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US LCT(R) 439

This is an account of WW2 United States Landing Craft (Rocket) 439 - USLCT(R) 439. This specialized landing craft carried 2896 5" x 4' explosive rockets (127mm x 1.2m) designed to soften up enemy coastal defensive positions immediately prior to the landing of the  initial assault troops. The Commanding officer was Lieutenant (jg) Elmer H Mahlin. 2nd in Command was Ensign George F. Fortune, the author of this article. [Photos opposite courtesy of Becky Kornegay, whose father, Quaver Stone Stroud, served on US LCT 439. US spelling used on this page].

Training Stateside

Training UK Preparation for D-Day D-Day Post Normandy
Workplace and Home Skipper Mahlin Further Reading Correspondence Acknowledgements

Training Stateside

On leaving college, George Fortune volunteered for service in the United States Navy. In 1942, at the age of 22, he attended Midshipman School at Furnald Hall, Columbia University, New York City, for three and a half months. Furnald Hall was one of 3 halls at the University used by the US Navy. Students stayed weekends with local people by invitation enjoying home comforts, tea dances and excursions to places of interest.

He graduated in the top 15% of the 1000 students on the course and, as such, was allowed to choose his first posting to Section Base on Treasure Island, which was close by the world famous San Francisco bridge and to his home! For 6 months he learned ship handling, including 3 months at sea on Errol Flynn's sailboat "Zaca"….700 miles offshore. As the new ensign aboard, George undertook the full range of duties of deck crew members including ship handling and climbing up the rigging to the top of the mast!

With sea skills behind him, he was posted to Miami to learn the duties of radio officer. It was a very hot journey and en route he was taken to a hospital in Chicago for a fever check-up, which turned out to be mumps. By July 1943 he found himself in Miami at the Subchaser Training Center and, after 3 month's practice in radio work and ship handling, he reported to the Gunfire Support Craft Group in Boston, Maine, for training in the use of various guns.

Training UK

During Thanksgiving week of 1943 (late November), he sailed to Scotland on the Queen Elizabeth. Because of her high cruising speed of around 33 mph (53kph), she traveled alone usually carrying 20,000 soldiers and sailors. US Navy officers stood watch at night. Their primary purpose was to enforce blackout regulations by guarding against any stray light. All parts of the ship were visited during a typical watch including the con, engine room and the occasional visit with the Captain. Lots of men succumbed to sea sickness and remained below deck.

On arrival in Scotland, he was stationed at Roseneath Castle on the Firth of Clyde near Glasgow. Roseneath was commissioned on 15th April 1942 and named HMS Louisburg. However, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and direct American involvement in the war, plans for the base were changed. It was paid off on 3/8/42 by the Royal Navy and handed over to US control as an amphibious training centre. It was used during preparations for the landings in French North Africa in November 1942. By 1943, following the success of the North Africa landings, Roseneath returned once more to British control as HMS Roseneath. However, sections of the base were retained by the US Navy for a 'Seabee' maintenance force and berthing/supply facilities for the depot ship USS Beaver and the boats of US Navy Submarine Squadron 50.

The officers and men lived in Quonset huts (similar to Nissan huts) each accommodating 20 men or so. Officers had one hut to themselves and the crews occupied the remainder. They slept on bunks with blankets and sheets and ate in a mess hall where, once more, officers and crew were separated. The accommodation was comfortable and clean though somewhat damp from condensation and "the food was basic and typically English, with only cabbage, potatoes, and brussel sprouts for vegetables, mutton for meat, no milk except canned and dessert rarely. Pretty grim! It was so sparse and military there; even the hard toilet paper had 'government issue' stamped on each sheet!"

Roseneath Castle was quite isolated so the ship's crews mostly stayed on the base. Officers were permitted to venture outside the base for the purposes of sightseeing. However, it was not always the case as George recalls; "together, with a couple of crew members, we took small boat trips from our base at Roseneath Castle to call on our big ships anchored in the area. We bummed anything that we could beg, borrow or beg louder for. The best was an ice cream maker that we later used to great effect in the heat of North Africa at Bizerte! We let other rocket craft use our freezer if they gave us some ice cream in return. It was in use constantly! I still have a table cloth that was given to me by a US tanker crew in Scotland."

While waiting for the delivery of 12 new LCT(R)s, George remembers, "with Elmer's (my captain's) permission and the cooperation of the rest of the captains, I organized a training program for the deck crews of all 12 ships. Subjects included ship and line handling procedures for leaving and entering port, docking, the Command structure, daily watches, helmsman duties, signals and general seamanship. The specialized nature of the work of the Engine room personnel excluded them from the training. All available officers helped with the training which was undertaken in a positive atmosphere and good spirits. The  general consensus was that all had greatly benefited from the training." [Photo; Crew of LCT(R) 439. Officers 2nd row right George Fortune with left arm on hip and Elmer Mahlin].

Preparations for D-Day

The waiting was over when, in March of 1944, the skipper, Elmer Mahlin, George and the crew, picked up British rocket ship LCT(R) 439 at Troon on the River Clyde estuary on the west coast of southern Scotland. Although not known at the time, there was only to be around 10 weeks to prepare the craft and crew for the D Day landings on June 6th 1944. The 500 mile journey to the south coast of England provided an excellent opportunity to break in the new 18 man crew. No problems were experienced with the craft.

As they prepared for the task ahead, George recalled, "by spring of 1944, we were berthed about a mile up the River Dart with the commanding officer's quarters and offices in the home of Agatha Christie above us. One day after maneuvers and practicing at low tide we went aground near the sand bar Tennyson referred to in his poem “Crossing the Bar” (from Southampton to the Isle of Wight). In the process we damaged the craft's screws.  Replacements were arranged through our base and fitted by our men."

George also attended the Radar School at Hayling Island in Southern England for a week to learn the British Blind bombing techniques and stayed overnight in London and twice experienced the German bombing of the city.

Not all the preparations for the invasion passed without incident as George explains, "We hit a Personnel Carrier (PC) in the fog on our way back to the River Dart after taking a full load of rockets aboard from stores in Portsmouth. The PC had the watch leading our convoy of about 10 or 12 small craft. We were last in line and out of nowhere his craft loomed out of the fog heading straight for us! A collision was unavoidable. Its commanding officer was relatively inexperienced but in mitigation it was a dark and foggy day. But for the accident his vessel would have marked the 4000 yard buoy off Utah beach on D Day.

Because the fog was very thick one of our crew was manning the sound powered telephone on the bow to give us some extra warning of approaching craft. On sight of the PC he instinctively jumped down an open hatch and broke his leg. I hollered at him to 'get the hell out of there!' just before we hit.  I still remember the crew trying to get the life rafts into the water because they thought we were sinking. The skipper and I hollered at them to get back to their stations. Our bow being horizontal cut through the PC's bow like knife through soft butter. We came to a halt at the position of their 3" 50 caliber gun, having cut through their chain locker on the way.

Our bow door broke loose and hung down. Two or three of our crew dived into the water to run a line through the eye bolt at the end of the door to crank it up! However, it proved to be too cold to work effectively so we proceeded slowly back to Dartmouth for repairs. My radar training at Hayling Island certainly helped to bring us safely back to the River Dart in near zero visibility. The fog might have been  a blessing because it protected us from U boat patrols! When we arrived in the Dart a Free French tug met us. Despite the comedy of them yelling to us in French, and us yelling back in English, we made it through. Good old Elmer Mahlin, our skipper, had brought us safely to anchor... he got us everywhere we were supposed to go and we did our job!

All our preparations for D-Day assumed that it would take place on June 5th but it was postponed at the last minute because of bad weather. Most vessels had already set sail for Normandy when the recall order was given. We were finally able to tie up to a buoy somewhere off southern England. Boy it was a nightmare trying to follow the ship ahead since the helmsman was not able to see over the tall blast shield in front of him. It was up to the officer on the con to tell the helmsman what course to follow."


About D-Day George wrote to his family, "On D-Day I watched planes fall from the sky like exploding fireworks, ships around me turning turtle, blown up by torpedoes and wave after wave of Allied planes flying over and bombing the Utah beach landing area." [Photo; 439 en route to Normandy from Southern England in July 1944].

As executive officer George pulled the firing switches on 439's first salvo of 1448 rockets which took about 3 minutes. They roared over the heads of the troops in the small landing craft en route to the beaches. The rockets landed on the beaches to ensure the German troops were disoriented when the Allied troops arrived shortly afterwards. Whilst our firing was on time and on target there was some drama on board 439 as the skipper became stuck on trying to take refuge in a hut provided to protect him from the heat of the rocket flames as they ignited.... his bulky anti gas outfit and life jacket snagged on the door to the hut and exposed his back to the fierce heat. Whilst his bulky safety apparel caused the problem it also saved him from severe burns. The crew wore their anti-gas outfits and life jackets for a week without taking them off!

After the initial salvo 439 reloaded and remained in the area of the beaches ready for further action for 7 days. During this time enemy planes came over at dusk to bomb our craft but the anti-aircraft gunners were too much for them... the gunners even fired at the Allied planes because they were so nervous!

Post Normandy ~  Bizerte, Algiers and Naples

"After the Normandy invasion in June of 1944 our next assignment took our then 9 rocket ship flotilla on a 1,500 mile journey through the Straits of Gibraltar to Bizerte in Tunisia, North Africa where we stayed for 2 or 3 weeks. In July we headed north in support of Operation Torch, the invasion of Southern France, stopping off in Naples for fuel and provisions. The entrance to the harbor was full of ships which had been scuttled by the Germans to keep the Allies from using them and the harbor facilities.

On taking up position in the waters off Southern France between Marseilles and Monte Carlo a wing of American heavy bombers passed overhead on their way to the initial bombardment and we watched in horror as one opened up his bomb bay doors and let go a whole string of bombs. Boy, were we praying that they would miss us, and they did --PHEW !

At the time our 9 LCT(R)s were lined up in a row parallel to the beach and ready to fire salvos of rockets onto the beach barricades. The US Navy sent in a small fleet of radio controlled LCVPs loaded with explosives to blow up the enemy underwater defensive obstacles such as hedgehogs. These were designed to prevent landing craft from reaching the beaches to discharge their human cargos of fighting men. Unfortunately the Germans intercepted the controlling signals, turned the LCVPs around and headed them back towards our destroyers and cruisers. Our big ships could not depress their guns low enough to sink the craft so some PCs came in and blew up the 'hijacked' LCVPs.

We were ordered to steer east parallel to the coast until we could reach an alternative landing area. At this time we suffered our only casualty in battle. Syers was a motormac and was under strict orders o stay below deck until the all clear was sounded. He was writing to his folks and no doubt felt compelled go up on deck to see what was happening. The Germans started firing their dreaded 88s and bracketed us twice with the exploding shells throwing water spouts up on our deck. Elmer was on the con and I was checking the crews, radar, and signalmen. Someone hollered 'Man Down!' As medical officer, I examined Syers but I was sure he was dead. We took him to a nearby hospital ship that was with the invasion fleet and said a prayer as we transferred him. Although a difficult and unwelcome task, Elmer wrote a letter to Syers' parents. He was a good skipper, always did what was right!

After the landings in southern France we anchored in the then safe surroundings of Ajaccio Bay. We swam in the sea there and visited Napoleon's home, Naples and later the harbor at Bizerte in Tunisia."

Workplace and Home

"USLCT(R) 439 was our workplace and our home for 4 to 5 months since we lived on board at all times - even when berthed. The officers slept in bunks above the engine room and mess room and the crew slept in hammocks forward of the mess room. A cook served substantial hot, healthy food similar to what was available at shore based establishments. We loved our ship and worked together as a family. Leaving her for the last time was an exciting experience but tinged with sadness since it was the start of a process that would see our "band of brothers" dispersed to the four winds.

On October 4th 1944 all the LCT(R)s were returned to the Royal Navy. They were not, as expected, sailed back to England but transferred to the British base at Messina on Sicily. All US Navy personnel were repatriated. Clearly the job of the Rocket Ships was done.

We returned to New York in September 1944 aboard the Army troop ship General Meigs and ran into a terrible storm with over 50 foot waves. Surprisingly this didn't bother the sailors who were too preoccupied gambling and generally having a good time."

In October of 1944 George was assigned to Commanding Officers Training at the Little Creek Amphibious training base which was near Norfolk, Virginia.


From the ship's log, military communications and personal letters.


My dad, Elmer H Mahlin, was in the Navy during the war, so I grew up hearing phrases like ‘going to sea’, Normandy Invasion’, ‘topside’ and ‘sonofaseacook’, but without paying much attention. Sadly, by the time I wanted to, dad wasn’t around anymore. However, he left me a legacy in the form of his so called "sea chest" - a large wooden trunk he purchased in Scotland, the contents of which allowed me to glean much about his fascinating wartime service.

The chest contained letters, orders, logs, maps, photos, weapons, a diary and even the flag that flew on his ship during the D Day assault on Utah beach. While in Scotland in 1991, I retraced his footsteps in places like Helensburgh and Roseneath, near Glasgow, where he had trained for several months before D-Day and, on a further journey of discovery in ................ to Dartmouth and Devon, where “Force U” convoys began. Most poignant for me was a stained glass window in Salisbury Cathedral which declared: “See that ye hold fast the heritage we leave you, yea, and teach your children, that never in the coming centuries may their hearts fail or their hands grow weak.”

This is the story of Elmer H Mahlin's wartime service which his sea chest safely preserved and protected for 70 years.

Enlistment & Training

14 Apr 1942. Your application for appointment in the United States Naval Reserve has been reviewed and favorable consideration cannot be given to your request (because) the quota for appointment of Officers of your attainments and specialized training, has been filled. [From office of Naval Officer Procurement, Chicago, to EH Mahlin, Lincoln, Nebraska].

15 Nov 1942. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal indicated the Navy desired to train men in certain lines. It will be appreciated if you will review my application…. [To Director of Naval Officer Procurement, Chicago].

01 Feb 1943. It is a pleasure to inform you that your application for appointment as a commissioned officer in the United States Naval Reserve on this date, has been submitted to the Navy Department. Washington. [From Bureau of Naval Personnel, Des Moines].

16 Feb 1943. Having been appointed in the United States Naval Reserve, the Bureau takes pleasure in transmitting herewith your commission. [From the Chief of Naval Personnel, Washington].

18 Feb 1943. You will report to the Commanding Officer, Naval Training School (Indoctrination), Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, on March 8, 1943. Upon completion of this duty, you will proceed to Princeton, New Jersey and report to the Commanding Office, Naval Training School, Princeton University, for further temporary active duty. [From the Chief of Naval Personnel, Washington].

28 Feb 1943. Enclosures: Acceptance and Oath of office in original white copy, pink, and two yellow copies…. [From Lieut. (jg) EH Mahlin, D-V(S), USNR].

02 Jul 1943. On or about 7 July1943 you will proceed to Miami, Florida, and report to the Commanding Officer, Submarine Chaser Training Center, for temporary duty under instruction. [From Navy Department, Washington].


25 Oct 1943. Enlisted men listed in Enclosure B will be delivered to the Receiving Station, First Naval District, Boston, Mass. This entire detail is for further transfer to Support group Landing Craft Europe. [From the Commanding Officer, Amphibious Training Base, Norfolk].

27 Oct 1943. On or about 28 October 1943, you will proceed to Prince’s Neck, Rhode Island, for special anti- aircraft gunfire instruction. [From First Naval District, Boston].

Preparations in UK

25 Dec 1943. My Dear Son Stuart, Thank you many, many times for your Christmas card and the three pictures of you. Yes, I’ll come home to you as soon as I can. First we want to help win the war so that millions of other little boys and girls won’t have to be without their daddies for a long time, and we men in the forces hope that when you have as fine a family as I you will not be obliged to leave your home to complete a job we did not finish. May God always bless you and your mother. With love, from Daddy. [Letter home from the UK].

26 Jan 1944. On 29 January 1944 you will proceed immediately to Compass School, Slough, England, where you will report for a course of instruction pertaining to the “Brown Gyroscopic Compass.” [From the Commander, Support Group Eleventh Amphibious Force, U.S. Naval Forces in Europe, Base Two].

12 Mar 1944. Upon receipt of these orders, you will proceed immediately to Ardrossan for temporary duty in connection with LCT(R) firing trials. [From Commander, Gunfire Support Craft, U.S. Naval Forces in Europe, Base Two].

22 Apr 1944. Lt. (jg) EH Mahlin, USNR, accepted the ship from Lt. G. Miller, RNVR, on behalf of the US Navy. The American flag was hoisted and Lt. (jg) Fortune set the watch. [Ship’s Log: US LCT(R) 439].

LCTs (Landing Craft Tank) were large, flat bottomed, powered barges. They were mainly used for the transport of tanks, infantry and supplies from friendly shores to the landing beaches in enemy occupied territory. However, there were many adaptations for firing guns, rockets, anti aircraft flak and mortars, all in support of the assault troops. The tank decks of the LCT(R) were filled with a massive battery of 792 or 1080 5-inch rockets in rows of six. This formidable array of missiles could be fired electrically in quick succession salvos to saturate a given area of beach. The rocket frames were fixed, so aiming was done by pointing the vessel at the intended target from a predetermined fixed distance from the beach. Navigational accuracy was paramount.

Starting in the first week of May, 1944, the soldiers and sailors of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, began assembling in southern England. Many of the ships left the Firth of Clyde and Belfast, down the Irish Sea, past the Isle of Man, joined by others from Liverpool, Swansea and Bristol. They sailed in formations of twenty ships, forty ships, even 100 ships, to sail out into the Atlantic and then past Land’s End, where they turn east for their designated ports of departure such as Plymouth, Torquay, Dartmouth, Weymouth, and others.

Countdown to D-Day

09 May 1944. SAILING ORDERS U.S. LCT(R) 439. Being in all respects ready for war, you are required to proceed with US LCT(R) 473, 482 in company to Appledore for onward routing to Dartmouth…. [SECRET. From Office of Flag Officer-in-Charge, Greenock].

10 May 1944. Left Pier 3 Roseneath per orders, followed by LCT(R)s 482, 473 that order. [Ship’s Log].

10 May 1944. We left Roseneath, Scotland, this am. I had been there since 30 Nov 1943. Wrote home tonight. Will mail at Dartmouth. My family and all my good friends seem so far off. Gave liberty to crews. Some won’t come home. [Personal diary].

16 May 1944.  In Barnstaple Bay. Took lead position our convey and fell in lct convoy aft LCT 628 (British) at 1620. Headed for Land’s End; destination Dartmouth per orders from NOIC Appledore. [Ship’s Log].

17 May 1944. 1826. Coming about to enter Dartmouth Harbor. [Ship’s Log].

19 May 1944. This date I acknowledge to have received into my custody 17 Smith-Corona .30 caliber rifles, 3 Thompson Sub-machine guns and 44 magazines, one belt, holster, lanyard and 45 caliber pistol…. [To Staff Gunnery Officer].

19 May 1944. Heard I made the May 1 promotion to full Lieutenant. Heard from an Ensign in Comm. that the next exercise is the real show so that’s in about ten days I guess. May as well have it over with. [Personal diary].

21 May 1944. Learned we test fire Monday and Tuesday, then go to Plymouth Wednesday for a full load. No doubt show ready to start. [Personal Diary].

23 May 1944. 1625. All fuses in place. Exercises in firing rockets until 1820, H hour of last run. 2300. Received sailing orders for Plymouth to take on rockets. [Ship's Log].

25 May 1944. At this writing, 2215, we have 736 HE in hold and nearly 936 in the racks. Tomorrow we get fuses. 200 smoke and 72 incendiary or ranging rockets. A hell of a lot of dynamite should anyone ask. It won’t be long until the business I don’t think. Wonder if I’ll be alive a week from now, whole and sound. That sort of problem is uppermost in the minds of all of us. [Personal diary].

26 May 1944. 1430. Ammo all loaded, barges left. [Ship's Log].

27 May 1944. 2225. River Dart, Dartmouth, England. Tied up to LCT 2024. Engines secured. [Ship's Log]. 

29 May 1944. 1800. At entrance to Salcombe Harbour. [Ship's Log]. 

03 Jun 1944. 1625. Left Salcombe Harbour under secret orders for “Operations.”  1735.  In position as no. 18. US LCT(R) 368 ahead, US LCF 27 astern. 1905. Convoy coming out of Dart River. 1925. Escort destroyer 723 abeam. [Ship's Log]. 

The speed of the convoy was limited to the top speed of the slowest component – the LCTs laden with their precious burden of modern fighting equipment and carefully trained men. The naval workhorses of the Normandy invasion were the landing craft and the ships just offshore that supported them. Only a handful of battleships and cruisers were assigned to the Normandy operation, and the battleships that did go were the real antiques. Aircraft carriers were not needed because airplanes could easily fly across the Channel from Britain to attack targets in France. [Stillwell, Assault on Normandy, Annapolis, Naval Institute Press, 1994].

04 Jun 1944. 1845. Dropped anchor Weymouth Bay. LCT 437 ahead, LCT 646 and LCT(R) 368 on port beam. [Ship's Log].

Altogether there were 2,727 ships ranging from battleships to transports and landing craft that would cross. They were divided into the Western Naval Task Force (931 ships headed for Omaha and Utah) and the Eastern Naval Task Force (1,796 ships headed for Gold, Juno and Sword). On the decks of the LSTs were the Higgins boats and other craft too small to cross the Channel on their own. There were 2,606 of them. Thus the total armada amounted to 5,333 ships and craft of all types. [Ambrose, D-Day, June 6, 1944, The Climatic Battle of World War 11, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1994].

05 Jun 1944. 0200. Pursuant to orders delivered by Lt. Finneran of GFSC, crew roused, Engines started. [Ship's Log].

At 0415 land was plainly visible. The rapidly approaching dawn revealed the thousands of ships and craft. As far as the eye could see, they stretched toward the English Channel. [Stillwell].

D-Day & Aftermath

06 Jun 1944. This is D-Day. About 0400 we were off our course but followed LCT(R) 368. We saw some C-47s coming back and what appeared to be flares. About 0530 arrived at transport area. At 0600 LCI 209 (Landing Craft, Infantry) informed us H hr was 0630 and get the hell to it. Ahead was 1st wave small boats. Guns (Landing Craft, Gun) and flaks (Landing Craft, Flak) crossing our bow. Stopped, then speeded up, trying to determine position. Unable to get it as marker vessels not in place.  Identified Nevada firing on our target. From St. Marcouf islands and radar got on our course and started in. Had to stop for second small boat wave. LCF 31 and a Coast Guard boat went down in the lane where we would have been had we not been delayed. By the grace of God I believe we were spared. [Personal diary].

The Naval bombardment of designated targets began on schedule at 5.50 a.m. and lasted forty minutes. Then, as soon as our warships stopped shooting, about three hundred B-26 Martin Marauder two-engined medium bombers swept in to attack. More than four thousand bombs smothered the German positions. Though the bombs did not destroy many of these, they did explode many enemy land mines. So, too, did the rockets from seventeen LCT(R)s that were specially equipped for this bombardment role. The noise was deafening: returning planes roaring back to Britain to reload and fire-support ships belting away at unseen targets inland, making an almost continuous wall of sound. [Stillwell].

The 276 B-26  Marauder medium bombers of the Ninth US Air Force dropped 4,400 bombs on the German positions, whilst four LCGs (Landing Craft, Gun) armed with 4.7 inch guns opened fire at short range on the beach defences. Meanwhile the cruisers and battleships continued to pound their targets. When the LCVPs (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel) were at 7,000 yards from the shore seventeen LCT(R)s began to unleash their salvos of thousands of rockets in a fearsome display of light and explosions. This hurricane of fire soon covered the coast in a thick cover of smoke, which masked the few landmarks visible to the naked eye. Radar was of little use, either. [Buffetaut, D-Day Ships, The Allied Invasion Fleet, June, 1944, London, Conway Maritime Press, 1994].

06 Jun 1944. 0600. In transport area. 0637. Fired rockets at 3500 yds. radar from wall. 0930. Dropped anchor in Red Circle area to begin loading and fusing rockets. 1125. English LCT, out of commission, loaded with US troops, drifted into our stern severing our anchor cable. [Ship's Log].

07 Jun 1944.  0800. Tied bow to bow LCT(R) 368 about 4 miles from invasion coast of France. 1845. Rocket loading completed. 2045. Moving to new position. [Ship's Log].

08 Jun 1944. Went to sleep – frequently awakened. Ack-ack, gunfire, etc. There is a tremendous amount of allied Navy and Airforce here and absence of German counterpart. We expect a raid soon. [Personal diary].

08 Jun 1944. 0130-0200. Bombs being dropped nearby. Ships sending up flak. 1230. Ship off port quarter, 2,000 yds. Sunk by mines. [Ship's Log].

09 Jun 1944. 1030. Ship on stern sunk by mine. 1430. Bombers overhead. Bombing beach. Flak falling on deck. 2125. Radio report of enemy planes coming in. [Ship's Log].

13 Jun 1944. 0520. Pursuant to orders, let go lines from LCT(R) 368. Standing by waiting for convoy to form. 0830. Proceeding toward Portland in fairly heavy sea about 5 knots. 2400. Approaching Weymouth Bay. Visibility good. Rockets defused. [Ship's Log].

14 Jun 1944. 1605. Received new anchor, food supplies and also 2 barrels of SAE 30 oil. [Ship's Log].

14 Jun 1944. Dear Stuart, If you were here today, Sonny, I’d take you around the ship and show you what we have aboard. Perhaps your mother can tell you what we fire. Anyhow, we’ve been through one invasion and I guess when we think it over it was quite an experience. I do hope you will be spared this when you grow up. We are in a port now getting needed supplies. We broke some lines. A ship ran into us and cut our anchor cable so we were without an anchor. We’ve had a few bumps and dents here and there but nothing serious. The worst job is keeping in a convoy in the dark. I hope soon to get the mail that is piled up for me. Must close now, Son. Write you later. Love, Daddy. [Letter home from UK].

15 Jun 1944. 2330. Moored at Dartmouth. [Ship's Log].

16 Jun 1944. Received lots of mail today. How I would like to be home. [Personal diary].

18 Jun 1944. We listened to American forces programs – it’s grand. It’s wonderful just to walk along the streets, look at trees, hills. I feel lucky to be alive and well, and am thankful for all that. [Personal diary].

08 Jul 1944. 0920. Underway from Dartmouth to Plymouth. [Ship's Log].

North Africa

12 Jul 1944. 0850. Left mooring under orders. Destination, Gibraltar. [Ship's Log].

12 Jul 1944. En route Gibraltar. Assume may be an operation in S. France. We have destroyer escort. I liked Dartmouth – nice and homey there. Yesterday I heard a picture may have been taken of us firing at Normandy. Hope to get one. [Personal diary].

20 Jul 1944. 1530. Destination is Oran, Algeria. Fuel on hand 3984 gal. Water 2950 gal. Approximate speed has been 7-1/2 knots. Fuel consumption 20 gallons per hour. [Ship's Log]. 

28 Jul 1944. 2307. Dropped anchor in Bizerte. [Ship's Log].

28 Jul 1944. It seems strange not to be in British Isles. I must get home soon. In a few days I’ll have been away for 9 months – it’s too long. If I never see any more LCT(R)s I’ll never miss them. [Personal diary].

03 Aug 1944. 0400. Gyro started. Prep departure for Naples. [Ship's Log].

06 August 1944. 1320. Moored to B645 Naples Harbor. [Ship's Log]. 

07 Aug 1944. 1100. Began loading rockets. [Ship's Log]. 

09 Aug 1944. We got underway about 1030 and at 1300 were in formation. Bound for Corsica and finally Frejus, France, for an attack. We will come in near St. Rafael. [Personal diary].

Big transports sailed from Naples. Smaller landing craft had to be sent earlier from various other places, some of them from Corsica. For this operation we had a considerable Naval force. We had three of our battleships, several cruisers, and a large number of destroyers and minesweepers, as well as the transports and landing craft. [Stillwell, Assault on Normandy, Annapolis, Naval Institute Press, 1994].

12 Aug 1944. 0021. Approaching Ajaccio Bay, Corsica. [Ship's Log].

13 Aug 1944. 1855. Underway to take position in convoy for assault near Frejus and St. Raphael. [Ship's Log].

14 Aug 1944. 1630. Five waves Liberators flew over. 2103. Explosions heard from assault area. [Ship's Log].

15 Aug 1944. 0400. Arrived transport area. 0605. Shells flying stbd. 1410 Rocket stations ordered. 1420. Ordered to turn about and proceed to transport area. Enemy gunfire on starboard beam. 1430. Syers F 1/c was hit in chest with shrapnel from shell in port quarter. 1622. Small boat from PA28 took body ashore to Green Beach for burial. [Ship's Log].

15 Aug 1944. I lost a man today. [Personal diary].

16 Aug 1944. 1625. In convoy for Ajaccio. [Ship's Log]. 

02 Sep 1944. 1410. Passed into Bizerte, Coulet du Lac. Convoy formed in column. 1500. Moored portside to pier 27. [Ship's Log].

25 Sep 1944. 1530. All officers except CO moved off. Orders are for CO and eight of crew to take craft to Messina, Sicily. [Ship's Log]. 

Back to the USA

26 Sep 1944. You will proceed immediately and report to the Commanding Officer Eighth Amphibious Force for transportation to the United States. [From Commander United States Eighth Fleet].

01 Oct 1944. 0800. Colors. Message from Admiralty to de-store loose permanent store articles. 1000. Gave to LCI 563, 2 Army telephones, ice cream freezer, 3 battle lanterns, excess foul weather gear, tools, dishes, canvas, and food. [Final entry in Ship’s Log].

31 Oct 1944. Upon Expiration leave report Amphibious Training Base Camp Bradford Naval Operating Base Norfolk for temporary duty connection amphibious operations and for further assignment to such LST (Landing Ship Tank) as Commander Amphibious Training Command Atlantic Fleet may designate. [Western Union Telegram].

02 Mar 1945. You will proceed immediately and report to the Commanding Officer, Navy Pier, Chicago and for further transfer to the Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Seneca, Illinois for duty in connection with the fitting out of the USS LST 1134 and duty on board. [From Amphibious Training Base, Norfolk].

18 Apr 1945. The arrival inspection for USS LST 1134 was held by LST Shakedown Group, St. Andrew Bay, Panama City, Florida.

11 Jun 1945. You will proceed and report to the Commanding Officer, Amphibious Training Base, Oceanside, California for duty as Platoon Officer in connection with Beach Battalion A and duty outside the continental limits of the United States. Issued transportation on these orders from Norfolk to Oceanside via Chesapeake & Ohio (Cincinnati), New York Central (Chicago), Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific (Denver), Denver & Rio Grande (Ogden), Union Pacific (Los Angeles), Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (destination). [From Amphibious Training Base, Norfolk].

Dad was in the Philippines when, on 6 August 1945, the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. He was to have been in the initial assault force in the planned invasion of the Japanese mainland.

12 Nov 1945. From Office of the Commander , Amphibious Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Subject: Release from active duty.

Further Reading

There are around 300 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 anmahlin,d no passwords. Click 'Books' for more information.

1) On this CombinedOps website read US NAVY LANDING CRAFT TANKelmer  (ROCKET) by Lt Commander Carr. His account concentrates on US Landing Craft Tank (Rocket) operations in Normandy and Southern France in the summer of 1944.

2) Specification of LCT(R) 439 at NavSource Website.

3) The National D-Day Museum in New Orleans, USA holds the logs and records of LCT(R) 439 donated by Stu Mahlin of Cincinnati, Ohio, whose father, Elmer Mahlin, commanded LCT (R) 439. Mahlin fired his rockets off Utah Beach on D-Day at 0635, just in advance of the initial assault troops.

The craft was decommissioned off Sicily on 1 October 1944. Mahlin took all its paperwork with him including every order he received during the war. This valuable material included the original log of LCT(R) 439, the US log starting 22 April 1944, the date Mahlin accepted the craft from its British commander. Other material includes his diary, orders, sea charts, snapshots, sea chest and even the American flag that flew from LCT(R) 439 on D-Day.

Also included in the collection are Mahlin's sidearm and records pertaining to his service as Commanding Officer of the Naval Reserve Training Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. It is one of the most complete records of one sailor's service during World War II.


Good day to you! I came across your website which brought back many memories of my father's wartime service. 

He initially tried to join the Marines because my mom was German, and he wanted to fight in the Japanese in the Pacific. His childhood, lifelong friend and best man at his wedding, Buddy Campbell, also applied to join the Marines, which he did successfully. However, my father was told the Marines were full, and that he was now in the US Navy. Buddy survived WW 2, but late recruits from 43 and 44 were called back for duty in Korea. He was amongst the first troops to fight in Korea and, sadly, he died on a 'Korea Death March.'

My dad was in charge of a US LCT (Landing Craft Tank) on D day at Omaha Beach. His name is Charles J. Payne with the rank of Chief Boatswain's Mate, First Class. He signed up in May 1943, after working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and was assigned to a US Navy training station in Sampson, New York State on the Great Lakes, for immediate landing craft training, and just prior to going to the UK, he attended Fort Pierce, Florida for advanced training in landing craft operations.

Prior to D Day, he was stationed in Plymouth on the south coast of England. On D Day itself, his LCT was being towed from England when the tow cable broke. He arrived on Omaha beach much later in the day than planned. On D Day +1, his craft's responsibility was to pick up dead floating soldiers along a length of the landing beach. After the landing phase, my dad, like many other US Navy staff from the landing, was assigned to the army as cooks and support staff. Once the front advanced close to the German border near Bremen, he was further assigned river boat duty. He survived the war and I ate army food growing up!

Thanks for the site. As I said, it brought back a lot of memories, one of which concerned training in Southampton and Bournemouth. The Navy staff customarily frequented the local pubs, but they were very unhappy that there was no ice and all beer was warm. The locals used to challenge them to games of darts and always won. However, after a few weeks, the pubs provided ice and cold beer was readily available. The pubs became very popular and the yanks, after learning darts, became so good at it, the locals refused to challenge them!
William Seifried Payne


The information for the first part of this page, was provided by George F Fortune who served as Ensign on USLCT(R) 439. The information was redrafted for presentation on this website by Geoff Slee and approved by the author before publication. We're also grateful to Stu Mahlin, son of skipper Elmer Mahlin, for sharing his father's wartime experiences in the second part of this page. The information was taken from a variety of sources including the ship's log, official records and personal correspondence.

News & Information


Memorial Maintenance

We have a small band of volunteers who take turns to visit the memorial each month, particularly during the growing season, to undertake routine maintenance such as weeding keeping the stones and slabs clear of bird dropping, lichen etc. and reporting on any issues. If you live near the National Memorial Arboretum and would like to find out more, please contact us.

Remember a Veteran

You can pay a personal tribute to veterans who served in, or alongside, the Combined Operations Command in WW2 by adding their details and optional photo to our Roll of Honour and They Also Served pages on this website.

Read the Combined Operations prayer.

Forthcoming Events

To organisers: Reach the people who will be interested to know about your Combined Operations or war related event by adding it to our forthcoming events page free of charge.

To everyone else; Visit our forthcoming events page for things to see and places to visit. If you know of an event of possible interest, that is not listed, please let us know.

To notify an event click here.

To visit the webpage click here.


Why not join the thousands who visit our Facebook page about the Combined Operations Command 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 Combined Ops events are highlighted on their anniversary dates with links to additional information.

You are welcome to add information, photos and comment or reply to messages posted by others.

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.

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.



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.

About Us?

Background to the website and memorial project, and a look to the future; plus other small print stuff and website accounts etc. Click here for information.


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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