(LST-507: displacement 1,490; length 328'0"; beam 50'0"; draft 11'2" (limiting), 14'1" (maximum); speed 10.8 knots; complement 119; armament 8 40-millimeter, 8 20-millimeter; class LST-1)
LST-507 was laid down on 8 September 1943 at Jeffersonville, Ind., by the Jeffersonville Boat & Machine Co.; launched on 16 November 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Raymond C. Fuller; accepted and placed in reduced commission on 31 December 1943; sailed from her building yard on 1 January 1944, arrived at New Orleans, La., on 8 January 1944, and commissioned on 10 January 1944, Lt. James S. Swarts, D-V(G), USNR, in command.
LST-507 reported for shakedown on 26 January 1944, upon completion of which she departed South Pass on 19 February for New York. Arriving at her destination on 26 February, the tank landing ship then departed New York on 5 March and reached Boston, Mass., the next day. Receiving the tank landing craft LCT-663 as deck cargo on 7 March, LST-507 sailed in convoy BK-99 for Nova Scotia on 10 March. Reaching Halifax on 12 March, she lingered there for two days, until sailing on 14 March in another convoy, SC-155, bound for England.
Arriving in English waters on 28 March 1944, LST-507 reported for duty with the Twelfth Fleet on 3 April upon her arrival at Falmouth. By month’s end, the tank landing ship was participating in preparations for the invasion of northern France.
As the last in a group of three, LST-507 sailed from Brixham, England, on the afternoon of 27 April 1944, in company with LST-499 and LST-289 to participate in exercises. Those three tank landing ships fell in astern of another group of five after they had maneuvered in the English Channel until late in the second dog watch . The ships cruised in company on various courses and various speeds before moving toward the assembly point for the exercise.
During the mid watch, at about 0135 on 28 April 1944, as LST-507 moved through a smooth sea, with the moon low and setting, and the winds ranging from still to gentle, men topside heard gunfire and saw tracers coming from the port quarter. The ship went to general quarters immediately.
As Lt. James F. Murdock, D-V(G), LST-507’'s executive officer, later recounted, he observed two “very fast ships on our starboard hand going astern of us…these two ships went past us approximately a mile and a half away, turned and came back heading the same way we did. At this time they were about a mile or slightly less away from our ship. We did not know just what they were, assuming that perhaps they were members of our escort.”
The “very fast ships” seen from LST-507’'s bridge proved to be two of the nine German motor torpedo boats – S-100, S-130, S-136, S-138, S-140, S-142, S-143, S-145, and S-150 – from the Fifth and Ninth Motor Torpedo Boat flotilla) that fell upon the convoy and attacked it as the eight U.S. tank landing ships entered Lyme Bay, off Portland Bill, England. “As they came abeam,” Lt. Murdock continued, “we were suddenly hit by a torpedo on the starboard side” that tore through the skin of the ship and exploded in the auxiliary engine room, knocking out the lights, the fire main, and started fires on the tank deck, in the engine rooms, and topside. With 282 soldiers embarked for the exercise, as well as trucks, jeeps, and DUKWs (2½ ton, 6 X 6 Amphibian Truck), all fully fueled. The gasoline from ruptured tanks caught fire and spread, uniting with the fuel oil hemorrhaging from the damaged side, fuel-fed fires cutting off the bow portion of the ship from the stern. Efforts to quell the blaze with portable CO² extinguishers proved futile, as LST-507, listing to starboard, began sinking by the stern. The German E-boats also torpedoed LST-289 and LST-531, sinking the latter.
A little less than an hour after LST-507 had first noticed gunfire from her port quarter, at 0230, Lt. Swarts ordered the ship abandoned. The explosion and resulting fire having destroyed two LCVPs outright and set two ablaze in the four davits aft, only the forward two boats could be lowered from the forward davits; the flames amidships had also consumed or damaged most of the rafts, leaving only two to be gotten over the side. Nevertheless, the process of abandonment went ahead in a “very orderly manner,” with the men leaving the ship from the bow or stern.
Seeing one soldier without a life belt, Swarts relinquished his own, then continued supervising the abandon-ship procedure. Last to leave the sinking LST-507 between 0235 and 0240, Swarts swam to one of the two rafts. Subsequently, LST-515 picked up the survivors at the mid-point of the morning watch . Swarts succumbed to the effects of exposure and shock soon after being brought on board LST-515. He was later awarded a Bronze Star (posthumously) for his heroism. Lt. Murdock eulogized him as “a very capable and earnest young man who at all times kept the safety of his ship in mind…”
Survivors amounted to 94 (5 of whom required hospitalization) of the 165 naval officers and enlisted men on board, and 151 (19 of whom required hospitalization) of the 282 soldiers on board at the time of the torpedoing.
LST-507 was stricken from the Navy Register on 9 June 1944.
Commanding Officer Dates of Command
Lt. James S. Swarts, D-V(G), USNR 10 January - 28 April 1944
Robert J. Cressman
22 April 2019