After I pored through my Uncle Harold’s belongings recently, I did some Internet research to learn more about his ship, LST 612.  However, I was disappointed to find only one, small grainy photo and no information about this specific LST posted on the web.  Fortunately though, Harold had taken several photos and had kept some information about the ship in a scrapbook, so after I sifted through Harold's items and learned more about the ship, I decided to create this section of my website describing the 612.  Here’s a brief summary of the ship's history:

LST 612 was built in Seneca, Illinois in the spring of 1944 and like most LSTs of its class, it was 328 feet long, 50 feet wide and could carry up to 20 Sherman tanks on its lower deck, plus dozens of lighter vehicles on its top deck.  After it was completed, the ship was launched into the Mississippi River in May 1944 and traveled downriver to New Orleans with a skeleton crew aboard, including my Uncle Harold, where it was commissioned by (i.e., transferred to) the U.S. Navy.  After a brief shakedown cruise in St. Andrews Bay near Panama City, Florida, it was loaded at New Orleans and the remaining Navy crew embarked, for a total of about 120 crewmen altogether. 

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Above:  An LST at sea carrying an LCT (Landing Craft - Tank) on its main deck.

The main cargo on the top deck of LST 612 was an LCT (a Landing Craft - Tank, which is similar to an LST but much smaller with a capacity of only 3 tanks), bound for the western Pacific Ocean.  It was fairly common, as I learned, for new LSTs leaving America to carry LCTs, piggy-backed style, to their destination.  You might wonder, as I did, how a 150-foot, 250-ton LCT could be unloaded from the top deck of a 328-foot long LST, with no access to a ramp.  Actually, it was pretty ingenious:  the LCT was carried on a sturdy wooden frame bolted to the deck of the LST, and the frame was greased just before it was unloaded.  Then the LST’s ballast tanks were filled on one side and emptied on another, creating a 27-degree list to starboard, which must’ve been amazing to see.  The LCT then slid off the wooden frame and into the ocean – and hopefully without sinking!

With the LCT fastened to its top deck, LST 612 left New Orleans in June 1944 with a full crew and traveled through the Panama Canal, then up to San Diego and San Pedro, California.  The ship left California in July 1944 and traveled to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where it spent nearly two months, then headed across the Pacific with a brief stop at Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands.  When it had left Pearl Harbor, it was scheduled to participate in the Allied invasion of the island of Yap, in the western Pacific and occupied by Japanese, but while in transit, the U.S. Navy changed its war strategy.  Instead of clearing every island of Japanese forces, which was a slow and costly undertaking, the Navy decided instead to leapfrog several Japanese-held islands, including Yap.  At Eniwetok, the crew of the LST learned that the Yap invasion had been called off, so the ship proceeded directly to Manus Island off the coast of New Guinea, reaching the island in early October 1944. 

Manus Island was a staging area for the planned Allied invasion of the Philippines.  Two years earlier, in 1942, General Douglas MacArthur, the commander of American forces in the Philippines, had escaped from the advancing Japanese and stated, “I shall return.”  Now he planned to do just that.

Along with other ships in the U.S. fleet, LST 612 invaded the Philippines at Leyte Gulf on October 20, three days before the climactic Battle of Leyte Gulf between the Allies and Japan, the largest naval battle in world history and a decisive Allied victory.  Two months later, in mid-December, LST 612 participated in the invasion of Mindoro Island in the Philippines during which two LSTs were sunk by Japanese kamikaze planes and a month later, it participated in the invasion of Luzon, the Philippines island where Manila is located.

The Allies kept pressing toward Japan and on April 1, 1945, LST 612 and about 1,500 other U.S. Navy ships invaded the Japanese-held island of Okinawa, south of Japan, while dodging Japanese kamikaze planes.  During the beaching, the ship suffered damage to its hull caused by coral, which was repaired shortly afterwards at the island of Saipan.  The LST returned to Okinawa and made supply runs to the Philippines for the next few months.  On an evening in August 1945, the surrender of Japan was announced and the crew celebrated wildly. 

My Uncle Harold left Okinawa in September 1945 and returned to the U.S.  He'd been on LST 612 from the very beginning and during his 15 months with the 612, he served as the ship's Storekeeper and assisted the gun crews.  In fact, his gun crew shot down at least one Japanese kamikaze plane that was heading straight for the LST.  From reading his journal, I could tell that Harold's war experience had been difficult for him, however.  He described in his journal, for example, how one of his crewmates had a mental breakdown during the war and jumped overboard while the ship was on the open ocean, and the fellow was never seen again.

LST 612 earned three battle stars during the war, for its participation in the Leyte and Mindoro island invasions in the Philippines in late 1944, and at Okinawa in April 1945.  It was decommissioned in June 1946 and in 1947 it was sold to a company in the Philippines.  The record of the 612 ends there.

The following memo was written by the ship’s Executive Officer on May 16, 1945, while LST 612 was at Saipan being repaired and a few months before the end of the war.  It’s a more descriptive history of the ship and was written on the first anniversary of ship’s commission.  The memo was given to all crewmen:

 

 

U.S.S. LST 612 / Ship’s Anniversary

16 May 1945

One year ago today the LST 612 was commissioned at New Orleans, La., and became a full fledged unit of the United States Navy.  As we look back it seems only a short time, but in that short time much has taken place, and today the LST 612 and her crew are veterans by any standard of measurement.

A short synopsis of the history of the ship – which is the history of her officers and men – is in order.

On completion of her commissioning, a period of upkeep and training, including a period at St. Andrews Bay, Fla., followed and shortly afterwards we were loaded at New Orleans (10,000 cases of beer, a really important cargo) and on June 17, 1944 departed for the West Coast.

Enroute we encountered rather rough weather in the Caribbean and the crew had their first taste of sea sickness – about that time all hands discovered that Sherman was right [“War is Hell”].  However, the transit of the Panama Canal proved interesting enough to make it easy to forget the past discomfort, and on arrival at San Diego, California., and a few days later at San Pedro, Calif., most of us had come to the conclusion that war was a series of excellent night clubs, good looking women and an occasional return to the ship for light work and preparation to hit the beach promptly again at 1600.

On July 17 we departed the continental limits of the United States and that was near the end of the “wine, women and song” period.  Beautiful Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands had its appeal to meet, but was not up to the standard we’d become accustomed to.  We unloaded there and in addition to routine work we practiced loading and unloading LVT’s [Landing Vehicle, Tracked – boats with tank tracks that could travel in the water and on land] and dukws [amphibious wheeled “Ducks”], and eventually we combat loaded and held a full scale rehearsal of the coming invasion of Yap.

We departed the Hawaiian Area on September 11 enroute to Eniwetok where we expected to load the infantry for the Yap invasion.  In addition to a combat load of LVT’s and their crews we carried the flag of Commander LST Flotilla 16.

On arrival at Eniwetok we received word that the Yap invasion was cancelled and we proceeded to Manus, Admiralty Islands to stage for the invasion of the Philippines.

We invaded the Philippines in the vicinity of Dulag, Leyte Island on October 20, this ship being the first of the transport types to enter the harbor.  This was our first combat duty and we succeeded in getting two enemy planes, a lot of excitement and considerable work and watches, but on our departure on October 26 we were satisfied that our performance would pass the most critical inspection.  During this period we’d launched our baby (LCT 740) after having it aboard since the New Orleans days.  It was great to see the main deck clear, but we all felt we were losing a bunch of good shipmates when Ens. Hanson and his 12 man crew shoved off to carry out their duties.

Our next assignment was to pick up the Army Engineering units and equipment at Finchhaven, New Guinea, with incidental stops at Hollandia, New Guinea, and return to the Leyte Gulf area by November 19, 1944 and shortly after our arrival at Leyte we loaded troops and equipment for the Mindoro Invasion.  During this period we suffered many air attacks and two of our shipmates were wounded – Rhoten and Schafer, the latter being evacuated and eventually returned to the States.

We invaded Mindoro on December 15, 1944 and this was one of the hardest operations, from a standpoint of nerves.  None of us will ever forget the attack by ten Jap planes determined to commit suicide [kamikaze planes].  We helped them!  That one fellow who so skillfully maneuvered to hit our conn will never know what a bad moment he gave us all.  That was when our gun crews showed their stuff – they ripped him to pieces and caused him to miss us by nearly 30 feet.  Rothrock suffered a slight wound in the stern sheets caused by shrapnel or a strafing bullet, but our main casualties were to Ens. Rocereto and Morton, Cox., who became greatly attached to each other and tried to share the small space under the anchor winch and thus became really close acquaintances.

We returned to Leyte and commenced staging for the invasion of Luzon.  We attacked Luzon at Lingayen Gulf on 11 January 1945, and returned to Leyte to prepare for the landing at Subic Bay which we made on 3 February 1945.  While loading at Leyte for the Luzon operation an interesting highlight in our history occurred.  A confusion of orders had caused 612 to be beached in slot #3 instead of slot #4 at White Beach One.  On the night of 2 January, a Jap plane dropped a number of bombs missing 612 by 20 feet at closest point.  During this attack the ship which beached in slot #4 about 40 yards on our port beam, originally intended for 612, was seriously hit and put out of action for major repairs.  Through this episode we won our nickname “The Lucky 612.”  We are proud of this sobriquet and want to keep on deserving it.  We sent our rescue party to the stricken ship and Colton and Kuhn won commendations for bravery.  We will always remember the eternal sizzle of the bombs that missed us.

On completion of the Subic Bay run, we returned to Leyte, and had a period of overhaul, upkeep and staging for the Okinawa campaign – in our spare time we had recreation parties.  We invaded Okinawa Shima on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, this being the largest amphibious operation of the Pacific Area.  There were 1499 other ships in this to help out (figures are from news reports).  On this invasion we suffered a few holes in the bottom caused by high winds and surf while beach on a coral beach.  This made it necessary to dry dock, so on our return to Saipan, Marianas Group we were given availability and took advantage of the period to repaint the hull and give the old girl a new lease on life as a birthday gift.

We departed Saipan on 5 May 1945, to load at Guam and departed Guam for Saipan, arriving there on May 10, 1945, loaded and ready for our next assignment.

During this period covered by this history:

The LST 612 travelled approximately 24,000 miles.  This figure is the “port to port” figure and does not include short rehearsal runs and maneuvering in port.

One officer and 4 men were awarded Purple Hearts for wounds received in action.

One man was declared missing.  Ellis, our senior MoMM was engaged in trying to salvage a stricken LST and when it capsized he was set adrift about 70 miles south of Mindoro, and no word of him has ever reached us.

We crossed the International Date Line and Equator, thus making us all Golden Dragons and Shellbacks.

We have become qualified to wear:

  1. Amphibious Forces Insignia.
  2. American Area Campaign Bar.
  3. Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Bar (although no official word is published on stars for operations after 20 October, 1944 it is certain we will rate at least two stars and probably more on this bar).
  4. Philippine Liberation Campaign Ribbon with two stars.

Thus ends our first year in active service, and few ships, if any, can equal our record of constant participation in the war effort.  The above is by no means a complete history as that would be a volume itself, but is intended only to bring out the main points.  It’s a record of which all hands can be justly proud.

R. Gilmour

Lt (jg) U.S.N.

Executive Officer

 

 

Photos & Documents of LST 612

 

From the U.S. to New Guinea (1943 - September 1944)

 

 

 

The Invasion of the Philippines (October - December 1944)

 

 

 

The Invasion of Okinawa (February - May 1945)

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

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