National Geographic : 1944 Jul
The National Geographic Magazine "LCI 335 served as a ferry for troops and Seabees to Munda and took New Zea landers to the Treasury Islands. Altogether, she ran 'The Slot' through the length of the Solomons some 20 times, carrying thousands of troops (page 3). She took reinforcements to Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville. There we fought the surf again. Hanging around off shore, we watched the battle and Bagana Vol cano belching smoke and cinders-Nature's accompaniment to the drama going on in the jungle below (page 8). "Standing up The Slot in November, we passed two little 'yippy' boats chugging along, loaded with Thanksgiving turkeys for our forces at Bougainville. The little YPs (con verted yachts) were all alone, so they joined our convoy." "Did many of your crew get malaria?" I asked Lieutenant Powers. "We were exceedingly lucky; only three came down with it in our LCI flotilla," he replied. "Mosquitoes were well controlled at our base on Florida Island. Besides, LCIs usually anchor several hundred yards off shore, and malarial mosquitoes don't fly far. We sprayed our ship regularly. The only time we were really bothered by mosquitoes was when we landed soldiers at dusk or dawn." * "What sort of food did you have?" "We ran out of fresh supplies during the month we were at Rendova. We got along on the ship's dry stores, mostly luncheon meat. Once we went ashore and shot two wild bulls. The meat was fresh but very tough." "Did you carry many wounded?" "No, LCIs are not equipped for carrying stretcher cases. But we did bring out many walking wounded and fatigue cases." Next morning when I hit the deck the ship was rolling and tossing like mad. Snug in my bunk, I had felt no motion. After breakfast I reeled down the corridor and climbed the ladders to the conning tower. The wind was not blowing too hard nor were the seas ex cessive, yet our LCI bounced around like a Toonerville trolley. Her bow would run up on a wave and come down with a smack on the next one. She shook like a dog (page 17). LST-a Floating Tunnel Back at our anchorage, the commander signaled an order to "nest up." We dropped our stern anchor-LCIs often moor by the stern-and the other craft ranged up along side. A slight swell was running and the little ships rolled and bumped in comradely fashion. Officers and men were elated that training was done and soon they would be masters of their own LCIs. Take a section of New York's Holland Tunnel. Put a bow and stern on it. Give it engines, propellers, and rudders. Add a bridge for the captain and you have an LST, or Landing Ship, Tank. Of course you would have to add a few de tails such as a big ramp and bow doors which swing open like a garage, surround this float ing tunnel with living compartments for the crew, and cover it like a porcupine with bristling AA guns. But essentially that's the picture I got when I stood in the mammoth, white gleaming tank deck of an LST. Even the terrific roar and foul smell of a tunnel are there when huge ventilators suck out gases and big Sherman tanks whine and clank down the ramp (p. 19). "Here's the natural place to begin a tour of an LST," said the Coast Guard skipper. "The tank deck is her reason for being. Around it centers the life of the ship. "Here the men dry their laundry, play ping pong and basketball, toss baseballs, rough house, and do much of the ship's work," he explained. "When not carrying tanks and trucks, this vast space may be piled high with Army supplies, gas drums, telephone poles, ammunition-in fact, anything an army in the field may need. LSTs have even car ried horses and mules. One skipper I know ferried a thousand Nazi prisoners across the Mediterranean" (page 14). Scurrying up and down the tank deck, men were busily stacking and carrying boxes of dry stores, like a parade of leaf-cutter ants. As I watched, a little truck, like a cross be tween a jeep and an elevator, picked up a stack of canned peaches and whisked them down the deck, depositing them in front of a storeroom door. "That's our Handy Andy," the skipper ex plained. "It saves many man-hours of work. All our men have to do is to stack the boxes and Handy Andy does the rest." Every operation on an LST speeds loading and off-loading. If the enemy is bombing, strafing, and shelling the ship, she must be got off the beach in a hurry. Imagine com pletely unloading a big cargo ship in 45 min utes! Yet that's not unusual for an LST when she starts her tanks and trucks rolling down her ramp. "Come forward and see the bow doors and ramp," the skipper said. As we approached, the bow began to open like a secret door. Noiselessly, with no one * See "Saboteur Mosquitoes," by Harry H. Stage, and "Life Story of the Mosquito," by Graham Fair child, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for February, 1944.