Debarkation: Putting The Boots In The Boats

As I deliver author presentations around the country, I am often asked how the attack transports in WWII unloaded their troops and equipment. In this post, I will use a few pictures to demonstrate how navy and coast guard crews transferred marines and soldiers to the landing craft. In the next post I’ll show how they unloaded heavy equipment for delivery to the beaches.

On D-Day the first order of business aboard the transports was to unload the twenty-six landing craft from the ship’s main deck to the water. In the picture below, an LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel) is lifted off the main deck and swung over the side to be lowered to the water. There, its four-man boat crew will sortie out to join the other craft circling in the background.

lowering-landing-craft-002

Transferring Landing Craft to the Water

While landing craft are unloaded, the assault force gather at predetermined unloading stations, check their equipment, and prepare to debark. The marines below aboard the USS Elmore APA 42 are preparing for landing at Leyte. Note the just-loaded landing craft leaving the Elmore to join the formation circling in background.

35-marines-onboard-uss-elmore-apa-42-debarking-at-leyte

Final Preparations Prior To Debarkation

Then, over the side… left leg first and down the cargo nets, holding vertical ropes firmly in each hand. Here, Second Division Marines practice climbing down and jumping into a landing craft.

second-marine-division-troops

The Long Climb Down The Cargo Nets

As each landing craft is loaded, it joins the circling formation and is replaced along side by another empty boat. With twenty-six landing craft milling around multiple debarkation stations, the logistics becomes challenging. But generally the practice pays off, and troop loading proceeds quickly.

tarawa-debarkation

When the landing craft are all loaded, they follow the lead of their Boat Group Commander and Wave Guides to the point of departure for the assault. The view here shows a boat Coxswain’s view of Mt. Suribachi at Iwo Jima as the landing craft proceed to their line of departure.

coxswain-view-approaching-beach-iwo

Loaded LCVPs Proceed to Line of Departure

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