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






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





Shipmates After All These Years

The USS Leon APA 48 was a Bayfield class attack transport, commissioned on February 12, 1944 at the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard in Brooklyn NY. She was 492 feet long, the largest class (C3-S-A2) of attack transport built during WWII. Leon was home to a crew of 550 officers and sailors—and countless Marines, Soldiers, POWs and others—during two years of hard duty in the Pacific theater.


USS Leon APA 48

Two of her young crew members were Boat Group Commander Joe McDevitt, Lt. (jg), and Irwin Goldstein, S1c, a member of McDevitt’s boat group. They participated together through five amphibious assaults in the Central and Southwest Pacific campaigns, plus numerous occupation landings after the war’s end. Theirs was hard duty, out in the open ocean in small boats, often under fire.

When the war ended, Joe McDevitt, now the XO and Commanding officer of the Leon, welcomed a decommissioning party (below) at Chickasaw AL on March 7, 1946. Among the decommissioning party was Irwin Goldstein (front row, 4th from the left).


Decommissioning of the USS Leon APA 48

Seventy years later, Paul McDevitt (son of Joe) and Justin Goldstein and Susan Goldstein Colon (grandchildren of Irwin) are sharing pictures, stories, and memories of Joe and Irwin. Stay tuned for more!