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All Ahead Full: World War II Memoirs of an LSM 215 Veteran
by William M. Craighead
Turner Publishing Company, no date, 200 pages

Navy veteran Bill Craighead served aboard Landing Ship Medium (LSM) 215 warship during her entire service from June 1944 to April 1946. Much work went in to researching and documenting this ship’s role in World War II and the period right after the war’s end in August 1945. Craighead explains one of the book’s purposes, “It is history and in the future when other writers will be looking back and will be writing about LSMs and the part they played in the war in the Pacific, I hope they can use my memoir as an important first person account and as an accurate source” (p. 192).

This ship’s history includes many interesting stories based on the author’s memory, which turns out to be remarkably good, and contributions from other crewmen. The year when this book was written is not provided, but eleven LSM 215 annual reunions from 1989 to 1999 are listed in front, so the book probably was published shortly after 1999. The author does not relate the history in strict chronological order, so at points it is disjointed with repetitions of certain stories, and some details such as numbers are inconsistent. This probably happened due to chapters and sections being written over a period of years and due to many contributions from other crewmen being included without editing. Regardless, the book has many fascinating stories.

LSM 215 had nine captains over 22 months, and some had to be removed due to their inability to lead the crew properly. The first captain got relieved from duty on the day that the ship was commissioned, because the crew reported to the chaplain that the captain had threatened to throw the ship’s Bible overboard, and he had said that his initials were G.A. and that stood for God Almighty and as long as we were under his command we’d do as he said. One captain had to leave when he got appendicitis on the ship’s trip from Norfolk to San Diego, and another captain ran the ship aground when leaving the harbor at Guam on the trip back to the States. Finally, the remaining crew of 35 men, who were working on the ship to get her ready for decommissioning after she had returned to San Diego, refused one day to respond to roll call due to miserable conditions aboard ship. The “mutiny” resulted in about ten men being sent to the brig. However, after a base chaplain talked to the captain, other officers, the crewmen in the brig, and those crewmen who were allowed to remain on the ship, the men in the brig were released, and the entire crew did not receive any other penalties.

The ship participated in the Battle of Okinawa from April 1 to 25, 1945. On April 6, the crew witnessed nearly 100 Japanese planes shot down with most trying to make suicide attacks on American ships, and a Japanese kamikaze aircraft hit the adjacent ship where LSM 215 was tied to in order to take troops to shore. On another night when there was a Japanese kamikaze air raid, two LSM 215 crewmen got wounded by flak from American ship guns.

All Ahead Full has a surprising amount of detail for a small warship with only four officers and a crew of about 60 men. The book also contains almost 100 photographs, many of crewmen. Craighead succeeded in his goal to create a memorable family history for his son and wife and for their children to come and for the wife and daughter of his son who he lost.

LSM 215 under construction at
Dravo Shipyard in Wilmington, Delaware