Tag Archives: LST

Access Denied: A New Role for the Marines in the WestPac

Official caption: “Nissan Atoll, Green Islands, South Pacific, 31 January 1944: Inside enemy territory, a recon party lands, senses keyed up for sounds of the Japanese troops known to be present. A perilous fact-finding mission is underway.” The SMLEs and Mills bombs on the men in the center of the landing craft point to Commonwealth troops in Marine frogskin camo. The non-camo’d fellows at the ramp are likely USCG. A Marine is at the rear

Gen. David H. Berger, who celebrated his 40th anniversary in the USMC and is currently serving as the Marine’s 38th Commandant, wrote an excellent piece in this month’s Proceedings on the subject of “Stand-in Forces,” the pared-down direction the service is going towards in which they can (quietly) seize and hold forward areas with small units to deny access to larger sea forces.

From Berger’s piece:

Small, lethal, low signature, and mobile, stand-in forces (SIF) are relatively simple to maintain and sustain, designed to operate across the competition continuum within a contested area as the leading edge of a maritime defense-in-depth. Depending on the situation, SIF may include elements from the Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, special operations forces, interagency forces, and allies and partners. This last element is the most critical: every aspect of these deployments must be carried out in close partnership with host nations and partners. Whenever U.S. forces operate in a host nation, they must do so with the full involvement of that nation in conceptualizing and executing the overall mission.

The main ideas behind the SIF concept are deceptively simple. First, find a potential adversary’s people and things (such as weapon systems, sensor systems, submarines, etc.) in a given area, and then track them at a level that facilitates targeting by fleet or joint weapons until they leave that area. This finding and tracking effort starts as soon as the possible target is identified and continues at every point along the competition continuum. Next, SIF must be hard for a potential adversary to find by maintaining a low signature, moving frequently and unpredictably, and using deception. If armed conflict begins, use knowledge of the adversary to help the fleet or other elements of the joint force attack quickly and effectively, blind the adversary, and deny him maritime areas to disrupt his plans and force him to move into other places where SIF and the fleet have an advantage.

Stand-in forces’ enduring function emerges from these straightforward ideas: win the reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance fight in support of the fleet and joint force—and do so at every point on the competition continuum.

The full piece, which is a good read, is here.

In very related news, the Navy/Marine Corps Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS), which recently proved capable of hitting a target in a SINKEX at least, is set to become operational in 2023 with the newly formed 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment. Basically, a pack of Naval Strike Missiles on a remote control JLTV truck platform, the unmanned launcher can be landed by LCAC, LCU, or the planned new Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) LST design as well as (likely) by the CH-53 or C-130.

Naval News talked to the USMC about the NMESIS system, including this gem on why it is remote controlled.

Naval News: Why is the launcher “unmanned” ? Is it because it is intended to be controlled by company (i.e. small) sized Marine units ? Or is it because NMESIS is intended to be deployed on remote islands or locations with no human operators on those islands?

USMC: The launcher is remotely operated in order to enable a smaller, more expeditionary deployable capability. Additionally, remote firing position increases personnel survivability. Marine crews are still expected to be in the vicinity to provide security for the systems.

Food for thought.

A Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System launcher, a command and control vehicle and a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle are transported by a U.S. Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion from Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands, Hawaii, out to U.S.S. San Diego, Aug. 16, 2021. The movement demonstrated the mobility of a Marine Corps fires expeditionary advanced base, a core concept in the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 efforts. U.S. Navy and Marine Corps units came together from across 17 time zones as they participated in Large Scale Exercise 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Luke Cohen, released)

Navy getting back into the LST business…?

When it came to amphibious warfare across a 60-year-run from 1942, when USS LST-1 was completed, through 2002 when USS Frederick (LST-1184) was decommissioned, the beachable tank landing ship was a key part of putting troops and material ashore for the U.S. Navy-Marine team.

Bougainville Operation, 1943-1944. USS LST-449 loading equipment and supplies from a Guadalcanal Beach for her journey North to Bougainville, in November 1943, soon after Marines landed there. Note the LST’s camouflage and truck in foreground bearing “Cub 9” markings. Photographed by Major W.A. Halpern, USMC. USMC Photo 79815

However, the arrival of the fast air-cushioned landing craft (LCAC) in the 1980s– which allowed for over-the-horizon attacks in which heavy trucks and armor could be landed– made the beachable LST obsolete in the eyes of Big Blue-FMF. This led to the shedding of the LSTs in favor of the big-well-deck LHA/LHD and enlarged dock LPDs, thus keeping the Navy off the beach for anything larger than a 200-ton Landing Craft Utility (LCU)– which can fit in the well deck of a big phib.

Thus:

A landing craft, utility (LCU) assigned to the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20), lowers its ramp to unload a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System from 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, as part of a simulated amphibious raid, at Kin Blue, Okinawa, Japan, Aug. 14, 2019. This simulated amphibious raid marks the first time that HIMARS have been inserted by landing craft, utility, demonstrating the Marine Air-Ground Task Force’s ability to conduct combined-arms maneuver from amphibious shipping. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joshua Sechser)

Whelp, with the move by the USMC to dump their seven companies of main battle tanks, three bridging companies and 16 of 21 155mm howitzer batteries in favor of fielding 21 (14 new) rocket batteries to be fielded by three new “Marine Littoral Regiments,” it seems an ideal means to land such units may just be an LST.

Only you don’t want to call it that, of course.

The Navy has begun looking for a Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) to land cargo/vehicles with the following characteristics (bold added by moi):

*Minimum 5,000 ft2 (1,860 m2) vehicle and cargo stowage space (8,000+ ft2 preferred) on weather deck or with access to weather deck capable of handling static deck loads up to 450 psf, and with at least 13.5 ft (4.1 m) clear overhead or open overhead and a 5-10 MT crane to facilitate cargo and small boat handling.
*Habitability for US Navy crew of approximately 30 + surge capacity for additional 43 Marines or Sailors supporting 11 day missions without replenishment
*Minimum 14 knots Sustained Speed with full cargo load
*Minimum 3,500 nm operating range
*Single point off/on load to beach (e.g. beachable)
*90,000 gal. cargo fuel storage

The design would be fielded fast, preferably by 2023, with commercial and existing designs considers.

Such a ship would be significantly larger/faster than the Navy’s current 200-ton/8-knot LCU 1627-class, and closer to the Army’s 1,100-ton/11.5-knot Runnymede-class (LCU-2000) large landing craft. The Runnymedes are essentially smallish LSTs in all but name, able to carry 350-tons of cargo or 24 20-foot TEUs (96 Quadcons) with a self-deploying range of 6,500nm.

U.S. Army Spc. Michael Breneman signals to a Japan Ground Self Defense Force light armored vehicle during an on load evolution aboard U.S. Army Runnymede-class landing craft utility USAV Coamo (LCU 2014) at Commander, U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo, Japan, July 27, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 3rd Class Specialist Kristopher S. Haley)

As a harbinger of just such a thing, the Marines tested HIMARS missile trucks on an Army Runnymede for the first time last November. 

Everything old is new again.

LST beaching at Cape Gloucester, New Britain, Bismarck Islands, Dec 1943

On the eve, 48 before Overlord

“LST in Channel Convoy June 4 1944” Drawing, Ink and Wash on Paper; by Mitchell Jamieson; 1944; Framed Dimensions 30H X 25W Accession #: 88-193-HK

“A view on board an LST, looking forward from the bridge, with the main deck below fully loaded with trucks, anti-aircraft half-tracks, jeeps, and trailers. Ahead and on both sides were other LSTs in the group, each towing its “rhino” ferry which was manned by skeleton crews of Sea Bees, the rest of the crews were on board the ships themselves. With the LSTs prevented by German artillery fire from coming to the landing beaches to unload, it was the job of the “rhinos” to unload the tank deck of each LST and go to the beach. Then, since the “rhinos” could only make a couple of knots an hour, the LSTs had to be unloaded offshore by LCTs. Later, when the beach was secured and the ships could come in closer, these “rhinos” operated a continuous shuttle service, unloading all types of ships. This LST, with its mobile anti-aircraft vehicles on deck in addition to the ship’s own anti-aircraft batteries, could put up a formidable screen of anti-aircraft fire. The anti-aircraft half-tracks were of two types: one carrying four quad-mounted 50-caliber machine guns, and the other with one 37mm anti-aircraft gun and two 50-caliber machine guns. The rear part of the half-track was where the gun turret was mounted. A soldier who sat with the gunners operated the turret electronically. Trucks carrying supplies and ammunition, with plenty of camouflage netting, are depicted on the main deck below in the foreground. There was about the same number of vehicles on the tank deck below, unseen. This was the evening of D-day minus two (June 4, 1944).”

Semper Paratus as seen through WWII

During WWII, the Coast Guard bloomed from under 20,000 to more than a quarter million at its height in June 1944. At that time, the service contained 9,874 commissioned officers, 3,291 warrant officers and 164,560 enlisted personnel, augmented by another 125,000 Temporary Members of the Coast Guard Reserve who were conducting beach and harbor patrols back in the U.S. which in turn were augmented further by nearly 70,000 volunteers of the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Coast Guard crew dressed to keep warm while on patrol aboard aboard a USCG schooner in 1943 while on coastal patrol in the U.S.

Coast Guard crew dressed to keep warm while on patrol aboard aboard a USCG schooner in 1943 while on coastal patrol in the U.S.

Dog Beach Patrol', (possibly on Parramore Beach, Virginia, US. October 1943). (Source - United States Coast Guard - Photo No.726. Colorized by Royston Leonard from the UK)

Dog Beach Patrol’, (possibly on Parramore Beach, Virginia, US. October 1943). (Source – United States Coast Guard – Photo No.726. Colorized by Royston Leonard from the UK)

With so many men and (over 13,000 women) under arms and in uniform, what was the service doing in 1944?

Well, a little known fact is that a tremendous number of small naval surface combatants on the Naval List were manned entirely by USCG/USCGR crews to include a number of patrol craft and submarine chasers (PC/SC) and at least 75 303-foot/1,300-ton Tacoma-class patrol frigates (PF) while a legion of the Coast Guard’s own cutters also served the same duty in ASW and amphibious warfare support.

Coast Guard cutter USS Spencer on convoy duty in the North Atlantic, March 1943

Coast Guard cutter USS Spencer on convoy duty in the North Atlantic, March 1943

Speaking of the ‘phibs, when FDR gave away 10 250-foot Lake-class cutters to the Brits as Lend Lease in 1940, this left over 3,000 Coasties without a ship– and the Navy promptly took them to man 53 cargo ships and attack transports (APs & APAs)– armed freighters stuffed with bunks for troops.

As the war expanded, the Navy, acknowledging the Coasties’ knowledge of working in the shallows and surfline, soon tasked them with other assignments closer to enemy beaches. As such many of the landing craft taking troops ashore from Guadalcanal to Normandy and Iwo Jima, were manned by Coastguardsmen.

Marines crouched in a Coast Guard-manned LCVP on the way in on the first wave to hit the beach at Iwo Jima, 19 Feb 1945

Marines crouched in a Coast Guard-manned LCVP on the way in on the first wave to hit the beach at Iwo Jima, 19 Feb 1945

US Coast Guard LCVP landing craft carried invasion troops toward Luzon in Lingayen Gulf, 9 Jan 1945

US Coast Guard LCVP landing craft carried invasion troops toward Luzon in Lingayen Gulf, 9 Jan 1945

United States Coast Guard-manned LST beaching at Cape Gloucester, New Britain, Bismarck Islands, Dec 1943

United States Coast Guard-manned LST beaching at Cape Gloucester, New Britain, Bismarck Islands, Dec 1943

Famous picture of an LCVP from the USCG-manned USS Samuel Chase disembarking troops of the 29th Infantry Division at Omaha Beach June 6, 1944. Clic to big up

Famous picture of an LCVP from the USCG-manned USS Samuel Chase disembarking troops of the 29th Infantry Division at Omaha Beach June 6, 1944. Clic to big up

USCG-six US Coast Guard patrol boat near the coasts of Normandy, D-day 1944. Dig the M1 steel pots...

USCG-six US Coast Guard patrol boat near the coasts of Normandy, D-day 1944. Dig the M1 steel pots…

US Coast Guardsmen assisting a wounded Marine into an LCVP after the Marine’s LVT sustained a direct hit while heading to the landing beaches on Iwo Jima, Feb 18, 1945.

US Coast Guardsmen assisting a wounded Marine into an LCVP after the Marine’s LVT sustained a direct hit while heading to the landing beaches on Iwo Jima, Feb 18, 1945.

LCI landing craft in the wake of a USCG-manned LST en route to Cape Sansapor, New Guinea, mid-1944

LCI landing craft in the wake of a USCG-manned LST en route to Cape Sansapor, New Guinea, mid-1944

U.S. Navy/USCG invasion fleet off Iwo Jima, with LVTs and LCIs maneouvering near the battleship USS Tennessee (BB-43). 1945

U.S. Navy/USCG invasion fleet off Iwo Jima, with LVTs and LCIs maneuvering near the battleship USS Tennessee (BB-43). 1945

uscg Charles Tyner, Fireman First Class, inspects his helmet hit by shrapnel during the Allied landings in southern France. 1944.

Charles Tyner, Fireman First Class (USCG), inspects his helmet hit by shrapnel during the Allied landings in southern France. 1944.

By the end of the war, the service manned at least 77 LSTs (Landing Ship, Tank), 28 LCIs (Landing Craft Infantry, Large) and an amazing 288 vessels for the Army Transportation Corps that consisted of AMRS (Army Marine Repair Ship), TY (tankers), LT (large tugs), FS (freight and supply vessels), and F (Freight vessels) that shuttled around and carried the logistics of war that are so often overlooked.

83 foot patrol boat CG-624, later renamed CG-14 as part of Rescue Flotilla One, Normandy

83 foot patrol boat CG-624, later renamed CG-14 as part of Rescue Flotilla One, Normandy

On Normandy Beach during D-Day, a fleet of 60 USCG 83-foot patrol boats, dubbed Rescue Flotilla One, pulled over 400 soldiers from the water on June 6th alone. This “Matchbox Fleet” lost four of their own vessels that day to submerged German mines and coastal artillery. Four LCI(L)’s manned by the USCG were also lost at Normandy.

USCGC Alexander Hamilton (WPG-34) remains 28 miles off the coast of Iceland where she was sunk by German Type VIIC submarine U-132, just seven weeks into the war.

USCGC Alexander Hamilton (WPG-34) remains 28 miles off the coast of Iceland where she was sunk by German Type VIIC submarine U-132, just seven weeks into the war.

In all some 37 USCG vessels or USCG-manned Naval vessels were lost during the war including the Treasury-class cutter Alexander Hamilton who was torpedoed 29 January 1942 by a U-boat in the North Atlantic.

The highest cost in terms of lives came when the 14,000-ton USS Serpens (AK-97) a USCG-manned Crater-class cargo ship was destroyed by explosion, 29 January 1945 off Laguna Beach in the Solomons.

She was packed full of depth charges and artillery shells.

An eyewitness to the disaster stated:

As we headed our personnel boat shoreward the sound and concussion of the explosion suddenly reached us, and, as we turned, we witnessed the awe-inspiring death drams unfold before us.  As the report of screeching shells filled the air and the flash of tracers continued, the water splashed throughout the harbor as the shells hit.  We headed our boat in the direction of the smoke and as we came into closer view of what had once been a ship, the water was filled only with floating debris, dead fish, torn life jackets, lumber and other unidentifiable objects.  The smell of death, and fire, and gasoline, and oil was evident and nauseating.  This was sudden death, and horror, unwanted and unasked for, but complete.”

In all, Serpens lost 198 members of her crew and 57 members of an Army stevedore unit that were on board the ship in an explosion whose cause has never been determined but remains the largest single disaster ever suffered by the U.S. Coast Guard.

USS Serpens (AK-97) memorial

The Coast Guard-manned attack cargo vessel USS Serpens (AK-97) exploded off Guadalcanal due to unknown causes. Only two men aboard survived. A memorial service is held every year at Arlington National Cemetery at the Serpens Memorial on Jan 29. Image via USCG

The Coast Guard lost a total of 1,917 persons during the war with 574 losing their life in action, died of wounds received in action, or perishing as a Prisoner of War. Almost 2,000 Coast Guardsmen were decorated, one receiving the Medal of Honor (the only one issued to the Coast Guard), six the Navy Cross, and one the Distinguished Service Cross.

The MOH went to SM1c Douglas A. Munro, USCG, who, appropriately enough, was killed trying to rescue men off the beach as officer-in-charge of a group of landing craft at Point Cruz on September 27, 1942, during the Matanikau action in the Guadalcanal campaign.

Douglas A. Munro Covers the Withdrawal of the 7th Marines at Guadalcanal by Bernard D'Andrea. Click to big up. Note the Lewis guns

Douglas A. Munro Covers the Withdrawal of the 7th Marines at Guadalcanal by Bernard D’Andrea. Click to big up. Note the Lewis guns

Munro’s Citation:

“For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action above and beyond the call of duty as Officer-in-Charge of a group of Higgins boats, engaged in the evacuation of a Battalion of Marines trapped by enemy Japanese forces at Point Cruz, Guadalcanal, on September 27, 1942. After making preliminary plans for the evacuation of nearly 500 beleaguered Marines, Munro, under constant risk of his life, daringly led five of his small craft toward the shore. As he closed the beach, he signaled the others to land, and then in order to draw the enemy’s fire and protect the heavily loaded boats, he valiantly placed his craft with its two small guns as a shield between the beachhead and the Japanese. When the perilous task of evacuation was nearly completed, Munro was killed by enemy fire, but his crew, two of whom were wounded, carried on until the last boat had loaded and cleared the beach. By his outstanding leadership, expert planning, and dauntless devotion to duty, he and his courageous comrades undoubtedly saved the lives of many who otherwise would have perished. He gallantly gave up his life in defense of his country.”

A display containing Petty Officer First Class Douglas Munro's Medal of Honor and accompanying citation hangs in Munro Hall at the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May, N.J., (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer John Edwards)

A display containing Petty Officer First Class Douglas Munro’s Medal of Honor and accompanying citation hangs in Munro Hall at the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May, N.J., (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer John Edwards)

“Upon regaining consciousness his [Munro’s] only question was ‘Did they get off?’, and so died with a smile on his face and the full knowledge that he had successfully accomplished a dangerous mission.”

For more on the USCG in WWII, click here and dig in