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The USS Liscome Bay

Back to the Schouten Page


Aarend Schouten served aboard the USS Liscome Bay during WWII and went down with his ship on November 25, 1943 after it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine off the Gilbert Islands.

According to Aarend's sister, Johanna Schouten Ogle (my grandmother), Aarend enlisted the day after his 17th birthday, and his last voyage was also his first.


Aarend's record as found in the United States. National Archives and Records Administration. Register, World War II Dead Interred in American Military Cemeteries on Foreign Soil and World War II and Korea Missing or Lost or Buried at Sea. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 19xx.

Source: http://www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/inddbs/4283a.htm United States. National Archives and Records Administration. World War II & Korean Conflict Veterans Interred Overseas. [database online] Provo, UT: Ancestry.com, 2000. Original data from:

Name:   Arend Schouten
Inducted From:   Nevada
Rank:   Seaman Second Class
Combat Organization:   United States Navy
Death Date:   Nov 25 1944
Monument:   Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
Last Known Status:   Missing
U.S. Awards:   Purple Heart Medal

 

Below I have collected some more in-depth information about the ship Aarend served on.

 

From the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships Online (DANFS): http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/carriers/cve56.txt
"the foremost reference regarding US naval vessels. Published in nine volumes (from 1959 to 1991), it gives histories for virtually every US naval vessel. To make DANFS accessible to a larger number of people, we are working to put all DANFS ship histories online through this site. Currently the online collection includes over 7000 ship histories, and more are being added. These files are faithfully transcribed from DANFS, without updating or corrections. This project is being carried out entirely by volunteers from around the world. Andrew Toppan is the project manager, volunteer coordinator and web archive maintainer."

“Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships,”(1969) Vol. 4, p.121.
 

USS LISCOME BAY

Specifications

  • CVE-56
  • Displacement: 7,800 t.
  • Length: 512’3”
  • Beam: 65’
  • Extreme Width: 108’1”
  • Draft: 22’6”
  • Speed: 19 k.
  • Complement: 860
  • Armament: 1 5”; 16 40mm
  • Aircraft: 28
  • Class: CASABLANCA

http://www.navsource.org/archives/03/056.htm

History

Liscome Bay (CVE-56) was laid down 9 December 1942 by Kaiser Shipbuilding Co., Vancouver, Wash., under a Maritime Commission contract; launched 19 April 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Ben Moreell; named Liscome Bay 28 June 1943; redesignated CVE-56 15 July 1943; acquired by the Navy and commissioned 7 August 1943, Capt. I. D. Wiltsie in command.

After training operations along the west coast, Liscome Bay departed San Diego 21 October 1943 and arrived Pearl Harbor, 1 week later. Having completed additional drills and operational exercises, the escort carrier set forth upon what was to be her first and last battle mission. As a unit of CarDiv 24, she departed Pearl Harbor 10 November attached to TF 52, Northern Attack Force, under Rear Adm. Richard K. Turner, bound for the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. The invasion bombardment announcing America's first major thrust into the central Pacific began 20 November at 0500, and 76 battle-filled hours later, Tarawa and Makin Islands were captured. Liscome Bay’s aircraft played their part well in the 2,278 action sorties provided by carrier based planes which neutralized enemy airbases, supported landings and ground operations in powerful bombing-strafing missions, and intercepted enemy raids. With the islands secured, the U.S. forces began a retirement.

On 23 November, the Japanese submarine I-175 arrived off Makin. The temporary task group built around Rear Adm. H. M. Mullinnix's three escorts, Liscome Bay, Coral Sea (CVE-57) and Corregidor (CVE-58) commanded by Rear Adm. Robert M. Griffin in New Mexico (BB-40) was steaming 20 miles southwest of Butaritari Island at 15 knots. At 0430, 24 November, reveille was made in Liscome Bay. The ship went to routine general quarters at 0505 as flight crews prepared their planes for dawn launchings. There was no warning of a submarine in the area until about 0510 when a lookout shouted: " . . . here comes a torpedo!" The missile struck abaft the after engine room an instant later with a shattering roar. A second major detonation closely followed the first, the entire interior burst into flames. At 0533, Liscome Bay listed to starboard and sank, carrying Admiral Mullinix, Captain Wiltsie, 53 other officers, and 591 enlisted men down with her; 272 of her crew were rescued. Gallantly her men had served; gallantly they died in the victorious campaign giving their lives for the Nation's future.

Liscome Bay received one battle star for World War II service.

Transcribed by Michael Hansen, mhansen2@home.com


The website USS MULLINNIX DD-944: The Sinking of the USS Liscome Bay, CVE-56, reiterates the above information about the Liscome Bay, and also includes information about some of her crewmembers and the Japanese craft that sank her, as well as a number of photos.

http://www.ussmullinnix.org/LiscomeBaySinking.html


A website called "U.S.S. LISCOME BAY . . . . Killed in Action" gives a dramatic account of the damage sustained by the Liscome Bay

http://www.beadee.com/kaiser/bosns_whistle/vol_3_no_24/p-8.htm


NOTE: I have reproduced the entire chapter concerning the battle in which the Liscome Bay was sunk because it has disappeared off the internet a couple of times, and moved around some. I think reading the entire chapter provides greater understanding.

From The Amphibians Came to Conquer, Volume 2: Chapter 17, "The Pushover - Makin", by V. Adm. George C. Dyers, 1973.  Found at ibiblio at http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/ACTC/actc-17.html
 

"Tactical Surprise Essential

On the assumption that the Japanese Air Fleets were still imbued with the same strong offensive attitude they had displayed during WATCHTOWER and TOENAILS, it was obvious that there could be no two or three-day preparatory or pre-landing shore bombardment of the Japanese defended atolls we sought to capture in the Gilberts, if we were to avoid strong air attacks on the transports before the Landing Force was put ashore. Late in 1943 there was good reason to believe that, with a couple of days' warning, the Japanese would be able to mass over the Gilbert Islands greater shore-based air strength than we could oppose, on anything like an even basis, with our seaborne air strength.

As Admiral Turner frequently said, he did not like to see Marines or soldiers swim, so mass Japanese air attacks on the transports off Makin and Tarawa were to be avoided, if practical. Offering the transports as bait was certainly not a desirable way of creating an opportunity for reducing Japanese air strength, by itself a worthwhile objective.

Passage to the Objective

Because tactical surprise was deemed an essential for success in GALVANIC,2 the passage to the objective by the major assault forces of the amphibians was devious rather than direct.

The vast majority of the amphibians took their departure from Hawaii and New Zealand ports with only the knowledge that their objective was "an island in an atoll in the far Pacific." As senior and experienced an officer as the Commander, Transport Group, Southern Attack Force, insists that he did not know his atoll destination until he arrived at the New Hebrides for final rehearsals. He also remembers that the second thing he was told about his objective was that Tarawa Atoll had to be oriented ten degrees to the left on all maps and charts to be used.3 This later proved to be true.

Accordingly, the passage to the Gilberts was quickly spent by all hands in studying the multiple operation orders and in trying to apply to them the lessons learned in the rehearsals. On one ship:

A relief map of the portion of Butaritari, including Entrance Island, which contained the target areas was constructed of asbestos cement, scale 1" = 250 yards. Grapenuts sprinkled in a matrix of thick shellac, and sprayed with green paint were used to simulate the thick growth of trees, and provided a fairly realistic picture.4

The main diversionary event of the passage for those ships of the Assault Forces originating in Hawaii was the "Crossing of the Line" ceremonies, during which King Neptune properly inducted the thousands who previously had never sailed south of the equator. The destroyer LeHardy logged the ceremonies in this way:

0830 Commenced Sacred Shellback induction ceremonies on fantail. Neptunus Rex in Supreme Command.

* * * * *

1040 Secured from equatorious induction exercises. All ship's company are now worthy Shellbacks.5

The Northern and Southern Attack Forces of Task Force 54 had a general area rendezvous on 17 November some 600 miles southeast from their objectives. This rendezvous was near the junction of the 180th parallel of longitude with the equator. From here the two forces took up parallel northwesterly courses toward the Gilberts. Rear Admiral Turner sent to the Commander Southern Attack Force by destroyer seamail the following letter of instructions:

Please try to stay within 25 miles of TF 52 during the run up.6

Late that day the flagship Pennsylvania logged TF 53 in sight 18 miles to the southwestward.

While the amphibians were moving northwesterly up towards their objectives on the 17th, 18th, and 19th of November 1943, the four carrier task forces of the Central Pacific Force carried out reconnaissance sweeps and air strikes to the north and west of the amphibians. With the exception of the Relief Carrier Group, they closed to covering distance on the day prior to the landings.

The bombing of Mille Atoll in the Marshall Islands, 200 miles north of Makin Atoll, during this period and the early days of the assault landings was important, for it was on Mille's airstrip that short range Japanese planes from the large air base on Maloelap Atoll, also in the Marshalls, could touch down and refuel before moving south to harass the GALVANIC forces. Otherwise, the Japanese planes would be compelled to carry belly tanks, which either limited their combat capability, or if dropped early, limited their chances of returning to base.

Surface, radar, and sonic reports of possible enemies under, on, and over the water occurred with increasing frequency as the Task Force neared its destination.

During the afternoon of 18 November, Commander Northern Attack Force, CTF 52, estimated from radio intercepts that a Japanese plane had contacted one of our search planes about 120 miles east of Apamama. The next forenoon the combat air patrol shot down a Japanese plane in this same area.

First Japanese Air Contact of the Amphibians.

A small task group of three LST's (Task Group 54.4) escorted by a single destroyer, while en route independently from Canton Island to Makin Atoll, was picked up by Japanese air reconnaissance about 1700 on 18 November 1943. This contact provided the first positive clue to the Japanese that the amphibians were headed for the Gilbert Islands.

The Japanese patrol bomber took a good look at the small formation, closing to about three miles, but having survived some 64 rounds of 5-inch, a few scattered rounds of 3-inch and much 50-caliber, turned away and took the bad news home. At this time the Dale (DD-353) and LST's 31, 78 and 179, the ships comprising TG 54.4, were about 150 miles east of Apamama Atoll and 200 miles southeast of Tarawa.

Not until the sun was setting, over 24 hours later, did two Japanese scout bombers return to drop their float lights and "Welcome to the Gilberts" bombs on the amphibians, who by now were only 45 miles from Makin Atoll. However, during the early afternoon the formation had been looked at by several other Japanese scout bombers. They did not come close enough to be fired at but one of these scout bombers was shot down by carrier aircraft coached to the scene.7

The Task Group Commander, Commander Adrian M. Hurst, reported this last action of the 19th as follows:

It had now become quite dark and visibility was quite limited. At 1926 starboard gun crews of LST 31 sighted a plane by means of its exhaust flame and engine noise coming in low and fast on the starboard quarter of the formation, following the range of the two lighted buoys, heading over the bows of the LST 31. LST 31 opened fire immediately followed by LST 78 at a range of approximately 1500 yards from the LST 31. The first burst of the fire from the starboard 20mm guns of the LST 31 appeared to take effect and the plane burst into flames. . . . The plane crashed into the sea after passing over the bow. . . .

It is believed that each LST, and in particular the LST 31, is deserving of considerable credit. These LST's are manned almost entirely by Naval Reserve commissioned and enlisted personnel of limited experience and training. This was their first war mission and first enemy action. The job was well done and the lessons learned very worthwhile. It should be noted that had the plane attack been successful, it might have seriously jeopardized the mission of the Attack Force GALVANIC Operation on the following morning.8

The reason for this latter statement was that these LST's carried all the amphibious tractors (amtracs) for the Makin Atoll assault. These amtracs could crawl over coral reefs with a boat load of troops carried above their crunching treads.

Amtracs for the Assault Phase of GALVANIC

On 18 September 1943, CINCPOA issued to major subordinate commanders "to facilitate planning, and [for] implementation" his Joint Staff study on GALVANIC. In this it was stated:

That due to the slow speed of LST's and in view of the desire to reduce the period during which loaded transports might be subjected to enemy aerial bombardment, transports should not be required to reduce speed to accompany LST's in approaching the objectives. LST's should therefore be employed for the landings of personnel and material subsequent to the assault phase.9

In General Holland Smith's Coral and Brass, the author takes Admiral Turner to task in regard to amtracs by writing:

During planning at Pearl Harbor, I was appalled to find Kelly Turner shortsightedly opposing the use of amtracs. . . .10

When questioned in regard to this, Admiral Turner said:

There was no opposition to amtracs as such. There was opposition to 'additional amtracs' beyond those already assigned to the Second Division and carried in the large transports. This opposition stemmed from the requirements that if there were to be 'additional amtracs' we had to get the 'additional amtracs' to the Gilbert Islands aboard LST's. Because of their slow speed, this would bring the LST's into the Japanese air reconnaissance area well ahead of the large transports whose speed of advance was 50% higher than the LST's.

You will find somewhere in CINCPAC's instruction that he didn't want this to happen, and I was supporting his instructions. When the Marines' urgent desires were made known to Spruance and Nimitz, they waived their instructions in the matter.

As it turned out, the LST's carrying amtracs were the first ships sighted by the Japs and gave the Japs an extra twenty-four hours to gather their defensive strength. Who knows, that extra twenty-four hours' notice may have been the necessary margin for the submarine that sank the Liscome Bay to reach her station.11

An indication of Rear Admiral Turner's favorable thinking in regard to amtracs at this time, October 1943, is contained in the following letter which he wrote to Major General Holland M. Smith:

     

Your recommendation for substitution of armored amphibious cargo tractors LVT(A)(2) for the unarmored type now in the Central Pacific Area, as set forth in reference (a) is concurred in by endorsement to that document.

It is apparent that vehicles of this type, together with the DUKW, should be available for employment in large numbers by forces engaged in operations in the Central Pacific Area, thereby making the establishment of training facilities and a replacement pool in the Hawaiian Islands desirable. . . ."12

The capabilities of the LVT were not widely known at the time GALVANIC was being planned as the following quote from the GALVANIC Report of Commander, Transport Division Four shows:

The Harris departed for Samoa on October 10, 1943, having been assigned the duty of making tests to learn whether LVT(1)s would operate satisfactorily on coral reefs and whether it was feasible to land medium tanks from LCM(3)'s on coral reefs.

Even while these tests were being carried out, Rear Admiral Turner made arrangements for the LST's to proceed to Samoa to load the LVT(2) (armored) amtracs at the U.S. Naval Station on 5th and 6th of November. The LST's were directed to exercise in unloading the new amtracs by using the beaches at Funafuti, Ellice Islands, enroute to the Gilberts.

How Hour, Dog Day for GALVANIC

During the early planning phase, a How Hour, the hour for landing, as early as 0500 had been considered. Gradually as the complexity of the task was examined in detail, How Hour was retarded. Rear Admiral Turner wrote:

this was because of the later tides [which led to the landing being postponed one day], to permit planes to have a better light, and to give gunfire ships a chance for counter battery against shore fire against transports.13

Prior to the actual landings, this important touchdown hour for the troops at the RED beaches was again retarded, to 0830 at Makin Atoll and to 0900 at Tarawa Atoll.

The Assault Phase: (1) Makin (2) Tarawa

The seagoing part of the GALVANIC amphibians' story for Makin will be described in this chapter since that is where Rear Admiral Turner was positioned. In the next chapter, certain phases of the operation at Tarawa Atoll, a hundred miles away from his searching eyes, will be covered.

Makin Weather - 20 November 1943

Sunrise for 20 November was computed to occur at 0612, which was shortly after the transports were due to arrive in the Transport Area. The day dawned fair with only a slight overcast and visibility was good. There was no particular surf as the wind out of the southeast was light. The long tradewind swell from the southeast was at a minimum. The moon was at the third-quarter and the temperature at 0600 was 83 degrees F, promising a warm day. At 0726 a half-hour rain squall developed and the ocean became a bit choppy.14

The Approach

Task Force 52 approached Makin Atoll from the southeastward. The larger ships picked up the low lying atoll on their radar about four in the morning at distances from 16 to 26 miles. The Task Group was somewhat ahead of schedule due to strong westerly currents, so since the moon had risen at 0100, the Force was zigzagged to reduce the advance in lieu of slowing down.

The Fire Support Units were detached at 0437 and moved ahead of the formation to catapult their spotter seaplanes about 0540. The Pennsylvania (BB-38) and Minneapolis (CA-36) maintained a position between the transports moving in to the Transport Area and Butaritari Island, ready to open counter battery fire in case an undetected coast defense gun might open fire.

Makin Atoll

Gathered off Makin Atoll in the clear dawn of 20 November 1943, were four attack transports, an attack cargo ship, three LST's and one new landing ship dock. They were carrying nearly 6,500 assault troops. Four old battleships (OBBs), four heavy cruisers, ten destroyers and one minesweeper were available to do a variety of tasks including clearing the lagoon area of mines, providing anti-aircraft protection and gunfire support to the troops, and, hopefully, anti-submarine protection to all ships present.

Within voice radio range were three new escort (jeep) carriers and their four destroyer escorts to provide close air support. Not too far over the horizon were three large carriers, (two of them CVLs on light cruiser hulls) and their powerful escort of three new battleships and six destroyers, primarily to provide protection against the Japanese Fleet and against air raids from the Marshalls, but also, on the day of the initial landing, to do a bit of Dog Day bombing of Japanese positions on Butaritari Island.

How Hour

There had been a difference of opinion between Commander Landing Force and his superior, Commander Attack Force, as to just when How Hour should be.

Major General Ralph C. Smith had written the following personal memorandum to Rear Admiral Turner commenting on the Fifth Tentative Draft of CTF 52 Op Order 3-43:

I believe that 0800 is too late for 'H' hour. Suggest 0730 as giving maximum time for landing troops during favorable tides. 'W' hour [the time for landing on the lagoon side of Butaritari] should be three hours (3) after 'H' hour.

Rear Admiral Turner in his reply said:

Using LVT's and boats, I doubt that we can do any better.

And, in fact, he decided that the Navy could not do that well, for H-hour finally was set for 0830 and W-hour was set for two hours later, 1030.

Where Are We at H-Hour on D-Day?

The Commander of the three LST's carrying the 32 amtracs for the first wave at Makin Atoll's Butaritari Island was worried on the morning of Dog Day that he was not going to be on station in time for his pre-How Hour launch of the amtracs. He later reported:

Dale reported that they had made insufficient allowance for drift during the night, and that we were to the westward and northward of the Transport Area. CTG 54.4 had been directed previously by CTG 52 to make more use of destroyer's navigation due to limited facilities in LST's and the fact that Dale had radar and more adequate navigational equipment. Too much dependency was placed in Dale's navigation which fortunately was not enough out to cause the Task Group to miss making the scheduled landing at H-Hour.15

Minesweeping Makin

Because of the depth of the ocean, it was assumed that there were no mineable waters on the ocean side of Butaritari, so it was not necessary to have the minesweeper Revenge (AM-110) sweep the off beach ocean areas. When the Neville reported Entrance Island located in the main channel to Makin Lagoon was not defended by the Japanese, the Revenge, at 0938, was ordered in to sweep the lagoon. No mines were found in the lagoon area and the Revenge, strangely enough, was not fired upon from Butaritari Island. The Revenge continued its sweeping efforts into the late afternoon, 1721. By that time she had swept not only a channel into the lagoon but a good sized safe anchorage area within the lagoon. This anchorage permitted bringing transports as well as the three LST's into the lagoon for the unloading of their LCT's and subsequently the bulk of the logistic support carried in the Assault Transports.16

Landing the Assault Waves--Makin

According to the Army's historians, the Scheme of Maneuver at Butaritari was "elaborate in the extreme and unlike any adopted before or since in the Pacific War."17

The first wave of troops was to be in amtracs, delivered by the LST's, and the troops in this wave only were from the 105th Infantry Regiment. These amtrac troops, followed by the assault troops from two battalion combat teams of the 165th Infantry Regiment, were to land at How-Hour at RED Beach and RED Beach Two. The centers of these landing beaches were located 2,000 yards and 1,000 yards respectively to the north and west of Ukiangong Point on the ocean side of Butaritari Island.


Southwest part Butaritari Island, Makin Atoll

 

The assault troops from the other battalion combat team of the 165th Regiment were to land two hours later (William Hour) at YELLOW Beach Two near On Chang's Wharf on the lagoon side of Butaritari Island. Again the lead wave in amtracs was to come from the 105th Infantry Regiment.

It was hoped by this Scheme of Maneuver to take the Japanese on the flank and rear while he was defending from the initial frontal attack.

The transports on the ocean side were to put their troops into landing craft via rope cargo nets while lying to in the Transport Area about 3.5 miles off RED Beach. From here the landing craft would move to the Rendezvous Area and take their station in their designated wave.

The transport Neville was to start her troops for YELLOW Beach while lying to off Entrance Island just outside the lagoon. The LSD Belle Grove was to unload her LCM's, pre-loaded with tanks, from just inside the lagoon, and these LCM's were to be in the assault waves on YELLOW Beach.

The execution of the landing phase did nothing to smooth out the complexities of the plan.

As the transports edged into the Transport Area on the southwest ocean side of Butaritari Island about 0600, and started to rapidly lower their landing craft, the Carrier Interceptor Group (TG 50.1) launched its fighter plane (VF) strafing attack and followed this with dive bombing and glide bombing attacks (VB and VT) on Butaritari Island. These attacks were scheduled from 0610 to 0640, but actually commenced at 0615. To those aboard the heavy support ships and transports the attacks were spectacular.

As a famous historian who was aboard the Baltimore off Makin recorded shortly thereafter:

After some of the air bombs were dropped, one could see coconut palms shooting up into the air, the trunks being separated from the foliage and the tops coming down like shuttle cocks.18

A less enthusiastic assessment by those doing the chore read:

The Makin strike (34 VSB and VT aircraft) in support of landing operations on D-Day, was directed to bomb military installations by the Support Aircraft Commander, although no such installations could be discovered. Bombs were accordingly dropped in the assigned space target area with unobserved results.19

The bombs dropped totaled 16 tons.

Meanwhile, the wave circles of loaded LCVP in the rendezvous area were maintained in good formation in spite of wind and a heavy rain squall.

Long before our air bombardment had taken place, the battleships and cruisers had launched their spotting planes.

The first news from them was good:

0625: Pennsylvania spotting plane reported no breakers on RED Beaches with swells believed not to be over three feet in height.20

At 0640, the inadequately screened battleships and cruisers which were crowded into narrow maneuvering lanes, and, of necessity, frequently at only steerage way speeds, opened their prearranged shore bombardment against selected targets. The heavy cruiser Minneapolis got off the first salvo. Meanwhile the three hurrying and worried LST's of Task Group 54.4 were hull down from their position to launch the amtracs, but were pushing along with wide open throttles.

The prearranged shore bombardment was due to last from 0640 to 0820 and then pick up again from 0850 to 0930. The latter gunfire was to be from secondary batteries and its purpose was to cover the advance of the troops to their initial objectives, as they moved away from the landing beaches toward the main Japanese defensive positions.

The next news was bad.

At 0747 Rear Admiral Turner, an old gunnery hand, was prompted to ask the Mississippi if she had had a turret casualty, since her Turret II had not fired for some minutes.

The Mississippi (BB-41) reported that at 0728, during the second phase of her main battery bombardment, she had had a serious turret fire in turret II, which resulted in the deaths of 43 officers and men, and the wounding of another 19. Despite this handicap, the Mississippi continued her firing schedule.21

At 0750, all waves, except the essential LVT first wave, left the Rendezvous Area for the Line of Departure.22

The absence of the lead wave was not good, but the situation hopefully was about to change, since it appeared the panting and pounding LST's were barely going to make the amtrac launch deadline. At the crucial minute, LST-31 and LST-78 carrying the amtracs and the troops for the first assault wave arrived in position and:

0755. LST-31 debarked 17 LVT's in four minutes; LST-78 debarked 17 LVT's in five minutes.23

At 0750, the destroyers Phelps (DD-360) and MacDonough (DD-351) arrived in position just inside of 3,000 yards from the RED beaches to mark the Line of Departure. At 0810, the 32 amtracs carrying 460 men and landing craft carrying eight light tanks started in for the landing beaches. The scheduled big ship bombardment stopped at 0818, seven minutes before the fighter aircraft swept over RED Beach and RED Beach Two strafing these beaches. The amtracs added to the racket when they let go their rockets a half-mile from the beach and followed this up by rapidly firing their 50-caliber and 30-caliber machine guns.

There was little or no return fire, and no Japanese at or near the water's edge to greet the assault troops as they waded ashore.

The Commander of the LST's wrote:

0830 How Hour. LVT's from LST-31 and LST-78 landed on RED beaches on schedule.24

The log entry was almost, but not exactly, correct; the weight of evidence is that the actual landing was at 0833.

There were no mines, barbed wire or other beach obstructions. That was good news, but the unsettling word at 0912 was the report that "hydrographic conditions were bad at both RED beaches."25

Some of the landing craft in the second and third assault waves had gotten within a boat's length of the beach before grounding, but many of them had grounded on hidden coral ledges or rocks as far as 120 feet from the beach, and some had broached.26 Only about 15 yards of good beach existed at RED Beach.

Because of delays due to the hydrographic hazards, the assault troops moved inland and away from the beach behind schedule. Since the prearranged gunfires tended to be completed minutes ahead of schedule and the troops did not use the procedures for bringing down call fire, there were long minutes when the Japanese defenders were not under harassing fire by naval guns.


Makin Atoll, Gilbert Island Group, Operations Chart

 

All landing craft waves commencing with the third ran behind schedule in actually unloading troops, because there was inadequate beaching area. The fifth wave at RED Beach did not land until 1000, one hour behind schedule, and the seventh wave did not land at RED Beach Two until 1022, a bit more than an hour behind schedule. This made it difficult for the 165th Regiment to keep to its time schedule for forward movement.

In addition to delay in getting the troops ashore, there was trouble getting their equipment and immediate support ashore. Only the LVT wave and the first two landing craft waves were able to unload on RED Beach because the beach rapidly jammed up with troops and equipment. The remaining RED Beach waves landed on an individual basis of "may the best coxswain win."27

Some of their difficulties are indicated in this report.

Hydrographic conditions on both beaches RED and RED-2 prevented boats from landing as organized waves, causing boats to land as best they could thru the coral. Subsequent experience during the unloading phase of the operation brought out the fact that on RED beach at high tide but one boat could reach the beach, none at low. At RED-2, five boats could beach at high tide, two at low. . . .28

As soon as the initial assault landing of the second and third waves was nothing more than a bad memory:

The Beach Party and Boat Group Commander attempted to alleviate the poor beach conditions by conducting a hydrographic survey on three quarters (3/4) of a mile of beach to determine the most suitable place for small boats to land. No such place existed for the beach was wholly rocks and coral.29

* * * * *

RED Beach having been found unusable and all boats there having been directed to RED Beach-2, the large number of boats attempting to land thereon resulted in a congestion that made traffic control extremely difficult and seriously delayed the unloading. . . .30

All witnesses did not see things the same way, but there was a consensus that only three to six landing craft could land at Beach RED at a time and only five at Beach RED Two during the period of three hours before and after flood tide. In any case, only 31 of a hoped-for 250 small landing craft (LCVP) loads of logistic support got ashore on the RED beaches on Dog Day. The medium-sized craft (LCM) did better. Eighteen out of 28 loads were discharged at the beaches, including many 105-millimeter guns with D-4 tractors.

As planned, to shorten the turnaround time off the RED Beaches, the transports shifted closer to the beach soon after the initial assault waves touched down. There they commenced unloading into LST's while continuing such unloading as possible by landing boats. The problem of the landing boats at the beach was reported on as follows:

Unloading was accomplished when the boats had run up on coral obstructions. Several of these boats became swamped to the sinking point when their ramps were lowered . . . to disembark. All of the boats experienced difficulties in retracking, many of them incurring screw casualties, wrecked skegs, damaged rudders and holes in the hull.31

Two of the newer amphibian ships at Makin thought so little of recording what happened when, that they did not even submit an action report until nudged to do so by higher authority. Then their accounts were so brief as to be meaningless, as were their ships' logs.32

At 1001, ninety minutes after the first troops landed ashore, Rear Admiral Turner (CTF 52) dispatched the good news to COMFIFTHFLT that the troops had landed "against no opposition." This was almost literally true. Only one sailorman amphibian had been killed by Japanese fire in the actual landing and one other wounded. By nightfall, at all beaches, three naval amphibians were dead and 13 wounded.

Lagoon Landings

Off the western entrance to Makin Lagoon, the Neville commenced lowering her landing craft at 0840 and the new landing ship dock Belle Grove (LSD-2), lying to nearby, began launching her LCM's at 0910. The LSD had 16 in the water in the next 12 minutes.

The landing craft formed up easily in the calm waters of the lagoon and eased in toward the Line of Departure.33

The first wave was made up of 16 amtracs launched from LST-179 inside the lagoon. The second and third waves were eight LCM's and seven LCM's respectively carrying medium tanks launched from the Belle Grove.

The destroyers MacDonough and Phelps, commencing at 1005, provided covering fire for the advancing YELLOW Beach waves. As the lead assault wave moved in towards the beach, each of the amtracs let go its six rockets. Planes from the jeep carriers swept over the beach area during the 10-minute period before the amtracs actually touched down at the shoreline at 1040.

Despite the previous air and gunnery bombardments, when the landing craft moved away from the Line of Departure toward YELLOW Beach, there was bothersome sniper fire from Japanese troops concealed in two hulks sunk in the lagoon, and from other Japanese hidden in the underpinnings of the two wharfs between which the landing craft had to pass.

The Neville logged the assault waves' landing at YELLOW Beach Two at 1040, 1041, 1043, 1045, 1050, 1056, 1101, and 1108. The troops from all YELLOW Beach LCVP initially had to wade through water ranging from knee-deep to belly-deep, because the craft grounded well out from the shore line.

The ten-minute lag behind the prescribed How Hour of 1030 was caused by the amtracs in the lead wave slowing down during the last beach fly-over by the fighter aircraft (the tail-enders of which were more than a bit late) and then not having enough reserve speed to make up lost ground.

As soon as the sniper fire was reported, Commander Support Aircraft called for air bombing attacks on the hulks. In the meantime, all the assault waves went on in to make their landings, disregarding the sniping fire from the hulks.

The close air support planes showed up and dropped their bombs, but the amphibians in the later waves continued to be shot at by the Japanese snipers. The Carrier Division Commander reported that two different groups of planes, five VBs and later six VTs bombed the two hulks, but all aircraft made misses.34

The story behind the misses was:

7-500 lb bombs and 5-100 lb bombs were dropped with a 2,000 foot release.

Two pilots received no word of target assignment, due to inadequate communications.

In spite of a number of near misses, no bomb hits were made because of the failure to allow for a 20-knot wind from the east.35

The destroyer Dewey, a bit stand-offish, did little better when she took the hulks under fire, from a considerable range.

Finally, at 1130, Rear Admiral Turner, CTF 52, directed the Dewey which had fired eleven full salvos at a range just under 3,000 yards, and ten salvos at 2,600 yards to

get in close so that every shot hits those hulks. You have been firing into the beach. Report when you are 500 yards from the hulk.

* * * * *

Boats are waiting for you. When you are hitting the hulks, tell the boats to go in.

Eight minutes later, at 1138, the destroyer reported:

We are hitting them.36

Troops and logistic support started landing again at 1245. The "overs" from the Dewey firing at the hulks alarmed some of the troops ashore, who urgently requested the gunfire cease. This was done.

The Dewey was not happy about navigating in the lagoon.

Navigation inside the inner reefs was difficult and precarious due to the extremely narrow and devious passages between reefs and coral heads. The ship had to be steered largely by use of engines, there being so little maneuvering room. . . . [The chart] could be used only as a guide and navigation was a matter of seeing and avoiding the shallow water.37

Despite the Dewey's best efforts, the hulks had to be bombed and gunned again on the next day to stifle the last Japanese sniper.

The problem at YELLOW Beach for all the landing craft, except the tracked LVT's, is explained by a despatch from the Dewey.

Beach conditions very poor--boats beach about 200 yards from shore--2 to 3 feet of water from this point in. Supplies are difficult to land. Losses are still fairly small.38

During the first 24 hours, the amtracs picked up supplies from reef grounded LCVP's and carried them on into YELLOW Beach. This transshipment was a slow and man-consuming process.

From the naval point of view, the lack of strong antiaircraft fire during the air bombardment, or even against the slow flying spotting planes from the heavy ships, was indicative of the effectiveness of the pre-landing air bombings and gun bombardment against the modest defenses of Butaritari Atoll. The relative slowness of the troop advance was indicative of the determination of the Japanese to fight under difficult and discouraging circumstances.

At the end of Dog Day, Makin was still being stoutly defended by its scanty troops. It was not until just before noon on Dog Day plus three that Makin Atoll was officially taken.

Logistic Problems--Makin

Rear Admiral Turner remained off Makin Atoll in the Pennsylvania exercising active control of the logistic operations supporting our troops on Makin until 1730 on November 30th when TF 52 departed for Pearl Harbor. This, a long ten days, was indicative of how the logistic lessons of Guadalcanal had impressed the Commander Assault Force.

The equipment and logistic support of the assault troops at Makin Atoll was moved ashore, in the main, by the three LST's and the three LCT's which the LST's had carried on their backs to the atoll's lagoon and there launched. This was a big change from WATCHTOWER and some change from TOENAILS.

However, even with marked assistance from these hard working craft, there was delay in solving the planned Makin logistical support problem.

Landing craft problems at the RED beaches on Butaritari Island caused Commander Transport Group, late on the afternoon of Dog Day, to make his first big change in logistic plans. This was the decision to shift the major part of unloading to the lagoon (YELLOW Beach Two and King's Wharf), commencing on Dog Day plus one. Additional Army personnel were requested and assigned to make this practical.

The second big logistic change was to unload from the transports only during daylight. This change was reported to higher authority as follows:

On receiving report that unloading at RED Beaches was impractical during darkness due to tidal conditions, and that unloading at YELLOW Beaches was impracticable due to continuing opposition and machine gun fire ashore, CTF 52 decided to send the LST's and LCT's inside the lagoon for the night, and retire with the transports to the southeastward, returning at daylight.39

Each night from 20 through 23 November, at approximately 1800, the transports and their escorts retired well to sea and returned to the Transport Area the next morning at approximately sunrise. During the long hours of the night, the LST's, LCT's, and the Shore Party attempted to reduce the clutter on the landing beaches and get ready for a full day's work on the morrow.


Butaritari Island--Sketch Plan of YELLOW Beach Two

Not only were the RED beaches unsuitable, but YELLOW Beach Two in the lagoon was no bargain beach, since the coral reef off of it was about 200 yards wide. One ship reported:

This coral reef was never dry. It had from 12-18" of water over it even at low tide. At high tide, the water was never deep enough to allow boats to get into the beach over this coral reef. At no time could boats be unloaded on dry land. . . .40

This condition had been anticipated in part by Rear Admiral Turner, who had written to Major General Ralph Smith:

Attention is invited to the fact that shortly after W-Hour, conditions for landing will be at their worst as boats will be unable to beach and the reef will not have dried sufficiently to permit ready handling from the edge of the reef to the shore.41

The reef condition necessitated the use of LVT's as the sole vehicle for the actual final unloading onto YELLOW Beach Two and brought complications with the troops, for:

At one time all LVT's were used by the Army and during this time, no boats were unloaded.42

At the end of Dog Day, the transports averaged only 25 percent unloaded, with some of this 25 percent still in the landing craft and not ashore. With only daylight to unload in, it was apparent that the large transports were going to have to be around for some days longer. Fortunately, no enemy air or surface craft had shown up to be engaged by TF 52 on that day and about half of Butaritari Island had been seized. The situation was not one to enthuse over but neither was it all bad.

Pontoon causeways were to be set up at all the beaches on Dog Day plus one and it was hoped that the second day would produce a higher rate of discharge of support logistics. Repair of King's Wharf in the lagoon, which was barely usable initially, was also proceeding rapidly. Since it had a seaplane ramp at its outer edge, a greater unloading tonnage could be looked forward to confidently.

Upon return to Makin on the morning of Dog Day plus one, the cargo ship Alcyone was moved into Makin Lagoon to unload, and the Leonard Wood and Calvert were directed to unload from positions off Entrance Island (Transport Area Two). Only the transport Pierce continued to unload over RED Beach Two. The Belle Grove was to spend its energies in repairing disabled landing craft, which were plentiful.

The second night, the Alcyone, Belle Grove, as well as the LST's and LCT's, were left in the lagoon to continue unloading, while the rest of the Task Force cruised to the southeastward of Makin Atoll. Additional pontoon sections were to be set up the next day. The transports were now 60 percent unloaded. Since the Japanese had adequate time to get their submarines to the Gilberts, the submarine worry factor was increasing.

By the late afternoon of the next day, the 22nd, the transports and cargo ship were 94 percent unloaded. One more trek to the southeastward was ordered for that night, before re-embarkation of the assault troops and their equipment scheduled on the afternoon of the morrow.

Transport Division 20 finally got that last six percent cleared out of their holds about 1400 on 23 November. Re-embarkation of assault troops and tanks immediately commenced. This was not completed until late afternoon on 24 November when the larger transports departed for Pearl Harbor under the motherly protection of the unhappy Mississippi.

The garrison forces had arrived at Makin at 1100 on 24 November and commenced debarkation shortly thereafter. Their logistic support had been unloaded from all ships, less the SS Constantine, by 1500, 29 November, although much time was lost in unloading since the air alerts [due to radar contacts with aircraft not showing IFF that were later identified as friendly] required all vessels to get underway, prepared to repel air attacks.43

Gunfire Support Makin Atoll

The gunfire bombardment went 1, 2, 3, despite many gun casualties, the lack of good charts, many low flying clouds and occasional heavy rain squalls. Some 1,700 tons of shells were fired during the pre-landing bombardment. In the words of the Commander Fire Support:

Outstanding was the fact that the ship's [gunfire] mission was accomplished precisely according to plan. No deficiency of material or personnel occurred to necessitate any deviation from plan; neither was there any enemy counter-action to upset the plan.44

* * * * *

Prearranged fires were delivered as scheduled, commencing at 0640 and continuing until 0825 (when fire ceased for air strike), resuming again at 0850 and continuing until 1025.45

The heavy ships bombarded from positions generally south and west of Makin Island in order to take advantage of the greater length of the island versus its breadth. Despite this positioning:

A large percentage of salvos fired by bombarding ships fell in the water and were ineffective and wasted. This was caused by using indirect fire at assigned targets [while] using navigational fixes obtained from tangents of the islands. These fixes in general were never accurate.46

Salvos falling in the water were also caused by firing at unnecessarily long ranges, particularly for the 5-inch batteries of the heavy ships. The Pennsylvania, for instance, fired its secondary battery at average ranges of 15,400 yards to 15,800 yards, while its 14-inch main battery was fired only at ranges from 10,100 to 14,200. The average range of the main battery fire was about 12,000 yards for the larger ships, and about 7,000 yards for the destroyers.47

Minneapolis, Dewey, and Phelps were told off to furnish close supporting call fires for the troops. Requests for gunfire support were limited to gunfire on the hulks in the lagoon. The designated ships stood by, but no calls came from the regimental or battalion shore fire control parties. Perhaps part of this reluctance by the troop commanders to use naval gunfire was the large clouds of coral dust and debris raised by the gun bombardment, due to the order that all 5"/25 caliber projectiles had fuses set so as to burst on impact.48

The rapid salvos of the cruisers and destroyers firing their guns obscured a fair share of the island and prevented the troop commanders from observing the accuracy of the shooting.

Air Bombardment and Close Air Support

The assigned targets on the island were bombed and strafed, but it is impossible to assess total damage resulting since strikes had been made previously by planes from the other carriers. . . .

* * * * *

Due to minute [target] areas, and nature of target objectives, and to speed, angle of dive and sharp pull up and break away tactics used in strafing runs, minute observations of results were not possible, but tracer bullets were seen by all pilots to strike or enter targets and target areas.

* * * * *

The Support Air Commander returned two support air groups without having dropped their bombs.49

Despite the availability of close air support in generous quantity, no calls for it were made by the Landing Force subsequent to the unsuccessful bombing attacks on the lagoon hulks on Dog Day.

The Follow-up

Out of the experience of Guadalcanal and New Georgia had come a

strong conviction that the garrison troops and their logistic support must be firmly scheduled to arrive and replace the assault troops and their equipment as soon as practicable after the objectives were secured by the assault troops.

The problem that this conviction created for GALVANIC arose from the lack of suitable naval transports and naval cargo ships to carry the "follow up," not from the lack of garrison troops or logistic support.

The ships that were assembled for this "follow-up" chore were a pretty miscellaneous lot, but the hurriedly assembled staff of Commander Garrison Group was even more miscellaneous and a travesty on naval staffs. The staff totaled five officers, four of whom had had no experience at sea and three of whom had had no naval experience or training in their specialty assignments.50

The Makin and Tarawa Garrison Groups (Task Groups 54.8 and 54.9) under the command of Captain Paul P. Blackburn, U.S. Navy, (Retired), departed Pearl Harbor on November 15th with three naval oilers in company. The Garrison Groups proceeded at a 12- knot speed of advance with a due date in the Gilberts of Dog Day plus four.

Besides the three oilers, this task group included one new naval transport, one naval cargo ship, and seven merchant ships. There were six new destroyer escorts to guide and protect them. When west of Baker Island, an Air Support Group joined up.

Communications were a major problem:

In this case, since the TBY [voice radio] was out of commission, colored lights and radio forbidden, nothing remained but whistle signals for night maneuvering of a task group which had never operated independently. . . .51

Naval ships and merchant ships, of necessity, were in the same column of a four-column formation. The naval ships were not accustomed to merchant ship maneuvering nor to the split command responsibility between escort and convoy commanders. The marked limitations of merchant ships to maneuver when in formation were not well understood by the escort commander.52

It is a tribute to the Task Group Commander and to the merchant marine that the Task Group arrived on time on 24 November, even though:

One vessel, the Cape Constantine, a motor ship, was a problem during the outward voyage. Shortly after departure from Pearl, the Cape Constantine began dropping astern. The Master reported to me that his best speed was 11.5 knots and that he was having no mechanical difficulties. The ship was permitted to steam steadily on the base course without zigzag, causing some interference with the maneuvers of the escort vessels and leaving Cape Constantine at times considerably astern of the convoy and its escort. I increased the speed of the convoy from time to time by increments of one half knot until the speed made good was about 12.25 knots. Cape Constantine was able to keep up, so I'm not sure that the difficulty was not partly 'Chief Engineer trouble.'53

Despite air alarms sending the crews to general quarters five to eight times a day, the LSTs had largely completed unloading the merchant transports carrying the equipment and logistic support for the garrison troops at Makin by 29 November and gladly saw them depart the next day.54

That was a major improvement over the WATCHTOWER experience.

Japanese Air Attacks During Assault Phase

On Dog Day, sixteen torpedo bombers from Kwajalein and Maloelap Atolls in the Marshall Islands had passed clear of TF 52 at Makin Atoll to the westward and swept down on the Southern Carrier Group (Task Group 50.3) as the carriers were recovering aircraft just be fore sunset (1819) off Tarawa. Despite an early warning of the impending attack by an anti-submarine patrol aircraft and by the destroyer Kidd (DD-661), plentiful antiaircraft fire and the efforts of the limited number of fighters still aloft, a torpedo was placed in the bowels of the cruiser-hulled carrier Independence (CVL-1). This was the only major casualty to our air support from the Japanese air arm during the first four days of GALVANIC, although several enemy air groups of good size had sought dawn or dusk contact on the 18th and 19th of November, before the Assault Force reached the Gilberts. Two major Japanese air attacks were turned back by the Lexington (CV-16) on 23 and 24 November, well clear of the air support carrier groups.55

The amphibians at Makin Atoll had the usual rash of bogies each day but mostly they turned out to be friendly planes who were reluctant dragons in turning on the IFF (Identification Fried, Foe) signals. no Japanese air attack was logged by any ship of the Northern Attack Force until 25 November, when there was a crescendo of air attacks on all Fifth Fleet Forces in the area of the Gilbert Islands.

Japanese Air Attack During "Follow-Up" Phase

Rear Admiral Turner described vividly one pass at the Northern Attack Force by Japanese aviators occurring on 25 November:

1500
to
1800

Several single BOGIES were reported generally to the north and northwest, distance 12 to 20 miles, all reported low. Fighters were vectored out on several occasions, but failed to make contact. It is believed that the BOGIES were Japanese BETTY's reporting position of and tracking this force.

1751

Recovery of our combat air patrol completed.

1810

Sunset. Radar contact with one enemy aircraft.

1825

Visual contact with one BETTY.

1832

Formed modified cruising disposition 3L2; battleships moving in to 1500 yards and two flanking destroyers dropping back to the rear of the disposition, all destroyers closing to 1,500 yards from the nearest heavy ship.

1838

Planes closing from various directions simultaneously dropping flares and float lights. CTF 52 reported that TF 52 was under enemy air attack. Float lights were dropped on both beams so that disposition was outlined along the direction of movement. These float lights burn an hour or more.

1841

Directed all ships to open fire if target closed within 4,000 yards and a good solution was obtained. CTF 52 maneuvered disposition by radical emergency turn signals to confuse enemy pilots and doge attack. . . . Several enemy planes were taken under fire at distances of 2-3 thousand yards by several ships. Ship ceased fire promptly when planes withdrew and fire discipline was excellent. Maneuvering was continuous until 2015 when all planes finally withdrew.56

In the disposition were three battleships, two jeep carriers, two heavy cruisers, and seven destroyers. Rear Admiral Turner went on to note:

A total of 20 emergency turns were made in 76 minutes. . . . One turn of 180°l was made, two of 120° and three of 90°. . . . Similar night precision [in tight maneuvering] had previously been observed when there were 39 vessels in the disposition.

* * * * *

Difficult as it is to believe, the enemy planes definitely maintain rather close formations on very black nights. . . . If we could discover their secret (assuming they have one) our night fighters would have a Roman holiday.57

An historian's eye witness contemporary account of this Japanese air attack read:

In the night, as we were approaching the rendezvous, we were subjected to an air attack. It was preceded by a line of float lights being dropped by the enemy planes--a line of about ten of them--which blinked regularly on the horizon and were evidently intended to indicate to other planes the direction in which the task force was steering. They were followed by the dropping of parachute flares which came down very slowly. We admired the way the officer in tactical command, Rear Admiral Turner, managed his task group. Waiting until the parachute flares were about halfway down, in a position where they illuminated the ships most effectively, he ordered an emergency turn away from them, so that we would be illuminated as little as possible. And this procedure was repeated, so that in an hour and a quarter, we made \something like thirty emergency turns. The enemy planes appeared to be bewildered--they came in singly and by two's and three's and it was evident that many of them could not find us.58

This incident was observed by many. General Hogaboom who was a member of the FIFTHPHIBFOR Staff records it as follows:

Admiral Turner took his place out on the darkened Flag Bridge and maneuvered the Fleet through rapid changes of course. Radar bearings were called to him. He personally read the polaris and called the changes of course. it was closing on toward midnight when the planes finally disappeared form the screen and secure from GQ was sounded.

Then, after being up since before dawn and having been engaged in operations throughout the day and after a couple of hours of exhausting concentration on maneuvers of the Fleet, he went immediately into the Flag Plot and sending for his yeoman, started a lengthy and detailed dictation of his concept of the next amphibious operation into the Marshall. He then turned in, and a couple of hours later, prior to dawn GQ, I found him with a red pencil running through the yeoman's rough draft of his dictation.59

Liscome Bay

One of the assumption in COMCENPACFOR's Plan for GALVANIC was:

that enemy submarines in strength will attack our surface forces in the vicinity of the objectives, and enemy submarines may operate along our line of communications.60

This assumption turned out to hit the bull's eye.

According to the basic TF 52 and TF 54 GALVANIC plans, Carrier Division 24, with three jeep carriers, together with the gunfire support battleships and heavy cruisers, regularly provided planes for the dawn to dusk and anti-submarine air search and patrol around Task Force 52. Beginning with 22 November, this search was augmented by a six-plane hunter-killer group from the Southern Carrier Group specially requested by Rear Admiral Turner because of a despatch rom CINCPAC indicating that from intelligence sources, it has been learned the Japanese were moving additional submarines into the Gilberts area.61

The Essex and Independence both had reported sighting a submarine between 1626 and 1650 on 20 November.

At 1214 on the 22nd of November, the destroyer Burns (DD-588) screening the Minneapolis and other heavy ships off Makin belatedly reported having a sound contact at 1115. Later that day, when screening the jeep carriers of Task Force 52, the Burns reported a good submarine contact just at sundown. She was directed to search for it all night.

Early on the morning of the 23rd, the Idaho (BB-42) reported a periscope sighted at 5,000 yards. At 1805 that day the Mustin (DD-341) made a depth charge attack on a sound contact. All anti-submarine efforts against these contacts seemingly were fruitless, as was the Kimberly's search following a sound contact at 0514 and a 0534 depth charge attack on the morning of the 24th.

On 24 November, at 0516, Rear Admiral Turner logged:

Large explosion and resulting fire was observed bearing 273° [true] distance about 15 miles.62

This entry related to the merchant-hulled carrier (CVE) Liscome Bay which was the victim of the I-175. The I-175 had the good luck to be in the path of the three jeep carrier Task Group (TG 52.3) under the escort of only four destroyers. One of these destroyers had been sent off to investigate a float light dropped by a Japanese aircraft---further lessening the effectiveness of the anti-submarine screen. Even better luck for the submarine came when the task group turned into the wind for the morning launch of aircraft at the precise moment for a successful torpedo attack. Rear Admiral Griffin recorded the results:

Sparks and burning debris fell on the New Mexico (1500 yards away) and in Maury (5000 yards away from Liscome Bay). . . . At 0535 she sank by the stern.63

Rear Admiral Henry M. Mullinix, Commander Air Support Group, number one man in the Class of 1916, and 643 others including the skipper, Captain I.D. Wiltsie, were lost out of 959 personnel aboard the Liscome Bay. There were no survivors from aft of frame 112.

At 0524, the destroyer Kimberly in the screen for the heavy ships 15 miles away from the Liscome Bay reported a sound contact and at 0534 made a depth charge attack. Unfortunately, she did not bring up the I-175.

Immediate post-war interrogation of Japanese officers and later Japanese popular written accounts of the Gilbert Island operation indicate that no less than six and most probably nine submarines ere ordered to the Gilbert Islands at top speed to attack our GALVANIC forces. One Japanese source say only three of these nine submarines returned. But I-175 returned to Kwajalein to enjoy its glory until her end came in 1944.

Specifically, Japanese submarines which were already withdrawing from general patrol areas on our much used line of communication from Pearl Harbor to Australia, were ordered to the GIlberts. The I-175 was among this group. Others known were I-35, I-39, and I-119. The I-35 was sunk on 22 November in the Gilberts be destroyers Frazier (DD-607) and Meade (DD-602) of the anti-submarine screen of the Fire Support Group of the Southern Attack Force.

The I-19 which left Truk for the GIlberts on 22 November never was heard from again. Perhaps she was sunk by the Cotten (DD-669) who made a good depth charge attack on the 24th, and blew up pieces of wood.

The I-40 was sunk by the destroyer Radford (DD-446) of the Northern Carrier Group (TG 50.2) on 25 November. The RO-38, ordered into the Gilberts, never returned. The I-174, one of four submarines ordered up from the New Guinea Area, was damaged on 26 November perhaps by eight planes of the Relief Carrier Group that made strafing runs on a surfaced submarine in the process of diving on 29 November. How many of this group from the New Guinea Area arrived in the Gilberts is not known.

The point is obvious that the longer the amphibious assault phase lasts, the greater the risk to the assaulting ships, as additional submarines come on the line.64

The rapid sinking of the Liscome Bay was upsetting to those who took the jeep carriers (CVEs) into battle zones. There had been much adverse comment on the below water line design of these jeep carriers. In the interests of saving time and money in their building from an already existing below the water line merchant ship design--no adequate effort had been made to rearrange gasoline stowage and bomb stowage to gain additional protection from torpedo hits within a merchant ship's hull. The operating Navy had been overruled by its civilian superiors, when it protested this crash construction procedure.

The Board of Investigation, convened to inquire into the rapid disintegration and sinking of the Liscome Bay, decided that the tremendous explosion was caused by the torpedo hit being so positioned that it caused an instantaneous explosion of the Liscome Bay's own bombs in their outside stowage compartments. These compartments were not provided with a modicum of protection by having fuel tanks located outboard of them, as were all Navy designed merchant hull-type ships. The Board also stated that there was no inherent structural weakness in the ship.65

Survivors and shipmates wrote:

Doors and hatches are so located, that in Condition Able, personnel below decks have little chance to make a quick exit. This is most injurious to morale.

* * * * *

The employment of light sheet metal bulkheads and extremely thin decks tends to add to the extreme vulnerability of this class vessel.66

The sinking of the Liscome Bay made it crystal clear, as the Army History of GALVANIC says:

Had the capture of Makin been conducted more expeditiously, she [Liscome Bay] would have departed the danger area before 24 November, the morning of the disaster.67

Command--Makin

There was no "command problem" at Makin, as there had been at Guadalcanal and at New Georgia.

Commanding General 27th Division reported ready and assumed command ashore on November 22nd at 1510. Commander Garrison Forces, Colonel Clesen H. Tenney, AUS, assumed command of Makin Atoll at 0800 on 24 November, after receipt (on the afternoon of the 23rd) of a recommendation by Commander Central Pacific Forces from the Commanding General 27th Division, that this be done.

The senior Marine officer on Rear Admiral Turner's Staff at Makin stated in regard to the Admiral:

His exercise of command was personal and direct, as he extended it through every echelon down to all levels. He prepared his orders in minute detail. On D-Day with ships and craft of every type and size in the Transport Area, he knew where each should be and when - and he did not hesitate to heap abuse on any skipper who was slow or timid [moving] into position. . . .

On the morning of D-Day (19 November) as we proceeded with the preliminary bombardment of Makin, a Japanese cargo ship in the lagoon got underway and a cruiser at some distance took her under fire. Admiral Turner quickly noted the cruiser was neither closing the range nor getting a hit, so in great anger, he signalled, "Close the range and sink her or cease fire."68

Makin Summary

The Makin Atoll landing was the first large landing of the Central Pacific campaign by Army troops. The Navy was anxious to do its part of the job right.

But the RED beaches chosen by the Army in their Scheme of Maneuver and agreed to by the Navy as hydrographically acceptable turned out to be beaches whose approaches were filled with coral rocks.

As the Army history correctly records:

Except for initial difficulties in getting the troops ashore against natural rather than man-made obstacles, the landing had been a pushover.69

Admiral Turner said:

My poorest appraisal of beach areas for a landing during the whole war was at Makin. It convinced me that we had to have somebody actually walk over the beach approaches and walk up to the beaches before we scheduled landings on them. Air reconnaissance is wonderful, but it wasn't good enough at Makin to provide adequate information in regard to the beaches or the beach approaches. The RED beaches were just plain stinko profundo. That's why I pushed the development of Underwater Demolition Teams so hard.70

When all was said and done, the assault on Makin from the naval point of view had been difficult and irksome because of miserable beaches and makeshift unloading. It had been saddened by the unusually large loss of life in the sinking of the Liscome Bay and the explosion in the turret of the Mississippi.

From the Army Landing Force point of view:

General Holland Smith was later of the opinion that the capture of Makin was 'infuriatingly slow'. Considering the size of the atoll, the nature of the enemy's defenses, and the great superiority of force enjoyed by the attacking troops, his criticism seems justified. It is all the more so when to the cost of tardiness is added the loss of a valuable escort aircraft carrier with more than half the hands aboard.71


Footnotes

1. Turner.

2. (a) Forrestel, Admiral Spruance, p. 100A; (b) Driscoll, Pacific Victory, p. 55.

3. Knowles.

4. Idaho (BB-42), Action Report, Ser 0010 of 5 Dec. 1943, p. 8.

5. LeHardy (DE-20) War Diary, Nov. 1943.

6. RKT to Commander Southern Attack Force, letter, 17 Nov. 1943.

7. COMLSTGRP Eight, Action Report, 18-19 November, 1943, Ser 010-43 of 18 Dec. 1943, encl. (B).

8. Ibid.

9. CINCPAC-CINCPOA, Joint Staff Study--Gilbert Islands Operation, Ser 00187 of 18 Sep. 1943, Appendix A, p. 1.

10. Smith, p. 120.

11. Turner.

12. (a) COMFIFTHPHIBFOR, letter, C5A/L20/Ser 0134 of 30 Oct. 1943 in reply to COMGENFIFTHPHIBCORPS, Ser 00199 of 28 Oct. 1943; (b) As previously explained, a DUKW was an amphibious 21/2-ton truck, an amtrac was an LVT.

13. RKT to HWH, letter, 17 Nov. 1943.

14. (a) USS Calvert (APA-32) GALVANIC Action Report, 18 Nov. 1943; (b) USS Leonard Wood (APA-12) GALVANIC Action Report, 2 Dec. 1943.

15. COMLSTGRP Eight, War Diary, 20 Nov. 1943.

16. Revenge Ship's Log, 20 Nov. 1943.

17. Crowl and Love, Gilberts and Marshalls (Army), p. 41.

18. Narrative by LCDR Samuel Eliot Morison, USNR, on 15 Dec. 1943. Operational Sound Recording OFR-36.

19. CTG 50 (Commander Carrier Division 3) GALVANIC Report, Ser 0043 Dec. 1943, Encl. (B) p. 1.

20. COMFIFTHPHIBFOR GALVANIC Report, 4 Dec. 1943, p. 15.

21. (a) CTU 52.2.2, GALVANIC Report, Encl. (B), p. 2; (b) Mississippi (BB-41) GALVANIC Report Ser 0010 of 2 Dec. 1943; (c) COMFIFTHPHIBFOR, GALVANIC Report, Encl. (A) p. 17.

22. Calvert (APA-32), Leonard Wood (APA-12), Phelps (DD-351) and MacDonough (DD-360) GALVANIC Reports.

23. LSTGRP EIGHT, War Diary, 20 Nov. 1943.

24. Ibid.

25. COMFIFTHPHIBFOR GALVANIC Report, p. 15.

26. Calvert (APA-32) and Leonard Wood (APA-12) GALVANIC Reports.

27. Ibid.

28. COMTRANSDIV 20 GALVANIC Report, 3 Dec. 1943, p. 1.

29. Calvert GALVANIC Report, 28 Nov. 1943, p. 3.

30. Leonard Wood GALVANIC Report, 2 Dec. 1943, p. 4.

31. Calvert GALVANIC Report, p. 2.

32. COMTRANSDIV 20 to Pierce (APA-50) and Alcyone (AKA-7), Mailgram 152342 Dec. 1943.

33. Neville GALVANIC Report, 5 Dec. 1943.

34. COMCARDIV 11, GALVANIC Report, Encl. (D), p. 3.

35. (a) Enterprise (CV-6) Action Report, 15 Dec. 1943; (b) COMCARDIV 24 (CO Corregidor), GALVANIC Report, 5 Dec. 1943, p. 3.

36. CTU 52.2.2 Action Report--Bombardment of Makin Island, Encl. (B), p. 13.

37. Dewey, Action Report, 15 Dec. 1943, p. 5.

38. Ibid., p. 3.

39. COMFIFTHPHIBFOR, GALVANIC Report, pp. 18-19.

40. Neville, GALVANIC Report, p. 14.

41. COMFIFTHPHIBFOR to COMGEN 27th Division, Ser C5A/21/00125 of 29 Oct. 1943.

42. Neville GALVANIC Report, p. 14.

43. COMFIFTHPHIBFOR GALVANIC Report, Encl. (F), p. 2.

44. New Mexico (BB-40) GALVANIC Report, 24 Nov. 1943, p. 1.

45. Commander Fire Support Group (52.2) Actin Report, Ser. A16-3 (0046) of 14 Dec. 1943, p. 4.

46. Baltimore, (CA-68) GALVANIC Report, 20 Nov. 1943, p. 2.

47. New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Baltimore, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Dewey, MacDonough, Phelps, Gridley, GALVANIC Reports.

48. CTF 52 Op Order A3-43, 23 Oct. 1943.

49. (a) Belleau Wood (CVL-24) GALVANIC Report, 3 Dec. 1943, p. 1; (b) Monterey (CV-26) Report, 11 Dec. 1943, p. 4; (c) Commander Task Group 50.2 Report, 23 Dec. 1943.

50. CTG 54.8 GALVANIC Report, 7 Dec. 1943.

51. Commander Task Group 54.9 GALVANIC Report, 15 Dec. 1943, p. 1.

52. CTG 54.8 Operation Order 1-43; Movement ORders 1-43, 2-43; GALVANIC Report, 7 Dec. 1943.

53. CTG 54.8 GALVANIC Report, 7 Dec. 1943, p. 2.

54. LSTGRP Eight War Diary.

55. (a) CTF 50 GALVANIC Report, 16 Dec. 1943; (b) CTG 50.34, Kidd (DD-661), Hale (DD-642), Pensacola (CA-24), Salt Lake City (CA-25), GALVANIC Reports.

56. COMFIFTHPHIBFOR GALVANIC Report, pp. 37-38.

57. CTF 52 Report of Air Attack on TF 52, Ser 00166 of 4 Dec. 1943, pp. 3, 4.

58. Morison Narrative, 15 Dec. 1943. Operational Sound Recording OFR-36.

59. Interview with General Robert E. Hogaboom, USMC (Ret.), 15 May 1967.

60. COMCENPACFFOR, Op Plan CEN 1-43, 25 Oct. 1943, para. 1(b)(5).

61. CINCPAC to COMCENPACFOR, 212225 Nov. 1943.

62. CTF 52 GALVANIC Report, 4 Dec. 1943, p. 33.

63. CTG 52.13 (Rear Admiral R.M. Griffin), Report of Loss of USS Liscome Bay, Ser 0034 of 11 Dec. 1943.

64. (a) USSBS Interrogation of Japanese Officials, Vol. I, p. 143; (b) Mochitsura Hashimoto, Sunk, pp. 153-54.

65. COMINCH, Loss of USS Liscome Bay, Ser 002903, 30 Dec. 1943.

66. COMCARDIV 24 (CO Corregidor) Action Report, Ser 004 of 5 Dec. 1943, p. 2. and encl. (C).

67. Crowl and Love, Gilberts and Marshalls (Army), p. 126.

68. Hogaboom.

69. Crowl and Love, Gilberts and Marshalls, p. 82.

70. Turner.

71. Crowl and Love, p. 126.


From Navy History.com Personal Experiences, http://www.historycentral.com/navy/stories/Anzio.html

USS Coral Sea/Anzio CVE57
Sailor: Neal Nunnelly, Service Dates=Apr l943/Feb1946

Excerpt of personal Naval experiences from the manuscript:

THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD IS LONGER THAN I THOUGHT, FIFTEEN YEARS OF DEPRESSION AND WAR
A musical memoir by NEAL NUNNELLY

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Henry J. Kaiser built the USS Coral Sea CVE 57 at the Kaiser Shipbuilding Co. Vancouver, Washington. The first was CVE 55 USS Casablanca and the last CVE 104 USS Munda. Mr. Kaiser advised the Navy Dept. that he would build 50 of these ships at his yard within a one-year time frame.

This was an incredible pronouncement by this amazing industrialist and was immediately accepted.. We were one of the first of the 50 built and became known as the Casablanca Class. They were originally constructed for the sole purpose of escorting convoys, but this never materialized in the Pacific or Atlantic as it was recognized they were more effective as offensive weapons during amphibious landings on Japanese controlled islands in the Pacific.

Three baby flat tops with 30 planes each could launch and retrieve them three times as fast as one first line carrier with 90 planes. They were also effectively used for anti-submarine patrols during and between these offensive operations. These little babies were ideal for warfare in the pacific and also did an admirable job of ASW {Anti Submarine Warfare} in the Atlantic. The vast majority ended up in the Pacific area of operations with most used to transport aircraft to the forward areas of operations.

Because of the method of construction, all welded seams with no rivets or armor plate, it was also realized they were expendable, not to mention cheap and quick to build. It was not surprising to hear that they became known as Kaiser Coffins. They were cranked out in only a few months. They were small, 512 feet long and 65 feet wide. Here is the fun part, approximately 1000 or more people, including flight crew lived in that space. We got to know, love and hate each other very well.

On our first voyage we stayed in Pearl Harbor only a few days, long enough to fill the ship with provisions with a heavy emphasis on bombs and machine gun ammunition. We then joined a large task force and put to sea in a southwesterly direction. Only the top brass knew our destination. Finally we arrived in the Gilbert Islands. We were then told our job was to provide air support for the marines who were put ashore on Tarawa and Makin Islands.

The operation was a total SNAFU [Situation Normal All Fucked Up], in fact it was worse than that and should have been classified by the dreaded military acronym FUBAR [Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition]. We found out later that the marines lost over 1000 men and twice as many wounded. We outnumbered the Japanese 4 to 1, it shouldn't have happened. Nevertheless it did, and the reason was simple. The entire operation was conceived, planned and executed by officers and enlisted men who had never been in any kind of warfare before and only had the barest textbook idea how it shouldbe carried out.

We were sailing with 2 other CVE's, the USS Liscome Bay CVE 56, our sister ship and the USS Corregidor CVE 58. Aircraft carriers are given the most protection so three battleships surrounded us including the USS New Mexico BB-40; they in turn were protected by a bevy of cruisers and finally many destroyers. We were smack-dab in the middle of all this, how safe can you get? Nobody can touch us. BULL SHIT!

One morning before sunrise and just 4 days after D-day, November 20th, we were at general quarters, as usual. I was topside and thankful to be there, it was hot and humid down below as we were only a few miles from the Equator. I was standing in the catwalk next to the flight deck and admiring the Liscome Bay, our alter ego. She was brand-new and our twin. She was sailing 1000 yards off our port beam.

Suddenly there was a tremendous explosion and all I could see was a huge fireball that lit up everything. Twenty minutes later the USS Liscome Bay was gone and the crew with it. We were never told how many of those aboard survived, perhaps for good reason and suspected there was only a handful, if any. It happened so fast and she sank so quickly. All we knew was, she was our sister ship and had a crew similar to ours and she and the crew in her no longer existed. A single torpedo fired from a Japanese submarine did this work. Her entire aviation fuel storage tanks exploded, a quarter million gallons of high-test fuel. This event made the name Kaiser Coffin stick. I now knew what war was about and I no longer wanted any part of it.

"Eternal Father! Strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep:
O hear us when we cry to thee
For those in peril on the sea!"
 

"I'm feeling so bad won't you make the music easy and sad"

Today as I write these words I feel tightness in my throat and weep for all those seventeen-year-old boys, barely old enough to know right from wrong, who died without knowing why and only having an opportunity to experience the bare essence of life. They never had a chance to take part in the American Dream and enjoy the good life it promised. Their lives, like the flame on a candle, were snuffed out in a few frantic moments of confusion and panic. I found out early that wars are fought by young boys and the very young ones are the ones who die first and in the largest numbers. It's the kids who are the sacrificial lambs and fodder for the war maker's cannon.

"We're poor little lambs who have lost our way, bah, bah, bah.
We're little black sheep who have gone astray, bah, bah, bah.
We're gentleman songsters off on a spree, doomed from here to eternity.
Lord have mercy on such as we, bah, bah, bah."
 


From the Naval Weather Service Association web site, a biography of NWSA Historian Don Cruse, Commander, USN (Ret), who survived the sinking of the Liscome Bay http://www.navalweather.org/history/cruse_bio.htm

"...CarDiv 24 consisted of USS LISCOME BAY and two sister ships. After steaming to the Gilbert Islands these small carriers supported landings in the northern Gilberts such as Makin Island while the big carriers operated down south off Tarawa. All went as planned until early on the morning of November 23 when the I-175 fired one of her large, deadly Long Lance torpedoes into the starboard quarter of LISCOME BAY. Calm seas and a Dogpatch moon made it an easy shot for the submarine skipper. The unarmored, Kaiser-built ship folded up, rolled over and sank in 19 minutes. People who had not come topside when Flight Quarters was sounded had only a slight chance of survival.

After getting off watch at midnight when Mahood came topside in relief, Don Cruse climbed into the single bunk rigged above the helium stowage in the balloon room. He could sack out until it was time to take the dawn PIBAL sounding. When Flight Quarters sounded Blakley and Bruce came topside, got some coffee and went out on the catwalk by the thermoscreen to chat and enjoy the tropical morning. Pinder went to his Flight Quarters station in Air Plot and manned the phones there. The ship was coming to life and preparing for another busy day with continuous flight operations. Suddenly the quiet was shattered.

Don Cruse was awakened by the roar and violent movement of his bunk. Looking down he saw Blakley and Bruce picking themselves up from the deck where they had been thrown by the sudden movement of the entire ship to port. Crommelin came into Aerology, through the balloon room and out to the catwalk. He was wearing only soapsuds from his morning shower.

Swinging down from the bunk Don began searching for his shoes and found they had fallen between the helium bottles. Since the Uniform of the Day had obviously become skivvies and shoes, he proceeded to the catwalk, and smelled the unmistakable odors of disaster. He noted a small fire on the water forward of the ship (which turned out to be fuel from the ready fighter which had been launched off the bow when the single catapult fired). and found severe damage to catwalks and gun tubs, and climbed to the flight deck. There he saw the fighter’s landing gear still lashed to the catapult track, the forward elevator missing, and no water pressure in any fire hose. The increasing starboard list of the ship made it clear that abandoning ship would be the smart thing to do. Back to the port catwalk to find a kapok life jacket. From an amidships position he eased over remnants of the railing, dropped to the side of the ship which was nearing the horizontal, and slid on his backside into the warm water. Within a minute or so the ship was gone and bright illumination produced by the fires was also gone. Swimmers were in a large pool of debris. Shipmates were calling out in the darkness. Sounds from below came from the LISCOME BAY slowly sinking to the bottom.

A division of destroyers came to pick up survivors at dawn. There were not many. Mahood told Cruse later that he was picked up by USS FRANKS (DD554) which steamed into the lagoon of Makin Island to offload into USS LEANARD WOOD (APA12). The transport had offloaded troops. Don Cruse was lashed into a stokes stretcher when the destroyermen discovered he had severed an achilles tendon, so he was carried aboard the transport. By late evening the high priority wounded had been treated so that the U.S.Army medics could stitch his tendon together. Within a few days LEONARD WOOD offloaded LISCOME BAY survivors at Pearl Harbor and Don Cruse ended up in Naval Hospital.

American Red Cross teams issued small personal care kits and helped to identify survivors so that families could be notified. Due to the lopsided casualty versus survivor figures the NAVY notified families of survivors that they were casualties. That did not do much for morale when it was later discovered."


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