All aboard!
Elsie ItemFeaturedLCI 20LCI(L)March 2017 (No. 96)Most RecentShips

Final Chapter of the Story of the USS LCI(L) 20

USS LCI(20) during  a training exercise on January 20, 1943 at Solomons Maryland 1 year before the Anzio landing

Part 2 of 2

Submitted by Robert E. Wright Jr. Son of Robert E. Wright of the crew of the USS LCI(L) 20

Many of us LCI members use email on a daily basis.  It seems that often you are inundated with many worthless messages, but then, occasionally, one arrives that just makes your day a whole lot better.  This particular email arrived in my inbox on July 14, 2016. It was from a gentleman from Italy, named Claudio Morino, who identified himself as a Italian Army Officer. He is president of the Underwater Battlefield Organized Anzio Team which uses the acronym U.B.O.A.T.. His team had located a wreck of a ship on the sea floor of the Mediterranean off the Anzio shore. They had a tentative identification as a US Navy landing ship, possibly the USS LCI(L) 20. 

Prior to the July 1943 assault on Sicily the LCI’s in Flotilla 1 practiced landings on the shores of North Africa. This photo was released to the press on July 10 1943.

LtC Marino requested any information that I had in my possession that would enable them to make a definitive determination.  I sent them detailed drawings with measurements of a Class 1-350 Landing Craft Infantry, and a picture of the LCI(L) 20 aground after being hit by the German Bomb. I also included the Action Report written by the Ship’s Captain, Lt (jg.) Frank Chambers which covered the events leading up to the LCI(L) 20 being abandoned and burning on the shore.

From that information, they concluded that the ship that was located just 60-70 yards from the shore was the ill-fated USS LCI(L) 20.  

The LCI(L) 20 had a relatively short period of active service: from Commissioning on December 11, 1942 to its final landing on January 22, 1944. Like most of LCI Flotilla 1 the ship and crew saw service in North Africa and later in Italy. They had participated the landings under fire at Sicily and Salerno so by the time of the events at Anzio the ship and crew were experienced battle veterans.

This was picture was taken just moments after the LCI(L)20 was struck by a 500lb bomb released from a German FW 190. Note that just forward of the 3 and 4 guns, the aft part of the deckhouse is almost level with the conn due to the force of the explosion. The Soldiers are still disembarking down the starboard ramp. The photographer is unknown probably because he had used an illegal camera.

From the Loss Report 11 February 1943: 

The force of the explosion ripped open the fuel oil day tanks and covered the engine and crew’s quarters with approximately 800 gallons of fuel oil which caught on fire after the explosion. Foamite, fire hose, fog nozzles and all firefighting equipment on the forward part of the ship and were passed to the crew on the stern who were acting on orders of the Executive Officer and Engineering Officer, attempting to extinguish the fire. The explosion also destroyed the fire mains, water pump and handy billies. CO2 extinguishers and foamite were the only firefighting equipment left intact. Orders were given to flood the magazine, but that was impossible due to the fact that the mains had parted.

 …The crew continued to fight the fire until ordered to abandon ship. At the time of abandon ship, the fire below the weather deck spread from the engine room forward to frame #46 and in the deckhouse to frame #46. When word was received from the men on the stern that there was a great possibility of the ammunition blowing up, the commanding officer ordered all hands to abandon ship.

LCI(L) 20 Burning on the beach; to port side is the LCI(L)39 temporarily disabled due to a near miss (l to r) HM LCI 242, LCI(L)20, LCI(L)39, HM LCI 260, and further down the beach LCI(L) 38 and LCI(L) 44.

One comment
  1. John Murray

    My Dad’s ship, USS LCI(L)-211 suffered a similar fate during the Anzio invasion, but was repaired and put back in service. They had a 500 pounder hit right behind the forward gun mount. It penetrated the deck and exploded below decks. My Father was the bow deck gunner and was seriously injured, but his ammo feeder was killed. Dad was blown out of his harness an onto the deck. He was hospitalized, but returned to duty aboard 211 in time to make D Day landings on Omaha Beach.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *