~ US Landing Craft Tank (Rocket) 439
- US LCT (R) 439 ~
A British Built Rocket Craft Crewed by
US Navy Personnel on D Day
United States 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
Her Commanding 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.
[Photo; US LCT 439 with the racks of
rocket holders clearly visible. From Becky Kornegay, whose father, Quaver Stone
Stroud, served on the craft.]
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
tea dances and excursions to places of interest.
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 mast!
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
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
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
On arrival in
Scotland, he was stationed at Roseneath Castle on the Firth of Clyde near Glasgow. Roseneath was commissioned on
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 training centre.
It was used during preparations for the landings in
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
maintenance force and berthing/supply facilities for the depot ship, USS Beaver
and the boats of US Navy Submarine Squadron 50.
The officers and men lived in Quonset huts (similar to Nissan 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!"
Roseneath 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. The best
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
I still have a table cloth
that was given to me by a US tanker crew in Scotland."
[Photo; Crew of LCT (R) 439.
Officers 2nd row right George
Fortune with left arm on hip and Elmer Mahlin.]
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
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
prepared for the task ahead, George recalled, "by spring of 1944,
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 poem “Crossing 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
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,
twice experienced the German bombing of the city known as the Blitz.
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.
Its commanding 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
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 way.
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!
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
All our 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
About 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.]
As executive 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 off!
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!"
The Western Mediterranean
"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.
On 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."
"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."
In 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.
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 D-Day.
further journey of discovery followed 500 miles to the south in Dartmouth and Devon
where “Force U” convoys began. Most poignant for me was a stained glass window in
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.”
is the story of Elmer H Mahlin's wartime service, which his sea chest
safely preserved and protected for 70 years.
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,
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
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 Moines.]
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, Washington.]
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 duty.
[From the Chief of Naval Personnel, Washington.]
28 Feb 1943. Enclosures:
Acceptance and Oath of office in original white copy, pink, and two yellow
[From Lieut. (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.
[From Navy Department, Washington.]
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.
[From the 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 Europe.
[From the Commanding Officer, Amphibious Training Base,
27 Oct 1943. On or about 28 October,
1943, you will proceed to Prince’s Neck, Rhode Island, for special anti-
aircraft gunfire instruction.
[From First 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.
[Letter home 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
[From the 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)
[From 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.
[Ship’s Log: 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.
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….
[SECRET. From Office of Flag Officer-in-Charge, Greenock.]
10 May 1944. Left Pier 3 Roseneath per
orders, followed by LCT (R)s 482, 473 that order.
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 come home.
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
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
[To Staff Gunnery Officer.]
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 rockets.
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
27 May 1944. 2225. River Dart, Dartmouth,
England. Tied up to LCT 2024. Engines secured.
29 May 1944. 1800. At entrance to Salcombe
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.
[Stillwell, 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 beam.
Altogether there were 2,727 ships ranging from battleships to transports
and landing craft that would cross.
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 Sword).
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.
[Ambrose, 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 Channel.
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
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 were specially
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 sound.
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.
[Buffetaut, 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
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 position.
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.
[Letter home from UK.]
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
12 Jul 1944. 0850. Left mooring under orders.
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.
09 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. Rafael.
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.
[Stillwell, Assault on Normandy, Annapolis, Naval Institute Press, 1994.]
12 Aug 1944. 0021. Approaching Ajaccio Bay,
13 Aug 1944. 1855. Underway to take position
in convoy for assault near Frejus and St. Raphael.
14 Aug 1944. 1630. Five waves Liberators
flew over. 2103. Explosions heard from assault area.
[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
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.
[From 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.
[Final entry 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 Union Telegram.]
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
[From 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.
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 information.
1) On this CombinedOps website read
US NAVY LANDING CRAFT TANK (ROCKET)
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
3) 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
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
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!
William Seifried Payne
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