Dr. William Lusk, Battalion Beach Doctor, USS Leon APA 48 (Pt. 2)

The Leon’s beach party first boarded ship while she was anchored at the Norfolk Naval Yard. The date was March 9, 1944.

The picture below is the only one that I have seen of the entire beach party. This picture was provided by my newfound friend, Mr. Printy Arthur. Printy was a crewman who is alive and well today, living in Sylvania OH. He is one of those youngsters in the third row, a corpsman who would serve in five amphibious assaults as part of Dr. William Lusk’s first aid station on the beach.

(Note: If you recognize any of the men in this picture, we would like to hear from you!)

Leon Beach Party Arthur Pic Edited

Beach Party, USS Leon, June 1944

 

Three months later, the crew of the Leon had finished preparations for her first amphibious assault: Saipan. The beach party had participated in all practice landings conducted with Fourth Marine Division. At 0850 on June 15, 1944, they landed on Blue Beach 2 with the first wave and—like everyone else—dug a fox hole to survive the murderous artillery and mortar fire landing on the beaches.

Fourth Marine Division Unit Bogged Down On A Saipan Beach

Fourth Marine Division bogged down on the beach at Saipan

We don’t know much about the beach team’s experiences on D Day at this assault. Mostly the men who were there didn’t talk about it much. However, the family of Dr. Lusk shared with us several photographs of him on Blue Beach 2.  In the picture below, this small town doctor from Central Illinois seems to have resigned himself to his time in hell, writing across the top: SOME FUN.

Saipan Beach Some Fun enhanced

Dr. William W. Lusk, Battalion Beach Doctor, Saipan, June 1944

 

In the second picture we see him standing amidst a group of marines in the shade on the beach. Don’t we wish we knew what was happening that day!

 

Dr. Lusk At Saipan enhanced

While the beach party had its hands full on land, the Leon was being transformed to a hospital ship. We pick up the story from All Came Home:

“As she anchored in the transport area on D + 1 day and began lowering her boats, the crew soon learned that the Japs had attacked in force throughout the night on the beaches. Boats arrived immediately and throughout the day carrying approximately 200 casualties from the beach and from other ships. They came so rapidly and in such numbers that it was impossible to keep records or do anything but treat the most seriously wounded.

The Leon’s Dental Officer did an excellent job supervising the receiving ward set up in the troop officers’ mess. Ambulatory patients were directed to and treated at the forward battle dressing station. Wards for the serious patients were set up in the chief petty officers’ quarters and in the troop officers’ quarters. The ship’s four doctors labored around the clock, perspiring endlessly, wearing only their shorts, conducting surgery on the dinner tables in the troop officers’ wardrooms.”

D + 2 Day

“The Leon’s hands were happy to receive the ship’s beach party back aboard at 1400 on D plus 2 day. The beach crew had been pinned down by mortar fire and sniper fire on the beach since D-Day. After a minimal rest, the beach party doctor and eight corpsmen turned to, making it possible to run two operating rooms simultaneously.

LST (landing ship tank) 275 pulled alongside at 1222 with more casualties, and the medical team fell further behind.”

Six of the wounded aboard ship died from their wounds. But the Leon’s doctors and corpsmen stayed up day and night, and the remaining 300 survived.


The Lusk Family Collection

All Came Home

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Meet Five More Sailors From the USS Leon

Thanks to the family of Irwin Goldstein, we now have pictures of five more sailors who served in the Pacific during WWII. As always, if you recognize names or pictures of one or more of the young men below, please contact us!

S1c Irwin Goldstein was a member of the boat group aboard the attack transport USS Leon. Fortunately for all of us, Irwin took lots of pictures of his buddies when they were on leave from April 1944 through January 1946. (Most of his buddies—though not all—were members of Leon’s boat group.) Then Irwin did the most wonderful thing… he put names on the pictures and saved them for us!!

Irwin’s family has shared those pictures with us, and we have confirmed the identities of a group of those sailors as crewmen of the Leon. Here are five more of those handsome young men who served hard duty in the Pacific.

Al Kraft

This is S1c Albert P. Kraft from Amherst NY. The other three members of Al’s boat crew were Frank F. Usefara, Albert T. Kauffman, and Raymond A. McClary. Their supervising officer was Ensign Leon S. Eckman.

Anthony Visconti

Meet S1c Anthony A. Visconti. Anthony’s boat crew also included Gilbert R. Ward, William H. Vieau, and Henry V. Mayer. Commanding officer: Ensign Alton R. Swift.

Ed Baker

Here is S1c Edward Baker from Chicago IL. Ed served with Dorries J. Byars, Edward O. Cathcart, and Emmitt N. Droll. Ensign Paul S. Kemner was their direct superior.

Ernest Johnson, Coxswain

This is Ernest M. Johnson from North Adams MA. He served with J.C. Biesterveld, Harold O. Hausrath, and Gerald E. Dreaver under Ensign Paul S. Kemner.

Farrell Thomas J (2)

The last shipmate is S1c Thomas J. Farrell, address unknown. Ensign Sam Seidel supervised Thomas and his crewmates: John Frederick, Edwin G. Howell, and Raymond J. Manley.

These men trained together with the rest of Leon’s crew to perform the key mission of the amphibious forces: Putting the boots on the beaches… Any beach, any time!

More Shore Leave: Pearl Harbor

Throughout my research prior to writing All Came Home, I suspected that the sailors in the boat groups assigned to attack transports were extraordinarily close as a unit. I did not understand this until I learned about the training that they all underwent.

Typically, when these sailors completed boot camp they were  assigned to introductory amphibious training at, e.g., Little Creek VA. There they learned how to maintain and operate the landing craft and how to form up and follow their young officers in different formations all across the Chesapeake Bay.

Upon graduation they were assigned to advanced amphibious training at Ft. Pierce FL. There they began practicing amphibious assault landings along Florida beaches. They learned to: embark (or load) the “troops” into the boats, to form up, and then proceed to and “assault” a selected beach.

Artist Robert Benney  portrayed an amphibious training exercise in a magnificent oil painting found at the Naval History and Heritage Command website.

Invasion Tapestry Robert Benney

Invasion Tapestry

After seven months of hard training every day from sunup to sundown, the boat group members (n = 140) would likely be assigned to a brand new attack transport. When they walked up the gangway for the first time to meet their new shipmates, they were already a close-knit unit who would spend much of the war together in small boats out in the open waters of the Pacific.

When they got some shore leave at Pearl Harbor, they went out together and had fun. Here are another group of boat group sailors from the USS Leon enjoying leave at Pearl. (If you recognize a family member here, let us here from you!)

Farrell Thomas J (2)

S1c Thomas J. Farrell

Hamlin Richard Hale Frederick (2)

S1c Richard Hamlin & S1c Frederick Hale

Pete Madaferri (2)

S1c Peter Madafferi Jr.

They put the boots on the beaches at five amphibious assaults in the Pacific war. Well done!


Painting: Robert Benney Collection, Naval History and Heritage Command web site (https://www.history.navy.mil/)

Pictures: Irwin Goldstein Collection