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LSMR Landing Ship, Medium (Rocket)

The Landing Ship, Medium (Rocket) LSM(R) incorporated only the outside hull and propulsion of the normal LSM in an entirely new design. Rocket launchers are the automatic, power-driven type, fed by an automatic hoist. The LSMR, which carried both shorter range guns and rocket launchers able to propel 380 5-inch rockets a minute up to 10,000 yards, were shallow-draft vessels. These relatively inexpensive and simple ships provided the capability of delivering large volumes of fire in short periods of time.

By August 1942, naval gunfire support was utilized in actual combat in the landing on Guadalcanal. There was, however, no initial hostile resistance to that landing. When planning for the Gilbert Islands began, it was realized that strong defensive fortifications would be encountered. The plan of gunfire support for the assault of Tarawa Atoll called for 75 minutes of the heaviest naval support ever delivered up to that time. Even so, although many enemy troops were neutralized, the majority of the defensive installations were still effective. The lessons learned at Tarawa marked a turning point in the concept and execution of naval gunfire support. As a result, Marine Corps planners developed a concept for deliberate destruction of individual targets as opposed to general neutralization. This concept proved its value throughout the remainder of World War II.

The LSMR was a powerful little David anchored in among the Goliaths. Armed to the teeth, the little ship can cut loose a barrage of gunfire equal to that of five destroyers. An LSMR (landing ship, medium, rocket) was not actually a landing ship, beeause it didnt land on the beach. The function of the vessel is to lay off shore and support landings with a heavy barrage of fire. It is equipped with a bristling armament of guns and rockets to perform this task.

The LSMR was developed late during World War I1 as a result of the Navys search for a shallow-draft vessel capable of moving close inshore and providing heavy gunfire support and for shore bombardment with 10,000-yard barrage rockets. They found the plentiful LSMs (the Navy had 558 of them at the time) could most easily be converted for this purpose. During 1944 the Navy converted 12 LSMs into LSMRs by covering the well deck, sealing the bow doors, increasing the number of guns and adding rocket launchers. First of the vessels to be converted was the LSMR 188 on 11 Nov 1944.

During 1945, 48 more of the LSMs were transformed into rocket firesupport ships. These LSMRs carried 10 rocket launchers, continuously fed and automatically fired, and aimed by remote control, each capable of firing 30 spin-stabilized rockets per minute, or 300 rockets per minute per ship. In addition, wartime firepower of the vessels consisted of one 5-inch 38 caliber dual-purpose gun, two twin 40mm AA guns, four twin 20mm AA guns, and four 44.2 inch chemical mortars. They were equipped with directors for the 5-inch and AA guns and the launchers. They also had fire control radar for the 5-inch guns.

By 1949 the Bureau of Ordnance had under development a new automatic rocket launcher that would greatly increase the LSMRs effectiveness. Only 203 feet in length with a 34-foot, 6-inch beam, the 1,175-ton (when fully loaded) vessel has good endurance. Equipped with two 1,800-horsepower diesel engines, it can cruise 4,500 miles at 12 knots. Maximum speed in 13.2 knots. Because all space is needed for ammunition stowage, the LSMR carried no troops or cargo. The ship draws only 3 feet 4 inches forward and 7 feet 5 inches aft of water in light condition.

Two LSMRs were sunk during World War 11, both during the Okinawa campaign. LSMR 195 was sunk on 3 May 1945 by air attack and the next day LSMR 194 went down under the impact of a suicide plane.

Complement of the LSMR is 7 officers and 133 enlisted personnel. Of the 60 LSMRs converted, the Navy still had 48 by 1949. Eight of these were on active duty, four assigned to the Pacific and four assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. Forty of the vessels wre in the Reserve Fleet.

USS Clarion River (LSMR 409), USS St. Francis River (LSMR 525), and USS White River (LSMR 536) were recommissioned in Sep/Oct 1950 and decommisioned Apr/May 1970. All earned battle stars. Re-commissioned in 1965 for Vietnam service, they deployed as part of Inshore Fire Support Division 93 (IFSDIV93). LSM(R)s still remaining in the Navy inventory on 01 January 1969 were reclassified as Inshore Fire Support Ship (LFR). By this time the redesignation was basically for paper work purposes as the class had been decommissioned or was about to be decommissioned.

One of the smallest classes of ships in the Navy, the landing ship, medium, rocket, St. Francis River (LSMR 525) did a bang-up job in the Vietnam conflict [the pun is intended]. For example, on one of her missions, barrages touched off secondary explosions in 53 Viet Cong ammunition dumps. The 207-foot ship, nicknamed The Rocket Rainmaker, is not a new breed. Her predecessors were the medium landing ships, deckloaded with rockets, that led the Tarawa and Kwajalein amphibious assaults in World War II.

LSMR 525, then unnamed, was commissioned in August 1945. The ship, along with 35 others of her class, was en route to Pacific Fleet duty when the war ended. After a period in mothballs, the nameless LSMR 525 was reactivated and sent to Korea. Her battle ribbons tell tales of raids on Wonsan Harbor, Suwon Dan and Hodo Pando, and a commendation for the Tachen Island evacuation in 1955. Near the end of 1955, LSMR 525 and her sister ships were named for rivers in the United States and sent again to the mothball fleet.

A second tour of hibernation over, St Francis River was part of Inshore Fire Support Division 93 with sister ships USS Clarion River (LSMR 409) and USS White River (LSMR 536), and uss Carronade (IFS 1).

The Rocket Rainmakers weapons include eight twin rocket launchers, a brace of twin 40mm guns and afive-inch/38-caliber single mount. She can pour support fire ashore with the strength of six destroyers. Twice St Francis River walked mass rocket salvos to within 500 yards of friendly forces to dislodge Viet Cong from their strongholds.

On one occasion, the ship intercepted a radio transmission between forces ashore indicating that a company of Viet Cong was retreating toward the coastline. St Francis River offered to block the escape, and was welcomed into the melee. The Rocket Rainmaker closed toward the beach at flank speed and rained 426 rockets and 928 rounds of 40mm gunfire into the fleeing VC force. The escape was stopped cold.

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Page last modified: 18-10-2019 17:58:18 ZULU