View Full Version : Memories of Iwo Jima - 61 years ago

12 Sep 06,, 21:13
Another memory about a war that happened a long time ago

Nick Grosso’s Memories of Iwo Jima
Saipan, Feb 11 – Feb 13 1945. Practicing ship beaching - 09:00 to 11:30 hours, then again 14:30 to " 16:00 hours. At GO, sometimes firing some of our rockets. Working with the UDT groups - something is up! 2/14/45 - Underway from Saipan -some gunnery practice. February 16 -Captain Brady calls an All Hands Muster that evening at 19:00 hours. He tells us we are going to invade Iwo Jima tomorrow. Shows us a map of the Island and where we are to attack. Reveille was at 04:00 hours on 17 February 1945. We had a good breakfast and then we all turned to our guns and duties. GQ at 08:00 hours - we were ready. 10:00 hours, we start in on Iwo Jima. All guns manned, all Rocket launchers loaded and ready. The Galley is secured; I go to my position, 2nd loader on # 2 20mm, starboard well deck. We begin our attack -7 LCI's lined up abreast moving towards the beach. We watch the 'Corsair' planes diving and their bombs being released while over us. The Battlewagons, Cruisers, and the Destroyers are all firing at the island. All we could do is watch and listen. . Slowly we move in closer, the orders come to load and standby. We come closer - I can see Mt. Suribachi. The big ships stop firing and the planes leave; now we're on our own. The order comes down, "Commence Firing!" I think Lacy was 1st loader and Donaldson was the triggerman. We began firing; I start passing 20mm magazines to Lacy and on we go, there is no time for thinking, only the job you're supposed to do. Now cease fire, standby for Rocket firing. We're only about a foot away from the launchers. Only a metal partition separates our crew from 200 Rockets. The Rockets head inland as they are fired and we crouch down to avoid the Rocket blast in case of? "A mishap?" the order comes down, resume firing - we have Schmidt, a gunner's mate standing in between the 20mm guns giving us our orders. Our ship is being hit again and again and the bow is on fire. No problem, keep firing as the Damage Control crew comes through with hoses and an officer with a pump called a 'handy-Billy'. They begin to pump water on the bow fire then suddenly the water stops -an armor piercing shell hits, cutting through all the fire hoses. We're still firing and the ships still getting hit. The forward fire is still burning. The guns on the well-deck are right above the ammo room which has plenty of ammo down there. No hoses, no water -what's the captain going to do. The men on the bow gun can't fire anymore, the deck is starting to sag from the heat of the fire and the *** shells are still hitting us. There is only one thing the Captain could do; he has to think about the safety of the crew. The *** shells coming in don't count. So he orders the forward part of the ship to cease firing and move aft, which we did. Most of the gun crews ran up the ladder to the main deck, but me, I decided to go through the hatchway which was located below the ladder and go aft through the mess hall. What a mistake! As I got through and shut the hatchway door, a horrible sight greeted me. There were some of my shipmates lying on the deck bleeding and being taken care of by Doc Baumber and his crew. Unbelievable! At our gun positions there was no problem, I just had to pass the 20mm shell magazines to Lacy -in here it was chaos! I could see men "bleeding from their mouth, eyes and ears. Some were still, some were screaming. I recognized Coggins and Cognac; they worked for me in the Galley. They probably were shell-shocked with the concussion from the blast when the *** shells hit. You could hardly walk through; there was so little room to do so. The port side of the ship was all blown away, debris was everywhere. The Captains room, the officer's room, the officer's head, and the Radio room had large shell holes that I could look through and see the other LCI ships. Our mess tables were hit and about that time somebody ordered me to get out of there. I went to the fantail and then up to the gun deck where I found that # 2 40mm had been hit, men lying on the deck wounded and I don't know who was working on them. Just then there was a big explosion and we all hit the deck. The men working on the injured from the # 2 40mm covered the wounded men with their bodies. I remember that because I thought I saw Frank Ferrucci covering one of the men. But when I spoke to Ferrucci years later, he told me that he wasn't at Iwo Jima, He had been assigned off the ship. I guess I was also seeing things. The other 40mm guns were still firing when suddenly they stopped. We started moving out of the beach area. Looking back I could see
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that all of our group had been hit and was on
fire. One ship was floundering and on fire. We finally got out of there, all hands helping to put out the fires and cleaning up hundreds of shell casings that were scattered allover the deck. These were being tossed over the side, I went forward to help; I saw my magazine ready-box all blown apart. There was still some ammo in the ready-box when it got hit. If the Captain hadn't ordered us aft, Lacy, Donaldson and I would have probably been gone. The Captain mentions this in the Log while up in the Conn. He saw this magazine ready-box blowup when it got hit. He saved our lives by issuing that order to go aft. He later said that he was concerned that the forward fire would get to the ammo room and make a much larger explosion. The two 20mm on the well deck was just above the ammo storage room. As we cleaned up -we picked up! Found lots of *** duds that we tossed overboard, can't keep them for souvenirs. As we went forward, the fire was now put out. We went forward into the bow area. It was all burned; there was a big hole on the Portside -maybe a 5 - 6 feet opening, a person could walk through it. It went right down to the waterline and water was coming in as the ship rolled, not much, but we needed something there to block the water from coming in. Meanwhile we had pulled alongside APD-11 ship to transfer our wounded men who were: R. Coggins, S2/c, G. Tripp GM2/c, Ed Schmidt GM3/c, R. Cognac S1/c. Ensign R. Kingsley -he returned to LCI 450 ship after treatment. J. Musselman S2/c -later died from his wounds. Some of the crew had little shrapnel nicks. When some removed their life preserver and shirt, their skivvies showed little blood spots if they were nicked. These men weren't moved to the APD-11. We were lucky; the '449' was hit real badly. Our entire group of 11 LCI's got hit and we lost the LCI 474. There were about 550 men aboard our ships. One list I saw showed 209 men killed and wounded. We lost all of the Port side Rocket Launchers and some on the Starboard side where the 20mm ready-box exploded when hit by a shell. The Navy said that all but two LCI's were seaworthy -with that hole we had in the bow at sea level we were supposed to be seaworthy? After all this was over and we put out the fire, dispatched our wounded, we were told to anchor in a certain area using our stern anchor as we'd lost our bow anchor when it was shot off. Now it was all over, all the tension and readiness was finally over, we can now relax! And then the famous words came over the PA system. "Secure the Galley personnel". So I went to the Galley -it was OK, no holes, and just minor damage, so we cleaned it up and got started. I lost some of my crew in this action but the Captain said, "Do what you can do!" Coffee first and then we had some chow. I don't think I was scared during that whole battle, as we'd been through a couple before. But as we relaxed, still cleaning and repairing, our biggest concern was the hole in our bow. A pump had to be set up as we were taking in seawater and so we had a round the clock watch to keep check on it. The hole at sea level was about 4 feet wide and when the ship moved, water came in. While all these things were going on was where I had my greatest fright. Standing on deck, talking and relaxing, we saw splashes in the sea. What was that? The Jap’s were firing their guns and shells were landing near us. The Captain was notified and after he saw what was happening, he then ordered to weigh anchor. The anchor was slow coming up; the shells were still landing around us. Some Cruisers had already been hit. This was the evening of the 17th, the day we'd gone through our battle. This is when I got scared! I was really shaking. We were setting ducks, as we couldn't move until the anchor was up. I had to take cover, what am I staying out on deck for, where can I go? Believe it or not, I went below to the engine room thinking I was safer here. I was really scared. Whoever I met down there, I don't recall who it was greeted me with "Hey Cookie, what are you doing down here?" I said we were being shelled by the Jap’s. (Now he was scared!) And I thought I was in a safer area by coming down here? Then I felt the ship start moving and I went back up topside. I was really frightened, I hate to admit it but it's true. When you’re preparing for a battle is one thing, you are busy with your duties. But standing there and just looking around and then seeing shell splashes around your anchored ship are a different story. You're trapped! We couldn't respond to this type of shooting, as we had no
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big guns. I don't think I slept that night, as I
was too nervous. The next day was the 18th
and everything was fairly routine. We had to report our condition to the command and they said we were seaworthy and to standby in our area. Here is one reason there is no mention of our ships by the so-called writers. They are all just arriving in the area and are watching the big ships continue the shelling of Iwo Jima and the planes making their bombing runs. That's why all the Iwo Jima stories begin on February
19, 1945; they don't know what happened two days earlier on February 17, 1945. The next day was February 19, 1945 and the Iwo Jima invasion begins. At about 12:30 hours, we start heading towards Iwo's beach. We only have three guns that can fire, where are we going in our condition? We finally pull up to LCI 988 and LCS 51 and give them whatever ammo we had left. We then returned back to our area, whew, not again! Although we would have went back in regardless. Now I know we were part of the new Navy, the Amphibs. Although the word 'amphibious' appeared a lot, we never picked it up. We called ourselves "Gunboats". Our group was all Navy; no marines had been added to our group. Now Amphib Forces are mostly Marines! Remembering back, I thought I saw Frank Ferrucci covering the wounded 40mm gun crewman on the starboard side but when I talked to Frank, he told me that he was transferred off the ship before we hit Iwo. It could have been one of our signalman who covered the men; maybe Elmore or Rochon .' , who were skivvies wavers and their GO station would have been at the gun deck flag rack. 'Cause the other signalmen, Ed Gray and Mike Ross were up in the Conning tower. Goldy was on the helm, that's all I remember about the crew, don't recall any other names in that area. If only we had got together earlier we
could have had more information and better records, but 40 years went by before we first started meeting again. That's a lot of years gone by to try and recall those times from years ago. We did OK; anyway we got a nice sized group together these last 18 years and lots of hope it keeps going. As I mentioned earlier, I'm looking through a folder where I had written some things down that happened to us but was not mentioned in the ships Log or only a brief word with no explanation. I took the time to write about it in this folder and now I'm looking through it and sending it to you. If you can use it, correct any of my misspellings. Spelling was my worst subject while in school -
I was better in math. I'm finding enough material in my folder that I wrote about earlier that I could use now and not have to use my hand to write as it stiffens up on me. I have to vote today for the school so I've got to get dressed and go do my duty. Until then I let the rest of my mind 'rest' until my next letter.
Editors note - Nick also sent two hand printed pages that recount us towed to Pearl Harbor after being pulled off the reef at Kwajalein.
1 March 1944 - Being towed by LST 45. GQ 00:45 to 01:00. GQ 05:40 to 06:20 Hrs. 07:30 forming to enter Pearl Harbor. 11 :00 Hrs LCI Tug 79 alongside to tow '450' into Berth and then tied up to Berth 10. 15:00 Hrs Mail Call and muster in mess room -given the 'good job by entire crew' and Pearl Harbor rules. March 2, 1944- Payday. We are now in Pearl Harbor & Honolulu! Was it worth all the GQ's, broken cables, near collisions and the men having to stay on their toes all this time? I slept near the engine room and when I used to hear the roar of the engines being reversed at 01:00 or 02:00 in the morning and the collision calls, it's a wonder that we made it. Of course some crewmembers got a little out of hand so we had a few Captain Masts and a good number of tongue-lashings from the officers. Why did the Navy try so hard to keep us afloat? Why not put the crew aboard other LCI's and sink the '450'? It was a lot of trouble and headache to the Command. I wonder if they ever thought of it? The Command ship LCI 457 seemed so concerned about us they came to our aid in all the breakdowns. Those crewmen aboard the '457 probably asked themselves about this. "What - the '450 again, who are they?" Do you know what it feels like being adrift in the Pacific Ocean in the dark of the night? That was not a secure area! Of course we had the old reliable USS Anderson DD-411 floating around with us, but they didn't want anything to do with us as we had already bumped into them many times. In the end, everything worked out all right. The 145 was no ordinary LCI - we were different from other LCI's as we were the deluxe ship of the group. We were not the drawings you see
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in the LCI books. First of all we did not have a Troop Officers wardroom, we had the mess hall for the crew. Next was the wardroom for our officers, galley and refrigerator all on the starboard side. On the Port side opposite the galley we had the crews head. Next we had the executive's cabin, the officer's head, the engineers cabin and the Capt. quarters. Next came radioman Aired's room. If you look at the other LCI drawings, their nothing like our LC1450. We were deluxe! So why didn’t they make our ship the Command ship instead of the '4571? Easy answer -not enough staff quarters for the Commanders big staff. When Lt. Commander Blanchard came aboard the '450', he was always accompanied with 5 or 6 others of his staff. Still why did they go all out to get the '450' back to Pearl? We were glad we made it because we the crew, liked the ship. Hey -we had a water cooler on board near the Galley. Here it is March 2 1944 - We finally got to Honolulu. We started February 14 -17 days under tow from the Marshall Islands. Now we want lots of liberty to see if girls still inhabit this earth and we want lots of beer!
What was waiting for us in the next 15 months was unbelievable. We didn't see one girl or woman during all this time. There never was a place or island we came across that had a Bar or Hotel. They were all native villages with banana stands. Of course eventually they did build an Officers Club on all the Islands -But no Seaman's Club. Bananas were what we got, but that's healthy food!
Nick Grosso.”
SC 2/c
USS LCI (G) 450