Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday October 26, 2016: The mighty midget with the most miles on her
Photo by Russel Javier, USS LCS-102 page
Here we see LCS(L)(3)-1-class Landing Craft Support (Large)(Mark3)#102 as she appears today at Mare Island.
Talk about a mouthful.
With the urgent need for shallow draft craft for amphibious operations on the beaches of North Africa, Italy, France, and of course the Pacific in World War II, the U.S. Navy urgently ordered a myriad of Landing Craft Infantry (LCI) vessels to discharge troops and gear right on the surfline.
Over 900 of these hardy little 158-foot boats were built, each capable of plugging away on their Detroit diesels at 16 knots while carrying a full company of infantry.
To give these LCIs some close in support, the unimaginatively named Landing Craft, Support (Large) was designed.
Using the same hull as the LCIs, these craft were loaded with a single 3″/50 dual purpose gun mount on the bow, two twin 40mm Bofors fore and aft, four single 20mm AA gun mounts, four .50 cals and– most importantly–10 MK7 rocket launchers.
Each launcher contained a dozen or more 30-pound 4.5-inch Beach Barrage Rockets (BBR) which had an 1,100-yard range, meaning the 158-foot flat bottom boat could smother an enemy-held coast with 120+ rockets faster than you can say “sauerkraut sammich.”
Beach Barrage Rockets being loaded USS LCI(G)-456 during the invasion of Peleliu, September 1944. US National Archives photo #’s 257558
This punch in a small package gave them the moniker “mighty midgets.”
They certainly were distinctive, as noted by these detailed shots of class member USS LCS-50
USS LCS(L)(3) 50. Description: Courtesy of James C. Fahey collection, U.S. Naval Institute Catalog #: NH 81533
USS LCS(L)(3) 50 Caption: At Albina Engine and Machine Works Portland, Oregon, September 1944. Courtesy of James C. Fahey collection, U.S. Naval Institute Catalog #: NH 81532
USS LCS(L)(3) 50 Caption: At Albina Engine and Machine Works Portland, Oregon, 19 September 1944. Courtesy of James C. Fahey collection, U.S. Naval Institute Catalog #: NH 81530
USS LCS(L)(3) 50 At Albina Engine and Machine Works Portland, Oregon, 19 September 1944. Courtesy of James C. Fahey collection, U.S. Naval Institute. Catalog #: NH 81527
Most were given a very effective Camouflage Measure 33 scheme in the Pacific
A total of 130 LCS’s were built late in the war–in a period as short as 10 days per hull in some cases– by three yards: George Lawley & Son, Commercial Iron Works and Albina Engine Works, with the former in Massachusetts and the latter two in Oregon.
The subject of our tale, USS LCS(L)(3)-102, was a CIW-built model that was laid down 13 Jan 1945, commissioned a scant month later on 17 February, and by July was supporting landings off Okinawa.
LCS(L)(3)-102 underway off the Island of Kyushu, Japan, September 1945. National Association of USS LCS(L) 1-130
Her war ended just a few weeks later but she did have a chance to earn one battlestar for her WWII service before transitioning to help serve in the occupation forces in Japan along with service off China through 8 April 1946. Not all were as lucky– six LCS(L)(3)s were sunk and 21 were damaged during WWII.
Decommissioned 30 April, LCS-102 was laid up in the Pacific Reserve Fleet, Columbia River Group, Astoria, Oregon where she was reclassified while on red lead row as USS LSSL-102, 28 February 1949.
Most of the LCS’s had been rode hard and put up wet, as evidenced by this little ship:
USS LCS(L)(3)-13 In San Francisco Bay, California, soon after the end of World War II. The Golden Gate Bridge is in the left background. Courtesy of William H. Davis, 1977. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 85170
Surplus to the Navy’s needs, LCS-102/LSSL-102 was transferred to the burgeoning Japanese Self Defense Forces 30 April 1953 who renamed her JDS Himawari. This was not uncommon as most LCS remaining in U.S. service were given away to overseas allies– some even going right back into combat for instance with the French in Indochina.
As for LCS-102, she served Japan quietly as a coastal patrol vessel, with the JSDF retiring her in 1966.
With the little 158-footer back in their possession and even less need for her than in 1953, the U.S. Navy re-gifted the vessel to the Royal Thai Navy who commissioned her as HTMS Nakha (LSSL-751).
Still largely unmodified from her WWII appearance with the exception of her Mk7s being removed, the ship continued in Thai service for another four decades– though with a new engineering suite.
Photo courtesy The Mighty Midgets website.
Retired sometime around 2007, a veterans group of former LCS sailors found out about her and, being the last of her class anywhere, sought out to bring her home.
HTMS Nakha (LSSL-751). The last of the World War II LCSs is docked at Laem Tien Pier at Sattahip Naval Base ahead of her transfer ceremonies prior to setting off on her final voyage back home to the United States. Pattaya, Thailand, Friday June 1 2007. Via Navsource.
From an SF Gate article at the time:
The vets, who had formed a nonprofit organization called the National Association of USS LCS(L) 1-130, talked the U.S. State Department and the Thais into giving the ship to them.
“I talked to the Thai navy officer who was the first captain of this ship in the Thai navy,” said Bill Mason, 82, “He’s retired himself now but he thought the same way about this ship that we do. They were sorry to see it go.”
Loaded as deck cargo on the freighter Da Fu, she was shipped 7,900 miles to San Francisco Bay where she was installed at the Mare Island National Historic Park in November 2007 and has been since restored and put on display as a museum ship.
From the USS LCS-2 social media page:
Below is a good tour of the ship if you cannot make it (the music ends and the actual tour begins at about the 1:40 mark).
Please check out the official website of the National Association of USS LCS(L) 1-130 “The Mighty Midgets” for more information on these amphibious gunboats of World War II.
Camouflage Measure 33, Design 14L. Drawing prepared by the Bureau of Ships for a camouflage scheme intended for landing craft, support (large) of the LCS(L)-3 class. This plan, approved by Captain Torvald A. Solberg, USN, is dated 26 July 1944. It shows the ship’s starboard side, horizontal surfaces, stern and superstructure ends. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives.
Catalog #: 19-N-73633
Displacement 250 t (lt), 387 t (fl)
Length 158′ o.a.
Beam 23′ 8″
5′ 8″ limiting and max draft
loaded, 4′ 9″ fwd, 6′ 6″ aft
16.5k max at 650 shaft rpm
14.5kts at 585 shaft rpm
Armor 10-lb STS splinter shield to gun mounts, pilot house and conning tower
Endurance 5,500 miles at 12kts at 45″ pitch (350 tons dspl.)
635 Bbls Diesel (76 tons)
10 tons fresh water
6 tons lubrication oil
8 tons provisions and stores at full load
Fresh Water Capacity distill up to 1,000 gals. per day
2 quad packs of 4 General Motors 6051 series 71 Diesel engines per shaft, BHP 1,600
single General Motors Main Reduction Gears
2 Diesel-drive 60Kw 450V. A. C. Ships Service Generators
twin variable pitch propellers
*Thai service saw the GMs swapped out for Maybach Mercedes MTU V8s
Armament (as built)
bow gun, one single 3″/50 dual purpose gun mount
two twin 40mm AA gun mounts
four single 20mm AA gun mounts
four .50 cal machine guns
ten MK7 rocket launchers (retired 1953)
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