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~ US NAVY LANDING CRAFT TANK (ROCKET) ~

These personal recollections of Lt Commander Carr concentrate on US Landing Craft Tank (Rocket) operations in Normandy and Southern France in the summer of 1944. His story starts with a fascinating account of his vessel's unique role on the day Japan attacked the US Navy in Pearl Harbour in 1941. We'd welcome any photos of USLCT(R)s to add to this page.

Introduction Organisation & Training Group Formation LCT(R) Specifications
The Convoy Final Prep for D-Day D-Day - the Invasion The Mediterranean
Southern France Conclusion Further Reading Acknowledgments

Introduction

On December 7th 1941 I was a Storekeeper 3rd Class on the USS Antares, a stores issue ship returning from a mission south to Canton Island. We passed through the submarine nets at the entrance to Pearl Harbour at approximately 0625 and saw the conning tower of what we believed to be a Japanese midget submarine. The Antares was unarmed so we sent a signal to the destroyer USS Ward which was close by. The Ward depth charged the submarine and thereby struck the first blow in the war with Japan.

This action took place one and a half hours before the planes attacked at 0755 that morning. We proceeded into the harbour and became the last ship in and the first ship out that day! We reversed and cleared the harbour entrance on realising that the Japanese intended to sink us in the harbour mouth to entrap the ships anchored inside.

In August 1942 we arrived in New Caledonia, it was there that I received orders to report to Columbia University in New York City for midshipman training. I completed the course on March 31st 1943 and was commissioned an ensign and ordered to the Amphibious Base in Little Creek, Virginia, for Landing Craft Tank (LCT) training.

Organisation and Training

In September 1943 a ‘Special Support Group’ was organised at Little Creek with a nucleus of three officers, Lieutenant Commander Louis E. Hart, Lieutenant D P G Cameron and myself, Lieutenant (jg) Larry W. Carr. (jg = Junior Grade). Our purpose was to receive and train crews for what became designated ‘Gunfire Support Craft’. I became Group Commander of the 14 LCTRs that became part of that group with Lt. D P G Cameron as my executive officer.

Our LCTRs were all British Mk3 LCT conversions and, as such, they were twice the size of the equivalent US Navy vessels. In addition to these craft we took on, and supplied the crews for, 9 Landing Craft (Flak) and 5 Landing Craft Gun (Large). Our mission was to provide close inshore gunfire support for amphibious landing operations. As a point of interest the flak and gun ships were retired after the D-Day landings in Normandy.

During October 1943 we moved to Camp Bradford, Virginia where our organisation developed and 144 officers and 1537 men were recruited from all branches of the US Navy, small boat crews, midshipman schools, armed guard and boot camps. Eventually all personnel were present and our task began. Training was provided in gunnery, fire-fighting, recognition, gas warfare and communications. In addition many officers and men practised ship handling onboard LCTs. We were gaining knowledge and skills but in reality the group was still at an embryonic stage. Much detailed planning was still required to organise crews and appoint commanding officers; it was a slow process.

During late October 1943 the group began moving to Boston, Massachusetts. By November we had settled into our base in Fargo Building, Boston, Massachusetts. Here the task of organisation and administration increased and both officers and men were sent to Price’s Neck, an anti-aircraft training centre on Rhode Island, for for training in the use of 20mm and 40mm guns. Recognition of German aircraft. continued while we waited for sailing orders for overseas.

Finally, preparations began for our overseas posting. The men were organised into groups of twenty five and frequent musters were held to facilitate landing. Essential equipment arrived including rifles, packs and foul weather gear and by November 20th 1943 preparations were completed. We sailed for New York and on November 22nd we departed the city aboard the Queen Elizabeth - our destination, Scotland.

We arrived at Roseneath on the 28th at US Navy European ‘Base II’. Our craft were to be delivered in a few weeks meantime a base for temporary operations was set up including maintenance and engineering units, and our outfit generally made ready for sea. Training programmes were set up with the emphasis on the technical aspects of unfamiliar British equipment. Training in gunnery, communications and engineering with the Paxman-Ricardo diesel engine receiving priority. Crews were given further training in seamanship and the use of small arms.

Group Formation

The LCTR group was organised on December 15th 1943 as part of the ‘Special Support Group’, with myself, Lt. (jg) L.W. Carr appointed as group commander. The task of organising a new group of craft never before used in the US Navy was begun, officers in charge were appointed and crews assigned.

The staff consisted of:- Ensign (Assistant Group Commander) D.G.Swallow, Ensign (Gunnery Officer) F.D.Michael, Ensign (Radar Officer) R.W. Bennison, Ensign (Engineering officer) W.E.Howard Ensign (Communications Officer) E.Bernstein.

The original complement of an LCTR was seventeen men with two officers, fourteen craft were assigned to the group. Commanding officers and assistant officers were appointed as follows; LCTR 464-Ensign H.H. Boltin with Ensign A.J Onofrio, LCTR 425-Ensign R.W. Ellicker with Ensign E.J.Michalik, LCTR 447 - Lieutenant(jg) W.L.Kessler with Ensign A.G.Rud, LCTR 452 - Lieutenant(jg) W.B. McCorn with Ensign R.L.Payne, LCTR 473 - Ensign G.M.Taylor with Ensign P.H.Prible, LCTR 423 - Lieutenant-(jg) W.S.Caldwell with Ensign T.J.Hurley,  LCTR 448 - Ensign B.Y.Hess with Ensign B.P.McDonald, LCTR 439 - Lieutenant(jg) E.H.Mahlin with Ensign G.F.Fortune, LCTR 366 - Lieutenant(jg) J.C.Ogren with Ensign C.M. Podrygalski, LCTR 483 - Ensign R.H.Tucker with Ensign E.J.Mack, LCTR 481 - Ensign A. P.Dowling with Ensign A.G.Hunter, LCTR 368 - Lieutenant(jg) G.A.Karlsen with Ensign F.A.Smith, LCTR 482 - Lieutenant(jg) H.M.Leete with Ensign C.A.Pink and LCTR 450 - Ensign P.R.Smith with Ensign T.A.Cassidy.

In Portsmouth nn December 20th 1943 Mk3 LCTR 368 became the first craft to be assigned to our group. It was in poor condition having come directly from the shipyard where she had been converted from a hull which had seen extensive service in the Mediterranean theatre.

LCTR 366 was assigned a short time later under similar circumstances and by January, after much cleaning and repairing the 366 and 368 began training operations with the British as part of the US Navy LCTR Group. Both were sent to an Assault Gunnery School at HMS Turtle at Poole in Dorset, England for live firing practice and the theory of LCTRs. Other officers in charge and assistant officers and key ratings, while awaiting arrival of their own craft were completed similar training aboard the 366 and 368.

Officers and men were also sent to HMS Northney for radar training on British 970 and QH sets. Other officers undertook training on the Brown Gyro compass while those remaining at Base II continued training ashore.

The slow rate of delivery of the craft was frustrating. I made numerous trips to see the Officer in Charge of Major Landing Craft at Troon, in Ayrshire and in Glasgow in an effort to expedite delivery.

By the end of December 1943 the ‘Special Support Group’ became known as ‘Gunfire Support Group 11th Amphibious Force’ under the overall command of Captain L.S.Sabin USN, with me as executive officer or second in command. On February 6th 1944 additional officers and men arrived from the United States and the organisation now comprised over 2000 officers and men manning LCTR, LCG (Landing Craft Gun) LCF (Landing Craft Flak) and LCPL (Landing Craft Personnel (Large)) which would be deployed as smoke-layers at the assault phase.

The entire group was, effectively, an experiment in a new type of naval warfare. The need for close inshore fire support for landing operations had been identified in past amphibious invasions. Heavy naval gunfire from cruisers, destroyers etc., while effective at direct and indirect targets, had to be lifted from the beaches once the infantry had landed whereas converted landing craft, aided by their shallow draught, could go close into beaches to fire on enemy positions. This close quarter support for landing troops was vitally important.

Each type of craft performed a specific function. LCTRs were designed to lay down an intensive barrage just prior to the initial assault waves landing, Flak craft were designed to cover the flanks and to give air protection, as well as giving fire support against machine gun nests on the beach while Gunboats would fire on specific targets on the beaches prior to H-Hour. After H-Hour they were designed to close with the beach to give close fire support against pill-boxes.

A later addition to the group was the US Navy Mk5 LCT(A)’s or Landing Craft Tank (Armoured). Tony Chapman of the LST and Landing craft Association adds; The Mk5 LCT were American built tank landing craft. They began arriving in England during 1942 and later many were carried in whole or part by USLSTs and dropped off in England to be assembled or crewed. Prior to D-Day close to 160 had served with the Royal Navy under Lend-Lease and were dispersed amongst numerous LCT flotillas. To separate them from their American sister Mk5 LCT the British craft had a 2 added in front of their original US Navy pennant number, thus, British Mk5 LCTs carried pennant numbers in the 2000 series.

At various times 48 craft had been converted to the designations LCT(A) (Armoured), LCT(HE) (High Explosive) and LCT(CB) (Concrete Buster) the craft having been fitted with a firing platform to the fore of the tank deck, the tanks carried in as part of the first assault waves were able to fire over the bows as the LCT made their approach. In addition to the firing platform or ramp the LCT(A)s carried increased armour plate to the bows, bridge and wheelhouse sections. Having landed, the tanks continued to give close fire support on the beach.

Prior to D-Day some 26 conversions were lent back to the US Navy to serve under ‘Lend-Lease in Reverse’ it was these craft that became part of the Gunfire Support Group 11th Amphibious Force. On the morning of D-Day divided across Omaha and Utah beach, the craft assigned to Omaha beach delivering the tanks of the 743rd Tank Battalion, The craft assigned to Utah beach delivering the men of the 70th Tank Battalion. All the tanks carried in by the two groups having the capacity to fire afloat.

The LCT(A)(HE) assigned to the groups were as follows: Utah beach Tare Green sector - 2310, 2402, 2454, 2478; Uncle Red sector:- 2488, 2282, 2301, 2309. Omaha beach: Dog Green sector:- 2227, 2273; Dog White sector:- 2050, 2276; Dog Red sector:- 2124, 2229; Easy Green sector:- 2075, 2307; Easy Red sector:- 2049, 2287, 2425, 2339 and Fox Green sector:- 2008, 2037, 2228, 2043. Craft shown in blue are listed as War Losses in the assault area.

LCTRs were very effective in the early phases of an assault. The barrage of rockets had the capacity to saturate an area some 700 yards wide by 300 yards deep with 5" rocket propelled projectiles. The aim was to disable enemy beach defences or to sufficiently diminish there capability to assist the passage of the first waves of Allied troops going ashore. However, they required great skill in handling, navigation and timing. It was essential to be in the right place at the right time.

The two craft that fired during ‘Duck II’ created a great impression, although one had released her rockets far too early. Nonetheless, they proved to American observers that the rocket was a weapon which could pulverise a sector of beach in the final few seconds before troops went ashore. The proximity of our own troops approaching the beaches elevated the timing of a rocket barrage to the highest importance. Experience proved that rockets could be safely fired when the leading assault wave was some 700 yards from the beach or the point of impact of the rocket pattern. There were differences between the British and American use of the LCTRs off Normandy. The British fired at H-Hour minus 10 minutes while the American LCTRs fired at H-Hour minus 2 minutes at targets slightly inland.

LCTR Specifications

The LCTRs were converted British Mk3 LCTs with a maximum length of 192 feet and 31 feet across the beam. The standard power unit comprised two Paxman Ricardo diesel engines giving a maximum speed of 9 knots, with both screws turning to starboard (right). An extra deck was constructed over the tank space and on it were mounted either 972 or 1044 5" rocket projectiles. The original design anticipated re-conversion of the craft so the crews quarters, officers quarters and magazines were separated by canvas bulkheads. In order to make the US craft more comfortable and secure the canvas was replaced by steel or wood by their own crews. Home comforts included bunks and hot water heaters.

The craft were equipped with 970 Radar, a British set which swept 360 degrees in azimuth once a second. The maximum range of the set was 25 miles. Three and a half and seven mile range scales were also provided. The primary use of the radar was ranging in the firing of the rockets but it proved to be a valuable navigation aid. Each craft was also equipped with QH, a navigational aid and a Brown gyro compass.

The 5" rockets were fired electronically by a series of switches in the wheelhouse. Each switch would fire either 39 or 42 rockets per salvo, depending on the total number mounted. One group of 36 rockets was wired so that twelve salvos of three rockets could be fired for ranging.

All projectors were mounted at a 45 degree angle to the waterline and all pointed forward. The target area was covered by pointing the craft’s head at the target, determining the range by radar and/or ranging salvos. The firing of salvos with a pre-determined time integral between them gained the desired depth of pattern. The width of the pattern was 700 yards and could not be adjusted. The depth of a complete broadside of 24 salvos could be achieved within the range of 300 to a 1000 yards or even more if required.

A round consisted of three partitions, the fuse, projectile and propelling unit. A complete assembled high explosive round was three feet in length and weighed 59 pounds, 7 pounds of which was poured high explosive (TNT and Emitol). The range of a high explosive round was 3580 yards. Incendiary rockets with a range of 3900 yards were provided for ranging. Smoke rockets were also available.

The craft had several deficiencies. Extreme accuracy in navigation and a very steady course was essential during a firing run. Rudders were very small and the rocket racks increased the free board and made the craft more subject to the wind. ‘Aiming the ship’ was the only way to aim the rockets and more manoeuvrability would have been desirable. The LCTRs nevertheless, proved to be an effective and efficient weapon.

The Convoy

On March 20th 1944, at Base II, two more rocket ships, Mk3 LCTRs 447 and 448, were assigned to the US Navy. In brief ceremonies the British flag came down to be replaced by the American Ensign. On April 2nd 1944 LCTR 425 joined the group and the following day the craft formed a convoy south to their permanent base at Dartmouth, England. I was in command of the convoy which consisted of three LCTRs, two LCFs and three LCGs. The route took us from Roseneath by Stranraer, Douglas on the Isle of Man, then, down the Irish Sea to Appledore in Devon.  Once around Land’s End we were on the home straight to Falmouth and Dartmouth. The 500 mile trip took five days and many difficulties were encountered including engine trouble, chronic sea-sickness and radio and radar problems.

It was clear that maintenance was the most difficult problem to hand but without major overhauls there would be no improvement in the position. The craft were British LCTs and were fitted with British equipment and parts. Obtaining spares under the elaborate system of Reverse Lend-Lease was difficult to obtain and slow in arriving. The maintenance staff worked day and night as and when material became available. The technical equipment such as radios and radar continued to be problematical.

Staff offices were set up in the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth around April 3rd 1944. My LCTR group at that time comprised five craft, the remainder were still to arrive although their crews were ready at Base II. After repairs 425, 447 and 448 sailed to Poole for the Assault Gunnery School course.

Final Preparations for D-Day

On April 15th 1944 the LCTR office was moved from Dartmouth Naval College to Hunter’s Lodge on the River Dart. Moorings for our craft were assigned close by.

During April the 366 and 368 took part in ‘Exercise Tiger’. Unfortunately they were not allowed to fire on the beaches because isolated units of the first wave landed an hour before H-Hour due to a communications failure. Later that month, 366, 368, 425, 447 and 448 took part in exercise ‘ Fabius 1.’ The first wave consisted of LCT(A)s and LCTs carrying DD tanks (Sherman Duplex Drive tanks (swimming tanks). The original plan was that the LCTRs were to open fire when this wave was 300 yards from the shore but this was later deemed to be too close for safety. Some difficulty was experienced in navigating through the transport area to the correct firing position. LCTR 425 became lost in the transport area and did not open fire at all and 447 failed to reach the transport area. However, the three remaining craft successfully fired off their volleys and demonstrated once again the effectiveness of the rocket fire which completely obliterated their theoretical targets.

On May 6th 1944 LCTRs 423, 450, 452 and 464 arrived in Dartmouth. These craft were much newer and required much less maintenance although radar and radios were in need of repair. They immediately embarked upon a number of exercises to bring the crew and craft up to operational standard with a series of firing exercises on the Slapton Sands assault area. The British gunnery school at Poole was by then closed but the training exercises we undertook on our own initiative proved beneficial. Emphasis was placed on timing and accurate ranging using test salvos and radar.

On May 17th 1944 LCTRs 439, 473 and 482 arrived in Dartmouth. We were still missing 481 and 483. Training continued throughout May and every craft was given a complete operational check. There was a noticeable increase in activity and intuitively we had a feeling that D-Day was at hand. Our skills were fine tuned with daily firing runs into mock enemy beaches. Two sets of rockets were loaded onto each craft - one for the racks and in the other for the magazine. Other materials were taken aboard and detailed logistics and intelligence plans were received. All sorts of publications about our mission were distributed.

It was now glaringly obvious that the invasion date was near. Our craft were assigned to two forces, 366, 423, 483, 447, 450, 452, 464, 473 and 482 were assigned to ‘Force Oboe’ under Rear Admiral Hall and 368, 425, 439, 448 and 481 were assigned to ‘Force Uncle’ under Rear Admiral Moon.

Late in May ‘Third’ officers were assigned to each of the craft. Those officers who had served with gunfire support craft in other capacities were sent to radar school and joined the LCTRs primarily as radar officers. However, most of their duties were on deck but they all proved to be a valuable addition to the efficiency of the group. The allocation of the ‘Third’ officers to their craft was as follows; Ensign F D Michael to 439, Ensign R E Worthen to 366, Lt.(jg) R W Bennison to 368, Ensign R L Palmer to 423, Ensign R M Costello to 425, Ensign G D Soule to 447, Ensign G L Hershman to 448, Ensign D G Swallow to 450, Ensign J C Cavness to 452 (photo opposite), Ensign C H Easley to 464, Ensign G P Sherman to 473, Ensign P T Wilson to 481, Ensign J J Lassiter to 482 and Ensign S S Rough to 483. Ensign Michael and Lt.(jg) Bennison went aboard the 439 and 368 for temporary duty.

During the last week of May all craft in Force Oboe were ordered to Poole and the craft of Force Uncle to Salcombe to prepare for the invasion. LCTRs 481 and 483 arrived loaded and ready to go at their respective ports of embarkation on June 1st. The crews of both craft had passed through gunnery school on other craft but they did not fire a rocket from their own craft until the invasion.

The Invasion

On June 3rd all LCTR personnel were briefed on the part they would play in the coming invasion. Targets were designated, intelligence reports given and a general understanding of the task ahead was derived. It was especially important that the LCTR officers would recognise the terrain, landscape and landmarks of the beach. To aid them a PPI Prediction was added to the radar devices. This was a picture of how the beach should appear on the PPI Scope. When the picture obtained in the scope matched that which appeared in the prediction there was no doubt that the craft were ‘on target’.

Briefings and study went on unabated. At 0300 hours on the morning of June 4th 1944, following a final briefing to my men, the craft of Force Oboe sailed in convoy for France. The craft of Force Uncle had sailed at 1600 hours on the afternoon of June 3rd. By noon on June 4th the weather had become so bad that all craft were ordered back to their starting points. The LCTRs of ‘Oboe’ had LCMs in tow carrying demolition units and these greatly hampered ship handling. The ‘Uncle’ LCTRs had LCP(L)s in tow. The craft of ‘Oboe’ convoy returned to Poole and the craft of ‘Uncle’ convoy put into Portland.

Although the weather was almost as bad as the day before, the convoys again got underway on June 5th and headed for France. The high seas and the tows made the manoeuvring of the unwieldy gunfire support craft very difficult.

At approximately 0500 hours on the morning of June 6th 1944 the convoys arrived at their respective transport areas where the tows were detached. 425 had fouled her screws in convoy and was led down the mine swept lanes in convoy towards the line of departure from where the craft began moving towards the beaches. Approximately 10,000 yards offshore the LCTRs of the respective forces formed up line abreast and began their run for the beach. H-Hour was set at 0630 hours.

All craft fired. LCTRs 450 and 447 fired when the LCT(A)s were 500 yards from the beach at H-Hour+2 minutes. The first craft to engage was the 366 at H-Hour-7 minutes, the other craft fired at intervals between those times. From reports by the officers in charge the following summary described the action;

  •  Time of firing:- H-7 minutes to H+2 minutes, estimated position of the first assault waves varying between 2000 yards and 200 yards from the beach.
  •  Officers believe they fired on target in all instances.
  •  Time for reloading varied from between 9 to 19 hours. This factor was extremely variable because of the difficulties experienced by individual craft such as losing anchors, rockets stuck in boxes and large numbers of misfires etc.
  •  The 970 Radar and the PPI Predictions furnished were used with success by all craft. Ranging salvos were also fired by all craft but the low and varying degree of visibility on most of the beaches made accurate calculation of their point of impact almost impossible. With the exception of LCTR 366, ranging salvos were used only to ‘check’ the accuracy of the radar. The extremely shallow water in the vicinity of the several beaches also added to the inaccuracy of the ranging salvos because they exploded in the water. All craft, with the exception of the 366 fired by radar at the pre-determined range. The majority of the craft could not see their targets. Firing position was taken with reference to landmarks and fixes, obtained in some instances by QH and in others by 970.
  •  There were no casualties to either the craft or the personnel. No craft fired a second load of rockets. On June 9th ‘Oboe’ LCTRs returned to Poole, on June 12th, ‘Uncle’ LCTRs returned to Portland. The US Navy LCTR Group had fired 12,605 rounds of high explosive ammunition and 326 rounds of incendiary on to the beaches of Normandy. The mission was considered successful.

After a week in the return convoy ports the LTCR group were returned to Dartmouth. There were no orders at that time so routine maintenance repairs were made.

The Mediterranean

On June 29th 1944 orders came to make nine craft ready for operations in the Mediterranean area. Work began immediately and all nine craft were painted American Battleship Grey. The engine tops were overhauled, new American TCS radios were installed and radars were checked and repaired as required. Provisions were taken on board and fire fighting equipment was greatly improved. We took on board more than the usual spare parts because the craft were of British construction and spares would not be available at US bases.

After working on the nine craft for a week we were to be make ready. Time was short and work had to be carried out at a pace. Close co-operation and coordination between the base and the craft was essential to have them ready on time. Many of the craft had sustained hull damage and were put into dry dock for repairs. Ensigns C.H. Lockwood and B.T.Geckler joined the group as ‘Third’ officers on 439 and 368. The entire staff moved aboard.

On July 7th 1944 our group sailed to Plymouth to join ten British manned LCTRs for the trip to the Mediterranean and on July 11th and the commanding officers were briefed for the convoy. The convoy comprised the combined British and US Navy LCTRs, two destroyers and five tugs. After the briefing Admiral J L Hall addressed the US LCTR officers in charge. He expressed gratitude for a job well done off the Normandy beaches. He was aware of the many handicaps and problems and requested the officers in charge to convey to the officers and men his appreciation.

On July 12th the convoy got underway. Orders were given only as far as Gibraltar and the trip was comparatively uneventful. There were submarine alerts but the convoy was not hampered by aircraft. Gibraltar was sighted on July 20th and new orders were received for the USLCTRs to continue to Oran while the British elements remained in Gibraltar. The US Navy LCTRs arrived in Oran on July 21st completing the longest non-stop trip ever attempted by such craft.

The craft held up surprisingly well although air locks in the engines' fuel supply developed on two of the craft. They were taken under tow until such time as repairs could be made. Of the 24 craft only four required a tow at any time. The sea was relatively calm throughout the entire trip which contributed to its successful completion. The trip took ten days at an average speed of seven and a half knots.

On July 23rd we set off for Bizerte. No tugs or escorts were provided. LCTRs 450 and 366 broke down one day out and the convoy returned them, under tow, back to Oran. The convoy turned back for Bizerte with 473 having only one engine and under tow of another craft. A heavy sea was encountered on the night of July 25th and the convoy resorted to tacking for some twelve hours. All twelve craft eventually arrived in Bizerte Road at 2300 hours on July 28th 1944 and entered Bizerte Harbour on July 29th in need of extensive repairs.

Insufficient time was available for major overhauls and the craft were sailed to Naples between the 1st and 5th August in small groups as they became operational. LCTRs 366 and 450 arrived in Bizerte on August 3rd. By that time the 366 needed two new engines and the 450’s ballast tanks were leaking into her fuel tanks.

In Naples the briefings for the new campaign began with little time for thorough studies. However, the officers' previous experience made the dissemination of information easier. The craft had sailed without their complement of rockets for damage control reasons but supplies, thought to have been in Naples, fell short of requirements.

LCTRs 366, 450, 481 and 423 sailed to the Pozzuoli staging area on August 9th unloaded. The 366 meanwhile had two new engines installed and the 450 had filled her ballast tanks with fuel oil to make the trip. All craft arrived at the Pozzuoli staging area in operational condition. En route to Ajaccio 366, 423, 450 and 481 left the convoy and proceeded to Maddalena to load. Fuses needed by other craft were flown to Ajaccio and all the craft left Ajaccio loaded and in operational order.

Invasion of Southern France

At 1930 hours on the evening of August 13th 1944 the first assault convoy got underway for France. The weather for the entire trip was favourable and the movement plan was accomplished although the convoy speed of 4-5 knots was too slow for such flat bottomed craft to keep good station.

LCTRs 366 and 425 were assigned to Blue Beach and on Green Beach 368, 423, 447, 452, 482 and 483 were assigned to the original assault in the Camel area. LCTRs 439, 448, 450, 464, 473 and 481 were assigned to Red Beach for the Z hour assault. They were joined by the reloaded LCTR 425 and a number of British craft.

The craft on Blue Beach reported that they had encountered no opposition. Lieutenant J C Cohen USNR commanding the 366 fired at H-5 minutes to cover a ‘rather slow first wave’. Lieutenant (jg) R E  Ellicker commanding the 425 fired at approximately the same time. Both craft believed themselves on target although haze and dust on the beaches made a positive statement impossible. Superficial damage and fires were caused aboard both craft by the intense heat of the propelling charge.

The six craft on Green Beach fired approximately as scheduled. Reports indicated that 447 of Lt. W L Quest fired at H-9 minutes, 452 of Lt. W B McCown fired at H-6 minutes, 423 of Lt. (jg) W S Caldwell fired at H-5 minutes, 483 of Lt. (jg) R H Tucker fired at H-5 minutes and finally Lt. G A  Karlsen commanding the 368 fired at H-Hour. The 368 was on the flank but did not fire over the troops. Sporadic enemy gunfire was observed but all fell short of the craft.

The radar on 447 was out of action for unknown reasons by H-1 hour and she was forced to rely on ranging salvos which were difficult to observe on a hazy beach. The 482 reported the presence of strips of light metal resembling tinfoil which fogged the PPI picture but the problem cleared up before firing. The remainder of the craft recorded no problems. The beaches were again obscured by the pre-H-Hour bombardment and the fall of rockets count could not be adequately observed from the firing range. Craft in the boat lanes experienced difficulty in standing clear of the second wave.

The craft assigned to Red Beach formed up and proceeded to the line of departure in order to carry out the Z Hour assault at 1400 hours. Once there they stood by for approximately one hour between 1345-1445 awaiting the completion of an unsuccessful attempt to destroy obstacles on the beach by Apex boats. During this time they were subjected to sporadic gunfire which came extremely close. The projectiles all fell short making it appear that the shore batteries concerned were firing at their extreme range. Shrapnel fell on the decks of all the craft involved and Seaman Richard Charles Syers, serving with LCTR 439, was killed by shrapnel from a near burst at about 1430 hours. He was the only casualty in the group. Upon receipt of the order to proceed to Green Beach the LCTRs returned to the transport area and stood by.

At about 1430 hours on D+1 all LCTRs were ordered to report to LCH 240 (Landing Craft Headquarters 240) for onward routing. At about 1630 the craft sailed in a nine knot convoy for Ajaccio but after 7 hours they were all instructed to return to Red Beach because an escorting vessel had become detached during he night. By the time the craft set off for a second time both 448 and 452 had problems with one of their engines and were taken under tow. All craft arrived safely in Ajaccio on August 19th.

The LCTRs remained for a day and then sailed for Bizerte arriving there on September 1st. At Bizerte many repairs were undertaken and all craft were repainted. They were not sailed back to England as expected for transfer back to the Royal Navy instead they were transferred to the British base at Messina and all US Navy personnel repatriated. On October 4th 1944 all the LCTRs were returned to the Royal Navy.

Conclusion

Following the return of our craft back to the Royal Navy my officers and men returned to America by ship. I flew back to Washington for a new assignment. The Bureau of Naval Personnel assigned me to initiate training of crews for the new LSMR rocket ships being built for the US Navy. For that operation all of my former officers and crews were ordered back to Little Creek for training.

I was later assigned as Flag Lieutenant to Admiral Lowrey in San Diego who was to command the amphibious forces for the invasion of Japan. The end of the war in 1945 resulted in my being returned to inactive duty on September 14th 1945.

The use of British rocket craft proved of great value to the US Navy. In no small measure they made a significant contribution furnishing support for our troops landing both in Normandy and in Southern France.

The job of recruiting and training personnel in the use of rocket ships and the development of the associated administrative organisation was challenging as inexperienced personnel worked in unfamiliar craft with the minimum of time. It required close co-operation between the groups and their British counterparts. With the successful completion of its missions the LCTR group, the first of its type in the US Navy, considered it task well done.

Key points in the author's naval service

Pearl Harbour. 1941. He was on the first US Navy vessel that witnessed a Japanese midget submarine in Pearl Harbour and later the attack on December 7th 1941.

D-Day-Normandy. June 6th. 1944. Group Commander of all US Navy Rocket Ships (LCTR’s) to fire on to the beaches just 300 yards ahead of the first assault wave.

D-Day Southern France. August 1944. Still Group Commander of all LCTRs to fire ahead of the first assault wave.

LSMR Programme. First US Naval Officer attached to a new programme to train men in the use of a new generation of rocket ships built for the invasion of Japan.

Further Reading

There are over 200 books listed on our 'Combined Operations Books' page which can be purchased on-line from the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE) whose search banner checks the shelves of thousands of book shops world-wide. Type in or copy and paste the title of your choice or use the 'keyword' box for book suggestions. There's no obligation to buy, no registration and no passwords. Click 'Books' for more information.

Acknowledgments

These personal recollections of Lt Commander Carr concentrate on US Landing Craft Tank (Rocket) were transcribed by Tony Chapman, Official Archivist/Historian of the LST and Landing Craft Association (Royal Navy). Redrafted by Geoff Slee for publication on the Combined Operations website. 

 

News & Information

Please 'like' the Combined Operations Command memorial  Facebook page in appreciation of our WW2 veterans. See the 'slide shows' of the dedication ceremony and the construction of the memorial plus the 'On this day in 194?' feature where major events are featured on their anniversary dates. 

WW2 Combined Operations Handbook. This handbook was prepared for Combined Operations in the Far East. It illustrates the depth and complexity of the planning process necessary to ensure that the 3 services worked together as a unified force.

Legion d’Honneur Applications. In conjunction with events to mark the 70th Anniversary of the Normandy landings, the Government of France has advised the Ministry of Defence that it wishes to award the Legion d’Honneur to all surviving veterans; not only of the landings, but also the wider Battle for Normandy; the Invasion of Provence (Operation Dragoon); the Liberation of Paris and the Liberation of France.

Any veterans, not only troops that landed, but also Royal Navy and Royal Air Force personnel who operated in support of the landings may apply. Click here for application form and further information from the MOD.

 

Find Books of Interest.  Search for Books direct from our Books page. Don't have the name of a book in mind? Just type in a keyword to get a list of possibilities... and if you want to purchase you can do so on line through the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE). 5% commission goes into the memorial fund.

 

Newsletter. The latest occasional newsletter can now be read here.

Free WW1 Teaching Resource. Newspaper cuttings in the form of a 13 page booklet (26 sides) with published accounts of aspects of the war during 1914 to 1919. Available to schools, universities, libraries and accredited education establishments.  Pdf version or
www.historic-newspapers.co.uk/ for printed version.

Follow in the footsteps of the Commandos. Exclusive guided tour of the places in Tunisia with advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Steve Hamilton of Western Desert Battlefield Tours.

 

 

Thames River Cruiser FARMAR. Do you know what this craft did in WW2? If so you may have information to help a restoration project. More information on our Notice Board.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gazelle Helicopter Squadron Display Team. The Gazelle Squadron is a unique team of ex-British Military Gazelle helicopters in their original military colours and with their original military registrations. The core team includes four Gazelles, one from each service; The Royal Navy, The Royal Marines, The Army Air Corps and The Royal Air Force. A fifth Gazelle in Royal Marines colours will provide intimate support for the team. Their crest includes the Combined Operations badge. The last, and possibly, only time the badge was seen on an aircraft was in the early mid 40s. A photo of the Hurricane concerned is included in the 516 Squadron webpage.
 

 

 

Legasee Film Archive. As part of an exciting social history project, the film company Legasee is looking for veterans from any conflict who would like to have their stories filmed for posterity. Films are now available on line.

New to Combined Ops? Visit Combined Operations Explained for an easy introduction to the subject.

 

 

Remember a Veteran. Add names to our Roll of Honour and They Also Served pages and read the Combined Operations prayer.

 

 

Print too small or large? Easy solution when browsing. I) PC. To increase hold down Ctrl and shift and press +. To decrease hold down Ctrl and press -. 2) MAC. To increase Command + and to decrease Command -.

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