National Geographic : 1944 Jul
The National Geographic Magazine U. S. Navy, Official Over the Side and Down the Rope Net Climb Salerno-bound Soldiers Three or four usually go over together, lifting left legs first, placing feet on rungs, and gripping vertical strands with their hands so the man above will not step on their fingers. They are taught to keep step so they will not bump and slow the descent. Each carries his pack jammed with rations, Garand rifle, and water canteen. Overhead flies the transport's guardian barrage balloon. ing the beach, we struck a mine which blew out 50 feet of our bottom and part of the star board side, including a troop space. Natu rally, I thought my ship would sink and headed for the nearest beach ahead of sched ule. The Navy gave me a Silver Star for that, but I was only trying to save my ship!" "Were you under fire?" I asked. "Yes, while we landed tanks German 88 mms. shelled us for two hours until we re tracted. We steamed under our own power, with that hole in our bottom, some 950 miles to Bizerte and thence to Oran. That's an LST for you. You can't sink them! "After the Sicily campaign, five LCTs were returning to Palermo," he continued. "Leap frogging up the north coast, they had landed tanks at vital points behind the enemy. Now they were coming back to port battered, dirty, and tired. The flagship signaled them to pass close aboard for Admiral's inspection. The LCT boys were worried but obeyed orders. As they passed the big cruiser, the band played and all hands, including the Admiral, saluted the little LCTs." To show how an LST gets around, I quote a letter from Lt. Charles M. Brookfield, who wrote that fascinating article for the GEOGRAPHIC about finding a 17th-century British "Fourth Rate" wrecked on a Florida reef.* Lieutenant Brookfield now commands U. S. Coast Guard LST 21, which he calls Blackjack Maru. LST "Blackjack Maru" Fought in Three Theaters "During the past six months," he wrote in February, 1944, "the ten LSTs of our group, of which Blackjack Maru is flagship, have cruised over 25,000 miles, operating in all three theaters of war. We have earned two Bronze Stars on our ribbons, visited eight countries, four continents, and sailed through seven different seas. That's a record for flat bottom 'dishpans' designed primarily for ramming the beach. "Our crew claims this ship was the first in * See "Cannon on Florida Reefs Solve Mystery of Sunken Ship," by Charles M. Brookfield, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, December, 1941.