After finishing amphibious training at Camp Bradford in Virginia, Mike was sent to Pittsburgh where he was assigned to a Landing Ship Tank (LST). LSTs were ships designed to carry supplies, equipment, and men onto shore. Mike was there from the start with his LST: he watched its launch and was aboard for the voyage down the Ohio River to the Mississippi, down to New Orleans, where the boat was finished. From there, he sailed through the Panama Canal to Hawaii for additional training. And from Hawaii, he and the LST were off to Iwo Jima.
Mike’s LST was one that took supplies to Iwo Jima during the worst of the fighting there, and, in fact, Mike witnessed the iconic raising of the flag that has since been memorialized. The familiar flag-raising tableau actually depicts the second flag raised on Iwo Jima, and that flag may have come from the Mike’s LST. He recalled that earlier that day, some Marines had come to the ship and asked for a flag. Whether or not that was the flag they used, Mike witnessed firsthand a piece of American history. He also saw the devastation of war: as his son Tom remembers, Mike used to talk about how bad the Marines had it at Iwo Jima.
Mike’s LST remained at Iwo Jima longer than planned: in maneuvering on and off the beaches, a cable got wrapped in the ship’s propeller, and while they waited for repairs to be made, they missed traveling out with the rest of their convoy. For thirty days, then, the LST served as a post office ship, a function not as safe as it sounds: the ship was slow-moving and out alone as it trekked between destinations, making it live up to its alternative name, Large Slow Target. Fortunately, no harm came to it, and Mike’s service continued with “milk runs”—taking supplies around the Philippines and Okinawa.
Mike traveled home on a Danish ship to Seattle, and from there, took the train home in November 1945 (the war had ended in August).
Join us next week to see how Mike’s post-war life took shape…