(LSMR-403: 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)
A river in south central Massachusetts and northern Rhode Island.
LSMR-403 was laid down on 6 January 1945 at Charleston, S.C., by the Charleston Navy Yard; launched on 26 January 1945; sponsored by Mrs. Frank Norris; and commissioned on 25 April 1945, Lt. John M. Roye in command.
On 4 May, LSMR-403 stood out of Charleston with LSMR-404 and an escort of subchasers bound for the Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek, Va. Two days later, she arrived at her destination. Shakedown training and other exercises in the Chesapeake Bay area occupied her time until 3 June when she got underway for the Pacific in company with LSMR-404, LSMR-405, and LSMR-406. The warships transited the Panama Canal on 13 and 14 June and arrived in San Diego, Calif., on the 25th. She and her sisters conducted more drills and training exercises out of San Diego until the second week in August. At that time she departed the west coast ostensibly on her way to join in the war against Japan. En route to Hawaii, however, LSMR-403 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-403 reported for duty with the Pacific Reserve Fleet at Portland, Oreg., on 11 October. She operated in the 13th Naval District until the middle of May 1946, at which time she changed home ports to San Diego. For the next four years, the warship operated along the coast of southern California from her base at San Diego.
Soon after the North Korean communists invaded South Korea in June of 1950, LSMR-403 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 early morning assault on the strategically located islet of Wolmi Do preceded the main attack on Inchon itself by about 11 hours. For the capture of Wolmi Do, LSMR-403 and her two sisters provided a last-minute blitz of rockets before the troops stormed ashore. To quote Dr. James A. Field's History of United States Naval Operations: Korea, "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. While the Marines made preparations 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, LSMR-403 and her two colleagues waited for their cue to join in the second act curtain-raiser.
"Then at H minus 25," to quote Dr. Field again, " the three rocket ships once more came into action. LSMR-403, with a load of 2,000 rockets, fired on Red Beach and the flanking area to the left while the others, with similar allowances, bombarded the tidal basin, Blue Beach, and the right flank area. . . . At 1725, as scheduled, the bombardment ceased, the strafing planes came down, and the boats went in."
With the successful landing of the troops, responsibility for fire support shifted completely to the cruisers and destroyers. LSMR-403 and her sisters returned to Japan on 20 September. There she spent the next four weeks preparing for another amphibious landing, planned for the end of the third week in October at Wonsan on Korea's eastern coast. The warship set sail from Sasebo on 16 October with elements of TF 90 and arrived off the objective early on the 19th.
Though projected as another surgical insertion of troops behind North Korean lines against probable enemy opposition, the Wonsan landing was delayed by complications in the minesweeping operation and then overtaken by events ashore. The 1st ROK (Republic of Korea) Corps, advancing north from the Pusan perimeter, captured the city before the assault could take place. LSMR-403 and her colleagues, their mission obviated, cleared the area less than three hours after arriving and reentered 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-403 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-403 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-403 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-403 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-403 joined the rest of the amphibious shipping in the voyage south to Pusan.
LSMR-403 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. LSMR-403 spent the next three weeks in port at Sasebo. On 4 February, she returned to sea for five days before beginning an extended period in port, first at Sasebo and later at Yokosuka.
On 2 May, she departed Yokosuka in company with her two sisters, LSMR-401 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-403 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-403'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-403'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-403 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-403 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-403 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-403 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-403 arrived in San Diego on 6 April and began her final 10 months of active service. Except for a brief round-trip voyage to Santa Barbara and back early in July, the warship remained in port at San Diego until October. On 10 October, she put to sea to participate in a special operation conducted in the Hawaiian Islands. Returning to San Diego exactly one month later on 10 November, she remained on the west coast until inactivated in the spring of 1955.
On 14 February 1955, LSMR-403 was placed in commission, in reserve. She was decommissioned two months later on 13 May 1955 and was berthed with the San Diego Group, Pacific Reserve Fleet. On 1 October 1955, the warship was named Blackstone River. She carried that name only three years for it was struck from the Navy list on 1 October 1958.
Blackstone River earned seven battle stars during the Korean conflict as LSMR-403.
Raymond A. Mann
7 February 2006