US Landing Craft at Okinawa

US Landing Craft at Okinawa

US Landing Craft at Okinawa

This picture shows the scale of the American effort at Okinawa, with a massive fleet in the background and vast piles of supplies in front. In the front are four LCT(6) - 1049, 1265 and 1415 plus 11??. Behind them is LSM 220


World War II Database


ww2dbase The "Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel" (or LCVP) was an instrumental boat design for transitioning troops from the water onto land. General Dwight D. Eisenhower spoke very highly of the LCVP and what it allowed the Allies to do in Europe. The story of the LCVP, however, is inextricably intertwined with the story of the craft's designer, Andrew J. Higgins so much so that outside of official records, the LCVP was almost universally known as the Higgins Boat.

ww2dbase All of the many tactical considerations for getting assault troops ashore are reduced to a requirement for small boats to deliver troops onto an unimproved beach. Before the LCVP, the traditional small boats of the day were not well suited for this task for one reason or another their draft was too deep keeping them from getting close to the beach, or their draft was too shallow so they were tossed about in the surf, their propellers or rudders damaged when they hit rocks, or exiting the boat required troops to go up and over the side with its own set of dangers. Andrew Higgins heard the list of complaints and smiled because for him the solution was almost obvious.

ww2dbase Based in New Orleans, Higgins designed the Eureka Boat in 1926, a shallow-draft wooden boat used very successfully by oil drillers and trappers along the Gulf coast and Louisiana bayous. The design recessed the propeller into a half-tunnel on the underside of the hull so the boat could operate in shallow waters where floating debris and submerged mangrove roots would normally damage standard propellers. Later designs also included a "spoonbill bow" that permitted the boats to run up onto riverbanks and then easily back away. The spoonbill bow coupled with the recessed propeller cavity gave the boat's bottom an unusual concave shape forward that transitioned to a convex shape aft. This shape was perhaps the boat's most innovative design feature. These boats could run in shallow water at relatively high speed and turn almost within their own length. Higgins knew all of these characteristics were precisely what was needed in a military landing craft.

ww2dbase With only minor modifications, Eureka Boats participated in Marine Corps exercises in early 1939 and received very favorable reviews. These boats went into service as the LCP(L) and saw extensive service in World War II, primarily with British forces. The LCP(L) still had a closed bow so troops still had to jump over the side or off the bow and this also prohibited transporting any equipment larger than what the troops could lift out. In 1941, Higgins borrowed a concept being used by the Japanese since 1937 and installed a steel bow ramp, and thus all of the landing craft's final design elements were brought together.

ww2dbase Higgins had gotten along well with the Coast Guard but this gave him no advantage with the Navy. He was not part of the Navy's comfortable circle of regular shipyards and ship builders and the Navy was pushing for another landing boat design altogether. Despite these bureaucratic obstacles, the strengths of Higgins' design won out and the boat with a full-width bow ramp went into production as the LCVP.

ww2dbase The LCVP was not a large boat, just 36 feet long. Despite their compact size, they could carry an entire 36-man platoon, a jeep with a 12-man squad, or 8,000 pounds of cargo. The boats drew only 3 feet of water aft and 2 feet forward. The boats could run up onto the beach and then easily reverse themselves back into deeper water. On the beach, the steel ramp at the front could be dropped quickly to swiftly unload men and supplies and allow the boat to leave the beach after only a few minutes.

ww2dbase For deployment, the Higgins Boats were typically carried aboard Attack Transport Ships (APAs) that also carried the troops and/or equipment to be landed. The landing craft were put into the water and loaded with troops and/or cargo while offshore and out of range of the enemy's shore batteries. The landing craft would then form up with landing craft from other ships into large groups called waves and make their way to the beach together.

ww2dbase 23,000 LCVPs were built and the Higgins Boat participated in nearly every significant amphibious landing made by US forces throughout the war. In the European Theater, LCVPs were integral parts of the landing strategies in North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, southern France, and, of course, Normandy. In the Pacific, the boats saw action in the Solomons, at Tarawa, Leyte and Luzon in the Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. The LCVP saw service into the 1950s and participated in the United Nations landings at Inchon, South Korea in September 1950.

ww2dbase The basic design concept was scaled up into a variety of larger landing craft sizes including the Landing Craft Mechanized (LCM), the Landing Craft Tank (LCT), and others.

ww2dbase Historian and retired US Marine Corps Colonel Joseph H. Alexander summed up the value of the Higgins Boat: "It is impossible to overstate the tactical advantages this craft gave U.S. amphibious commanders in World War II."

ww2dbase The Supreme Allied Commander in Western Europe, Dwight D. Eisenhower, said of the landing craft: "Andrew Higgins . is the man who won the war for us. . If Higgins had not designed and built those LCVPs, we never could have landed over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would have been different."

ww2dbase Sources:
Brian Hyatt World War II Database, Andrew Higgins
Michael Williams A Continuous Lean, May 30, 2011
Jared Bahr Higgins: The Forgotten Man
NavSource Naval History
Maritime Archaeological and Historical Society
The National World War II Museum
Hypertext History of the Second World War
Wikipedia


Bringing the 102 home

In 1997, the National Association of LCS(L) 1-130 learned that the last operational Landing Craft Support vessel was in Royal Thai Navy custody.

Initial restoration work was completed with the help of "Boyz Under The Hood," a group of classic automobile collectors and enthusiasts based out of Vallejo.

A group of Navy Veterans, gradually assembled over the years, now continues to maintain and restore the 102. Learn more about our volunteers here.


World War II Database


ww2dbase Early in the European War, the British drew up a requirement for a design tentatively named as "Giant Raiding Craft", or "GRC". It was envisioned that large craft around the size o 150-feet in length would be able to deliver 200 soldiers directly to beaches up to 230 miles away from the United Kingdom to conduct occasional raids, which would attempt to tie down a significant German presence in occupied France to defend against such raids. As the development was underway, the British approached the United States Navy for potential construction contracts, but the US Navy was not interested. The United States Army, with its own need for landing craft, accepted the joint venture. The final design came out to be a craft with length of 160 feet, beam of 23 feet, forward draft of 2 feet 6 inches and stern draft of 4 feet 5 inches. The craft was designed to carry a crew of 24 (3 officers and 21 enlisted) and either 188 passengers (6 officers and 182 enlisted) or 75 tons of cargo. In addition to the cargo or passenger space, holds belowdecks were also capable of holding 120 tons of fuel, 240 gallons of lubricating oil, and 36 tons of fresh water each landing craft. The craft's design was kept very simple in order to speed up construction, thus the shape of the craft boxy. Initially, they were envisioned to be completely unarmed, but it was soon realized that it was unrealistic to assume that these transports did not need to be armed, as they would come under fire as they disembarked troops on hostile beaches. They were thus provided with light anti-aircraft armament consisted of four or five Oerlikon 20-millimeter Mk 4 automatic cannons. Some of them had a Bofors 40-millimeter cannon on the bow for greater firepower. The British planned to substitute in two 0.303-inch Lewis Mk I machine guns for air defense.

ww2dbase The first contract was officially signed with George Lawley & Sons Shipbuilding Corporation (Neponset, Massachusetts, United States) and New York Shipbuilding Corporation (Camden, New Jersey, United States) on 3 Jun 1942, and production began in the following month, and shortly after the design was designated "Landing Craft, Infantry (Large)", or LCI(L) or even simply LCI for short. The first prototypes were launched, LCI-1 and LCI-209, and were tested in Sep and Oct 1942. In late 1942, a group of eight LCIs made their first journey into the Atlantic Ocean from Norfolk, Virginia, United States to Bermuda Islands they weathered Force 4 winds, proving themselves seaworthy, though they also rolled badly. 299 of the LCI-1 sub-class landing craft were built 45 in-progress LCI-1 sub-class craft were canceled in order to speed along the improved LCI-351 sub-class. 211 of them were transferred to the British Royal Navy under the Lend-Lease program.

ww2dbase The LCI-351 sub-class landing craft had better accommodations and larger work areas for troops and crews, the hatches were enlarged to accept litters, and the bridge structures were rounder (bridge structures of the LCI-1 sub-class were rectangular). Their holds belowdecks held roughly the same amount of fuel and water as their predecessors (10 tons less fuel but 1 ton more water). The first LCI-351 sub-class landing craft was laid down on 5 Mar 1943, launched on 8 Apr, and commissioned on 14 May.

ww2dbase Because LCI landing craft were designed to be versatile craft capable of sailing in shallow waters, and were already built to be able to withstand some enemy fire, some of them were converted so that they could serve as fire support craft. These converted landing craft carried a wide array of armaments such as 3-inch guns, 5-inch guns, 4.2-inch mortars, 4.5-inch barrage rockets, and 5-inch barrage rockets. Some of the other variants include command craft, ammunition transports, and home vessels for underwater demolition teams.

ww2dbase The first combat mission that employed LCI landing craft was the Operation Torch invasion of North Africa in Nov 1942, where the British Royal Navy LCI craft sailed directly from the United Kingdom, while the American ones island hopped across the Atlantic Ocean. The first use of LCI landing craft in the Pacific War was during the Jun 1943 landings in New Georgia, Solomon Islands, where they delivered second and fourth echelons of troops to the islands. They were valued for their ability to travel in shallow areas of water at the atolls where the larger LST transports could not, and they were able to economically deliver small forces to remote island areas. They were also used during the invasion of Sicily, Italy in Jul 1943, where they landed troops during the pre-dawn hours while facing hostile fire. Back in the Pacific Ocean, in Jan 1944, the invasion of Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands were supported by 12 LCI(FS) craft, which were LCI craft fitted out with rocket launchers. While the rockets did not necessarily cause significant damage, nor the guns and cannons that opened up after the rockets, but they were valued for their demoralizing effects on the Japanese as well as to rally the spirit of the invasion troops about to disembark onto hostile beaches.

ww2dbase Thus far, landing craft of both sub-classes featured ramps on either side of the bow for troops to disembark. A third sub-class, LCI-402, featured centerline bow ramps similar to those of the LST landing ships. After 1 Jun 1944, all LCI landing craft being constructed were equipped with bow doors.

ww2dbase During the Okinawa campaign, 42 LCI(M) craft (equipped with mortars) supported the initial landings, firing 28,000 rounds on a strip 5.5 miles wide and 300 yards deep during the first hour of landings. As the fighting moved inland, they tend to circle around radar-equipped larger ships such as destroyers, and when called upon, the radar-equipped ships would relay the direction and distance of targets to the LCI(M) craft, which then would loose barrages of mortar shells at the suspected Japanese positions.

ww2dbase In early 1945, 25 LCI landing craft were transferred to Russia. The Russian crews that later manned these landing craft were trained by United States Coast Guard personnel at Cold Bay, Alaska, United States.

ww2dbase After the war, most LCI landing craft were inactivated by the Royal Navy and the US Navy within the first two years, though a few were used during the Korean War and a very small number of fire support craft were used during the Vietnam War. Most of them were scrapped, sold to foreign navies, or sold into the civilian market.


75 Years Ago: U.S. Coast Guard Operations at Okinawa

LSTs at Okinawa (USCG)

Published May 4, 2020 1:56 PM by U.S. Coast Guard News

[By BM1 William A. Bleyer, U.S. Coast Guard]

In late March 1945, nearly 1,300 ships of the Allied forces of America, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada assembled to support the largest amphibious operation of the Pacific War&ndashthe invasion of Okinawa and Ryukyu Islands.

Map showing the Ryukyu Islands, including Okinawa and nearby Kerama Retto. (U.S. Coast Guard)

Okinawa is a large island, sixty miles long and nearly ten wide. It lies only 360 miles from Japan and was part of the Japanese colonial empire. Japanese leaders were determined to hold the island, both out of national pride and as a key to their East China Sea defensive perimeter. Although its native inhabitants did not consider themselves Japanese, to Japan&rsquos leaders Okinawa was home territory. Trying to maintain their &ldquoisland hopping&rdquo momentum, Allied planners wanted to get closer to the Home Islands by landing on the &ldquoback porch&rdquo of Japan at Okinawa.

Allied military strategists codenamed the plan to invade Okinawa Operation &ldquoIceberg.&rdquo Attached to the invasion armada was the largest fleet of Coast Guard ships to participate in a World War II naval operation. In all, the Coast Guard operated seven transports, 29 LSTs (Landing Ship, Tank), 12 LCIs (Landing Craft, Infantry), high-endurance cutters Bibb and Taney, buoy tender Woodbine, and submarine chaser PC-469. Many of these vessels and their Coast Guard crews were veterans of amphibious campaigns in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Mediterranean theaters.

LSTs landing equipment and supplies on the beaches of Okinawa. In the distance can be seen dozens of vessels of the invasion fleet. (U.S. Coast Guard)

For Okinawa&rsquos defense, the Japanese Imperial Army and Imperial Navy assembled hundreds of aircraft, small boats, manned torpedoes and kamikaze (meaning &ldquoDivine Wind&rdquo) suicide aircraft. The island&rsquos Japanese defenders numbered 120,000 troops. The Allies committed over 500,000 men, including three Marine Corps divisions and four Army infantry divisions with an Army infantry division held in reserve in New Caledonia.

Six days before the main landings, an Allied task force invaded the Kerama Retto islands about 20 miles west of Okinawa. The task force included the cutter Bibb, six Coast Guard-manned LSTs and troops of the U.S. Army&rsquos 77th Infantry Division. Coast Guard-manned LST-829 had the honor of landing the first infantrymen to invade the Japanese-held islands. After capturing Kerama Retto, these troops set-up an advanced fueling depot, repair base and air field to support the invasion forces.

Allied military planners designated April 1st as &ldquoL-Day,&rdquo the landing day in which the Okinawa invasion would commence. As in previous campaigns, the Allies curtailed local enemy air and sea operations before initiating the invasion. In addition, the Navy brought up two bombardment fleets and, for over a week before the landings, carrier planes, B-29 heavy bombers and warships softened up enemy positions.

Burned out mid-section of LST-884 after the deadly kamikaze attack. (U.S. Coast Guard)

In the early morning of Easter Sunday, thousands of ships of the armada arrived off Okinawa. At 8:30 a.m., fire support ships began laying down an intense onshore barrage. Over 500 planes from American aircraft carriers swarmed over the landing areas to knock out enemy positions. Allied strategists had planned the initial assault for the western and southern sides of the island because two enemy airfields lay nearby. During the initial landings, Allied forces put ashore four divisions abreast over an eight-mile front of beaches.

Coast Guard-manned LSTs performed with their usual efficiency, both during the initial landings and with vital logistical support in the following weeks. These awkward vessels, also known as &ldquoLarge, Slow Targets,&rdquo arrived after about a week at sea overloaded with troops and supplies. They lay close to the beaches and regularly made smoke screens for invasion vessels while their crews dashed to general quarters during countless air raids.

Photo of Coast Guard-manned LST-884 unloading troops and supplies before its catastrophic kamikaze attack at Okinawa. (U.S. Coast Guard)

On L-Day, LST-884 approached with the invasion fleet, steaming at three knots toward the beaches. By 6:00 a.m., under a moonlit sky, general quarters were sounded for the Coast Guard crew and the 300 Marines. Less than 30 minutes later, lookouts spotted three Japanese planes flying about 250 feet above the water bearing down on the invasion fleet. LST-884&rsquos port guns and guns from other ships opened fire. The barrage brought down two of the aircraft. The third burst into flames and crashed into the port side of the LST. The aircraft passed through the shipfitter&rsquos shop and continued into the tank deck where it exploded with a tremendous roar.

Repair parties worked feverishly to put out the fire, but the kamikaze had crashed into stowed mortar ammunition. The intense fire and exploding ammunition made it impossible for the men to fight the fire and heavy smoke began to fill the 884. As the fire burned out of control, the danger of flames reaching the fuel tanks increased. At 5:55 a.m., commanding officer, LT Charles Pearson, ordered the ship abandoned and the surviving men transferred to nearby vessels. After most of the ammunition had exploded, LT Pearson returned to the LST with volunteers and put out the fires. They saved the ship, but 19 Marines and one Coast Guardsman had perished in the inferno.

Troop transport Joseph T. Dickman at anchor in the Pacific unloading supplies to waring LCVPs under a cloudy sky. (U.S. Navy)

Despite the kamikaze attacks, the landings proceeded better than perhaps any other in the Pacific invasion. Coast Guard-manned troop transports entered the fray on the first day. The transport Joseph T. Dickman arrived at the transport area at 5:40 a.m. on L-Day. The Dickman had on board a total of 1,368 troops, 99 vehicles and over 83,000 cubic feet of cargo. Combat loading for an amphibious assault has been compared to a chess game that cannot be won, and the mixed cargo of troops and supplies caused delays in unloading. The Dickman continued to unload as late as April 9th, L-Day plus seven. On March 28th, the Cambria had sailed from Ulithi Atoll arriving off Okinawa just before 5:00 a.m. on April 1st. The transport served as a flagship for one of the transport groups and spent three days unloading troops and cargo. On April 3rd, the Cambria sent ashore a beach party of three officers and 43 men to speed supplies to the front lines.

Coast Guard beachmasters and their men waged war against an unseen enemy of coral reefs. Beach parties blasted numerous coral heads allowing landing craft access to the landing zones. Due to the need for supplies, beachmasters unloaded as many landing craft as possible for six hours around high tide, piled the supplies on the beach and then moved the material inland at low tide. Unfortunately, this kept the transports at anchor for longer periods endangering the vessels from attacks by the kamikazes, suicide boats and torpedo craft.

Kamikaze photographed just before crashing into an Allied naval vessel. (U.S. Navy)

The Allies applied lessons learned from earlier amphibious assaults. Several hours after the troop transports arrived, control craft deployed for the beaches to establish a line of departure. Each of the control craft displayed a unique colored banner corresponding with the color designating each beach. A guide boat then directed each wave of craft from the line of departure to the beach. These boats also flew a pennant that corresponded to the beach&rsquos color. Additionally, the landing craft on the initial waves had the color of the beach painted on their topsides. As the first wave reached the shore, the landing party erected a colored banner to guide landing craft arriving later. This coloring system simplified movement of boats from the line of departure to the beach and helped beachmasters recognize the boats and direct them to the proper landing areas.

With the exception of a few air attacks, light artillery and mortar fire, the Japanese had not contested the beach landings. On L-Day, Allied naval forces landed 50,000 troops. Within two days, these troops had fought to the east side of the island cutting Japanese forces in two. Resistance in the northern portion of the island fell quickly, but Japanese resistance grew tenacious in the southern end.

Troops coming ashore from an LCVP from the Dickman on the left. (U.S. Navy)

On April 6th, the Japanese began a counterattack against the invasion fleet. To attack Allied ships, the Japanese used manned torpedoes and small speedboats loaded with explosives. The Japanese hid over 250 of these suicide boats around the island, however, Allied forces captured coastal areas before most were deployed. Coast Guard submarine chaser PC-469 encountered three suicide boats sinking two in a close-quarters firefight and drove off a third. PC-469 would also shoot down two enemy aircraft later in the battle.

Within flying range of the Japanese Home Islands, the Allied fleet was subjected to frequent air attacks, many by kamikazes. These suicide attacks were deadly and included conventional aircraft and rocket-powered flying bombs called Ohkas launched from bomber motherships. Allied fighter aircraft engaged the Japanese attackers while ship-mounted anti-aircraft guns of all calibers frantically fired skyward at the enemy. The kamikazes focused on large ships like aircraft carriers, but attacked any target of opportunity. Coast Guard 327-foot cutters Bibb and Taney, veterans of the Battle of the Atlantic, served as amphibious command ships and found themselves in the thick of the action. Bibb survived 55 air raids and shot down one aircraft. Taney, which began the war on December 7, 1941, firing at Japanese planes attacking Pearl Harbor, set general quarters 119 times, shot down at least four enemy aircraft, and even took fire from a Japanese shore battery.

Coast Guard Cutter Bibb configured as an amphibious command ship with added radio antenna and anti-aircraft guns. (U.S. Coast Guard)

Growing desperate to stop the invasion, the Japanese even sortied Yamato, the world&rsquos largest battleship, on a one-way suicide mission to attack the invasion fleet. However, American carrier aircraft sank the enemy behemoth before it reached Okinawa. During the campaign, suicide attacks sank six Allied ships and damaged another 120 vessels.

Okinawa was the last major invasion of the war. Despite their numerical superiority, the Allies took three months to secure the island. The battle claimed over 13,000 American lives and wounded 36,000 more. The Japanese lost 120,000 men, including troops, pilots and naval personnel. Frequently caught in the crossfire or conscripted to fight by the Japanese, nearly half the Okinawan civilian population died in the battle.


Coast Guardsmen visit Okinawa&rsquos temporary military cemetery to pay respects to a fallen shipmate. (U.S. Coast Guard)

The Okinawa Campaign was one of countless Coast Guard supported operations of World War II. Coast Guard-manned ships would participate in other minor amphibious assaults, and support Allied forces as they occupied Japan after its August 1945 surrender. In 1946, in the ceremony returning the Coast Guard to the Treasury Department, Navy Secretary James Forrestal stated that the Coast Guard had, &ldquoEarned the highest respect and deepest appreciation of the Navy and Marine Corps. Its performance of duty has been without exception in keeping with the highest traditions of the naval service.&rdquo

Throughout the war, the men and women of the United States Coast Guard demonstrated the Service&rsquos combat readiness and lived up to its motto of Semper Paratus.

This article appears courtesy of Coast Guard Compass and may be found in its original form here.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.


LCVP: Higgins’ Boxy Barge Had a Prohibition Past


The LCVP (better known as the Higgins boat) was a favorite of coastal rumrunners but came into its own as a World War II landing craft on beachheads from Normandy to Guadalcanal. (Illustration by Gregory Proch)

The backbone of American amphibious warfare in World War II began as a shallow-draft wooden boat designed for Louisiana trappers and oil drillers by lumberman Andrew Jackson Higgins, who gradually turned his boatbuilding sideline into his primary business. His 36-foot-long Eureka boat could reach 20 knots or faster and became a craft of choice for Prohibition-era rumrunners and the Coast Guard crews who hunted them.

As war loomed, the U.S. Marine Corps, aware the Japanese were using similar landing craft with retractable bow ramps in China, fought for years to adopt Higgins’ Eureka boat against the protests of a Navy that insisted on designing its own craft. Higgins built his prototype of pine, oak and mahogany, with ¼-inch steel plating on the front and sides. With his addition of a bow ramp in 1941, the Navy conceded the superiority of Higgins’ boat, and that June the first LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) entered the U.S. naval arsenal. Just six months later the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor drew the United States into history’s most protracted amphibious war.

Between 1942 and ’45 Higgins and licensees built more than 23,000 LCVPs. The Higgins boat, as it became popularly known, saw use on every front from Sicily to Normandy, Guadalcanal to Okinawa, landing more troops than all other craft combined.


Higgins landing craft – The Boat That Won World War II

The Higgins landing craft cannot be overlooked when discussing factors that led to the Allied victory in World War II. Andrew Jackson Higgins created the LCVP that brought the Allies onto the beaches of Normandy in 1944. General Dwight D. Eisenhower once said that Higgins was “the man who won the war for us.”

Higgins began building boats in New Orleans. Higgins Industries became known for the kind of boats that were useful in the shallow bayous of Louisiana. One of his earliest designs was known as the Eureka boat, or the Spoonbill. The US Marines would eventually use the craft because of its utility and its durability.

Higgins in 1944.

Because of Higgins’ unique design, the craft could maneuver in only eighteen inches of water. By placing a block of wood at the bow (called a “head log”), the craft became almost indestructible in debris-laden water or when run aground. The propeller was tucked into the hull, protecting it from debris and contact with the floor. These would prove to be useful features when Higgins designed the Higgins boat.

With the US Marines already interested in his designs, Higgins was asked to create a new version of the Eureka, incorporating elements needed by the military. The new boat would have a deep-V hull forward, a reverse-curve section in the middle, and two flat sections in the aft which would protect the propeller and the shaft.

USS Darke (APA-159)’s LCVP 18, possibly with army troops as reinforcements at Okinawa, circa 9 to 14 April 1945.

The reverse curve would push debris away from the hull, and the flat sections worked like a catamaran, allowing a planing effect that increased speed and maneuverability. The Marines added a bow ramp and the D-Day LCVP was complete.

The Higgins was 36 feet LOA with a 10-foot beam and could hold 36 men and two .30-caliber machine guns, and still, cruise at 12 knots. The craft was able to land thousands of soldiers on the beaches of Normandy, leading to the defeat of the Nazis.


US Landing Craft at Okinawa - History

Fifty years ago this week, the scope of American military involvement in supporting the 10-year-old Republic of Vietnam (created in the wake of the Geneva Accords between French and nationalist Vietnamese officials in 1954) broadened in a visually dramatic way. Reminiscent of the D-Day images of Normandy, or, more comparably, those of Douglas MacArthur and his forces returning to the Philippines a generation before, the first battalion-sized American combat unit came ashore near the strategic air base at Da Nang, and the images of those Marines have symbolized the massive expansion of America's footprint in the country ever since. The year 1965 opened with roughly 23,000 military advisors and support personnel, ballooning to around 181,000 by year's end, much of the increase made up of combat forces.

And of course, they didn't just appear out of nowhere.

March 8. 1965 . Although Karch emphasized the defensive mission of his Marines
to the press, they were to go on the offensive beginning in April. He was later quoted
in the New York Times as saying of their new enemy, the Viet Cong, "I thought that
once they ran up against our first team they wouldn't stand and fight, but they did.
I made a miscalculation." Karch moved on to his final assignment at Quantico,
Virginia in December as director of the Command and Staff College, until his
retirement in 1967 .

Maj. Gen. Thi, a hero to the Buddhist population of South Vietnam, was forced by
rival military officers into exile in the United States in 1966, further fracturing the
political and sectarian fault lines in the country. ( LIFE )

In October 1965, Naval Support Activity, Da Nang, also known as Camp Tien Sha, would be established, later becoming the Navy's largest overseas logistics command, staffed at its peak by over 4,000 naval personnel. It would be disestablished in 1973.


LCACs from NBU 7 Conduct Amphibious Operations on Blue Beach, Okinawa

OKINAWA, Japan (Sept. 19, 2020) Landing Craft, Air Cushion 10, assigned to Naval Beach Unit 7, currently attached to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), arrives at Blue Beach during amphibious operations. Germantown, part of Expeditionary Strike Group Seven (ESG 7), along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Taylor DiMartino)

OKINAWA, Japan (Sept. 19, 2020) Landing Craft, Air Cushion 10, assigned to Naval Beach Unit 7, currently attached to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), arrives at Blue Beach during amphibious operations. Germantown, part of Expeditionary Strike Group Seven (ESG 7), along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Taylor DiMartino)

OKINAWA, Japan (Sept. 19, 2020) Landing Craft, Air Cushion 9, assigned to Naval Beach Unit 7, currently attached to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), conducts amphibious operations on Blue Beach. Germantown, part of Expeditionary Strike Group Seven (ESG 7), along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Taylor DiMartino)

OKINAWA, Japan (Sept. 19, 2020) Landing Craft, Air Cushion 9, assigned to Naval Beach Unit 7, currently attached to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), arrives at Blue Beach during amphibious operations. Germantown, part of Expeditionary Strike Group Seven (ESG 7), along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Taylor DiMartino)

OKINAWA, Japan (Sept. 19, 2020) Landing Craft, Air Cushion 9, assigned to Naval Beach Unit 7, currently attached to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), conducts amphibious operations in waters off Blue Beach. Germantown, part of Expeditionary Strike Group Seven (ESG 7), along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Taylor DiMartino)

OKINAWA, Japan (Sept. 19, 2020) Marines with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) offload gear from Landing Craft, Air Cushion 10, assigned to Naval Beach Unit 7, currently attached to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), during amphibious operations on Blue Beach. Germantown, part of Expeditionary Strike Group Seven (ESG 7), along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Taylor DiMartino)

OKINAWA, Japan (Sept. 19, 2020) Landing Craft, Air Cushion 10, assigned to Naval Beach Unit 7, currently attached to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), conducts amphibious operations on Blue Beach. Germantown, part of Expeditionary Strike Group Seven (ESG 7), along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Taylor DiMartino)

OKINAWA, Japan (Sept. 19, 2020) Landing Craft, Air Cushion 10, assigned to Naval Beach Unit 7, currently attached to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), arrives at Blue Beach during amphibious operations. Germantown, part of Expeditionary Strike Group Seven (ESG 7), along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Taylor DiMartino)

OKINAWA, Japan (Sept. 19, 2020) Landing Craft, Air Cushion 10, assigned to Naval Beach Unit 7, currently attached to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), conducts amphibious operations in waters off Blue Beach. Germantown, part of Expeditionary Strike Group Seven (ESG 7), along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Taylor DiMartino)

OKINAWA, Japan (Sept. 19, 2020) Landing Craft, Air Cushion 9, assigned to Naval Beach Unit 7, currently attached to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), departs Blue Beach during amphibious operations. Germantown, part of Expeditionary Strike Group Seven (ESG 7), along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Taylor DiMartino)

OKINAWA, Japan (Sept. 19, 2020) Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Juan Paulo Capati, left, from Vallejo, Calif., with Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7, signals with flags as a ramp marshal, while Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Patrick Vowell, from Martin, Tenn., also with NBU 7, performs duties as senior ramp marshal as Landing Craft, Air Cushion 9, assigned to NBU 7, currently attached to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), departs Blue Beach during amphibious operations. Germantown, part of Expeditionary Strike Group Seven (ESG 7), along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Taylor DiMartino)

OKINAWA, Japan (Sept. 19, 2020) Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Juan Paulo Capati, left, from Vallejo, Calif., with Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7, uses signal flags as a ramp marshal, while Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Patrick Vowell, from Martin, Tenn., also with NBU 7, performs duties as senior ramp marshal as Landing Craft, Air Cushion 9, assigned to NBU 7, currently attached to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), comes up on cushion during amphibious operations on Blue Beach. Germantown, part of Expeditionary Strike Group Seven (ESG 7), along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Taylor DiMartino)

OKINAWA, Japan (Sept. 19, 2020) Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Juan Paulo Capati, left, from Vallejo, Calif., with Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7, uses signal flags as a ramp marshal, while Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Patrick Vowell, from Martin, Tenn., also with NBU 7, performs duties as senior ramp marshal as Landing Craft, Air Cushion 9, assigned to NBU 7, currently attached to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), conducts amphibious operations on Blue Beach. Germantown, part of Expeditionary Strike Group Seven (ESG 7), along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Taylor DiMartino)

OKINAWA, Japan (Sept. 19, 2020) Landing Craft, Air Cushion 9, assigned to Naval Beach Unit 7, currently attached to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), sits off-cushion on Blue Beach during amphibious operations. Germantown, part of Expeditionary Strike Group Seven (ESG 7), along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Taylor DiMartino)


Okinawa

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Okinawa, ken (prefecture), Japan, in the Pacific Ocean. The prefecture is composed of roughly the southwestern two-thirds of the Ryukyu Islands, that archipelago forming the division between the East China Sea to the northwest and the Philippine Sea to the southeast. Okinawa Island is the largest in the Ryukyus, being about 70 miles (112 km) long and 7 miles (11 km) wide and having an area of 463 square miles (1,199 square km). Naha, on the island, is the prefectural capital.

Before Okinawa became a prefecture during the early part of the Meiji period (1868–1912), it was a semi-independent kingdom under the influence of both Japan and China. Tuna fishing, cattle raising, sugar refining, and pineapple canning constitute Okinawa’s main economic activities, and tourism is of growing importance. Sweet potatoes, rice, and soybeans are also grown on the island, and textiles, sake (rice wine), and lacquerware are manufactured. Offshore wells yield petroleum.