US Landing Craft Tank (Rocket) 439 - US
LCT (R) 439.
A British Built
Rocket Craft Crewed by
US Navy Personnel on D Day
Landing Craft (Rocket) 439 - US LCT (R) 439, was
a specialized landing craft, which carried 2896,
5 inch x 4 feet (127mm x 1.2m) explosive rockets designed to soften up
enemy coastal defensive positions immediately prior to the landing of the
initial assault troops.
[Photo; US LCT 439 with the racks of rocket
holders clearly visible. From Becky Kornegay, whose father, Quaver Stone
Stroud, served on the craft.]
Officer was Lieutenant (jg) Elmer H Mahlin and his 2nd in Command was
Ensign George F Fortune, the author of the first part of the craft's story
(photo below right). The second part gives the Commanding Officer's
perspective, as compiled by his son, Stu, from the contents of his
father's old sea chest.
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 in local households, 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 the deck crew,
including ship handling and climbing up the rigging to the top of the
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.
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 travelled 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 conning tower, engine room and the
occasional visit with the Captain. Lots of men were sea sick choosing to
remain below deck.
arrival in Scotland, he was stationed at Roseneath Castle on the Firth of
Clyde near Glasgow. Roseneath was commissioned on the 15th April, 1942,
and named HMS Louisburg. However, after the attack on Pearl Harbor
and direct American involvement in the war, the base was paid off on
3/8/42 by the Royal Navy and handed over to US control as an amphibious
[Photo; US LCT (R)
439 with the sloping racks of rocket holders just visible to the left.
From Becky Kornegay, whose father, Quaver Stone Stroud, served on the
It was used during
preparations for the landings in Vichy French North Africa in November,
1942. By 1943, following the success of the North Africa landings,
Roseneath returned 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,
and the boats of US Navy Submarine Squadron 50.
The officers and men
lived in Quonset huts (similar to Nissen 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 British with only cabbage, potatoes and
Brussels 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!"
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.
[Photo; Crew of LCT
(R) 439. Officers 2nd row right George Fortune with left arm on hip and
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."
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. Although not known at the time by officers and crew, there were
only 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 manoeuvers and practicing at
low tide, we went aground near the sand bar Tennyson referred to in his
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's training in the
British blind bombing techniques. He stayed overnight in London,
where he twice experienced the German bombing of the city known as the
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.
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
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!
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."
6th June 1944
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.]
officer, George pulled the firing switches on 439's first salvo of 1448
rockets. It took about 3 minutes to complete the firing sequence. They
roared over the heads of the initial assault troops in the Landing Craft
Assault (LCAs) en route to the beaches. Timing and accuracy were paramount
to achieve the maximum impact on German morale and preparedness, just when
the Allied troops were about to arrived on the beaches.
"Whilst our firing
was on time and on target, there was some drama on board 439. The skipper,
trying to take refuge in a hut provided to protect him from the heat of
the rocket flames as they ignited, caught his bulky anti-gas outfit and
life jacket on the door,
which exposed his back to the searing heat. Whilst his bulky safety gear
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
After the initial
salvo, 439 reloaded and remained in the area of the beaches for 7 days,
ready for further action if called upon. During this time, enemy planes
were active in the area at dusk but the anti-aircraft gunners were too
much for them... they even fired at Allied planes,
because they were so on edge!"
"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.
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. 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, ready to fire
salvos of rockets onto the beach barricades. The US Navy sent in a small
fleet of radio controlled LCV (P)s 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 LCV (P)s 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' LCV P)s.
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 to stay below deck until the
all clear was sounded. He was writing to his folks and no doubt felt
compelled to 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, which 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
"US LCT (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" disperse 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. We 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 to notice."
October of 1944, George was assigned to Commanding Officers Training at
the Little Creek Amphibious training base near Norfolk, Virginia.
SKIPPER ELMER H MAHLIN
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 trained for several months before
A further journey of discovery
followed 500 miles to the south in Dartmouth and Devon from where
“Force U” convoys began. Most poignant for me was a stained glass
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….
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
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,
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
[From the Chief of Naval Personnel,
28 Feb 1943.
Enclosures: Acceptance and Oath of office in original white copy,
pink, and two yellow copies….
(jg) EH Mahlin, D-V(S), USNR.]
02 Jul 1943.
On or about 7 July, 1943 you will proceed to Miami, Florida and
report to the Commanding Officer, Submarine Chaser Training Center,
for temporary duty under instruction.
26 Sep 1943.
Following LTS JG DVS USNR HEREBY DETACHED PROCEED WITHOUT DELAY
REPORT CO PHIBTRABASE CAMP BRADFORD NOB NORFOLK VIR DUTY AND FURTHER
ASSIGNMENT TO AMPHIBIOUS SUPPORT GROUPS.
Commanding Officer, Submarine Chaser Training Center, Miama.]
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
[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.
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.
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.”
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
Commander, Gunfire Support Craft, U.S. Naval Forces in Europe, Base
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.
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
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.
Countdown to D-Day
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, then 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
turned east for their designated ports of departure such as
Plymouth, Torquay, Dartmouth, Weymouth, and others.
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….
Office of Flag Officer-in-Charge, Greenock.]
10 May 1944.
Left Pier 3 Roseneath per orders, followed by LCT (R)s 482, 473 that
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
16 May 1944.
In Barnstaple Bay. Took lead position our convey and fell in LCT
convoy aft LCT 628 (British) at 1620 hrs. Headed for Land’s End;
destination Dartmouth per orders from NOIC Appledore.
17 May 1944.
1826. Coming about to enter Dartmouth Harbor.
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….
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.
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.
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
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.
26 May 1944. 1430.
Ammo all loaded, barges left.
27 May 1944.
2225. River Dart, Dartmouth, England. Tied up to LCT 2024. Engines
29 May 1944.
1800. At entrance to Salcombe Harbour.
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.
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.
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
Altogether there were 2,727 ships
ranging from battleships to transports and landing craft that would
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
The Naval bombardment of designated
targets began on schedule at 5.50 am 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
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
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 LCV (P)s (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.
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.
[Opposite; Extract from the Admiralty's 'Green List' showing the
disposition of US LCT (R) 439 and other support craft.]
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
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.
08 Jun 1944.
0130-0200. Bombs being dropped nearby. Ships sending up flak. 1230.
Ship off port quarter, 2,000 yds. Sunk by mines.
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.
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.
14 Jun 1944. 1605.
Received new anchor, food supplies and also 2 barrels of SAE 30 oil.
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.
15 Jun 1944. 2330.
Moored at Dartmouth.
16 Jun 1944.
Received lots of mail today. How I would like to be home.
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.
08 Jul 1944. 0920.
Underway from Dartmouth to Plymouth.
12 Jul 1944. 0850.
Left mooring under orders. Destination, Gibraltar.
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.
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.
28 Jul 1944.
2307. Dropped anchor in Bizerte.
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.
03 Aug 1944.
0400. Gyro started. Prep departure for Naples.
06 August 1944.
1320. Moored to B645 Naples Harbor.
07 Aug 1944.
1100. Began loading rockets.
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.
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.
Assault on Normandy, Annapolis, Naval Institute Press, 1994.]
12 Aug 1944.
0021. Approaching Ajaccio Bay, Corsica.
13 Aug 1944. 1855.
Underway to take position in convoy for assault near Frejus and St.
14 Aug 1944.
1630. Five waves Liberators flew over. 2103. Explosions heard from
[Opposite; In this index page from the
Admiralty's "Green List" the prefix US is used for the LCT (R)s
whereas on the disposition pages above no prefix is used. This is
most likely because the "US Eleventh Amphibious Force" heading
renders the US designation against individual craft superfluous.]
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.
15 Aug 1944.
I lost a man today.
16 Aug 1944.
1625. In convoy for Ajaccio.
02 Sep 1944.
1410. Passed into Bizerte, Coulet du Lac. Convoy formed in column.
1500. Moored portside to pier 27.
25 Sep 1944.
1530. All officers except CO moved off. Orders are for CO and eight
of crew to take craft to Messina, Sicily.
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.
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.
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
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 US LST 1134 and duty on board.
Amphibious Training Base, Norfolk.]
18 Apr 1945.
The arrival inspection for US 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.
On this website there are around 50 accounts of
landing craft training and operations and
landing craft training establishments.
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
1) On this
CombinedOps website read
US NAVY LANDING CRAFT TANK
by Lt Commander Carr. His account of 14 LCT (R)s includes 439 and
concentrates on US Landing Craft Tank (Rocket) training in the USA and the
UK and operations in Normandy and Southern France in the summer of 1944.
2) Specification of
LCT (R) 439 at
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, which was 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.
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!
The information for
the first part of this page, was provided by George F Fortune who served
as Ensign on US LCT (R) 439. The information was edited 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. Maps, Imperial War Museum photographs and
extracts from the Admiralty's "Green List" of landing Craft dispositions
were added later for illustrative purposes.