el cid again
Hopefully you recognize that an APA is larger than the typical landing craft.
A landing craft has plenty of room to maneuver. There is no requirement that the formation be so tightly held that every boat touches down in the same instant and by all appearances in various photos it would seem that there is somewhere between 25-50 yards between boats. The USN often used USCG personnel to coxswain their landing boats AND to train USN personnel how to handle their boats in the surf which constituted the principle danger facing any boat in a landing (drowned soldiers function quite poorly when they wash up on the beach). The surf ALWAYS hits landing boats from the rear as they approach the beach (or the lagoon) and moving relatively fast and in the same direction as the boat causes the boat's rudder to have much less effect than is normal. Many USCG personnel had spent years learning how to handle their boats in the surf at the lifeboat stations along the US coast. Recognizing this and the likely need for amphibious landings the USN started a training program for coxswains (with USCG personnel) and even conducted practice landings before Pearl Harbor (units of 1 MarDiv and 1 InfDiv).
You are quite correct about much of what you say, other than thinking that I confuse a 10,000 ton APA with
a small landing craft - or in your ideas about landing craft in an assault landing. I assumed (always bad)
that it was obvious an APA sailor was exposed to landing craft.
Actually, I arrived as a seaman, and there were too many electronics technicians, so I birthed with the assault
boat division (until a birth opened up in my area). [This is a confession that USN by the 1960s had forgotten
the lessons of war. Specialists should not have been together in one area, lest one torpedo, shell or missile
could wipe out too many of them, crippling the ship in that specialty.] I learned a good deal from the boat
crews. It was "the worst job in the Navy" - the place that would be felons were sent (if given a choice
between prison and military service). THEY didn't forget the lessons of combat. In particular the rule
that surviving a single assault landing as a landing craft crew member in any capacity must result in immediate
USCG is FAR BETTER at teaching boat handling than USN normally is. [It is also far better at designing
small ships, and generally at handling any sort of ship in foul weather, on the average.] There are numbers of
reasons for this, some historical, some geographic. USCG operates extensively on the Great Lakes (where I
grew up), and weather there is often remarkably bad. [I found the Pacific duty less interesting than Atlantic
duty, because of the typically passive weather. The Atlantic hurricane season can be very exciting.] The USCG
also operates in Alaska (now abandoned by the Navy - NONE of our current ships is fitted for operations in cold
waters - something ALL were fitted for in the Cold War era - apart from technical posts - a radio intercept
station - a research station - USN has ZERO bases in Alaska - but is thinking about returning to Adak. I used
to fly to Adak to support the base there back when there was one.] Alaska is a place where vessels run into
trouble in bad weather regularly - and it is USCG that sails or flies to help them. You cannot get those familiar
with USCG operations in places with bad weather (I live in Alaska just as I grew up with homes on Lake Superior
and Lake Huron) to say anything bad about Coasties. I have one other perspective. Only two ratings in the USN
still went aloft in the 1960s - mine being one of them (to service antennas). The age of sail being gone, there
are few sailors which developed foul weather skills by the 1960s, particularly on large ships. Instead, they
pass the word over the 1 M C (Navy talk for the ship speaker system) every 5 minutes
"All hands stand clear of all weatherdecks due to high winds and heavy seas" - so no one is lost overboard.
But for signalmen and electronics technicians, that was the signal to go to the 05 level (the highest deck)
and "play." No officer is going to go up there in dangerous conditions. It also has the best view of the
sea. Our main deck was fully 20 feet above the sea. In 40 foot (or larger waves) that means the wave height
is twice as far up as the main deck is! Better to be up high, above them, if you want to see well, and not
to be at risk of washing overboard. Learning to walk on a wet and pitching deck was actually worth doing.
When something went terribly wrong (e.g. a Mike 6 = LCM-6 landing craft - weighing more or less 60 tons loaded
and at least half that unloaded - breaks loose) it wasn't the deck hands they call. It was "those crazy guys
who like heavy weather. You must anticipate, before it happens, the precise moment the craft will stop
moving, before it starts moving again in the opposite direction due to the pitching of the ship. You only have
a moment to attach a line - on a cleat high over your head (the craft is on deck - not in the water) - so
you can begin the process to haul it somewhere to lash it down. My greatest challenge was in Hurricane Faith
(1967 if memory serves) when an ECM antenna needed servicing. Never mind standing orders (no officer can
countermand a standing order - it is not lawful to do so and you may in theory disobey it), I was ordered aloft
three times! Each time, I came down because "work" was almost impossible. It was so cold you must wear gloves,
but you cannot work with tiny screws except with bare fingers. You lost all feeling in 5-10 seconds. So you
had to use visual feedback to know what your fingers were doing. After a few minutes, you were at severe risk
of tissue damage due to frostbite. You had to lash yourself to the king-post (the antennas are near the top of it
on a bar so small few notice it) - so your hands were free. At that height the motion of the post is very large.
But my chief kept saying "you have to fix it - nobody else can - so it has to be you". [So much for acquiring
esoteric skills. You may have to use them!]
But this is just background. I know that what it takes to swim or drop aboard a sinking vessel in the Bering Sea
in a storm to effect the rescue of terrified or injured sailors is far worse. I am just trying to say I have
a clue what cold, wet and extreme energy of moving water and metal means.
And the Navy DID - when it was smart - ask for USCG training in boat handling. Stuck between movements once
I was sent to a hurricane reaction unit at Little Creek. A maintenance job for the technicians, insuring all the
emergency comm gear works, since it was not really in use, it was pretty boring. So they made us study other
kinds of storm skills, and it was USCG they put in charge of that. For cause.
But as for landing craft, things are really complicated, in part for reasons you bring up (there may well
be waves pushing you as you approach the beach). There may well be cross currents. But regardless, you
really do have to stay in line or the soldiers will be slaughtered. The soldiers know this, and they really
do insist you steer properly. Which means stick your head up above the shield of the steering position so
you can see. Which means that any bit of flying metal is a problem.
In practical terms, the theoretical speed of a landing craft does not apply to a loaded landing craft forced to
cope with waves and currents. If the boat formation commander were to order full speed - then boats could not
stay together. Some are loaded differently. Some have less than perfect hull conditions. So the effective
speed is the practical cruising speed of the slowest craft - which a good formation commander should be aware of
(or there will be stragglers). That does not mean you won't have to use full power - you will - when you have been
knocked out of position by a wave. It means you better have more power available or you won't get back into
position. All in all, I did not find the boat crew's description of their job in an opposed landing to be
one I wanted to apply for! [The "application" process normally was to be busted for cause down to this,
"the worst job in the Navy"]. Boat crew were considered expendable, and 3 were assigned to steer a single
craft, because odds were, if you didn't assign 3, there would not be even one left by the time they hit the
beach (if under fire).
Oh yeah - one more experience. Once we (USN) got in an argument with the Russians over a Norwegian island.
We were sent with two companies of Marines embarked to "ask" an entire battalion of Soviet Naval Infantry
to "please go home." Unsupported - no warships in company - no air cover. [That is, WE were expendable -
the Russians had to let us win or we would lose. It was a "demonstration" of will - you cannot keep NATO
territory without a fight. In law, the will to defend a territory is a requirement to own it. If you won't,
it isn't yours.] But the Marine commander (Lt Col Breckenridge, USMC, son of a medal of honor winner) decided
to go in "as strong as possible" - so he attached our landing party as an extra squad. [In those days,
USMC trained landing parties in a special school - and a regulation landing party was a USMC squad]. So I got
to hide in the bottom of a landing craft while it crawled ashore (at maybe 5 or 6 knots to the good) - hoping
that the Russians decided to accept our "invitation" to leave. They wanted to make us sweat, so they held off
until just moments before we hit the gravel that passed for a beach. Then they flew away in the largest
helicopters in the world - the Mi-6. I served as the party radioman. Indeed - technicians are nominally
forbidden to be on landing parties (lest they be killed). But the ship's captain reasoned "if the radioman
is a technician, he can fix the radio if it breaks." Nonsense - no parts - no test gear - now power to run
test gear or a soldering iron - no time or place to work - you are not going to fix anything in an assault
landing! But a captain is second only to God on a Navy ship. You don't tell him "nonsense." You say
"yes sir!" As a mere seaman, I was the "most expendable" - so I got the task until some more junior guy
was transferred to the ship. By then I was a "combat veteran" - and as a result - later on a new ship with
a green crew - I had to train and lead a landing party. But I came to grasp what infantry is, and why
it is important? And why a single soldier in a small unit is more or less at the mercy of larger forces
which will determine the outcome of the day!