|Ship Class||LST-class Landing Ship|
|Builder||Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard, Baltimore, Maryland, United States|
|Laid Down||24 Sep 1942|
|Launched||16 Nov 1942|
|Commissioned||26 Jan 1943|
|Decommissioned||23 Jan 1946|
|Displacement||1809 tons standard; 4080 tons full|
|Machinery||Two General Motors 12-567A diesel engines, one Falk main reduction gear, two shafts, twin rudders|
|Bunkerage||150500gal diesel oil|
|Power Output||1700 SHP|
|Range||24,000 miles at 9 knots|
|Armament||1x12pdr anti-aircraft multi-barrel gun, 6x20mm guns, 4x fast aerial mine mounts|
|Cargo Load||1,900 tons of cargo or 160 passengers|
Contributor: Alan Chanter
ww2dbaseOne of the principle lessons learnt from the 1940 evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk, France was that the British Royal Navy had no vessels that were capable of lifting artillery and vehicles directly on or off a beach. It was in response to a formal request from the British Prime Minister that resulted to US shipyards commencing work on the design for a vessel specifically build for amphibious operations. Developed, following experiments with converted tankers, the "Landing Ship, Tank", or LST, was 328 feet long and could carry a load of 2,100 tons typically made up of 18 to 20 tanks on the lower tank deck plus lighter vehicles and 160 troops on an upper deck. It could also carry a lighter 200-ton LCT (Landing Craft Tank) on the deck.
ww2dbaseThe LST needed a flat bottom to enable it to get inshore and remain upright when beached but at the same time it also had to have an ocean-going capability. To give the vessel stability at sea, therefore, the lower hull would be flooded to allow the ship to lie lower in the water, preventing it from bobbing about like a cork, then as it drove onto the shore, the water would be pumped out to allow the ship to ride over the shallows.
ww2dbaseEntering service in time for the Operation Torch landings in North Africa in November 1942, more than 1,000 LSTs would be constructed throughout the war of which LST-412 was one of the 113 ships delivered to the Royal Navy under the lend-lease agreement. Laid down in September 1942 at the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard in Baltimore, Maryland, United States, LST-412 was built and launched in only seven weeks and commissioned in January 1943 when it was immediately transferred to the Royal Navy. A Royal Navy crew sailed across the Atlantic on the liner Queen Elizabeth (qv) to collect the vessel on which they were to serve. Arriving in the United States their first task was to take the ship to Norfolk, Virginia, to have it de-magnetised as protection against German magnetic mines. They were then despatched to New York to collect a cargo of road rollers and oil storage tanks to take to the Dutch West Indies where the Americans were building a base. They joined a convoy to Port of Spain, Trinidad, and sailed on to deliver the cargo to Curacao off the coast of Venezuela. LST-412 was then sent to Georgetown in British Guyana and up the jungle to collect a cargo of hardwood which was delivered to Freetown, Sierra Leone to build docks. Re-crossing the south Atlantic to Brazil the vessel next joined a convoy of minesweepers sailing to Gibraltar and the Mediterranean. Here LST-412 would spend the next five months moving British and US troops around between Algeria, Tunisia, Sardinia and Italy.
ww2dbaseIn September 1943 LST-412 found itself on the front line for the first time when it took part in the bitterly-fought Salerno landings as Allied armies invaded Italy. Four months later it was in the thick of it again further along the Italian coast, at an even hotter spot, Anzio – taking in a load of US troops fresh from the States. This amphibious landing unfortunately did not go so well. The US 5th Army became stuck in the beach-head from January to May and could only be supplied and supported by sea, hence LST-412, operating from Naples and regularly under heavy enemy shell fire, was kept busy around the Mediterranean moving arms and equipment in support of the ground troops.
ww2dbaseAt the end of May 1944, with the tide of battle in the Italian campaign now flowing in favour of the Allies, LST-412 and other vessels were ordered back to Britain where they were needed for the Normandy landings, however, they left behind a flotilla of dummy landing ships floating on oil drums in order to fool the enemy into thinking that they were still in the Med. Leaving Casablanca with, as passengers, Free French troops, itching for a chance to help in the liberation of their occupied country, LST-412 docked at Swansea - the first time the crew had been back in Britain since collecting their vessel from Baltimore more than a year earlier.
ww2dbaseAfter only three days leave the crew were back in the war. They collected tanks, trucks and troops at Gosport, then laid up off the Isle of Wight for 48 hours waiting for notice that the invasion was to commence. On 6 June the ship went into the Normandy beaches. They came under sniping fire from some houses, but the ship's gunners retaliated with their 20mm Oerlikon autocannon (qv) and heavy machine guns at the enemy. Several other ships joined in and together they blew the building's roof off and blasted the place apart. After dropping off its tanks and troops, the ship was ordered to remain on the beach. The next morning, ambulances began arriving bringing seriously wounded troops – both British and German – as well as injured French civilians. As the LST had no doctor in its crew medics and surgeons from larger hospital ships standing offshore came aboard to treat the casualties as they were carried back to Southampton. LST-412 made some seven trips in this fashion; carrying tanks, trucks and artillery one way and returning with casualties and German prisoners, who frequently stood open mouthed at the size of the armada offshore – battleships, cruisers, destroyers, rocket-firing ships, merchant ships, and landing craft of every size. They simply could not believe that there were so many ships in the world.
ww2dbaseOn one trip they picked up a little French girl who had a little black dog on a lead. She was crying. Whether her parents were also on the ship wounded or whether they had been killed nobody ever knew. But when they got back to Southampton the authorities refused to allow the dog ashore, probably because of the quarantine regulations. It seemed sad that this little girl, who had probably lost her family, her home, was now losing her pet. The crew kept the little dog on board and called it Juno after the codename for the Normandy beach. Later they handed it over to some troops on the beach-head who promised to look after it.
ww2dbaseAs the land battle moved out of the Normandy beach-head and the Allied armies pushed eastward, LST-412 followed them along the coast to keep the lines of supply open. Antwerp and the Scheldt estuary were not very safe places for allied supply ships. Several merchant ships were sunk by mines but the shallow draft of LST-412 somehow seemed to allow it to pass safely over the mines. Although Antwerp was under attack from German short-Range V1 flying bombs the ship was thankfully not damaged there, but closer to home she was in collision with a tanker in the fog-shrouded Thames estuary. The tanker burst into flames but, again, LST-412 survived.
ww2dbaseBeing a lend-lease ship, the Americans wanted her back at the end of hostilities so she was loaded up with American trucks and with an LCT sitting on the deck set off back across the Atlantic. Of the six LSTs in their group, two sank en-route but "Lucky 412", her welds cracking and the whole ship threatening to break up, just managed to get to the Azores for repairs before reaching Brooklyn. Remarkably, by the end of the war, not one of LST-412's crew of 10 officers and around 60 men had been lost. The only "casualty" had been a sailor who was taken off after suffering a nervous breakdown at Salerno. Her valiant war service now completed this lucky vessel was decommissioned in March 1946 and broken up for scrap in the following year.
Tom Storr, "Invasion 'old hand' and still barely 20" (D-Day – A Lincolnshire Echo special publication, Thursday, June 3, 2004)
Landing Ship HMS LST-412 Interactive Map
HMS LST-412 Operational Timeline
|25 May 1942||The construction of LST-412 was ordered.|
|24 Sep 1942||The keel of LST-412 was laid down by the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard in Baltimore, Maryland, United States.|
|16 Nov 1942||LST-412 was launched at the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard in Baltimore, Maryland, United States.|
|26 Jan 1943||HMS LST-412 was commissioned into service with Lieutenant Commander Patrick Richard Brown in command.|
|13 Mar 1943||HMS LST-412 departed New York, New York, United States with refinery equipment, sailing for Curaçao.|
|6 Sep 1944||H. D. Bittleston was made the commanding officer of HMS LST-412, replacing Lieutenant Commander Patrick Richard Brown.|
|14 Aug 1945||Lieutenant Commander Hugh Patrick Davies was made the commanding officer of HMS LST-412, replacing H. D. Bittleston.|
|23 Jan 1946||HMS LST-412 was decommissioned and returned to the United States Navy.|
|20 Mar 1946||LST-412 was struck from the US Naval Register.|
|16 Dec 1947||LST-412 was sold to Northern Metals Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States for scrapping.|
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Captain Henry P. Jim Crowe, Guadalcanal, 13 Jan 1943