LCI(L)-class Landing Ship
|Displacement||257 tons standard; 385 tons full|
|Machinery||Eight GM diesel engines, 2 shafts|
|Power Output||1600 SHP|
|Range||4,000nm at 12 knots|
|Armament||4x20mm Oerlikon Mk 4 automatic cannons|
|Cargo Capacity||200 passengers or 75 tons of cargo, plus 110 tons of fuel, 240 gallons of lubricating oil, and 37 tons of fresh water|
|Note||Specifications provided are of the LCI(L)-351 sub-class|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
This article refers to the entire LCI(L)-class; it is not about an individual vessel.
ww2dbaseEarly 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.
ww2dbaseThe 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.
ww2dbaseThe 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.
ww2dbaseBecause 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.
ww2dbaseThe 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.
ww2dbaseThus 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.
ww2dbaseDuring 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.
ww2dbaseIn 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.
ww2dbaseAfter 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.
ww2dbaseSource: Landing Craft Infantry and Fire Support.
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945