LANDING CRAFT INFANTRY
The Landing Craft Infantry (LCI), small in comparison to other ships,
was affectionately called an "Elsie" or "Spitkit". These "New
Ships of War", known for being part of the "Waterbug" Navy during World War II, were considered absolutely essential ships if the invasion of
France, originally planned for February 1943, was to be successful.
Therefore, building them for this task was established as a top
priority. However, when the decision was made to postpone the cross-channel
invasion of France, they were quickly dispatched to the Mediterranean where they were desperately needed.
The first American Flotilla of these ships crossed
the Atlantic and arrived in North Africa in late March 1943. Although
the ocean crossing in these flat bottomed ships was especially rough
on young sailors, the ships proved seaworthy enough to cross the
Atlantic Ocean and were quickly deployed into service. (These ships
also crossed the Pacific Ocean). The Life Magazine Cover (March
27, 1944) on the right shows the
220 during the Invasion of Sicily. Inside the magazine, beginning on Page
53, the story of the USS LCI (L) 226 can be found.
During World War II there were 923 LCIs built by ten shipyards. The Shipbuilding History provides a complete list of the LCIs built, the shipyard's location, the delivery month and year and the ships final disposition. For additional information related to each of the individual Landing
Craft Infantry Large ships built including the Ship's history, specifications, any awards, citations, and campaigns as well as any available photograph of the ship can be viewed at The NavSource Photo Archives. (The site contains the index for all LCIs.)
Note: There are currently 2 known restored Landing Craft Infantry Ships: The LCI 1091 and the LCI 713. The LCI 713 is being restored by the Amphibious Forces Museum and is almost complete.
Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1940-1945 provides a description
of LCIs and other details related to LCIs as well as for other US Navy ships employed
during the war.
Landing Craft Training for Officers and Crew
It was essential that the officers and crew of LCIs receive appropriate
training in handling and maneuvering these "New Ships of War". This was especially
true for the complicated shore to shore landings that would be required.
The training for amphibious landings was conducted at the Amphibious
Training Base in Little Creek, Virginia.
Amphibious Training Base - Little Creek, VA
Creek, VA Amphibious Training Base, 12 miles northeast of Norfolk
was established sometime after July 16, 1942. From what was once
just a waterlogged bean field of the Whitehurst farm emerged the
largest base of its kind in the world. The new Amphibious Training
Base commonly referred to as "Little Creek" was used to train ship's
crews for all types of landing craft, including Landing Craft Infantry
(LCI) during WW II.
The need for landing large
numbers of troops on foreign shores became increasingly apparent to
Navy planners especially if the invasion of France, which was originally
considered for 1943, was to be successful. Such large scale "shore
to shore" landing operations would be difficult and require sufficient
training. Navy personnel had to "reinvent the wheel" and develop
appropriate training techniques for the complicated amphibious assaults
contemplated. Early training conditions were primitive for those
trained in 1942. During World War II, Little Creek trained over
200,000 Naval personnel and 160,000 Army and Marine Corps personnel.
Organizing Landing Craft Infantry for Amphibious Assaults
The following gives some limited information regarding the preparations
made for organizing the Landing Craft Infantry in anticipation of
the amphibious assaults that would eventually occur in Sicily, Italy, Normandy as well as the Pacific Theater in 1943 and 1944.
LCI Flotilla Organized
Flotilla One, as organized on December 12, 1942, had its designation
changed to Flotilla Two on January 1, 1943 and placed under the
command of Lorenzo Sherwood Sabin Jr.
When the original Flotilla 1 was organized at Little Creek, VA it
was as LCI Group 1 composed of 17 LCIs. After the Flotilla designation
was changed to Flotilla 2 on January 1, 1943, an additional 9 LCI's
were added to the Group.
The composition of the Task Group 30.15 for LCI (L) Flotilla Two
now included the following 26 LCIs:
LCIs 1 through 16, 209, and 211 through 219
The following ships were part of the Task Group escort for these
USS Cole DD, USS Moreno AT,
USS Chickadee AM,
USS Effective AM and USS SC 679
From the War Diary of Commander Lorenzo Sherwood Sabin Jr., USN
This Task Group was the first group of American LCIs to cross the
Atlantic Ocean departing the Virginia Capes on February 15th. The
ocean crossing could only be described as a real "adventure" for
the inexperienced crew where almost 80 percent of the officers and
crew were seasick during the crossing. Commander Sabin was impressed
with the "spirit and resourcefulness of the crew" during the crossing
and now called them "sailormen" because they stick to it in adverse
Flotilla Two Commander Sabin's War Notes provided further elaboration
on the crossing when he stated:
...So we went to sea. The lawyers,
the bankers, the garage mechanics, the farmers, the salesmen,
and me. In our little spitkits, we struck out boldly if not fearfully..."
On the seasickness of the sailors he simply stated "They've got
no guts left, these kids. They've spilled them all. But they've
got what it takes. Fine spirit. Game guys. Big men in little ships.
American youth, learning the hardest way of all, on the high seas
in a spitkit through the war zone. They take it all in stride
and somehow (God only knows) they manage to smile. Somehow, also...you
go below feeling that's why we'll win this war. No one can beat
that kind of stuff!
From Samuel Eliot Morison
Vol. II - History of United States
Naval Operations in World War II (Operations in North African Waters)
Landing Craft Infantry - Purpose and Use
Although designed primarily to transport and land about 200 fully
equipped infantry troops directly on enemy beaches during amphibious
operations as depicted by the Life Magazine Cover above, LCIs
were also used as rocket, gun, mortar, demolition, mine hunter,
depth charge and smoke laying ships. Some were also converted
to Flotilla Flag Ships. Landing Craft Infantry (Rocket) 77 and
78 are seen in the photo right.
The first of the approximately 1000 of these ships to be built between
1942 and 1944 was the LCI (L) 209 which was commissioned on October
1, 1942. The second one built, LCI (L) 1 was unfortunately the
first LCI sunk as a result of enemy action on August 17, 1943
in Bizerte Harbor (Africa)* The Group 4 War Diary of E. W. Wilson,
Lt. Commander, USNR noted the sinking with the following entry:
USS LCI (L) #1, a most gallant and fighting ship, a ship
that brought out what's
in the heart of every true-blooded American during the SICILIAN
CAMPAIGN-To fight on and on and on, whatever the odds may be
- was hit and sank. Fortunately, though, through the help of
LCIs 236 and 324 and the merchant ship, USS PAINE WINGATE, all
members of the ship were rescued, some being seriously injured...
-- War Diary E.W. Wilson, Lt Commander, USNR
*Coincidently, August 17th was also the day that
Stanley Galik (Dad) was received aboard the LCI (L) 35 after being transferred
from the LCI Flotilla Two Staff (Pool) in Bizerte, Tunisia.
Landing Craft Infantry (Large) Information
LCIs 75, 231, 229, 35, 193, and 238
Pier - Sheerness, England
of Philip Reed, MoMM 1/c
US LCI (L) 35
This Group of LCIs was transferred to the British in November
In another strange coincidence, the LCI (L) 229 is on the starboard
side of the LCI (L) 35. My father, Stanley Galik, Ships Cook
2/c crossed the Atlantic Ocean aboard the LCI (L) 229 but served
on the LCI (L) 35 from August 17, 1943 until the ship was decommissioned
on November 15, 1944. It was interesting seeing them side-by-side prior to their decommissioning.
The following are some details for the Landing Craft Infantry
||158' (23'3" wide at middle - 1/4"
steel plate skin)
||4 - 20 MM
||3 Officers and 21 Enlisted
||6 Officers and 182 Troops or 75 Tons of Cargo
||2 Sets of G.M. Diesel Engines, Twin
Variable Pitch Screws, 1600 BHP
||Endurance Range of 8000 Miles at 12 knots
||Carried 110 Tons of Fuel Oil, 240
Tons of Lube Oil and 37 Tons of Fresh Water
The LCI, with its flat-bottom
hull, was able to make quick beach landings and disembark troops
in about 10 minutes using ramps lowered on either side of the
ship's bow. During invasions, the ship would drop a stern anchor
that would be used to pull the LCI off the beach after troops
disembarked. Large numbers of LCIs, using their power, speed
and maneuverability, participated in landings in Sicily, Salerno,
Anzio and later in Normandy and Southern France. The LCI also
played a key role in amphibious landings in the Pacific Theater
where they successfully overcame the many demands of traveling
greater distances than required for beach landing in Sicily,
Italy, and France.
LCIs proved their value during WWII but not without suffering
losses and casualties. Although only 21 LCIs were actually sunk
from enemy action, many more suffered damage from being shot
up, bombed, torpedoed, and struck by underwater mines as well
as being targets for kamikaze planes. Approximately 160 sailors
lost their lives while serving on these ships. The Honor Roll
of those Killed in Action obtained from the "The Story of a
New Ship of War" is on the right.
Photo of USS LCI (L) 35
The LCI (L) 35 shown on the right was built by the New York
Shipbuilding Corporation at Camden, NJ and commissioned on January
28, 1943. The degaussing operations were carried out at Philadelphia's
Pier 46 on February 4, 1943.
Stanley Galik, SC 2/c served on the LCI (L) 229 and the LCI
(L) 35 during WW II. Dad crossed the Atlantic with the USS LCI
(L) 229 arriving in Tenes, Algeria as part of Flotilla I Group
3 of Task Force 60 (Task Unit 60.2.4) in the 3rd Landing Craft
Convoy. Dad arrived aboard the LCI (L) 35 on August 17, 1943
and remained until the ship's decommissioning on Wednesday November
Life Aboard USS LCI 35
Life aboard an LCI (L) including the USS LCI (L) 35 was rather
basic with only enough space for sleeping, eating and transporting
troops. The crew slept in bunks 3 high in a 23x20 foot space.
However, there was little available space for the officers and
crew to relax. In the picture on the right, LCI 35 Executive
Officer Lowell "E" Miller and Earl Eichorn, QM 1/c are shown
relaxing on board while in port.
The ship did not have a movie projector or even a washing machine
for laundry. Frozen food was stored in a 20 cubic foot chest
freezer (when it wasn't broken) that also served as the base
for a mess table for crew meals. In the Galley, the Ship's cooks,
including my father, used a four burner oil stove to prepare
meals for a crew of 20-30 sailors and the 3-6 officers on board.
The crew's quarters were heated by a small oil stove in the
corner of the berthing compartment with smoke dispersed through
a deck smoke stack.
Commander Lorenzo Sherwood Sabin Jr. commented on LCIs when
You know, of course, how interestingly stuffy, cramped
and uncomfortable they are. Tough and sturdy. You know as
Training Officer, they are supposed to be (and are) sea-going
and expendable. But there are a few things you don't know
which I found out day after day and night after night and
week after week.
Besides preparing for inspections, the crew's
normal duties included cleaning, maintenance, repairs, painting,
and other deck duties. Crews were assigned specific battle stations
during invasions or when under enemy attack. Dad's duties were
described as "first aid".
After reveille and breakfast the crew's "normal" day usually
began at 0800 and ended at 1600 when those eligible would be
granted liberty (if feasible) to relax and participate in other
"recreation" activities. Lights out occurred at 2200 or 2300.