American Amphibious Gunboats in World War II, Robin L. Rielly

American Amphibious Gunboats in World War II, Robin L. Rielly

A History of LCI and LCS(L) Ships in the Pacific

This book looks at a class of warships that was developed during the Pacific War in response to a specific Japanese threat, but that went on to perform a whole series of other tasks with great success. At first the Japanese used destroyers and large transports to reinforce their island garrisons, but as the US Navy gained in power, these larger ships became too vulnerable. As a result the Japanese started used heavily armed barges, which could pass through water too shallow for destroyers, and that were very dangerous opponents for the PT boats. The solution chosen was to modify the amphibious Landing Craft Infantry (LCI), a larger boat that was already designed to go into shallow waters, and use them against the barges. Over time a whole series of different modifications were produced, armed with guns, rockets or mortars, and some were built from new as armed ships (the LCS(L)). After their use against the barges, they were used to support the actual amphibious landings, taking part in the pre-invasion of the beaches and supported the troops on land. Later in the war they were used to defend against suicide boats, and kamikaze aircraft (especially at Okinawa).

We start with a look at the development of the armed gunboats, and their preparation for combat. After that nine chapters look at their use in combat, from their use during the campaign to cut off Rabaul, through the central Pacific and onto the Philippines, Iwo Jima, Borneo and Okinawa. The LCI and LCS arrived fairly late, so they were most important in the later campaigns, and that is reflected in Okinawa getting three chapters - one on the actual battle, one on their use in the screen and one on their participation in the dangerous radar picket line around the island. 

One minor quibble is that there isn’t a good examination of an unmodified LCI, so we are thrown straight in to the modifications to turn them into armed gunboats without first looking at their original design. Other than that this is an excellent study of the important role played by an improvised weapon that went on to play major role in most of the later amphibious operations in the Pacific Theatre. There are plenty of first hand accounts of the action, blended nicely into the overall story without overwhelming it (these eyewitness accounts are also one of the few occasions where you’ll find destroyers described as large warships!).

Chapters
1 - The Need for a New Weapon
2 - From Training to Missions
3 - Operation Cartwheel
4 - The Central Pacific Campaigns
5 - The Philippines Retaken - Leyte and Lingayen
6 - The LCS(L)s Arrive
7 - Iwo Jima
8 - The Liberation of Borneo
9 - Okinawa
10 - Screening the Fleet
11 - The Radar Picket Line
12 - War’s End and Post-War

Author: Robin L. Rielly
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 408
Publisher: McFarland
Year: 2013


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