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Oral History- Luzon Operation, Lingayen Gulf Landing, 4-18 January 1945

Recollections of Lieutenant (junior grade) J.F. Brown, USNR, commanding officer of USS LCI (M) 974, an infantry landing craft armed with mortars, who was rendered unconscious when his vessel was struck by a Japanese suicide assault demolition boat during the Lingayen Gulf Landings on 10 January 1945.

Adapted from J.F. Brown interview in box 3 of World War II Interviews, Operational Archives Branch, Naval Historical Center.




Lieutenant Brown:


This is Lieutenant (jg) J. F. Brown, Commanding Officer of LCI (M) 974 [landing craft, infantry (motar)].

LCI (M) 974 was sunk by enemy action at Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, about 0400 10th of January, 1945. On the morning of the 9th of January LCI (M) 974 participated in the initial amphibious assault on the beach at Lingayen [northwest coast of Luzon Island during the US invasion of the Japanese-occupied Philippines, 4-18 January 1945] with other LCI gunboats.

After the Army had started inland from the beach area we retired to the seaward and consolidated our ammunition with other LCI (M)s and remained at anchor for call fire on special targets [fire missions requested by the Army troops ashore on targets designated by them]. It happened that we were not called on to come in during the day, the rest of the day, for any special assignment so we remained at anchor until late in the afternoon, up to the time for laying a smoke screen. Then we proceeded just to seaward of the transport area with other LCIs and anchored approximately 6,000 yards from the beach in about 20 fathoms of water and then we laid smoke screens [using smoke to conceal the movements and location of friendly ships, somewhat like heavy fog] until approximately dark.

We remained at anchor during the night and at about 0400 in the morning a small enemy [Japanese suicide assault demolition] torpedo boat sneaked in and hit us on the port [left] side slightly after amidships [in the center of the longitudinal axis of the landing craft].

Approximately all of our crew was injured, including the men on watch and it evidently was quite a terrific explosion for I am advised that the ship sank in approximately six minutes.

Interviewer:

Mr. Brown [the term "Mister" was a proper form of address for all officers below the rank of Lieutenant Commander, regardless of their actual rank title], in the area where you were, there was very little call for fire from any of the ships, was there?

Lieutenant Brown:

That's right, there was very little call fire, at least for the first day and that's all I remember, the first day of the battle there.

Interviewer:

You had some Army on board?

Lieutenant Brown:

Yes, approximately half of my crew was Army, [to load and fire] these Army mortars, 4.2 mortars. They had an enlisted crew of Army of 21 men plus two Army officers aboard [Mortars are anti-personnel weapons designed to fire explosive or illumination shells at high angles over ranges up to 4,000 yards - the projectiles are fired at a high angle in order to clear obstacles between the mortar and the target, and projectiles plunge almost straight down into the target, thus hitting behind protective fortifications. The mortars referred to had bore diameters of 4.2 inches.].

Interviewer:

I understand that you were hurt, and a good many others, and you were put over the side were there enough Navy men, able bodied left to put you over the side, or was that done by the Army?

Lieutenant Brown:

As far as I know the Army [soldiers] didn't have anything to do with it. I understand my [Navy] engineering officer and one of the enlisted men, the electricians mate I think the Army had already gone over the side at the time.

Interviewer:

Well, these people that were casualties among the Naval personnel, were some of them slight casualties so they could still help with the abandoning ship?

Lieutenant Brown:


Yes, they were, oh, approximately six men who weren't injured except probably only jarred up considerably. They gave a lot of assistance to the injured men and quite a few, as a matter of fact, who assisted some of the men all the way over to different ships, who were injured.

Interviewer:

As reconstructed to you, what happened to the people after they got into the water? What ships picked them up, were there other LCIs around or other types of ships?

Lieutenant Brown:

There were quite a few other ships around. I believe there was an Army boat close by that sent over some sort of a dinghy and then later some other ship, probably an APA [attack transport], sent over an LCVP [landing craft, vehicle, personnel] that towed us over to the Boise where we were given first aid. There was also some LSTs [landing ship, tank] around.

Interviewer:

In addition to this [these] Army and Navy personnel aboard, what sort of cargo did you have?

Lieutenant Brown:

Well, I had my full quota of mortar ammunition which was approximately 20 tons, after I had consolidated with another LCI. I also had a full magazine of 20 mm [anti-aircraft gun] ammunition. We were very fortunate in not having any explosions or, that is internal explosions, or any fires on the ship, because where the explosion occurred was underneath the fuel tanks and the diesel fuel men who were below in the compartments that [where] the diesel oil was, the fumes were quite bad and were [the fuel was] all mixed with the water that came in.

Interviewer:

How long was it before the ship sank, according to the information that you have been given?

Lieutenant Brown:

According to the information I have the ship sank in about six minutes which was a very short time considering the fact that all the power was knocked out and it was in complete darkness, the battle lamps were all jarred loose, I understand and of course the flashlight were hard to find in all the confusion and by the time the injured men got out it was time to abandon ship then.

Interviewer:

In view of the large number of casualties and I suppose the extensiveness of the explosion there was no time for any attempt at damage control, I take it?

Lieutenant Brown:

That's right, there was, as I say, there was such a short period of time and all the power was knocked off anyway, so there just wasn't time for any damage control.

Interviewer:

In the D-day activities there were you involved, or did you observe any [enemy] air action or counter battery [fire] from shore [against the US Navy ships]?

Lieutenant Brown:

Well, just about H-hour [the designated time of the first landings] as we were going in shelling the beach [with on-board mortars] quite a few Jap planes came over then. The closest one to us, of course, was out of the range, we didn't open fire on it. It came in and hit the Columbia which was approximately 3,000 yards from us over on our starboard [right] side. The plane itself was out of our range anyway. There was quite a bit of air activity that morning in the area in there.

Interviewer:

Thank you very much, Lieutenant Brown.

19 February 2001