War Machine, Volume 11

Assault Ships of World War 1 1 Bom out of necessity the ability of the Allies to wage successful amphibious warfare contributed in no small measure to the eventual downfall of the Axis powers. Development was astonishingly short it being obvious after the fall of France that ultimate Allied success would require a cross-Channel assault and the very nature of the Pacific War demanded mastery of the new form of battle. Although in the late 1930s war in Europe was viewed by the services as only a matter of time its likely form was difficult to predict so available rearmament resources were expanded in generally conventional direc­tions The total subjugation by the Axis of Europe and later the Far East, changed the situation completely Both areas would need to be recon­quered through the carriage by the Allies of vast forces over very considerable distances. Established ports even if available would be either heavily defended or destroyed and it was obviously desirable to put everything ‘over the beach' in order to retain the initiative Only the most basic consideration had been paid officially to landing craft before the war but from the time of Dunkirk onwards the British developed ideas rapidly passing them to the USA for implementation under Lend- Lease. By the time that the USA became embroiled in December 1941 it had already accumulated much experience upon which to build. The vast armada of amphibious warfare vessels ultimately produced was for the most part built to standards totally unacceptable before the war but which held together and displayed a high degree of innovation, They fell into several major groups: An American M4 medium tank comes ashore from a tank landing ship (LST) somewhere in the Mediterranean. Large enough to make ocean passages but of shallow draught and capable of beaching, the LST became the standard amphibious assault ship from Normandy to the Pacific. (a) ships for carrying the infantry themselves the Landing Ships Infan­try or LSIs which varied from ordinary troopships in carrying also their own assault landing craft (b) ships mainly Landing Ships Dock or LSDs for carrying smaller craft in numbers these craft being of insufficient size to make pr&tracted sea crossings (c) landing craft smaller than landing ships for putting vehicles equip­ment and personnel directly on the beach where categories (a) (b)and needed to anchor offshore and (d) miscellaneous vessels which covered a range as diverse as the vital Headquarters Ships to the humble but equally vital Landing Barge, Kitchen. This motley armada of ‘floating bootboxes did not of itself win the war but the war could not have been won without it. LSTs (sometimes known to their crews as Large Slow Targets) unload supplies during the operations on Leyte Island. Two days later the largest sea battle in history was launched and the Japanese attempt to disrupt the landings ended in catastrophe in the titanic battle of Leyte Gulf.
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