The U.S. Navy's "Interim" LSM(R)s in World War II: Rocket Ships of the
Pacific Amphibious Forces
by Ron MacKay, Jr.
McFarland & Company, 2016, 344 pages
The LSM(R)s (Landing Ship, Medium (Rocket)) were considered "interim" as
indicated by the book's title because they were a stopgap measure by the U.S.
Navy to provide close-in bombardment during amphibious invasions in the Pacific
War. Twelve LSM(R)s, numbered consecutively from LSM(R) 188 to LSM(R)
199, were built as the Navy's first rocket ships by converting LSM (Landing
Ship, Medium) hulls. A typical LSM(R) had 6 officers and 76 enlisted men. All of these LSM(R)s participated in battles at Okinawa
from March to June 1945. Japanese kamikaze planes hit and sunk three LSM(R)s and
severely damaged another one. The attacks on these four LSM(R)s killed 60 and
wounded 89 (based on numbers provided in book, other sources may have slightly
Ron MacKay, Jr., serves as historian for the LSM-LSMR Association. This
extremely well-researched book surely is the definitive history of LSM(R)s with
extensive chapter notes and bibliography. The history also includes many
historical photographs, a glossary, four appendices, and an index. The narrative
generally reads like ship deck logs, action reports, and other official Navy
documents, which make up the main sources for this history. However, the book
has many quotations from LSM(R) veterans that provide color to the rather
technical and dry description in places.
The kamikaze attacks provide the most excitement in this book, since shore
bombardments become little more than a listing of the number of rockets fired by
each ship with a general description of the damage caused. The three LSM(R)s
sunk by kamikaze planes were stationed at radar picket stations surrounding
Okinawa, and the destroyers at the same stations also got hit and sunk by
Japanese kamikaze attacks. Many questioned why LSM(R)s were assigned to
dangerous radar picket stations where kamikaze aircraft hit many ships (p. 131):
Inexplicably, LSM(R)s often patrolled the radar picket lines with armed
rockets in launchers, though none was ever fired against Japanese aircraft.
Seaman 1c Lawrence Willison on LSM(R) 197 recalled, moreover, "The
Captain at no time explained to us why we were being used for this duty. I
think everyone knew we were not suited for this kind of service, but we all
did the best we could to do our part with this assignment."
On April 21, 1945, two weeks after LSM(R)s began to patrol at radar picket
stations, Commander Dennis Francis, who commanded LSM Flotilla Nine that
included the twelve LSM(R)s, wrote the following formal objection to continued
deployment of LSM(R)s to radar picket stations (p. 144-5):
LSM(R)s of this command have been assigned to act as radar picket fire
support ships during the period of time covered by this report. It is
believed that these ships are not particularly suited for this duty. Since
their primary function is to deliver rockets during invasion operations, it
seems feasible that subjecting them to continued air attack will allow a
secondary duty to seriously effect [sic] their ability to perform their
primary function due to mechanical damage. They have no great value in
combating the enemy air craft due to the absence of air search radar,
adequate director control for the 5"/38 main battery, and director control
for the 40 MM single guns. The fact that they carry a considerable quantity
of high explosive rockets in their magazines presents another hazard. In
general, it is believed that assigning them to this duty should be avoided
since it means risking the operation of a limited number of specialized
landing craft whose primary function is more closely coincident with
screening operations. . . . LSM(R)s should be used more frequently for
rocket harassing and close patrol of enemy beaches, prior to an attack.
LSM(R)s should not be used as fire support ships for radar pickets against
Despite the above recommendation, LSM(R)s remained on patrol at radar picket
stations until May 21, 1945.
Japanese kamikaze attacks sank three LSM(R)s at radar picket stations in only
two days on May 3 and 4, 1945. A destroyer also was sunk along with the LSM(R) at each
picket station. Based on information provided in the book, the following
summarizes the sinkings of the three ships:
- LSM(R) 195 - Sank on May 3, 1945, at Radar Picket Station
10 after hit by a kamikaze plane. 15 killed and 16 wounded. Destroyer
Little (DD-803) also sank at same Radar Picket Station with 30 killed
and 79 wounded. Destroyer minelayer USS Aaron Ward (DM-34) also hit
with 45 killed and 49 wounded.
- LSM(R) 194 - Sank on May 4, 1945, at Radar Picket Station
1 after hit by a kamikaze plane. 14 killed and 23 wounded. Destroyer
Morrison (DD-560) also sank at same Radar Picket Station with 159 killed
and 102 wounded.
- LSM(R) 190 - Sank on May 4, 1945, at Radar Picket Station
10 after hits by 3 kamikaze planes. 14 killed and 18 wounded. Destroyer
Luce (DD-522) also sank at same Radar Picket Station with 149 killed and
The other nine LSM(R)s that did not sink also fought bravely. For example,
LSM(R) 193 received the Presidential Unit Citation for courageous actions on
May 11, 1945 (p. 186):
For extraordinary heroism against enemy Japanese aircraft in one of the
most outstanding actions of World War II. While on Radar Picket Station
Fifteen off Okinawa, engaged in a task far exceeding that for which she was
designed, as a member of a task unit composed of the destroyers, USS H.
W. Hadley and USS Evans, and the LCS(L) 82, 83, and
84, she contributed greatly in repelling the overwhelming onslaught
of one hundred and fifty-six Japanese suicide planes, all of which were
destroyed; the LSM(R) 193 destroyed eight by her individual action.
When the USS H. W. Hadley had been overwhelmed by enemy planes,
abandoned by more than two-thirds of her crew and had been burning fiercely
and exploding for fifteen minutes with complete loss of power, the LSM(R)
193, disregarding all hazards, courageously went alongside and saved
this destroyer by putting out the fire, and in addition, rescued the
majority of the crew and towed the stricken ship safely to port. Her
courageous determination and effort added to and were in keeping with the
highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
LSM(R) 189 was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for actions at Radar
Picket Station 14, where destroyer Mannert L. Abele (DD-733) was sunk
after being hit by Zero fighter carrying a bomb and an ōka
rocket-powered glider bomb on April 12, 1945 (p. 139):
For outstanding heroism in action against enemy Japanese aircraft and
suicide boats. While on an aggressive patrol off Okinawa, she engaged and
destroyed three enemy suicide boats and assisted other vessels in repelling
a determined air attack. Later, while on a radar picket station engaged in a
task far exceeding her designed employment, while in company with a
destroyer and another LSM(R), without air coverage, she successfully brought
down three of eight attacking planes. When the accompanying destroyer was
violently attacked and sunk within two minutes, the LSM(R) 189
proceeded at full speed to pick up survivors. While courageously fighting
off further attacks during which she herself was hit by a suicide plane, she
courageously rescued one hundred and fifty men of the destroyer's crew. Her
courageous determination and effort were in keeping with the highest
traditions of the United States Navel Service.
Off western Okinawa at dawn on Mach 29, 1945, LSM(R) 188 got hit by a
kamikaze aircraft carrying a bomb. The attack killed 17 men and wounded 32. The heavily damaged LSM(R) 188 did not see any battle action for the
remainder of the war.
LSM(R) 188 in Kerama Retto anchorage after Japanese
kamikaze aircraft crash and bomb explosion on March 29, 1945