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Chapter 15

Landing Craft Operations

Two principal types of landing craft operations are administrative and tactical. If the deployment is such that it is undesirable for watercraft units to move under their own power, various types of oceangoing vessels can transport them overseas.


  15-1. This type of operation is one during which no enemy interference or contact is anticipated. Emphasis is on economy; that is, maximum use of the transport capability. An overseas administrative move will be documented according to DOD Regulation 4500.32-R, Volumes 1 and 2.


  15-2. This type of operation is different in that personnel, supplies, and equipment are loaded so that they may be unloaded easily and rapidly in accomplishing the tactical mission. Here, maximum use of the transport capability is secondary to successful accomplish the mission.





  15-3. An amphibious operation is an attack launched from the sea by naval and landing forces embarked in ships or craft. This operation involves landing on a hostile shore to gain a lodgment area from which to carry out further combat operations ashore. The purpose is to obtain an advanced air or naval base area or to deny the use of seized positions to the enemy.
  15-4. Loading plans for movement by ship are prepared based on the priority in which equipment and supplies will be needed upon landing. The priority is based on the equipment needed in the overall operation. When the far shore priority has been determined, the water transport unit commanders submit loading priority lists for their units to the HQ responsible for conducting the movement. The water transport unit commander is responsible for having the troops, equipment, and supplies available for loading when and where the higher HQ specifies. Landing craft may also be loaded along with personnel, vehicles, and unit equipment on naval transport vessels and conventional cargo ships for movement overseas.


  15-5. The LCM-8 and LCU are usually transported aboard a heavy lift ship. When conventional ships are used, landing craft must be loaded or unloaded by cranes.


  15-6. The boat group (under a boat group commander) is the basic naval organization of landing craft and amphibious vehicles. It is composed of the numbers and types of landing craft and amphibious vehicles required to land a particular troop unit (normally a battalion landing team). The boat group is organized into waves. Each wave will consist of the landing craft that will beach simultaneously.
  15-7. Each landing craft is assigned to load troops or supplies from a certain ship. Troops load at debarkation stations marked by colored squares and numbers. Debarkation numbers run forward to aft, with odd numbers to starboard and even ones to port. The sequence of colors, also forward to aft, is red, white, blue, yellow, green, and black. At night, single-cell flashlights with appropriately colored lenses mark the debarkation stations.


  15-8. Flag hoists are used to call landing craft alongside naval amphibious cargo ships discharging cargo during tactical operations. These flag hoists are flown from either the main yardarm or from a special yardarm at the stern of the vessel being discharged.
  15-9. Flag hoists flown from the starboard yardarm call boats to the starboard side. Hoists flown from the port yardarm call the landing craft to the port side (see Table 15-1).
  15-10. At night, boats are called by three vertically aligned lights. These lights are coded as shown in Table 15-2.

Table 15-1. Day Signals

Table 15-2. Night Signals

  15-11. Landing craft are formed into groups of six to eight boats. These groups of boats are called waves. The number of craft in each wave depends on the landing plan. The convoy commander is on the lead boat in the convoy. Control craft are stationed on the port and starboard flanks; salvage and maintenance boats are in the rear.
  15-12. When a boat in a scheduled wave is loaded, it is given a paddle with two numbers on it--the first indicating the number of the wave, and the second, the boat's position in the wave.
  15-13. After loading, a boat proceeds to the rendezvous area, falls in with its wave, and commences to circle slowly. The first wave of landing craft circles clockwise, and so on. Moving out of the rendezvous area, the boats proceed in a column and, when clear of the transport area, form into a wedge with odd-numbered boats to starboard and even-numbered boats to port of the boat carrying the wave commander. Before crossing the LOD, the boats are formed in line abreast. The distance between boats is usually 50 yards.
  15-14. The coxswain of each craft should have sufficient charts and navigational aids aboard to enable him to travel alone in emergencies. The coxswain should be briefed on such details as follows:
  • Approach and landmarks of the location.
  • Currents and tides that prevail in that specific area.
  • Suitability of the location for anchoring, depth of the water, and type of bottom.
  • Facilities for procuring fuel, freshwater, and supplies.


  15-15. Three basic reasons to run in formation are to keep in order and maintain contact and control between craft, facilitate landing large numbers of troops or amounts of supplies in a designated place of concentration, and present a difficult target for enemy fire. The following subparagraphs discuss four different types of formations.
  15-16. This formation enables craft to maintain closer contact than the straight column. The closed-V formation is used primarily in moving from the rendezvous area to the LOD. It is also the preliminary step in forming the open-V formation.
  15-17. This formation is used primarily in assault beaching operations. It permits a large number of troops and supplies to be landed in one place with good control between craft and a minimum of vulnerability to air attack. In this formation, each craft is 50 yards astern and 100 yards abeam of the craft ahead.
  15-18. This formation is used during and after crossing the LOD. Such a formation is vulnerable to flanking shore fire and more difficult to control. The number of craft in a wave depends on the width of the beach. The craft are normally stationed 50 yards apart.
  15-19. This is a simple formation in which the craft operate in a straight line at intervals of 15 to 50 yards (depending on visibility). This formation is used when leaving the beach, when in a rendezvous area, or when operating in a noncombat situation.


  15-20. Special visual signals used in directing watercraft formations during both day and night are an absolute necessity in certain situations (Figure 15-1). Every watercraft operator should know how to send and receive signals. These signals must be given carefully and distinctly.
  15-21. Hand and arm signals are used between landing craft by day when visibility permits. A signal flag may also be shown in the hand to permit recognition of the signal.
  15-22. Two methods are used to transmit signals at night. Hand and arm signals are given using a flashlight equipped with a red lens, or a signal light may be used to transmit by Morse code signal the type of formation required. Arm and hand signals are used when radio silence is in effect and/or when a radio is inoperative. All crew members should know arm and hand signals. A receiving vessel should pass the signal to the vessel astern.
  15-23. These signals (see Table 15-3) may be transmitted by signal flag or blinker.

Figure 15-1. Arm and Hand Signals

Figure 15-1. Arm and Hand Signals (continued)

Table 15-3. Maneuvering Signals


Signal flag

Signal light


(Morse code)




- -

Assemble in a column


. -

Cease firing


. . . .

Commence firing


- . . -






. . - .

Increase speed


- . -

Line abreast


. - .

Man overboard





- . .



. . -

Close the V-formation


. . - /-

Open the V-formation


. . - /. - .


  15-24. The naval beach party is landed early in the assault. When they reach the beach, they proceed with their duties of marking channels and hazards to navigation.
  Note: The US Navy Beach Master Unit is responsible for setting up and maintaining beach markers. These markers are used only during a tactical operation.
  15-25. During the process of beach organization, debarkation points for various categories of supplies and equipment are selected on each beach where they best support the tactical plan. Shore party personnel erect beach markers and debarkation point as soon as possible after the initial assault of an amphibious landing. These debarkation markers along with lights for night operations are set up to indicate to the boat crews where the various types of cargo are to be landed.
  15-26. Beaches under attack are given a color designation such as red beach, green beach, and so forth, and beach markers are constructed in corresponding colors. The center of a beach is marked by a large square of cloth with the color side facing seaward. The left flank of the beach, as seen from the sea, is denoted by a horizontal rectangle of the same color, while the right flank is marked by a vertical rectangle, also of the same color (see Figure 15-2).

Figure 15-2. Hydrographic and Beach Markers and Signs as Seen from Seaward



  15-27. During the general unloading phase, loaded boats do not maintain a formation on the trip to the beach, although several of them may be required to move as a unit. On the way to the beach, they must stop for orders at the primary control ship and at the boat group commander's boat.
  15-28. The type of cargo in a boat is indicated by the color of special flags flown. These flags are described as follows:
  • Red flag. Denotes bulk cargo, which needs manpower for unloading.
  • Yellow flag. Shows the load is such that a prime mover is required.
  • Blue flag. Denotes self-propelled cargo.
  • Red burgee. Shows that the boat is a fuel boat.
  • Green flag. Shows that a boat belongs to a floating dump.
  • Numeral flag. May be flown under it to indicate the type of cargo carried.





  15-29. For information on Army Logistic Over the Shore Operations refer to FM 55-60.


  15-30. To provide a record of cargo handled by each link in the loading and unloading chain, the coxswain or master will be given a DD Form 1384 for each unit of cargo loaded. The coxswain keeps one copy which is used for the log entry of tonnage hauled, gives the required number of copies to the cargo checker at the discharge point, and then delivers the required number of copies to the control officer. The exact number of copies and their distribution will be prescribed in the unit SOP. Detailed procedures for tallying cargo and the use of this form in accounting for cargo are discussed in DOD Regulation 4500.32-R, Volumes 1 and 2.


  15-31. In a LOTS operation where you become involved in a resupply situation, accountability and condition of cargo are of utmost importance. When transporting cargo aboard landing craft, the crew must make certain that it is properly stowed and secured.


  15-32. When securing cargo aboard a landing craft, there a number of things that can be done to reduce the risk to the safety of the ship or the health or safety of any person on board.
  • Properly load, stow, and secure all cargo.
  • Properly pack and secure cargo within the containment.
  • Correctly load and transport heavy cargo or cargo with abnormal physical dimensions to reduce the risk of damage to the ship's structure.
  • Checking the strength of securing points and lashings.
  15-33. Aboard landing craft, dunnage usually consists of 1- X 6-inch X random length lumber and timbers. Dunnage with dimensions of 4 inches X 4 inches X random length or larger is called timber. During cargo operations, dunnage is carried by all landing craft.
  15-34. Dunnage is not required for palletized cargo; the pallets serve that purpose. Pallets can be loaded directly on deck.
  15-35. Lay a dunnage floor in a landing craft before MILVANs and containers without chassis are loaded. The bottom layer of dunnage should be laid athwartships to allow any water in the well deck to spill off into the bilge. If seas are heavy or considerable water is expected to come aboard, a second layer of dunnage is laid--this time, in a fore-and-aft direction. This will serve two purposes. First, it will protect the bottom of the containers from the water, and second, it will allow even distribution of weight over the deck of the landing craft. It will also protect the deck from being gouged and torn up in general. When loading MILVANs or containers without chassis, lashing is not required. Their weight and size will hold them in place.
  15-36. Dunnage should be laid only under the wheels and the front stands. The MILVAN or container and chassis must be lashed down. Four lashings are required--two forward and two aft.
  CAUTION: Make sure that the MILVAN or container on chassis is loaded with the front (where the tractor connects with the chassis) facing the bow.
  15-37. Several methods and types of lashings are used and in the system. The peck and hale quick release is only one of the systems used. This tie-down is used primarily for securing vehicles, but similar cables are incorporated into nets and used to secure cargo on deck. If such gear is unavailable, wire rope and turnbuckles can be used to prevent movement of the chassis.
  15-38. These vehicles can be loaded directly on deck. ALWAYS LOAD THE VEHICLE WITH THE ENGINE OF THE VEHICLE FACING THE BOW. Then the vehicle can be driven straight off the landing craft. Once the vehicles are loaded and spotted on deck, make certain that the brakes are set, that vehicles are left in gear, that wheels are chocked, and that lashings are used to secure the vehicles to prevent them from shifting.
  15-39. The same principles for securing wheeled vehicles are used when securing tracked vehicles. One exception that you must remember is that a double layer dunnage floor must be laid. When laying the dunnage floor, keep the cloverleafs or tie-down rings clear so that you will be able to tie down. For tanks and tracked vehicles of this size, use 8- X 8-inch or larger timbers for effective chocking.
  15-40. Drums are stowed on their side in a fore-and-aft direction and stowed bilge-to-bilge. The drums are tiered in pyramid fashion and stowed no higher than three tiers. If only a few drums are to be loaded, then they are stowed in an upright position with their bungs up. They must be stowed on dunnage to prevent sparking and to reduce the possibility of shifting. Drums stowed in an upright position must be lashed in place.


  15-41. Before loading troops aboard landing craft, passenger lists must be prepared. Embarkation personnel should prepare these lists ahead of time. The passenger list should show the full name, grade, serial number, and unit of all troops to be loaded. At loading time, troops should be loaded in list order and at that time the accuracy of each entry verified. One copy should go to the embarkation officer loading the vessel, or if from a port area, to the harbor master, and one copy to the coxswain or master of the landing craft.
  15-42. When taking troops aboard from either the pier or a troop ship, crew members on the landing craft should do the following:
  • Make sure each passenger is wearing a life jacket.
  • Assist passengers in boarding and getting into the well deck.
  • If passengers are without life jackets when boarding, issue life jackets from the ship's supply, if available.
  • Take life jackets back from the passengers when they debark.
  15-43. At all times, the vessel master or coxswain is responsible for the safety of passengers carried aboard the craft. Each crew member is responsible to the master or coxswain to help ensure the safety of the passengers.
  Note: DO NOT allow passengers on the ramp, catwalks, upper decks, engine compartment, or in the crew's quarters.


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