreds of ships, all kinds and sizes, were converging. Those who were to be on the small boats kept watching the wind, hoping it would haul up into the northward a little more, as then we would have had a lee on the invasion shore. However, the wind held steady, which meant a sweep along the beach making cross seas. We knew what that meant for us. Last minute instructions being over, we tried to get some sleep around 2200 - only to be shaken out by general quarters at midnight. Coming on deck, it was quite, a sight to see - a dark starry night, our own ships silhouetted against continuous firing ahead.
From then on we lost all track of time and what time meant, until after the night of the 12th. It was a period of night running into day, and day into night as though they were one. What little sleep we did get during those three days was very spasmodic.
At the call of condition four, the different members of my crew came aboard. They were Thomas SHEPPARD, CM1c, George KNIPPLE, SF2c, David LIGHT, Cox., Edwin CARSON, F1c, Martin SOTHAMEL, RM3c, Claude JENKINS, SM1c, Wm. JOHNSTON, S1c, J. BOBBITT, S2c, myself, and Lieutenant (jg) BANKS, who was in charge of the invasion craft from our ship.
By this time the wind had abated somewhat, but the seas were still running. Looking in toward the beach where the boats were to land, we saw fires from one end to the other. Afterwards, we say no indication of what those fires were. Suddenly, off shore there appeared a great burst of flame, which turned out to be the fate of an Allied destroyer. We were acting as an escort and information boat for the different waves, sending them to their proper ships as they got off their course or rendezvous area.
At 0245, the first wave hit hit. Explosions started going off, one after the other, along the beach. The same with the next wave. It looked bad for them from where we watched off shore. Our support ships were throwing salvos ashore. The shells, in groups of three, made perfect fiery arcs across the sky. Search lights were causing trouble, which had to be taken care of. Some cruiser fired one shot at a particular light, that seemed to travel forever through space, and when it finally did drop in, the light went out as though you had pushed a button. The next morning we saw the evidence of that shot; there was a gaping hole right through the center of the light.
At dawn, we were at the beach, where we started our salvage operations. The beach was a mess, broached boats all over the place. A plane came down in flames to the west of us, and as it sank, it sent up two large smoke rings from each end.
A surf was breaking over a bar just off the beach. The boats would come in heavily loaded and many were swamped before being unloaded. The boats would beach, the surf would run beyond them, the ramps would be lowered and the out-going water from the beach would fill them up. We kept pulling boats off as we came to them, taking only the ones that would run. At that time, it seemed to us more important to keep as many in operation as we could, than to waste time on a boat that would not run without a great deal of repair.
We tried to keep in contact with the Beach Master, so he could direct us to the next boat in difficulty. However, due to poor radio reception, we had no success with him.
At one time, there were three of my men on the beach - CARSON, SHEPPARD, and JOHNSTON, checking on the most easily salvaged boats. They were forced to take cover in fox holes during a plane attack. It was later that they realized, to do so, they had run across a mined area marked with white tape.
Then, we began to get it hot from artillery fire, strafing and bombing from enemy planes. We kept working along the beach, starting at one end and working up to the other, taking the best boats we came to. An LST ran in to the beach, and forgot to drop her stern anchor. Her commanding officer hailed us, requesting we carry it out for them which we did. It was no mean job with the heavy swells running as they were. But, my coxswain, LIGHT, one of the best, can do everything with that boat but make her talk. We had just completed this and were moving back in when CARSON yelled "Here they come!" Three enemy planes were winging in low in line with three LST's. The outside plane dropped her bomb first and them swung as to strafe us just as we opened up. Thank God we had these guns then as that plane changed course at once. We were convinced that the fire power of our one .50 cal. and three .30 cal. guns decided that Jerry not to fly directly into us. The other two planes dropped their bombs consecutively on the next two ships, and followed the first away. As luck had it, none of the bombs hit anything but water. One of my men who was watching said that the first bomb dropped, hit the water a short distance from one side of the first LST, skipped completely over the ship and landed on the other side before going off. One of those bombs was pretty close to us, making spray that gave us a salt water shower. Unknown to us at the time, it opened up two seams on the after run of the bottom starboard side. We continued operations that afternoon, watching one LST hit by a similar attack. We salvaged one boat that had a broken rudder and towed it out to its ship. Being near the Chase, we decided to try our luck again with chow. The request to the bridge, "Permission to come aboard for chow." The answer came back. "Tie up astern, and come aboard." That was good.
After eating, I reported to the bridge for further orders, which were, "Carry on at the beach." That we did, until well Into the night, as the moon gave us sufficient light to work for a considerable time. We then lay off the beach, directing boats coming in (mostly LCI's) to their right location. I set a watch of three men with two hour watches, giving each man almost four hours sleep on top of ammunition boxes, gear, etc.
Then came the dawn and back to the beach, only to be greeted by morning strafing. We salvaged one of the OBERON boats that would run, but had no crew. I sent it out to the Chase by Johnstown. The ship put a crew aboard, and he reported back after they had taken in a load. One of our own boats was lost through no ones fault, as we watched the entire thing. She came in loaded with an ambulance which made her very low and she got hung up on her first attempt. The surf being heavy, the coxswain had considerable trouble, but managed to back off and try again. On lowering his ramp, the ambulance started out and the boat filled up almost immediately. Nothing could be done about it. The ambulance reached shore safely.
We returned to the ship around noon for chow and further orders. We were told to stand by, and the entire crew fell asleep on deck while waiting. Ensign Tellier and Robert Sargent, Photographer's Mate Second Class, came aboard for the next trip and we left the ship at 1400 to continue operations. We salvaged some boats that could run, but had no crews, and anchored several off the beach. One of our boats, No. 5, with no crew, had the ramp down. We raised the ramp and Carson ran it out to the Chase. The entire beach was being heavily covered by enemy artillery fire, and at one point we had a close one. There was an LST unloading, while just to the west of her was an LCM that seemed in good shape, but was not quite unloaded. So, after moving on down the beach to work, we came back to her. Having made our cable fast in the usual fashion, we turned around, and started pulling. On the beach behind us, near the dune line, there was a burst from artillery fire; then another nearer and in direct line for us. They were undoubtedly trying for the LST, but their aim was a little to the west. The OBERON's LCM was just beginning to move when there was another burst nearer and still in line. If there hadn't been three men on that boat we would have slipped our cable, but we hung on, and she began to move out faster and faster. As we pulled away from the shore, the bursts kept moving down to the water, and then into the water. We cut to the west down the beach, and the next few bursts hit where we had been. It was just a case of being lucky enough to be one jump ahead of them. Sargent received a minor cut on his arm from shrapnel. The lighter would not run, so we were forced to tow her to the OBERON. Meanwhile, the beach had an attack by planes, just as a formation of heavy bombers hit at the ships offshore, dropping eggs all around them.
One Liberty ship was hit. Shortly afterwards, she went up in a terrific explosion. Leaving the LCM, we ran over to the burning ship to pick up any survivors, but found all hands had abandoned ship some minutes before she went up.
We returned to the Chase about 1730, and were told to stand by. We were aboard about an hour and a half, when orders came to proceed to the beach until nightfall. Upon returning to the ship, the word was passed to tie up astern for the night, leaving one man on watch. As it happened, it was Johnston's turn for the watch and he had a night of it. We were just getting settled down aboard, when the planes began to come in, and the order was given, "Cast off all boats astern." The order was executed before any of us could get aft to help out Johnston. He started the engines and began cruising around, torpedo planes started coming in low between the ships, and all ships began crossfire horizontal to the water. Johnston was right in the middle. He said afterward that he saw tracers that streaked across the deck right between the engine box and the winch. After that night, we let Johnston sleep the next morning on top of our soft beds of ammunition boxes.
Lieutenant Donovan and Ensign Tellier reported aboard on the morning of the 12th at 0500. After a hasty check along the beach of the stranded boats, we began operations as before. After pulling off a number of boats, we came to one that was still one half loaded with ammunition, the ramp down and quite a bit of water in her. After pulling up the ramp, she came off easily enough. Off shore a short distance, we hailed an Army duck, and transferred the ammunition to it. The boat began to take on considerable water, having a hole we could not find. After unloading her, we ran to an LST to hoist her before she sank. The slings were for boom hoisting, but after some manipulating, we made them do for davits. She was hoisted out and freed of water by letting the ramp down. We found a hole just over her screw. Sheppard patched it with lead sheeting. We then took her to the ship she belonged to. This operation took quite some time, and, as it was about noon, we reported back to the Chase. Up to this time, we had pulled off thirty-five boats. Then came orders from the bridge for five of us - Knipple, Light, Carson, Johnston, and myself to report with the salvage boat to the HOPI on verbal orders. We needed some repairs, so I requested permission to be hoisted aboard. It was then we discovered where our leak was. We had two teams sprung by bombs. The ramp gasket and our stuffing boxes needed fixing, as well as the two seams. After repairs, we gathered together our personal gear, and were ready to go overboard at 1700. The orders were to drop back to the port quarter and have a fire pump put aboard. In the midst of that, there was an air-raid which held things up for a bit. Next came an order to take several British officers over to the "MONITOR" while we were standing by. Sometime around 1800 the Chase shoved off, and from the bridge the Commander called down "Report to the HOPI - good luck." Answering "Aye-Aye, Sir," we all felt as though we were deserted. To see our ship pull out, leaving us on desolate, war torn shores, was heartbreaking.
We reported to the U.S. S. HOPI. We were met by Lieutenant Commander Anderson, in charge of salvage operations in that area, who came aboard and asked to be taken on a round of the Liberty ships. About dusk, we learned he was going to send us out again for salvage work. I requested sleep for my men and myself and we needed it badly. That was agreed to. As they had no quarters aboard for us, we were
forced to live on our own boat from then on, making out as best we could.
The fire pump we had from the Chase was put aboard the HOPI on Commander Anderson's order. It was later given to the advanced base at Gela by order. That was all right with us as it would have made us so heavy, we wouldn't have been able to work the beach. As it was, we had to unload a lot of things to help make us lighter.
July 13th, we started out without chow, which didn't help our dispositions. We reported to the beach at Gela to carry lines for the tugs, so they could pull boats from the beach. They were working on the boats with a tug and a bulldozer when we arrived and had two tugs standing by. Running lines for them seemed a waste of time to us as we moved in and pulled off two boats while the tug was still working on one. When their boat finally did come off it sank and had to be salvaged again. Lieutenant Commander Anderson did not ask us to run lines for the small tugs again. He came aboard our boat and stayed with us that day and part of the next. That day we salvaged fourteen boats. Most of them we had to pump out as well as pull off. We had a three inch pump aboard belonging to the HOPI. This pump was not too heavy and worked quite well. Several of Lieutenant Commander Anderson's men were aboard helping us with the pump.
Knipple received a bad cut over his eye from being thrown to the deck when we hit one of those unexpected sandbars well off the beach. One of the HOPI's men, named Murphy, was thrown overboard but was picked up immediately.
Before reporting in that night, we evacuated casualties from the beach to the U.S. S. MEXICO. We began the day of July 14th by taking a load of TNT into the beach for the HOPI. We salvaged five boats and then ran down to Victoria with the U.S. S. NAUSETT. We handled 600 fathoms of 1 1/2" cable, running from an LCT on the beach to the NAUSETT. We secured that night at 2330. We stood by most of July 15th waiting for someone to make up their mind. We finally received orders to return to Gela and continue salvage operations. We salvaged four boats in the time that was left. On July 16th, we continued work as before. The HOPI sent men to the beach to pump out and repair boats with minor holes while we used the 3" pump as in the past. As we took the boats off the beach, we turned them over to one of the smaller tugs of the salvage party. Our score for that day was twelve boats.
The morning of July 17th, we ran to Victoria with the HOPI, and handled their cable for a pontoon bridge. We returned to Gela the same day and salvaged six boats. On July 18th we salvaged ten boats. By this time we had salvaged an LCM that was in good condition and some of Lieutenant Commander Anderson's men started working with it using the same principle that they had seen us use. On July 19th we salvaged ten boats which finished up our work of pulling boats off the beach. This gave us a total of ninety-six boats altogether. These ninety-six boats were taken from the beach stretching from Gela to four miles east of Gela.
During the past days we often came across bodies of soldiers drifting near the beach. We reported them to the Army, which always took quick action.
From July 20th to July 24th, inclusive, we stood by, and towed boats to different liberty ships and LST's to be hoisted aboard and brought back for repairs. On the 21st, we were near the dock at Gela where there was a minesweeper stuck on a sandbar. He passed us his hawser, and we had him off in no time at all.
On the morning of the 25th, Lieutenant Commander Anderson told me that if we could get transportation he would give me orders to return to our ship. That was all we wanted to hear, so we started making rounds of the Liberty ships. One didn't have enough food, another no water, another had a jumbo that was not working, and yet another was filled up, and so on down the line, until the S. S. JAMES WOODROW. They treated us with respect and we certainly appreciated it. We were hoisted aboard on the 26th, and from them on, we did nothing but eat and sleep - except for getting some of our gear in order.
At 1800 on the 29th, we landed in Algiers, and found the Chase had left for Oran. We stayed aboard the WOODROW for further transportation. We left Algiers on August 2nd and arrived in Oran on the 3rd. We reported aboard the Chase immediately.
There were several points we found to be absolutely necessary for one of these boats used in salvage work:
1.Have your towing bit in the center and as far forward as possible.
2.Keep your cable handy. In our case we used our deck winch.
3.Don't load the boat down with excess weight when you expect to do quick work.
LCI(L) FLOTILLA FOUR
AMPHIBIOUS FORCE, ATLANTIC FLEET
C/O FLEET POST OFFICE, NEW YORK, N. Y.
30 July, 1943
Dear Admiral Waesche,
Knowing that you are very interested in the activities of the Coast Guard on the fighting fronts, particularly with LCI(L) Flotilla Four, and also realizing the length of time involved in getting through official reports, I am, therefore, writing this as a semiofficial letter on the activities of this Coast Guard Group. I did not think it plausible to mail information prior to the engagement as the secrecy of the movements of the vessels was vital and the difficulty of forwarding mail of this type was rather involved.
The Flotilla arrived in Bizerte, in two groups, Group Eleven arriving about the 1st of June and Group Ten arriving about 11 June. From the time of arrival until the actual invasion all personnel were busily engaged in a very active training program which included the cooperation and training with army units. A base unit was setup within the Naval Base here, and consisted of two Quonset hut barracks, a machine ship, storerooms, warehouse, a barber shop, arid offices.
I was somewhat disappointed that the Flotilla could not act as a unit in the invasion, but there were two alternatives, either the Flotilla could act as a complete unit and be entirely in the reserve force or it could be split-up, partly in the reserve and partly in the active assault group. I naturally decided that the latter was much preferable from the service standpoint if not from the Flotilla's point of view.
The Task Force to which we were attached had five Task Group Commanders, four of these commanders operating Headquarters ships in conjunction with Army Headquarters for the four beaches that were to be assaulted. The fifth Headquarters ship was in command of the Reserve Force which was held at a central rendezvous five miles off the beaches to be used to strike at the most opportune time and at the most favorable spot. As I was the junior commander of the five commanders attached to this Task Force, the command of the reserve unit fell to me. Each Task Group Commander had command of LST's, LCI's and various other small landing craft assigned to his group.
As I was intensely interested in the salvaging of our boats, I requested permission to be salvage officer of this Task Force and was assigned that additional duty. This assignment was to commence after my duties in connection with the reserve force had been completed. One fleet tug, two harbor tugs and the LCI-87 were assigned to operate as the offshore salvage group.
Fifteen of our vessels were assigned to one of the flanking beaches and fifteen naval vessels were assigned to the other flanking beaches. The two central beaches had no LCI operations. Three of our vessels were converted into Regimental Headquarters ships and, therefore, were not expected to beach. The remainder of our group and the remainder of the navy group were assigned to the reserve force. The attack on the beach in which the Coast Guard was chiefly interested was led by smaller craft and followed up by two waves of LCI's. The first LCI wave, of six vessels was under the command of Lieutenant Commander A. C. Unger, and the second wave of nine vessels was under the command of Lieutenant Commander J. A. Bresnan.
The task of moving three Task Forces through the Straits of Sicily so that all the groups would arrive on their proper beaches at the same H Hour was a tremendous problem and was accomplished in the face of a strong northwest breeze. The element of surprise which we had hoped for was apparently lacking as enemy flares and searchlights picked up the force well at sea. The waves which Lieutenant Commanders Unger and Bresnan were operating found very little opposition on their beach. There was, however, some machine gun and mortar fire and two of our vessels were struck by the latter, namely, the LCI's 88 and 349. Casualties amounted to one officer, namely, Lieutenant (junior grade) Frank Cankar, executive officer of the LCI-349, who was struck in the chest and leg by shrapnel and although seriously wounded he is expected to pull through. The LCI-88 lost her stern anchor going into the beach and broached. She was unable to get off under her own power having picked up a line in a wheel on the way in. Although the LCI-92 made two attempts to pull her off, under mortar fire, these were unsuccessful. The remainder of the LCI's on retracting from the beach immediately returned to the base for re-enforcements.
The Coast Guard LCI's in the Reserve Group were sent directly into the harbor at Licata, Sicily, and discharged their troops at the quay. These vessels along with the navy vessels which were with them suffered severe bombing attacks but no casualties were inflicted.
After completing duties as Reserve Group Commander and despatching vessels to their proper beaches, the LCI-87, on which I was embarked, proceeded to carry out the salvage work outlined briefly below:
We pulled the LCI-35 from the beach after approximately one hours work, the following day we assisted in the harbor during a strong wind where four LST's had blown sidewise onto the dock. On D plus two day the LCI-88 was pulled from the beach in conjunction
with the fleet tug MORENO which had previously made two unsuccessful attempts, her large draft keeping her too far offshore to permit a proper angle of pull. On D plus three day the LCI-1 was pulled off the beach where she had jammed among the rocks. This was accomplished by the LCI-87, without the help of the MORENO, after washing out the channel and blasting away holding rocks. It should be noted here that assistance of the bulldozers on the beach was of tremendous importance in getting these vessels clear. They scooped away a channel on the shoreside, while LCVP's scoured away a channel on the seaward side. Then pressure pumps were used to free the sand from under the bottom of the vessel. The bulldozers then assisted by pushing on the bow while the LCI-87 pulled on the stern. One advantage in using an LCI for this type of shallow water salvage work is since they can work in six feet of water almost any angle of pull desired may be obtained. Following the removal of three LCI's from the Task Force beaches, the salvage group assisted in salvaging small landing craft and retrieving lost LCI ramps. The Task Force Commander was very pleased with the results of the salvage work.
With the fall of Porto Empedocle in sight I was ordered to proceed with a company and a half of beach battalion engineers and sufficient staff to open up that port for unloading purposes. We proceeded overland by jeep, arriving the same day the infantry captured the town. We surveyed the harbor, inspected it for mines, and opened the net. On subsequent days, landing places for DUKW's, LCI's and LST's were established. The fleet tug MORENO cleared the harbor of two sunken wrecks and, when the minefields had been swept outside the harbor, the port was turned over to Army and Navy authorities who had previously been designated to operate it as an established port. After fourteen days of this type of work in Sicily, the LCI-87 returned to its base. In the meantime the other LCI's were engaged in ferrying troops and supplies to Sicily.
Although enemy activity on the beach during the landing operations was comparatively light, during the subsequent four days all ships in the area were subjected to heavy air attacks. It is my understanding that three of our ships are submitting reports claiming the destruction of an enemy aircraft each. An item of interest occurred when an enemy plane bombed the LCI-87 first from the air and then from the bottom. The plane bombed and strafed the ship in the harbor of Licata and was shot down by shore batteries, falling into the sea not far from the harbor entrance. Later the ship passed over this spot and was subjected to a violent explosion which lifted the vessel, knocked the azimuth circle from the compass, and capsized articles on the deck. We probably disturbed the plane on the bottom setting off a small bomb.
It is my belief that the personnel of the Coast Guard, with the exception of one warrant officer who fainted during the assault,
showed excellent morale under fire and carried out their duties in a most commendable manner. There were no outstanding acts of heroism but every man did his job. and did it well.
M. H. IMLAY,
Commander, U.S. Coast Guard
Commander LCI(L) FLOTILLA FOUR.
Vice-Admiral R. R. Waesche, Commandant
United States Coast Guard
Washington, D. C.
DIFFICULTIES OF SMALL BOATS
Described by L. Blair Wallister, USCGR
I was on duty aboard the Coast Guard Transport Samuel Chase during the preparations in North Africa for the invasion of Sicily. The convoy left North Africa on the 6th of July, Tuesday, and headed east in the Mediterranean along the shores, the north shores of Africa, around the coast, zig-zagging, of course, from time to time, down through the Tunisian war channel and then gradually up and around again in a very zig-zag pattern past Malta and past Gozo, in the direction of Sicily.
Up until the last day of the convoy before making attack on Sicily, we could have attacked probably any one of five different places. In the trip through the Mediterranean the sea in all directions seemed to be filled with other convoys. Practically any direction in which the eye turned there was another convoy proceeding either in our direction or in a direction approximately the same as ours toward the same goal. The enemy undoubtedly knew we were in the Mediterranean and were headed toward an invasion but judging from the number and direction of the ships, he could not have identified the invasion point accurately up until the night of Friday, July 9.
On that night we headed directly north toward Sicily. The weather had been fair up until Friday July 9, but on that day the winds picked up and the seas built up and there were heavy, fairly heavy seas and a good deal of sea sickness among the assault troops. The convoy continued through the heavy seas, and there was considerable trepidation felt about getting the landing boats ashore in the surf that would undoubtedly be found along the coast.
Our meteorological data was complete and upon consulting this data we discovered that seas of five feet or higher, that is a surf of five feet or higher along the beaches, was probably to be expected not more than one percent of the time and this turned out to be one of the one percent days. Admiral Kirk later described the conditions as a terrible surf. The ships came in sight of Sicily shortly after midnight. Our first sight of Sicily consisted of heavy fires glowing along the shores near Gela, fires started by the strong bombardment which had been given by air force during the day. As we closed in we needed no sign posts and in fact navigation was facilitated by the fires that were to be seen burning on the Sicilian mainland. To the east of Gela, which was our invasion point, the Scoglitti light could still be seen burning. Evidently the Italians were not worried about an invasion at the time, or if they were they were more concerned about maintaining their own aids to navigation than they were about blacking them out against us.
We dropped our anchors at the appointed time and place about six miles off shore and at about 1 a.m. in the morning of Saturday, 10 July. The landing boats were dropped over the side and headed toward the rendezvous areas where they were to proceed into the attack with the PCs and the SCs as guide and control ships.
Aboard our own ships all was in complete blackness, of course, and we had no indication of the progress that the attack waves were making until about five minutes before H-hour, H-hour being 0245 on 10 July. About five minutes before H-hour we saw the searchlights sweeping the seas. The first waves of the attack were all caught and sharply silhouetted from our position in the light of the searchlights. We expected immediately, of course, that machine guns and shore batteries would open on the landing waves going in. However, the shore batteries did not open up. The searchlights then executed a peculiar maneuver. They rose into the air, dipped again to another position, rose again and dipped and did this several times, scanning back and forth in apparently attempting to pick up outlines of ships at sea without paying any attention to the landing boats coming in shore. Later on we received various reports from the Italians. One report that we received was that they believed their own fleet was maneuvering off shore. Another report was that they wanted to see what the big ships were and weren't paying any attention to what they believed to be scouting boats in shore.
At H-hour practically all of the first waves, hit the shore. Our first indication of that came when red rockets, signal rockets were fired and we knew that our boats were ashore. In the meantime one of the cruisers was closing in and picked out the most offensive of the large searchlights the Italians were using and lobbed over three shells and watched them arch through the sky with their tracers gleaming red as they floated slowly in a perfect V formation into the shore and drop squarely on this searchlight position and completely blasting out the searchlight, the gun, the gun crew and every living thing in that immediate vicinity.
The cruisers then continued to fire on other searchlights. An artillery general who was making a landing in one of the LCV boats from our ship, turned to the Coast Guard officer, who was in charge of that particular wave, and said that he had never in his life seen such fine gun fire, either on land or sea, which was an excellent testimonial to the fire of the cruisers on that particular occasion.
The PCs and SCs in some cases had difficulty lining up the waves and leading them in. On one occasion a PC had trouble with her compass and the wave which she was supposed to have led in was led in by a support boat which was commanded by Lt. Comdr. Bernard Scalan, Coast Guard officer, and he took the position which the PC would have otherwise had taken in leading his wave in. As he came in shore another scout boat which had already taken an assigned position near the pier at Gela proved to be of great help. This scout boat put under the command of Ensign Darnell, U.S. Naval Reserve, had lain off the main jetty at Gela for about a half hour preceding the arrival of the support boat and its wave and showing lights out to sea enabled them to
fix their positions and approach the beach accurately in exactly the position that they had planned. As they approached at Gela, some of the shore batteries opened up. Some of the guns, some of the landing boats were raked with gun fire from machine guns. Shell fire, also, landed among the landing boats. One boat was swamped through a shell which landed alongside of it and the coxswain of the boat told the soldiers that they would have to jump overboard and helped to cut packs off their backs and then directed them to a nearby LCI and most of the men in that particular boat were saved. Another boat which was swamped lost most of its crew as well as the soldiers who were being transported ashore.
Most of the landings Were made good in the first wave and the soldiers quickly proceeded up the beach and took the machine gun emplacements under fire from their own machine guns and they managed to cut down resistance within several hours. Later we learned that most of the beaches, the coastal defenses, were manned by native Sicilian troops and the story that some of these Sicilians told us was that they were very anxious to keep us off the beach if they could, to defend their beaches, but once they saw that the Americans had gained beachheads their desire to fight was dampened considerably because they didn't want their cities, their homes, their villages and their farms fought over and they didn't want their families subjected to danger of shell fire and lead flying through the air and, consequently, after our beachheads were made good the opposition from the Italians along the coast line largely dissipated and we took many prisoners even before daylight. The town of Gela was shortly surrounded and on early morning of Saturday the entire town fell into our hands. In the original landings, in the landing boats, the transport to which I was attached found it a valuable idea to mount the .30-caliber machine guns forward in the boats.
Later, talking to the boat crews from other boats I discovered that they ran into a difficulty which our transport had previously ran into in North Africa, namely that with the machine guns mounted on the scarfrings in the gun scuttles the danger of raking your own boat was not to be ignored and consequently the setting of the guns forward gave the gunners a clearer range and didn't endanger lives of those in the boats to which the gunners were attached.
With the dawn of Saturday, the German air force came over, two Messerschmidts knocked down an observation plane which was scouting gun fire from one of our cruisers and fortunately the crew of the plane were rescued by the landing boats which were nearby. The German planes then proceeded to rake the beaches, strafing, dive bombing, skip bombing and even laying mines. One of the beaches during the course of the morning had to be closed because German planes had laid mines on the beach and we had to proceed to disarm and pick up these mines before our boats could be allowed to proceed inshore again.
The chief difficulties encountered on the beach were the heavy surf, which blew up again on Saturday morning, after calming down for the original landings on Saturday, very early right after midnight the winds flattened out. The original landings were made in a very flat sea, but on Saturday morning, with the coming of daylight, the seas did continue to build up so that there was considerable broaching and swamping of all sorts of boats on Saturday morning. Also, on Saturday morning an LST which was carrying half tracks and 105 mm. anti-tank equipment and anti-aircraft guns, all priority equipment, the LST in making its landing grounded on a sand bar which turned out to be about 100 yards off shore and while trying to rig pontoons suffered a direct hit from German aircraft and blew up with considerable loss of personnel and complete loss of all equipment aboard. The beach on which she had been trying to make her landing had to be evacuated and new beaches set up.
On the transport to which I was attached one of the LCM's had been reconstructed for use as a salvage boat. The after end of the ship, the LCM, or tank lighter had been decked over and extra heavy towing bits had been installed. The control box had been moved forward about six feet to allow the after end to be decked over according to plans which had been layed and originated by Captain Roger Heimer, who was in command of the USS Chase. The forward ramp had been arranged with an "A" frame on it so that it could be used for lifting up the after ends of boats that broached and the tank lighter, salvage boat, had also been equipped with a bulldozer for the use in handling wire cables from the stranded boats and getting them off the beaches.
The salvage boat as thus described performed very valuable service in this connection, hauling off swamped landing craft. The craft carried very strong, long ground tackle which was used whenever necessary and four special purchases to seaward and special rigs had been devised for utilizing both shore and sea purchases. The boats that had suffered damage were brought back to the ship and hauled out of the water, repair crews stood by and were ready with all sorts of repair gear.
Plugs had been prepared in advance, 30 caliber, $0 caliber plugs, tapered plugs ready to pop into holes from gun fire and the average time out of boats that had suffered damage in making landings was about one hour and 20 minutes.
An interesting factor in this invasion as different from the North African invasion, the chief damage to the LCV(P) or Higgins boats was in the matter of propellers. That was due to the fact that there were rocks along the coast. In this invasion the chief damage was due to jammed rudders, evidently due to the fact that it was a sandy bottom and in backing off from the beaches in many cases the boats rammed their rudders against the sand bar and when they were still astern to the waves, because of the heavy surf they had to back out a considerable distance before they could turn around without danger of broaching. The LCM's were very successful in this operation because they came up fairly high on the beach, but probably in most successful of all were the LCT barges. The LCT's came higher
on the beach than any other landing vessel and proved their worth again and again. One LCT could hold as such gear as perhaps twenty of twenty five of the LCV(P)s and was able to get higher on the beach with it with less danger of swamping or broaching. The LCIs were able to get close enough in that troops were able to debark for the most part in water not deeper than their arm pits.
In some occasions where they were not able to get in the close, LCV(P)s and even ducks were used as abridge to get the soldiers into shallower water before they came down and waded in the rest of distances. In many cases of course, lines were rigged between the LCIs and the shore to assist the soldiers in getting ashore. The LST's had considerable difficulty getting close enough to shore to debark their mechanized equipment. The pontoons were rigged in some cases but were not entirely successful, apparently due to the fact that the heavy surf continually disturbed them on the beaches near Gela, most of the LST's had to be unloaded with LCV(P)s, Army ducks and LCT's. One LOT in particular which was quite useful had had part of the side cut away and the ramp of the LST's was lowered right onto the deck of the LCT. The Army ducks proved their worth in this operation. They are very successful because of the fact that they were able to proceed up the beaches and in scattering the supplies which they brought ashore, they were able to disburse them, carry them up into the dunes and disburse them so that they didn't block the beaches with tremendous supplies of material which were vulnerable to enemy air attack.
During the day, Saturday, enemy planes came over, not in large quantities, usually one, two or three at a time and continued to strafe and skip bomb along the beaches. The American planes for the most part were engaged in supporting the infantry and attacking the enemy and consequently there were very few dog fights. We would see formations of American planes fly over and disappear inland or fly along the beaches, disappear and presently they'd be followed by one, two, or three of the German planes coming over and doing their strafing or else bombing the transports. The Italian planes were notably absent in this operation. We saw none whatever. The types of German planes which were most encountered were Messerschmidts, Focke-Wulfs, Junkers 88's, and early on Saturday a couple of Stukas, thereafter we saw no more Stukas.
The heavy seas caused many of the landing boats to broach or swamp on Saturday and the salvage boats were busy all day long along with salvage tugs which were used in this operation, I believe, for the first time in an invasion operation, but were very successful in hauling off LCI's which broached and LST's which were grounded on the sand bars.
Late Saturday we received an urgent call from the shore asking that we give immediate priority to all anti-tank 105 mm. equipment. Boats which were half loaded were unloaded and other equipment which was on deck or in the hatches ready to be brought up was pushed
aside and immediate priority was given to this equipment as requested. Later the Army unloading crews which had been helping to unload the landing boats on the beaches were withdrawn to the defense areas and it was necessary for the boat crews of the Higgins boats and tank lighters, the LCV(P)'s and the LCM's to do their own unloading. Because of the fact that this took three and four times as long, the landing boats were subjected to additional danger from air at attacks and also were much more liable to swamping and broaching, swamping largely being due to waves which came around the bow and rolled back down the ramp causing the after end of the boats to settle and the next few surfs might roll over the stern of the boat and swamp it from the rear.
During the night we supplemented our boat crews with additional men to assist in the unloading. At this time we did not know why the Army unloading crews had disappeared. We found that out later on. We suffered several air attacks during the night with German planes coming over dropping flares and then bombing us after their flares had lit up the transport area. Sometimes there were as many as 10 to 15 flares in the air at one time and anti-aircraft fire against these flares was in some cases effective and in most cases seemed an unfortunate waste of ammunition,
German planes in these night attacks both on Saturday night and on Sunday night used siren or screaming bombs and we were able to understand the demoralizing effect that these bombs had had on the Poles, and on the French, because of the fact that during the night the screaming bombs made a lot of noise as they came down, first the roar of the engines of the dive bombers, then the screaming bombs and by virtue of the fact that the bombs grew to a crescendo as they approached the surface of the sea, they seemed to be directed toward your ship. During the day time, of course, you are not aware of the bombs until they land and then you see the explosion and the splash and if you are still alive there is nothing to worry about. But at night you hear these things coming toward you and because of the fact that they grow louder they do seem to be coming directly at you and they tend to be rather nerve racking and we could sympathize with the people of Poland and France for that reason. Numerous bomb straddles were recorded on the American destroyers that night. In fact every destroyer but one was reported as having been straddled by bombs, but none of our ships were hit during the night attacks.
On Sunday morning we found out for the first time what the necessity for anti-tank equipment had been. Splashes were seen on all sides among the transports along the beaches, no aircraft were overhead. Out first surmise was that enemy coastal batteries had suddenly been revitalized. This proved not to be the case when we were able to observe the fire coming from German tanks. We learned that some 60 German tanks had outflanked our infantry, come around their lines and during the night had disposed themselves on the second ridge beyond the beaches. There was some slight cover here and these German tanks in coming up on this ridge took vantage points and
during the day with 75 mm equipment apparently proceed to bombard both the beaches and the transport area. Several of our transports were hit at this time, but fortunately no serious damage resulted although it necessitated all of the transports weighing anchor and proceeding out to a safer position a little farther to seaward.
At this point one of our large cruisers moved inshore and engaged in a duel with the tanks. After knocking out 14 of the German tanks the other tanks turned tail and headed back toward their own lines. At this time the anti-tank equipment which had been sent ashore from the various transports came into its own and an additional 15 or 16 tanks were knocked out on the way back, so that out of the original German force probably not more than 50 percent returned to their own lines according to reports which reached us aboard ship.
The enemy evidently made a major tactical error in allowing the tanks to remain on the second ridge, had the tanks come down to the beaches they undoubtedly would have been able to destroy most of our equipment, completely disrupt our landings and our own shell fire from the cruisers in attacking them could have ruined what would have ever remained on the beaches of our gear, our supplies, so that it was fortunate for us that the tanks did not come down to the beaches but stayed on the second ridges,
Sunday afternoon we were attacked by a force of 21 Junkers 88's, flying a perfect V formation. Echelons of three flew directly over the transport area and at this time a liberty ship was struck directly by what was probably a 200 pound bomb, the bomb landing on loaded gasoline and ammunition trucks on the forward deck. The Captain of the ship, observing that it would undoubtedly be hopeless to try and save the ship, immediately gave the order for abandoning ship and several score of landing boats which were on transports nearby were rushed over to the liberty ship and to our knowledge, virtually the, entire crew was picked up before she later exploded and burned with great volume of smoke and detonation of explosives in all directions.
During these operations also, one of our transports was hit on Saturday morning just after she had opened her number one hatch. The bomb fell directly down the hatch into the number 1 hold, but fortunately the fire was brought under control within three hours and what appeared at first might be a ship loss turned out to interfere in no wise with the unloading of the ships, except that her forward magazines had to be flooded. This spoke for excellent damage control aboard this particular vessel.
On Sunday night the vessels in the transport group were again attacked by enemy aircraft in much the same fashion as previously and for the first time we have sure knowledge that on this night we knocked down at least one of the enemy fliers.
In general it may be remarked that the anti-aircraft fire on the
part of the transports, landing ships, LCI's, LST's, LCT's, was definitely disappointing, particularly on the part of the landing ships themselves. Apparently aircraft identification had not been sufficiently indoctrinated in crews so that there were many cases of the crews of these vessels firing on our own planes with as much readiness as they fired on enemy planes. In all, during the entire invasion, there were probably less than a half dozen enemy planes destroyed. The number of friendly planes destroyed was regrettably large.
On Monday morning the transports, the Samuel Chase among them, completed unloading for the major part. Sixty-five hours was the total time required for unloading our vessel. We stood by during the hours of Monday while other transports completed unloading. Late on the afternoon of Monday, German planes came over again and this time tried a new tactic, namely strafing the barrage balloons. About a half-dozen barrage balloons were shot down, evidently with the intent of sending over torpedo planes about sundown to attack the ships, or else dive bombers. However, by sundown the ships of the convoy had weighed anchor and the convoy had sailed out of the Gulf of Gela and back into the Mediterranean. We had been well-protected during this entire time from seaward by a destroyer screen and also by mines layed by our own minelayers, which protected the transport area. Whether the German torpedo planes actually came over that night or not and whether they were disappointed, we'll never know because our convoy was safely at sea by that time and returned to its home port in North Africa without further difficulty.
In connection with German and Italian prisoners taken, it may be interesting to compare the psychological attitude of the prisoners. Among the Italians, mainly Sicilians whom we interrogated, we found a thorough and genuine hatred for the Germans. Part of this may be assumed, was put on in order to bring some favor with us because the men were prisoners, but the sincerity of it in many cases could not be doubted. The Italians claim that the Germans had planted mine fields behind their coastal defense areas and before the secondary defense areas which the Germans manned. The Italians were not advised of the paths through these mine fields and many Italians were lost in attempting to retreat from the coastal defense areas because they didn't know where the mine fields were. The Italians also said that the German troops who came into their cities were gruff, were unfriendly and supercilious. As a consequence the population by and large disliked them thoroughly, and as one prisoner expressed it, after dark whenever people could they threw rocks at the Germans.
On the Natale de Roma, the birthday of the Fascist party, the 21st of April, we were told that on this festival the natives of Gela, the inhabitants of Gela made it a point wherever possible to get out in the country, to pack whatever kind of lunches they could get together and get out of the city so that they would not be compelled to give the Fascist salute and contribute to the Fascist party on this particular anniversary. The prisoners frequently uttered implications against Mussolini, claiming to dislike him thoroughly and
pointed out that Sicily being an island people had no great interest in Mussolini's dreams of colonial empire and to them the Italian expansion only represented loss of lives of their loved ones, •where they would have preferred to stay in their native lands on their native soil and live in a peaceful quiet way. The welcome accorded so many Americans in Sicily is probably due to the fact that Sicily has provided a great source of immigration for Americans of Italian descent in this country and it seemed that hardly any Sicilian family did not have at least one or two relatives living in America.
In contrast, the German prisoners were unfriendly, for the most part proud and in many cases actually haughty in their demeanor. When questioned as to the conditions at home they said that the conditions were very good. And when asked if they believed that Germany might collapse internally as she did in the last war due to American attack, they rather sneeringly pointed to the fact that Germany controlled Holland, Denmark, Norway, France, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Greece, Albania, and a large part of Russia. In consequence they considered that their part of the war was well won, whereas we had only conquered a part of North Africa and made landings on one island in the Mediterranean at that time and so they felt that, we had no right to talk about an impending allied victory, that Germany had already won her victory and it was only a case now of holding on to what she already had. It was a proud attitude and one the truth of which can only be ascertained by events that are happening and will continue to happen.
Lt. Walliser, what was you particular job in this operation?
I was the senior deck officer and during debarkation stood watches with the navigator of the ship, as senior OD six hours on and six hours off.
Interview with Frank Cankar, Lieut, (jg) USCGR
(Questions by L. Thompson, Lieut. USNR)
This recording of an interview with Lieutenant (jg) Frank Cankar, U.S. Coast Guard was made at Headquarters Eastern Sea Frontier, November 2, 1943. Lieutenant Cankar was assigned to Headquarters Eastern Sea Frontier for many months in 1942; then was given orders which took him to North Africa as Executive Officer aboard a landing barge and was a part of the Sicilian invasion.
Lieutenant Cankar, when you left here how did you get your orders which sent you across?
I got them by dispatch from Washington.
And where did they tell you to go? How did you get your preliminary training?
Well, I was to proceed to Houston, Texas, via commercial airplane, and to report there within 46 hours of receipt of my orders.
What kind of training did you get in Texas?
At Houston we had no training whatsoever. We put the ship in commission and two days after commissioning left for Galveston, Texas, where we stayed about a month going through a period of training which was really an experiment because no one seemed to know anything about these boats before that time. They were an innovation and I don't think they had any background of experience at the time that we took them over.
What kind of boats were they, Mr, Cankar?
They were LCI(L) which translated means "Landing Craft Infantry (Large.)" They're 153 feet long and carry a crew of from 21 to 25 and from three to four officers and are capable of carrying about 188 men. That is--sleeping them. They can actually carry as many as five or six hundred if necessary if they don't have to berth them. As a matter of fact, after the Sicilian invasion one ship brought back, as I understand it, some 750 prisoners.
Did you cross the Atlantic in one of these landing barges?
Yes we did. After we left Galveston--we left Galveston, incidentally, on March 1st--we proceeded to Key West, Florida, across the Gulf of Mexico--that was a five day trip. From there we went to Norfolk, Virginia, another five day trip and stayed there from about March 11th to April 1st, at which time we proceeded to Bermuda.
Incidentally on the run from Galveston to Key West we had some rather bad weather and inasmuch as a good percentage of the men were green (having had no sea experience whatsoever) we had a great deal of seasickness and some actual illness. On our way from Key West to Norfolk, one of the men fell over backwards from the conning station and suffered a very severe head injury.
How long did it take to cross from Bermuda?
It took us about--well it took us sixteen days and we made a landfall at Port Lyautey which is about 75 miles to the north of Casablanca.
How many LCI's were there in the convoy?
I'm not exactly sure how many there were. There were approximately 48.
How much escort protection did you have?
The entire convoy consisted actually of about 90 ships of which I believe there were some 8 to 10 escort vessels. I'm not too sure of the exact number now.
I should think that must have been one of the largest convoys to cross to Gibraltar at that date. Do you know how it stacked up--?
No I don't. As a matter of fact, outside of our own convoy, I don't think anyone knows very much about any other convoy. Although I do know that it was one of the larger ones.
How long were you in North Africa before the Sicilian invasion?
Well you see we were at Port Lyautey for about two weeks of training in the surf which runs pretty heavy and really gives you a good background of experience for handling ships on the beaches but from Port Lyautey we went to Gibraltar, spent the night there and then went into a little town near Oran called Arzew. From whence we went to different towns around Oran such as Beni Saf and Nemours, When we went back to Arzew and on June 1st we left for Bizerte arriving there five days later.
How much advance warning did you have that you were going to participate in the Sicilian invasion?
Actual warning, we probably had about six days when we began getting our orders, our secret charts and aerial photographs. But there was little doubt in the minds of most of us after we arrived at Bizerte as to what we were going to attack.
Did you have a good deal of training in terms of the final action? Did you know for instance exactly what group you were going to join many days before the invasion?
Yes. You see each ship was given a designated color. For example a blue color, green color or a red color and that indicated the beach on which you were to land. We made a complete practice with the ships of our own particular blue beach, oh, some two weeks before the actual invasion. As a matter of fact we made a run almost all the way to Tunis--to the Bay there--and came all the way back again completely loaded with troops. It could have been an actual invasion. As a matter of fact some of us thought it was. The only hitch in the whole plan was the fact that we didn't have as much ammunition as most of us thought would be necessary in an invasion and as it turned out it was nothing but a dry run.
How long were you aboard your ship after you had left for the actual invasion before you landed?
We left Bizerte on the morning of July 6th and made a run to Sousse which is to the south of Tunis. We arrived there on the night of the 6th and went into the city on the day of the 7th--that is into Sousse--and that afternoon got final absolution and that night we went out in the Bay and on the 8th we spent the entire day swimming and making various plans and discussing our proposed invasion. Of course by that time we were very definite that we were going there and all the soldiers also knew inasmuch as they had been handed then the "Soldiers' Guide to Sicily." We left Sousse on the night of the 8th and made a rendezvous point off of Malta and then headed due north on the 14th meridian, which ends up across Sicily about four miles to the east of Licata.
Did you have any sense of the size of the invasion fleet? You couldn't have seen very many of them because they would have been over the horizon on each side of you I suppose. Did it seem like an enormous fleet?
Well we were on the starboard flank of our group--more to the starboard I should say than we were to the port--and we all knew just about how many ships were in our group which was tremendous but as far as the actual size of it, you couldn't tell. But you could sense it was enormous and you could see these cruisers dashing back and forth every so often. Of course on that last day, that is, the day of the 9th, we had one of the worst seas we had had on any day since we left Galveston some three months before. Most of the soldiers were quite sea sick and a lot of our men were also; but our men had learned how to control themselves pretty well. But at times you could see sky under one-third of our LCI.
That's pretty hard. How long did it take you to complete the final run?
We arrived off of our point of attack about 2330 that night and fortunately the seas had died down a great deal. We were in the lee of the land at the time but we had to hang around about three hours while the Italian search light tried to pick us up. "H" hour was at 0245 and the bombardment started about that time from our own cruisers and other ships off, oh, some eight miles. I'm not sure about that distance.
Were the cruisers back of you so that the shells went over; so that you could hear them?
Yes, that's right.
And did the sound seem to build up or was it a steady action in that bombardment?
Well I would say that it was more or less steady, and you could see the fire works on the beach; but I don't think the Italians had anything that was too huge to fire back with. As a matter of fact, If I recall the aerial photographs, there was a big gun emplacement some twelve miles inland but I don't think that that could have affected us very much. And if I recall correctly we weren't bothered by it at all. Possibly our own paratroopers or our own artillery, naval artillery, had already blasted that one out.
How did the soldiers behave during that period of waiting when they had to stand by for the bombardment?
That's rather a difficult question to answer because every case is different. Now some of the men were quite nervous and others were very calm. But I think, generally speaking, you might say that they were all thinking about whether or not they were going to be the boy that was going to get it next. And I know talking to some people (I won't mention rank or name) who had been in the battle at Fedala and were quite certain that they were going to get it that time; yet were very calm about it. All in all I would say that you can't make a general conclusion. You have to take the condition of the men. Our group happened to be composed of men who were in the battle of Fedala and quite a large number of new boys. And I think the new boys were probably the ones who were more nervous although the older fellows knowing what they were getting into weren't too happy about it. But there were very few of them that were shirking their duty, that is trying to hide. There were only a few that I had to shoo back-who were trying to sit down inside the bulkhead and as far as panic--I think there was only one.
When you finally started in, how did you get your orders? What gave you your orders to start into shore?
We knew the exact time we were to start which happened to be "H" plus 75. You just go in automatically. You know where your point is and you should be off it some hours before as we were. It is all done on a time basis. You don't get any orders over the phone or anything else. You just do it, hoping that every one else is going in with you. And as we went in, we noticed all the little Higgins boats coming out from their initial run so we knew that we were right on time.
Then you were among the first to land?
No, the Higgins boats always go in first.
And they are from the larger transports?
That's right; that's correct.
You couldn't tell that the Higgins boats had gone in until you started your run in?
That's right. They evidently were off to one side of us and they didn't go by us at any time.
The seas had moderated enough so that the Higgins boats didn't have any trouble as you saw them?
As I saw them, they didn't. However, they evidently had had some trouble because when we came in we lost one of our ramps immediately from the surf and the other ramp, no sooner did we have It down than about six men--sailors--tried to come up that lone remaining ramp, they having lost their own boats. Now how they lost them I don't know. I don't recall whether or not they said they were blown up or they had been turned over in the surf because at that time I had been hit myself.
As you came in, how near in did you get before you noticed any shore gun fire?
We probably were only a few hundred yards off the beach at that time. We noticed gun fire going on but before we were aware of the fact that we were in it, it was only a few hundred yards and unfortunately we dropped our anchor too quickly and backed out all the way again on the winch. Picking up our anchor and coming in again so that we could make our landing. You see if you drop your anchor too quickly, you pay out all your anchor cable and you" lose your length; that is, your distance to get into the beach and you're out there at the end of the cable and still you're not on land. There are one or two things you can do. You can (which I think we should have done at the time) cut the cable and have gone in and then hope to back the ship off with power rather than pull it off with the anchor. That way we lost a little time. But that's one of the things you learn about after you have been in one.
When the ramp went down how did the men disembark?
Well at that time we had a little trouble. The problem there was that the six boys tried to come up while the other men were trying to get off. But, first, let me tell you. We had two burros aboard for the purpose of carrying ammunition to the shore. The only way we could get these burros off (inasmuch as they were awfully frightened and we had a practice with them) was to tie them on the ramp and then pull the ramp out and drop the ramp--that causing the burros to be on an incline--then cut the line and let the burros fall into the water. That was the only way we could do it and we did get the burros off before the six sailors, or five sailors, tried to come up the ramp. We had a little traffic problem there and I finally got them off the ramp by telling them I would have to bump them off or shoot them if they didn't get off.
These were the six men that tried to come back aboard.
Not back aboard. They weren't our own men.
Now all of this particular part is a little confusing to me because it all happened so rapidly that I don't remember exactly what I said to the men or what they said back to me. Probably wasn't very complimentary either way.
Your assignment as exec aboard that ship was to handle at that stage the disembarking of the troops--that was your primary assignment?
Yes, that's right. We had four officers on our ship. The Executive Officer stayed forward and handled the disembarkation and the ramps. The Skipper stayed up in the conning station, the Engineering Officer stayed below in the Engine Room and the Watch Officer stayed aft and handled the anchor.
You had a certain amount of armament. You had machine guns aboard?
No, we didn't have any machine guns. We had four 20-mm AA guns.
Did you make any use of them?
No, we were under orders not to fire.
You were asked not to give away your position, was that the purpose of not firing--or was it not necessary?
In a case like that I'm not sure. I don't think that was ever decided. There was a great deal of discussion as to the merits or demerits of not firing and although we had orders not to, I think that in some cases it would have been a good idea if we could have when we hit the beach and we did see an enemy position we might have at least distracted him enough so that he couldn't have done as much damage as he did. However, the powers that be evidently had a definite reason for it--as they do in an air raid when we don't fire because that gives our position away.
Did the searchlights on the beach pick up your own ship before you put your ramp down?
No they didn't. And of course we landed just at dawn so that you can pick out a silhouette very easily.
It was pretty light, so that as you got ashore you could see how wide the beachhead was?
Yes, fairly well--and of course we had it all memorized anyway.
And how long did it take for the complete disembarking of the troops from your own ship?
Well, I'm no authority on that because I was hit before the last man got off. But I would say it wasn't much more than 20 minutes from the time we landed until we were off. And that is very slow because the ship made one at Salerno. Of course, it only had 54 men on then and I wasn't aboard, but the Exec tells me that they landed and disembarked the troops in about 4 minutes.
How long after the ramp had gone down was it before you were hit?
Well, after I got through getting these six boys or five boys straightened out, I'm not sure which it was--five or six--why I noticed this fellow lying down and kicking and screaming down by the Number Two booby hatch (which is just forward of the conning station). I took my earphones off and turned them over to my Gunner's Mate and went back to this fellow, got back there, looked him over and discovered there wasn't anything wrong with him. So I yelled over to one of the Army Lieutenants, "What do you want to do with this guy?" and he yelled back "Leave the bastard lay there." I was just in the process of doing that to this particular individual when I got hit. The strange part about it was that I still had his head in the crook of my left arm and he didn't have a helmet on, yet he didn't get hurt at all whereas I got it five times.
You haven't spoken about any shells landing near you before that shell that got you. Did you notice any fire, any splashes near your ship before that?
Yes. I noticed there was some ammunition being expended from the beach and it was coming at us from the starboard hand. There was some machine gun fire and I could also see the millimeter stuff. Now what it was, whether it was 40-mm. or 47, I don't know, but it was in that category. I felt just like someone who was at a tennis match watching it come over from the starboard and then watching it cross the ship to the port. It was quite interesting. Of course it looked like someone was throwing a red ball of fire across when tracers went over. But you're pretty busy; you don't have time to do too much thinking on it.
And then, when you were hit, did you have any idea that you were seriously wounded?
Not at the moment. Your first reaction outside of a good exhibition of vulgarity is to go to the side of the ship where there isn't any firing. When I did get there I sat down, thinking I had been hit by concussion. One of my men told me the first thing I said was that "The bastards have got me." After I sat there for awhile I noticed that there was a pool of blood so I thought I better lie down and one of my Chiefs got a crash basket.
Where were you hit?
I was hit twice in the left leg, twice in the left shoulder, and once in the left chest just below the arm pit. I also had a punctured left lung.
And then you don't have much memory of what happened, until when?
Oh no. I have a complete memory of the thing because of the fact that I never lost consciousness. Matter of fact, I remember telling one of our men what to do as far as fixing me up and giving me a morphine shot. Why I didn't pass out I don't know; but I think I was probably shocked so much that I didn't. It was about 20 minutes before I got inside the ship--and strangely enough with the practice we had had we never figured out how you could get a fellow (once he was in a crash basket) inside the superstructure of the ship, there just isn't any way of making the corners; the passage ways are too narrow. As a final expedient, there is a door leading from the outside of the ship right into the crew's head with the three toilet seats. I laid on top of those with the crash basket. I was very happy then that we had always made sure that the toilets were very clean.
Then how long did it take to make the run back?
Well, there is a little incident involved there. I was transferred to a second ship on which we had a little operating room and Lieutenant Commander Gentile of the U.S. Public Health Service--who, incidentally, is an awfully good surgeon. When I got over on this other ship, why to give you an idea of how little you feel when you get hit (I mean there isn't any pain at the time or the pain is so great that you don't feel it anyway; I don't know which), he told me that he'd have to sew me up a bit and he put a stitch or two in my left side without my even knowing that he had done the job. Then just about that time the engines on that ship broke down and I was transferred to a third ship and 24 hours later I landed in Bizerte.
There began a lot of confusion, in my opinion. I was taken over to the Naval Dispensary at Bizerte and after being interrogated about 20 minutes on the floor in this crash basket they decided that they couldn't do anything for me and put me in another one of these ambulances--meat wagons, as we called them--and I was taken to an evacuation hospital, the 56th, where I received very good treatment.
What did they mean--when they said they couldn't do anything for you? They didn't have the equipment there?
I believe that was probably it. Why they took me over there in the first place I don't know.
Were there quite a few others in the same circumstance?
No. As a matter of fact, from what I was told, I must have been the first Sicilian invasion patient back in Bizerte. I know I was the first one at the hospital anyway. I was there about five days and they had drawn out some 150 cc, of blood, which is about a pint, from my lung which had been collapsed. Then I was taken by ambulance to Mateur and flown from Mateur to Telergma Air Field which is near Constantino and taken to the 61st Station Hospital where I stayed for some ten days before being transferred to the 26th General.
What was the overall length of time before you were sewed up?
You mean from the time I got hit?
From the time you got hit.
It must have been, oh, probably half an hour to 40 minutes.
Then how long were you in the hospital, recovering?
A total of ten weeks to the day. During that time I had had three operations and had had four aspirations--which means they take this big needle and jab it in your back into your lung cavity and draw out blood. I think they took out about five pints altogether.
Then while you were in the hospital, there were others -who were brought in from the same operation?
Oh yes. As a matter of fact, it was rather strange. Just about at the time I was getting around, so that I could walk, I walked over to one of the tents and discovered that one of the Army officers we had taken across to Sicily was a patient there. He had been in the fight from July 10th to August 4th. On his way up a hill to do reconnaissance a mortar shell lobbed over the hill and broke both of his legs right below the thigh. He had a hole which was big enough to put your fist in right above his left knee. Talk about the stink of human flesh, well that's about the best example I've had of it or smelled of it.
When they finally had you all patched up how much shrapnel did they leave in you?
Well, as I understand it, I have one left in my leg, and one in my lung they tell me. There are various numbers of small pieces in my lung but they are so minute you can barely see them.
Do. you get any reaction from them now?
Yes I do. It's not anything to hinder my moving about, but it makes me tired. However, I'll soon be in good shape again.
How did you finally get back to the United States?
Well, when I was discharged from the hospital being the only Coast Guard or Navy patient there, they didn't know exactly what to do with me. So a Lieutenant Colonel who was in charge of the Airfield (but who was in the hospital at the same time I was) arranged it so that I got a B-17 plane ride from Constantine to Tunis and then from Tunis I hitch-hiked to Bizerte and was there a week when I got orders to return back to the States. Bizerte being our Flotilla Headquarters. From Bizerte I boarded a C-47 two engine transport plane and in that first day (which was on Tuesday, September 27,) went from Bizerte to Constantine to Algiers, then across the northwestern tip of Africa to Marrakech which is near Casablanca and is the home of one of the more or less well known and fabulous pashas. We stayed there over night and incidentally on this trip I met a man--my introduction was a pack of cigarettes. He happened to be a French officer who (after talking with him for awhile) I discovered was a Colonel, and I believe he said had charge of the Air Forces in the French African Army. He was a very interesting fellow and after we talked for awhile I asked him why they resisted us when we made our initial landings in Africa. He said "Well, it was just one of those things. It was regrettable but necessary." I gathered that he was trying to convey the impression he was saving face. A very fine man and thought a great deal of the Americans.
What kind of plane brought you back to the United States?
Well, different types of planes. From Marrakech I went to Rufisque which is near Dakar. It was a flight over the Sahara Desert and that was another C-47 plane I believe. There we had a little trouble. We lost one of our engines. That is, the engine had to be shut off due to lack of oil, I wasn't sure that we were going to make it. We had a lot of fellows on board who were pilots and who had completed all their 50 missions and were coming back. They were a little afraid not any more than I was, however, that they were going to lose their lives after they had gone through all this death and danger stuff over Naples. They felt that it was kind of sad they might not make it after coming that far. But we finally landed and we stayed in Dakar for about three days (or in Rufisque which is near there) and left there in a C-87, which is a converted B-24 job, and landed in Natal, Brazil, ten hours later.
How did you get up here?
From there we went in a C-46 type plane going from Natal to Belem which is also in Brazil on a Sunday, it took us about five hours. Belem is a very interesting place, well developed for an air field and will probably be used when the war is over on the basis of the permanency of their installations. From Belem we left very early on a Monday morning, five o'clock as a matter of fact. From Belem we went to Atkinson Field which is in British Guinea near Georgetown* From Atkinson Field we went to Trinidad, thence to Puerto Rico. Borinquen Field to Miami arriving in Miami that same night about 11 o'clock.
From the time you left the hospital until you got to Miami what is your overall period? How long did it take you?
After I left the hospital I went back as you know to Bizerte and stayed there a week but I left the hospital on September 18th and arrived in Miami on October 3rd.
We're glad to have you back here, Frank, and all we ask now is that the Coast Guard reassign you to Headquarters Eastern Sea Frontier.
Well thank you, Larry, and I hope I'll have the pleasure of working with you once again.
Official ACTION REPORT of Salerno
By Captain R. J. Mauerman, USCG,
Commanding Officer of the USS Joseph T. Dickman,
to the Commander of Task Force 81,
This vessel landed assault troops of 2nd Battalion Combat Team, 142nd Infantry, 56th Division, U.S. Army and attached units, on Green beach, .Salerno Bay, Italy, on the morning of 9 September, 1943, in accordance with reference orders, total of dl officers and 1,623 enlisted men.
Weather conditions for this operation were excellent for lowering boats, ease of holding boats alongside, and little seasickness occurred among troops on the trip from ship to beach.
This vessel followed ships ahead into the transport area. The submarine beacon HMS SHAKESPEARE was passed at 2333 of the 8th, at the departure point. Stopped and drifted at 0002, of the 9th, in designated transport area. An LCS(S) boat with scout officer was lowered in the water at 0020 and departed for shore to locate Green beach. The beach was found and marked as planned without difficulty. The lowering of boats commenced at 0015 and was completed at 0115, with the exception of two boats in #1 starboard davit (upper and lower inside cradles) that were damaged and wedged in by the strong-back that fell across the upper boat when the after davit arm dropped down due to the wire cable breaking .... This davit was repaired and in working order prior to 1660, on D plus 1 day. Boat teams that should have been rail loaded in these two boats were expeditiously loaded at the White net and arrived in the rendezvous area in time to go in with their wave. The third rail loading boat at #2 davit port side was delayed due to the cable becoming jammed on the drum. The boat team was loaded at Yellow net port side. No delay at rendezvous area was caused by this boat. Twenty-one LCVP's and two DUKW's were pre-loaded with boat team equipment and rail loaded with troops; eleven LCVP's were pre-loaded with equipment and net loaded with personnel.
The primary control vessel, PC-625, led the first three waves of boats from the rendezvous area, passed the restricted area marker boat PC-542, and proceeded on to the line of departure. All boats landed on the correct beach in excellent line and well spaced, but were ten minutes late in the scheduled time; this delay was due to the primary control boat being held up behind the minesweepers. When the ramps of the first wave were lowered and troops crossed the beach, heavy machine-gun and HE shell fire were encountered.
The quick action on the part of the Dickman's LCS(S) scout beach marker boat in firing a barrage of 34 rockets caused a decided lull in the enemy's fire and drew fire on the boat itself. It is believed that this factor contributed much to the safe landing and retraction of all boats in the assault waves.
The secondary control boat PC-624. departed from the rendezvous area on time with the fourth wave, but for some unknown reason delayed going into the line of departure, sufficiently to make this wave one hour and fifty minutes late in scheduled time. When this wave retracted and while proceeding away from the beach a medium calibre HE shell struck the starboard side of the ramp of a Dickman's LCM(3) and exploded. Three of the boat's crew were wounded. The boat returned to the Dickman but could not be used for the remainder of the operation. A total of seven members of the crews were wounded. Troops apparently suffered fairly heavy casualties while crossing the beach.
The later waves of boats carrying vehicles were not allowed to land immediately on the beaches by the beach-masters, because of machine-gun and artillery fire. As a result, there was much congestion outside the line of departure by boats from all the transports. The support boats acted as traffic boats and when the beaches became tenable directed the boats to the proper beaches. A faster and larger boat about the size of an SC-boat would be better adapted for traffic control boats.
Unloading of vehicles and cargo proceeded expeditiously on D-day and D plus 1 day. All unloading was completed by 1600 of D plus 1 day. Much of the unloading from boats was done by boats' crews. Thirty Army men from the Port Battalion were sent to the beach prior to noon on the 10th. The unloading on the beaches seemed to be held up principally by the continuous shelling of the beaches from artillery well hidden in the hills behind the beaches.
Three enemy bombers made an attack in the area at 0743 on the 9th, and at 2140 enemy bombers made an attack in the area, but due to the heavy smoke screen made by all the vessels and boats no bombs fell in our vicinity. At 0445 on the 10th, enemy planes attacked in the vicinity and smoke screen was laid by ships. From 2240 to 2312 on the night of the 10th, as transports were preparing to depart, a large formation of enemy bombers lighted up the transport area with varied-colored flares that apparently marked the limits of the area. The transports were subjected to heavy bombing. Apparently no vessels were hit. One bomb fell 600 yards astern of the Dickman. All vessels delivered a heavy barrage of anti-aircraft gunfire. Fire discipline on the Dickman was good. During this operation friendly fighter protection of the area was excellent. The Dickman's support boats patrolling the beach area fired at enemy planes over the beach, but there were no indications that any hits were made.
Three LCVP's and four LCM(3)'s from the OBERON, two LCM(3)'s from the PROCYON, and eight LCM(2)'s from the HMS DERWENTDALE, arrived alongside on time and were used to carry priority vehicles into the beach, consisting of the 6th, 7th, and 8th waves. All were dispatched on scheduled time. All boats from other ships worked smoothly and without interruption.
The officers and crew worked tirelessly throughout the operation and their devotion to duty was outstanding.
During this operation two signalmen from this vessel were temporarily attached to HMS BOXER and one commissioned officer served as liaison officer aboard the HMS DERWENTDALE.
On the return passage at 0135 on the 11th, a violent explosion was observed off the starboard beam, distance about 10 miles, that appeared to be a ship exploding.
/s/ R. J. MAUERMAN
LANDING CRAFT TECHNIQUE
At Anzio and Salerno the landing boats pounded back and forth through the heavy surf between the ships and beachhead bringing in the supplies that enabled the troops to hold their ground against the furious German counter-attacks.
The small craft became a familiar part of operations against the enemy in every theatre of war. Yet, still so new was this specialized branch of seamanship that the expert coxswains who operated the Higgins type landing craft were unable to give a clear discourse on the secrets of their trade. "I can't describe exactly how I run my landing craft. It's all in the feel of the thing," they usually said.
The boat coxswains aboard were good because they had a great personal feeling for their craft. They beefed continually about the dangers of their rugged naval assignment--amphibious warfare--but few of them would ever exchange their duty for a shore billet. Assault coxswains, some of them rated only as seaman second class, were skippers of their own boats, - boats which cost the Government approximately $21,000. This independence and real sense of importance was what they liked.
One had to ride with an experienced coxswain and watch him at work to realize how much there was to this "sixth sense" technique. As the cargo net was lowered over the ship's side or as troops came aboard, it was his responsibility to keep his craft directly under the net. In smooth water this was fairly easy but in a heavy sea a boatman had a job on his hands keeping his bobbing craft in one position. He had to consider the placement of his load. If the loaded craft was too heavy forward he would not be able to ride onto the beach, and consequently his troops or supplies would get soaked in debarking.
In the midst of all this there were apt to be other distractions. At Sicily, after H-hour when the landing craft were loading alongside this transport, they were caught by sneak air raids. Boat coxswains lay helplessly in their craft as they watched the Germans lay a string of six bombs along their starboard quarter, missing them by only fifty yards. The men couldn't maneuver their boats, which was the advantage of a small craft under air attack, because they were in the process of loading. One boat, run by Philip B. Kearney, was tossed several feet into the air by the explosions. But all the boats came through with nothing more serious than a thorough drenching.
Before leaving his transport for a beach landing, a coxswain was as carefully briefed about his part in the operation, as a flier setting out to bomb Berlin. Army and Naval officers handed out intelligence sheets describing every detail of the beach, its grade, and hazards lying in approaching waters. Each boat was designated to a particular position in a certain wave of the assault. Coxswains were given sign
boards with their position and wave number painted on them. This was their number plate for the boat traffic officer.
The coxswain's next job was to proceed to the rendezvous area of his wave. Here practical navigation and knowledge of the stars came in, particularly when operating at night. A good man had an uncanny way of finding his group quickly. And once he had located it he had to stay in position. An invasion rendezvous area was no place for a person to assert his independence and play lone wolf, for one boat in the wrong slot in a split-second operation would throw everyone into confusion.
Handling these box-like scows in heavy sea called for real skill. Soldiers riding into the beach realized this better than anyone else. A skilled boatman always watched ahead and avoided hitting a wave too squarely, so that his already shivering troops wouldn't get any wetter than necessary. He aimed to keep his boat trimmed, arranging his load so that the craft traveled on an even keel. Trimming helped cut down violent rocking, which in turn reduced seasickness among the soldiers.
After they reached the rendezvous area just off the beach where their troops and cargo were designated, boatmen circled around anxiously ---
waiting for the control officer's signal to "hit the beach." When word was given, the coxswains fanned out. They sped up their engines and moved into line for the assault just as trotting horse drivers start a race, all jockeying around so that they would hit the starting line together. These men, all on the same team but from different transports, had great competitive spirit among them. Each transport thought it had the best small boatmen. In practise men watched each other closely to see how the other coxswains made the landing.
They also had to be alert in picking their landing point. In combat smart judgment on a coxswain's part meant everything. At Salerno, however, one man, Calvin R. Cooper, had an experience which showed that ingenuity sometimes meant nothing. As he stood off shore ready to make his run in, a terrific explosion went off on the beach. He thought it was a land mine and therefore a landing there would be the safest place to debark his troops. Just as his ramp was lowered on the beach, he found himself facing a German 88 pillbox only one hundred yards away. Luckily it had been deserted except for three snipers who promptly opened up on them. Bullets commenced to whistle over their heads. "And they didn't sound the way they do in the movies, either," Cooper said. The boat crew went to work on the snipers with their 30 calibre machine . guns. In the skirmish which lasted about ten minutes only one soldier was killed and two wounded.
Hitting the beach was the coxswains' crucial moment. There were all kinds of things he could do wrong. If he gunned his boat too fast, he would beach it so high and dry that he could not back off under his own power after his troops had been unloaded. He then had to wait for a salvage boat to pull him off, and in the meantime he was preventing another boat from landing there.
The most common danger in making a landing was broaching; that is, allowing a boat to swing broadside to the waves. In a heavy surf a broached craft smashed to bits in short order. Less experienced coxswains were continually getting themselves in this predicament. Men sometimes broached because, after unloading they started to turn around before they have backed into water deep enough to be clear of all sandbars and surf. When a beach was "hot" some coxswains became too anxious to swing around and head back to the transport anchorage area. When half turned around they found themselves in an awkward position, hung up on another submerged bar just off the beach.
One group of men will never forget the dangers of a broached craft. They were the crew of a converted salvage boat from the Coast Guard transport which salvaged ninety-six broached boats from the Gela, Sicily beachhead. In the first 48 hours this crew of five enlisted men saved approximately $1,000,000 worth of equipment and cleared yards of congested beach for future landings, while under constant air attack.
Some boat coxswains, on the other hand, were too cautious. When a man brought in his craft too slowly, he lost his momentum as he churned through the sand. In that case he often stalled, perhaps fifty feet from shore. In action a coxswain could not back off and try again, so his troops and cargo had to be dumped off into the water.
Most of the coxswains and their crews were superb. They had been through three invasions and had lost but five boats. They lost no crew member in their last two operations at Sicily and Salerno. They have got the feel of it.
In smooth water the trained boatman did not race his engine full speed ahead as he neared the beach. (This, was called "cowboying!") Instead he sized up the surf and timed his approach so that his craft would be pushed along by perhaps an extra large breaker. The idea was to ride in with the surf board rider, When he felt his bow go aground he sped his engine slightly, pushing ahead only as far as the craft would go easily. It was at this moment that crew teamwork entered. The bowman knew just when to throw the forward hooks, so that the ramp was lowered the second the craft comes to a stop. If the ramp was dropped while still moving forward, it would bury itself in the sand, bringing the boat to a premature stop before reaching dry land. Or the craft might even swamp if the ramp were lowered too soon.
In rough water landing craft technique was slightly different. It was much harder, for instance, for an assault wave to stick to any set formation when approaching the beach. Each coxswain was left more to his own discretion where and how he landed his boat. In heavy surf it was more difficult to judge the proper speed at which to land. A coxswain had to travel fast enough so that his bow would be lifted above the breakers. On the other hand, too much speed plus the extra boost given by heavy surf was apt to beach a craft high and dry.
After hitting the beach the coxswain left his engine in forward gear to keep his craft firmly lodged. He stood at the wheel during unloading, keeping his rudder amidship. This helped to prevent the stern from swinging either way as glancing waves hit it on the quarter. Keeping his beached craft always at right angles to incoming surf was how a coxswain avoided broaching.
Mastery of all these fine points in small-boat handling paid off at H-hour. Every man knew that one broach or a slip up in the loading process would greatly slow up the naval shuttle service from ship to shore. Time was the determining element in the success or failure of the amphibious operations.
At Salerno in a period of 25 hours, Coast Guardsman Leonard W. Ruehle, and his crew made 18 trips to the beach with Army vehicles and equipment in a tank lighter. Another fast performing boat during the Italian invasion was one run by Eugene C. Arndt, and George E. Betz, who carried fourteen loads of troops and ammunition ashore. Men who turned out combat records such as these were invaluable to the Allied Command.
REPORT OF CONVOY FSS1
1.The convoy, consisting of the following ships, departed Bizerte according to schedule, commencing at 1230, 4 Septembers DD BLANKNEY, SCs 508, 498, 676 , 666, 639; YMS 43; LCIs 87, 319, 324, 349; RESOLUTE, INTENT (towing oil barge), YTs 165, 197, 186, 210; LCTs 218, 216, 209, 25, 20, 415, 200, 201, 33, 32, 30, 290, 413, 27, 35, 34, 125, 340, 29, 221, 152, 211, 342, 550, 624, 584, 578, 552, 15, 364, 195, 219, 244, 277; LCFs 3, 5, 8; LCGs 1, 5, 20, 6, 7; LCR 141, and two LCNs towed by YTs 197 and 210. The only interruption encountered during the departure was when a hospital ship insisted on breaking through the convoy; however, all vessels departed according to schedule and the convoy cruising disposition was formed at approximately 1615.
2. During the first night strong northwesterly winds were encountered which necessitated slowing the convoy to four knots and allowing for about ten degrees leeway going through the swept channel. The following day the convoy continued on expected courses arriving at scheduled points on time. During the night of 5 September, it was necessary to make three course changes during the dark of the moon. A northerly breeze sprang up which accelerated the expected speed of the convoy so that during a squall at the time of a change of course certain units became separated from the convoy as follows: LCTs 244, 125, 584, 364, 195, 624; LCGs 6, 7; LCFs 5, 8; YT 186; INTENT (with oil barge) and RESOLUTE.
3. The rest of the convoy arrived at Castellammare Bay at daylight and found conditions very unsatisfactory due to a strong northerly breeze which was blowing directly into the bay, and a ground swell in the anchor area which was exceedingly high making fueling at this point impossible. The YMS 43 reported that she had struck a submerged object during the night causing a hole in her hull and that immediate repairs should be effected. This vessel was ordered to Palermo to effect necessary repairs and return to the convoy. The Destroyer BLANKNEY and two SCs were despatched to round-up the stragglers. It was decided that the convoy would probably fuel better at sea away from the ground swell, and perhaps, if necessary, find a lee off Palermo where fueling could be done throughout the night. For this reason the convoy got underway at 0800 and steamed out to sea. At the entrance of Castellammare Bay, the tug INTENT with the oil barge and the YT-186 joined the convoy reporting that the tow line had parted during the night and the Destroyer BLANKNEY reported that other vessels of the convoy were in Carini Bay. At 1230 the YMS-34 arrived with the oil tanker EMPIRE FAY and since it was necessary to fuel as soon as possible, and as the wind had started to abate, it was decided that the long trip back into Castellammare Bay would take too much time before fueling could be commenced and that an anchorage in Carini Bay from which the stragglers had just come would be more logical. The convoy therefore put into Carini Bay with the YMS-34 making a sweep ahead. Fueling commenced at 1545. At 2000 all LCTs had been refueled, the LCGs, LCFs, and LCR stating they did not require refueling.
4. The LCT Group Commander reported at 1600 that the LCT-244 had encountered engine difficulties and had proceeded to Palermo. The
vessel previously thought to be the LCT-244 was actually an LCT sent from Palermo to pick up gravel. At 1900, the YMS-34 was despatched to Palermo to bring back the LCT-244 and if necessary make arrangements for a relief for the YMS-43. The LCTs 551 and 549, who had departed from Palermo, joined the convoy at Carini Bay.
5. The following morning the YMS-36 arrived from Palermo as relief for the YMS-43 and brought back the LCT-244. At 0600, 7 September, the convoy made preparations for getting underway. Arrangements were made for the YMS-34 to convoy the oil tanker EMPIRE FAY and the oil barge back to Palermo. At 0700, the convoy cruising disposition was formed and a course was set to intercept the convoy route. About one hour out of Carini Bay the LCT-216 developed engine trouble caused by water in the fuel which she had taken on from the oil tanker EMPIRE FAY, and in order to maintain the speed of the convoy the RESOLUTE was detailed to tow the LCT-216 until repairs could be effected. At 1100 she proceeded under her own power.
6.The vessels remained in good formation throughout the day and night and arrived at the position to detach the LCTs destined for the southern task force without incidence, At the time of the detachment, at approximately 1400, 8 September, the convoy was attacked by three enemy aircraft (probably JU-88's) who attacked the convoy from a high altitude. Two bombs fell near the BLANKNEY, one on each side, and two bombs fell on the starboard side of the LCI-87, one striking so close that it deluged the bridge with water, broke water pipes, light bulbs, fixtures, threw the mercury out of the gyro and broke spring mountings in it rendering that compass useless. The force knocked the Magnesyn Compass from the mast, threw the standard compass out of its bowl and in general left the ship in a dazed condition. However, no serious internal damage could be discovered other than a probably slight bent rudder which made steering more difficult than usual. It is believed that the bomb caused less serious damage than might have been expected inasmuch as it probably fell at an angle away from the ship so that its path in the water was away from the hull rather then towards it. The BLANKNEY signalled that she had made a call for help. The attack lasted only a few minutes. The YMS-36 and the LCTs 15, 364, 195, 219, 244, and 277 were detached and given their position and instructions as to course, destination, and time of arrival.
7. At 1630, the convoy was again attacked by enemy aircraft. Bombs were dropped at the rear of the convoy and one plane attempted to strafe the convoy from a low altitude - approximately seventy-five feet. A call for help was sent out and the planes departed. One bomb struck alongside the LCT-624 (British) apparently exploding under the hull, breaking the vessels back and throwing a large amount of the cargo, consisting of gasoline tins, into the sea. The tug RESOLUTE pulled alongside and took off officers and crew, all of whom had survived the explosion without injury except for minor scratches. Shortly after the crew had been taken off, fire broke out forward and quickly spread aft, and within one-half hour the vessel had sunk. The BLANKNEY signalled that she would report the loss of LCT-624 by visual signal when she joined Convoy FSS2.
8.Sextant angles taken on the Isles of Capri and D'Ischia showed that the convoy passed one-half mile north of the turning point set for the approach disposition at 1800. A careful plot of sextant angle positions indicated there was a northerly set of approximately one-half knot an hour in this vicinity. At 1800 the destroyer BLANKNEY departed to join Convoy FSS2, and the convoy took up the approach disposition.
9.The LCT-25 was experiencing engine difficulties and the tugs RESOLUTE and INTENT were ordered to be ready to take her in tow if it became necessary. The two LCTs astern of her were ordered to take positions ahead.
10.At approximately 2015, a low flying bomber was seen proceeding in an easterly direction, approximately two hundred feet above the water, well on the beam of the convoy. Machine gun fire from an SC or PC in that vicinity was seen to bring the plane down. Only five tracer shots were noticed before the plane caught fire. At 2030, the two LCNs were detached and proceeded on ahead to carry out their mission of establishing navigational reference points for the Southern Attack Force. At 2100, the convoy had another attack by a single bomber whose bombs exploded on the starboard side of the LCI-87 at approximately seventy-five yards. At approximately 2200, another single bomber attacked the convoy and two heavy bombs fell approximately one hundred yards on the pert beam of the LCI-87, one of them appeared to have delayed action as it exploded at an appreciable instant after the splash of the bomb was seen on the water.
11. At 0100, when just north of "QUEEN" reference vessel LCGs 6 and 7, and LCTs 549 and 551 were detached and ordered to proceed one-half mile north and await arrival of the Ranger Convoy.
12. The convoy arrived on time ana the fourth wave of LCTs and Salvage Group arrived at reference vessel "LOVE" according to schedule. From this point on the control of the vessels under the command of the Convoy Commander ceased, and were taken over by each Wave Commander.
13. For future reference the following suggestions are made with regard to handling LCT convoys.
(1) The speed advance should be estimated at about four knots since, although, these vessels can make six knots without any great difficulty, there is usually one among the large number who is having engine difficulties and cannot make the higher speed. A strong breeze from ahead will slew the convoy down to approximately three to four knots, and, if great care is not taken, the convoy will become separated.
(2)Communication is one of the great problems in handling this type of convoy* particularly where radio silence is mandatory. Improvement has been made with the installation of sets of flags aboard some of these vessels, but it is recommended that each vessel should have at least one complete set. Signals for course changes have to be
sent down the line by semaphore and as happened on one night several vessels did not receive the course changes for the night even though these signals had been sent out two hours prior to sun-set. In order to make sure that every vessel has received the signals, the convoy commander should swing around the convoy before dark and cheek the stern vessels of each column to see that night changes of course have been received. Changes of course at night present a great difficulty in handling this type of vessel, particularly where the crew is small and the usual care in standing watches is probably not as strictly carried out as are on larger vessels. It is noted that during the night vessels are apt to lag behind and in case of a squall they become separated from the convoy. If possible no changes of course at night should be made. In mixed convoys extracts from MERSIGS should be used rather than extracts from Auxiliary Signal. Book as the British are not familiar with the latter, nor are they acquainted with the significance of our flags.
(3)It is further believed that convoy commanders should have
radar installed on headquarters ships in order that they can keep good tract of their charges. Dependence upon SCs and other escort craft to do this work does not seem to prove satisfactory as in the case of this convoy off the northwest tip of Sicily. The two SCs specifically charged with the duties of keeping the stragglers checked and notifying the convoy commander in case of any flagrant straggling proved to be of little assistance.
14. In general the Convoy Commander was very much pleased with the excellent cooperation shown by the LCT personnel. They did a remarkably fine piece of work in having the whole convoy, with the exception of the sunk LCT-624, arrive intact at the transport area after a rather trying experience with the weather and enemy bombers. It is felt that they deserve great credit for their determination to make the operation a success.
M. H. IMLAY
Commander, U.S. Coast Guard.
Interviews with Coast Guard officers and with other officials at Headquarters.
Interviews with Italian Embassy Attache, and other officials.
War Diaries Abstracts.
Biennial Reports of the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army 1941-43, and July 1, 1943 to June 30, 1945, to the Secretary of War.
State Department Bulletins.
"Battle Report II - The Atlantic War" by Walter Karig, Earl Burton, and Stephen L. Freeland.
"Prelude to Invasion" by Henry L. Stimson.
"Sea, Surf, and Hell" by Arch A. Mercey and Lee Grove.
Newspapers and magazines.
SYMBOLS OF U.S. NAVY SHIPS
AB Crane ship. AD Destroyer tender. AE Ammunition ship. AF Provision store ship. AG Miscellaneous auxiliary. AGC Combined operations communications headquarters ship. AGP Motor torpedo boat tender. AGS Surveying ship. AH Hospital ship. AK Cargo vessel AKA Cargo vessel, attack. AKN Net cargo ship. AKS General stores issue ship. AKV Aircraft supply ship. AM Large minesweeper. AMb Base minesweeper. AMc Coastal minesweeper. AN Net layer. AO Oiler. AOG Gasoline tanker. AP Transport. APA Transport, attack. APc Coastal transport. APD Troop transport (high speed). APH Transport for wounded. APL Hotel barge (barracks ship). APM Mechanized artillery transport. APS Auxiliary cargo submarine. APV Aircraft transport. AR Repair ship. ABB Repair ship, battle damage. ARD Floating drydock. ARG Internal combustion engine tender. ARH Heavy hull repair ship. ARL Repair ship, landing craft. ARS Salvage vessel. ARV Aircraft engine overhaul and structural repair ship. AS Submarine tender. ASR Submarine rescue vessel. AT Oceangoing tug. ATR Rescue tug. AV Seaplane tender (large). AVC Catapult lighter. AVD Seaplane tender (converted DD). AVP Seaplane tender (small). AW Water distilling and storage ship. AY Auxiliary tender, small. BB Battleship. --256--
CA Heavy cruiser. CAZ Auxiliary unallocated as to type (conversion). CB Large cruiser. CL Light cruiser. CM Mine layer. CMc Coastal mine layer. CV Aircraft carrier. CVE Large aircraft carrier. CVE Aircraft carrier escort. CVL Small aircraft carrier. DD Destroyer. DE Destroyer escort. DM Light mine layer (high speed). DMS Minesweeper (high speed). IX Unclassified. LCC Landing craft, control. LCI(L) Landing craft, infantry (large). LCM(2) 45' landing craft, mechanized, Mk. II. LCM(3) 50' landing craft, mechanized, Mk, III. LCM(6) 56' landing craft, mechanized, Mk. VI. LCP(L) 36' landing craft, personnel, (large). LCP(R) 36' landing craft, personnel, (with ramp). LCP(N) Landing craft, personnel (nested). LCR(L) Landing craft, rubber (large). LCR(S) Landing craft, rubber (small). LCS(S) Landing craft, support (small). LCT(5) Landing craft, tank, Mk. V. LCT(6) Landing craft, tank, Mk. VI. LCV Landing craft, vehicle. LCVP Landing craft, vehicle and personnel. LSD Landing ship, dock. LSM Landing ship, medium. LST Landing ship, tank. LVT(1) Landing vehicle, tracked (unarmored). LVT(2) Landing vehicle, tracked (unarmored). LVT(3) Landing vehicle, tracked (unarmored). LVT(4) Landing vehicle, tracked (unarmored). LVT(A1) Landing vehicle, tracked (armored). LVT(A2) Landing vehicle, tracked (armored) LVT(A3) Landing vehicle, tracked (armored) PC 173' submarine chaser. PCE 180' patrol craft escort vessel. PCE(R) 180' patrol craft escort vessel, rescue. PCS 136' submarine chaser. PE Eagle boat. PF Frigate. PG Gunboat. --257--
PGM Motor gunboat. PR River gunboat. PT Motor torpedo boat. PY Yacht. PYc Coastal Yacht. SC 110' submarine chaser. SS Submarine. YA Ash lighter. YAG District auxiliary, miscellaneous. YC Open lighter. YCF Car float. YCK Open cargo lighter. YCV Aircraft transportation lighter. YDG Degaussing vessel. YDT Diving tender. YF Covered lighter; range tender; provision store lighter. YFB Ferryboat and launch. YFD Floating drydock. YFT Torpedo transportation lighter. YG Garbage lighter. YHB Ambulance boat. YHB Houseboat. YHT Heating scow. YMS Motor minesweeper. YMT Motor tug. YN Bet tender. YNg Gate vessel. YNT Net tender (tug class). YO Fuel oil barge. YOG Gasoline barge. YOS Oil storage barge. YP District patrol vessel. YPK Pontoon stowage barge. YR Floating workshop. YRD(H) Floating workshop, drydock (hull). YRD(M) Floating workshop, drydock (machinery). YS Stevedore barge. YSD Seaplane wrecking derrick. YSP Salvage pontoon. YSR Sludge removal barge. YT Harbor tug. YTT Torpedo testing barge. YW Water barge. --258--
DESIGNATIONS OF U.S. NAVAL AIRCRAFT
Class of airplane
F2A Buffalo F3A Corsair F4U Corsair FM Wildcat FG Corsair F2G-1 Corsair F4F Wildcat F6F Hellcat FR XF8B XF14C XFD
Scout Bomber, 1-eng.
SB2A A-34 Bermuda SBW A-25 Helldiver SBC 77-A Helldiver SB2C A-25 Helldiver BTC SBD A-24 Dauntless BTD SBF A-25 Helldiver BTM SBN SB2U Vindicator
Torpedo Bomber, 1-eng.
TBY TBD Devastator TB2D TBM Avenger TBF Avenger Patrol Bomber, boat, 4-eng. PB2Y Coronado
Patrol Bomber, boat, 2-eng.
PB2P OA-10 Catalina PBY-5, 5A OA-10 Catalina P4Y PBM Mariner PBN OA-10 Catalina XPBB Sea Ranger CANSO "A" OA-10B Bomber, land, 4-eng PB4Y B-24 Liberator
Bomber, land, 2-eng
PBO AT-18 (A-29) Hudson PBJ B-25 Mitchell PV B-34 Ventura XP2V --259--
Class of airplane
Observation Scout 1-eng.
OY-1 L-5 (O-52) Sentinel SOC Seagull SO3C Seamew SC S2E-1 OS2N Kingfisher OS2U Kingfisher
JRB C-45 Expeditor JRC C-78 (AT-17) Bobcat BD A-20 (P-70) Havoc JRF OA-9 Goose J4F OA-14 Widgeon JM-1 B-26 Marauder Utility, 1-eng. JS2F OA-12 Duck
GB C-43 Traveler GK UC-61 Forwarder GH Nightingale AE(HE) L-4 Grasshopper
Transport, 4-eng. land.
RY C-87 Liberator R5D C-54 Skymaster
Transport, 2-eng. land.
RB C-93 R-5C C-46 Commando R3D R4D-1, 5 C-47, 47A Skytrain R4D-2, 4 C-49, 49A Skytrooper R50 C-53 Skytrooper PB2Y-3R C-56, 60 Lodestar
Transport, 4-eng. Sea.,
PB2Y-3R JRM (XPB2M-1R) Mars JR2S-2 Excalibur Transport, 2-eng. Sea.. PBM-3R
Training, 1-eng. primary.
N3N NE L-4 (O-59) Grasshopper NR PT-21 Recruit NP PT-21 N2S PT-13, 17, 18, 27 Caydet N2T Tutor XN5N XNL
Training, 2-eng, advanced
SNB-1 AT-11 Kansas SNB-2 AT-7 Navigator
Training, 1-eng. advanced
SNV BT-13 Valiant SNC Falcon NH SNJ AT-6 Texan
Special Purpose, 2-eng.
TDR TD3R TD2R TD3R TD2R --260--
Class of airplane
Special Purpose, 2-eng. (Continued)
Special Purpose, 1-eng.
TDN TDC PQ-8 TD2C PQ-14 TDR TDD OQ-2A
HNS-1 R-4B H02S-1 R-5 HOS-1 R-6 XHOS-1 XR-6