National Geographic : 1944 Jul
The National Geographic Magazine H.- . U. S. Navy. Official A 112-ton LCT Is Hoisted Aboard a Mother Ship to Ride Pickaback to Battle It will rest safely on timber launching ways, chained securely to the deck. When the LST reaches the front she will roll herself over by ballasting and slide the smaller craft into the sea with a mighty splash (page 27). This is the Mark V-type LCT, with deckhouse across the stern. "We claim that Blackjack Maru and a sis ter ship are the first U. S. naval vessels ever to fly the Stars and Stripes in an offensive operation in Indian waters. The scene of ac tion is probably the most remote from our shores in this or any U. S. war." In the afternoon our 327-foot LST plodded out for beaching. Can this 2,160-ton ship really run itself aground, I wondered. Yet, like the other landing craft, she headed straight for the beach full speed. "If you really want to get a thrill out of beaching," the captain said, "go down and climb out on the ramp." Down many ladders and winding passages I hurried to the tank deck. Just as I arrived, the big ramp opened, mysteriously as ever. Dead ahead I could see the beach with the tree-clad bank beyond. Wind whistled through the opening. Gingerly I climbed out on the 23-foot ramp to its tip and looked down at the ship's bow, a bone in its teeth. The waves roared like a waterfall. "Hang on!" an officer shouted with cupped hands. And it was lucky he did, for just then the ship hit the beach and I nearly fell off. Looking back over my shoulder, I saw the tremendous monster coming down on me, its huge mouth gaping as if to swallow me. I could see 208 feet down its gullet, the tank deck. The ship rode up the beach for about 30 feet before stopping. Sand piled around her cutwater. A tidal wave rolled up, inundating the beach. Retracting was much the same for the big tank ship as for smaller craft. Going astern with her engines and winching in her anchor, she gradually backed off. Leaving the ship, Lieutenant Fleck bade me goodbye with these prophetic words: "There is not a single place on earth where we can invade enemy soil without crossing water or landing on a hostile shore. Airplanes and warships clear the way, but landing craft only landing craft-take our armies to the enemy." "Happy beachings!" I waved.