On this Veteran’s Day you will notice a departure from my usual subject matter to honor my Father, and others like him, who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. If you know a veteran or an active duty soldier take time today to tell them thank you.
I had always imagined him on a huge navy ship cutting through the ocean to Europe and the War that was taking place there. My father was a radioman. He talked about being sick and doing his job in the very bottom of the boat. Most of his time was spent in Italy. I recently found records that showed what vessels he was on. They were both LCI(L) which stands for Landing Craft, Infantry. The sailors called them spitkits. I was startled when I saw pictures of them.
They were tiny. An admiral who saw them swarming around his battleship called them “Waterbugs”. They were only 158’ long and 23.3’ at their widest. They had a crew of no more than 25. Because of their flat bottom they were able to do a job the big ships couldn’t. They would make a quick beach landing. Ramps would be lowered from both sides of the bow and 200 soldiers would disembark into the shallow waters. Total time – 10 minutes. The anchor they had dropped while off shore would then pull them back out to sea.
Here is a description from someone who was there.
“…So we went to sea. The lawyers, the bankers, the garage mechanics, the farmers, the salesmen, and me. In our little spitkits, we struck out boldly if not fearfully…” On the seasickness of the sailors he simply stated “They’ve got no guts left, these kids. They’ve spilled them all. But they’ve got what it takes. Fine spirit. Game guys. Big men in little ships. American youth, learning the hardest way of all, on the high seas in a spitkit through the war zone. They take it all in stride and somehow (God only knows) they manage to smile. Somehow, also…you go below feeling that’s why we’ll win this war. No one can beat that kind of stuff!”
(From Samuel Eliot Morison Vol. II – History of United States Naval Operations in World War II – Operations in North African Waters)
Yes, there were big battleships and aircraft carriers. There were supply ships and destroyers, but I believe the war would not have been won without these little LCI’s or “waterbugs”. The LCI’s were small and vulnerable, shot up, bombed, torpedoed and struck by underwater mines. Kamikaze planes used them as targets. These sailors crossed the ocean in vessels that weren’t made for crossing the ocean. They were uncomfortable and sick while they did it. They were determined to do what they could, no matter the cost, to stem the tide of evil.
…but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, I Corinthians 1:27