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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

Blg Black River

A river in northwestern Maine that flows in a northeasterly direction into the St. John River.

(LSMR-401: dp. 1,084 (f.); l. 203'6"; b. 34'6"; dr. 6'8"; s. 12.6 k.; cpl. 138; a. 10 rkt. ln., 1 5", 4 4.2" M., 4 40mm.; cl. LSMR-401)

LSMR-401 was laid down on 2 January 1945 at Charleston, S.C., by the Charleston Navy Yard; launched on 22 January 1945; sponsored by Mrs. Percy H. Wood; and commissioned on 7 April 1945.


Following shakedown training and other exercises in the Chesapeake Bay area, she made the voyage to the west coast early in the summer. The warship conducted more drills and training exercises out of San Diego until the second week in August. At that time, LSMR-401 departed the west coast ostensibly on her way to join in the war against Japan. En route to Hawaii, however, she received word of Japan's decision to capitulate.


The warship entered Pearl Harbor on 21 August and began five weeks of amphibious warfare training and gunnery drills. On 27 September, she stood out of Pearl Harbor and shaped a course to return to the west coast. LSMR-401 arrived in San Diego on 9 October and embarked upon half a decade of training evolutions along the Pacific coast of the United States from that base of operations.


Soon after the North Korean communists invaded South Korea in June of 1950, LSMR-401 received orders to the Far East. She stood out of San Diego on 10 July and, after stops at Pearl Harbor and Midway, reached Yokosuka, Japan, on 6 August. Following a month at Yokosuka, the warship returned to sea on 8 September as an element of Task Force (TF) 90, the attack force for Operation "Chromite," MacArthur's bold amphibious gamble at Inchon on the western coast of Korea.


Geography and tide conditions dictated the division of the Inchon operation into two distinct phases widely separated in time. An assault on the strategically located islet of Wolmi Do preceded the main attack on Inchon itself by nearly 10 hours. For the capture of Wolmi Do, LSMR-401 and her two sisters, LSMR-403 and LSMR-404, provided a last-minute blitz of rockets before the troops stormed ashore. At 0615, L minus 15, the three rocket ships, each with an allowance of 1,000 5-inch spin-stabilized rockets, moved past Green Beach on Wolmi's northern tip and let go. At 0628, as the three LSMRs moved clear, the first wave of landing craft crossed the line of departure and headed in, while the cruisers and two of the destroyers ceased fire to permit the pre-landing strafe by the Corsairs.


The marines conquered Wolmi Do in less than two hours. The commander ashore declared the island secure at 0807. Soon thereafter, the marines prepared to coordinate an assault across the causeway between Wolmi Do and the mainland with the afternoon amphibious attack on Inchon itself and the larger units of the bombardment group carried out a variety of gunfire missions. Subsequently, at H minus 25, LSMR-401 and LSMR-404 shelled the tidal basin, Blue Beach, and the right flank area. The flooding tide set the LVTs to the northward, compelling LSMR-401 to fire over some of them, an operation both impressive and discomforting to the embarked Marines. As scheduled, the bombardment ceased at 1725, the strafing planes came down, and the boats proceeded in.


With the leathernecks’ successful landing, responsibility for fire support shifted completely to the cruisers and destroyers. LSMR-401 and her sisters returned to Japan on 20 September, where they spent the next four weeks preparing for another amphibious landing, slated for the end of the third week in October at Wonsan on Korea’s eastern coast. The warship sailed from Sasebo on 16 October with elements of TF 90 and arrived off the objective early on the 19th.


Though planners had projected the Wonsan operation as another surgical insertion of troops behind North Korean lines against probable enemy opposition, complications in the minesweeping operations, and then events ashore, changed the situation markedly. The 1st ROK (Republic of Korea) Corps, advancing north from the Pusan perimeter, captured Wonsan before the assault could take place. LSMR-401 and her sisterships, their mission obviated, cleared the area less than three hours after arriving and returned to Sasebo on 21 October.


The warship remained in Japan until the second week in December. She stayed at Sasebo for just over a month and then visited Yokosuka between 28 and 30 November. LSMR-401 returned to Sasebo on 4 December, but her call lasted only five days. On 9 December, she set sail for the Korean combat zone where massive intervention on the part of the Chinese communists late in November prevented the two UN forces in northern Korea from meeting and forming a continuous line of defense along the Yalu River and then sent them reeling south. On the east coast, the retreating troops fell back on Hungnam where LSMR-401 went to provide covering fire for the “assault in reverse” amphibious evacuation.


She arrived at Hungnam on 11 December. For the next 10 days, the evacuation relied on the cruisers and destroyers for covering fire while LSMR-401 and her two sisters bided their time. On 21 December, however, they loosed their first rocket barrage against a reported concentration of enemy troops in the hills along the eastern flank of the Hungnam enclave. Once the troops ashore began embarking their own artillery, the fire-support responsibility shifted increasingly to the Navy. LSMR-401 and her colleagues in Rear Admiral Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter’s Gunfire Support Group assumed the burden of covering the withdrawal of the last contingents from Hungnam. The Hungnam evacuation came to a successful conclusion about midway through the afternoon watch of 24 December, and LSMR-401 joined the rest of the amphibious shipping in the voyage south to Pusan.


LSMR-401 spent the night of 25 and 26 December at Pusan and then returned to Sasebo on the 27th. On 3 January 1951, she set sail for Inchon to support the last stage of the evacuation of UN forces on Korea's west coast. The warship arrived off Inchon early on 6 January and remained in the area until the next day when she steamed to the 8th Army's point of disembarkation in the south at Taechon. She stopped at Taechon from late on the 7th until just after midnight on the 9th and then headed back to Sasebo.


On 2 May, she departed Yokosuka in company with her two sisters, LSMR-403 and LSMR-404, and shaped a course back to the United States. After stops at Midway Island and Pearl Harbor, she and her colleagues arrived in San Diego on 26 May. The warship remained on the west coast through the summer of 1951 and into the fall. On 15 October, LSMR-401 embarked upon the voyage back to the Far East with her two squadron mates. Along the way, she made the usual calls at Pearl Harbor and Midway before reentering Yokosuka on 10 November 1951.


During her absence from the Orient, the conflict in Korea had changed from a war of sweeping movement to one of position in the area of the 38th parallel. The armistice negotiations that had begun in July 1951, and that dragged on for two years while the fighting continued, signalled a change of emphasis in military operations the objective of which became advantage at the negotiating table rather than victory.


Consequently, LSMR-401's role in the conflict changed as well. With amphibious assaults and evacuations things of the past, she joined with other Navy units to help secure both seaward flanks of the UN line and provided fire support to UN troops isolated on islands in several North Korean ports in an effort to deny their use to the communists. Of the two missions, harbor siege support proved the more demanding on LSMR-401's time. Over the ensuing eight months, she brought her rocket battery and 5-inch gun to bear on a succession of targets at Wonsan and Songjin on North Korea's east coast and at the west coast ports of Chinnampo, Inchon, and Taeju.


That employment continued through the spring and into the summer of 1952. On 1 July 1952, LSMR-401 departed Yokosuka to return to the United States once again. The usual stops at Midway and Pearl Harbor punctuated the transpacific voyage, and she arrived in San Diego at the end of the month. Her stay on the west coast lasted nearly a year; LSMR-401 did not embark upon the voyage back to the Far East until 29 June 1953.

By the time she had made the normal port calls at Hawaii and Midway, the armistice ending hostilities in Korea had been signed; and, when she arrived in Yokosuka on 29 July, it had been in effect for two days. As a result, LSMR-401 began her first peacetime deployment in the western Pacific. For the first six months of that assignment, however, Korea continued to dominate her attention as she joined other Navy units in patrolling the waters adjacent to that troubled peninsula to enforce the provisions of the armistice. Finally, at the beginning of 1954, the warship left Korea behind and made port calls at Sasebo, Okinawa, Hong Kong, and Yokosuka. On 10 March 1954, LSMR-401 made her last departure from Yokosuka and embarked upon her final Pacific crossing.


As usual, she visited Midway and Pearl Harbor on her way back to the United States. LSMR-401 arrived in San Diego on 6 April, but she moved north to Puget Sound in June. LSMR-401 was placed in commission, in reserve, at Astoria, Oreg., on 6 July 1954 and began inactivation overhaul. Placed out of commission later that same year, she was berthed with the Pacific Reserve Fleet's Columbia River group at Astoria.


The warship remained in reserve almost two decades. Named Big Black River on 1 October 1955, she was reclassified an inshore fire support ship and redesignated LFR-401 on 1 January 1969. Her name was struck from the Navy list on 1 May 1973.


Big Black River earned seven battle stars during the Korean conflict as LSMR-401.

Raymond A. Mann



6 February 2006