Frederick Lee Oselett (1926-2002)
Yeoman Second Class, United States Navy

Crew Member and "Plank Owner"
USS LST-726, 1944-1946


Service Awards and Campaign Ribbons


 

Top Row: Combat Action Ribbon (retroactive, Iwo Jima 19 to 25 February 1945) - American Campaign Medal
Middle Row: Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (2) - World War II Victory Medal
Bottom Row: Navy Occupation Service Medal (with Asia clasp) - Philippine Liberation Ribbon (foreign service award)


Click on any photographic image to view the full-size version.
Unless otherwise noted, all photos are from Fred Oselett's WW II photo album.





Fred enlisted in the US Navy on April 1, 1944 and received his basic training at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station near Chicago, Illinois.


Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Company 810, "Boot Camp Buddies 1944"
Clockwise, from upper left: L. Morton (Port Huron, Mich.), J.B. Harris (Cleveland, Ohio),
 J. Rolhe (Cleveland, Ohio), Jerry (Detroit, Mich.) and Danny (Detroit, Mich.)


Upon completion of Boot Camp with Company 810, Fred was sent to the Amphibious Training Base (ATB) at Camp Bradford, near Norfolk, Virginia.  There he received further training to prepare him for service in the Amphibious Forces of the US Navy. The Allied effort to reclaim Western Europe, North Africa and the Western Pacific Islands from the Axis Forces during World War II required large scale invasions from the sea at locations distant from enemy-held port facilities.  Massive numbers of troops, along with their weapons and supplies had to be delivered to the invasion beaches and this was the job of the US Navy's Amphibious Forces.  By the time Fred arrived at the ATB for his training, there were already many lessons-learned from the Allied amphibious landings in North Africa, Italy and the Western Pacific.  In 1944, massive numbers of new Landing Ships and smaller landing craft were being delivered to the Navy for use in the Pacific Theater of War, where it was expected that amphibious invasions of key Japanese-held islands in the Western Pacific - including the Japanese home islands - would be the only way to bring about unconditional surrender.

While at the ATB, Fred was one of the 99 men who were selected to serve aboard the USS LST-726, which would be commissioned shortly after the completion of his training at the ATB.  When Fred left the ATB, he held the rank of Seaman Second Class.

The LST-726 was commissioned on September 30, 1944 in Algiers, Louisiana and it was assigned to the Fifth Amphibious Force in the Pacific Ocean. Fred was received on board the LST-726 on the day of its commissioning and thus was a member of its original crew, who are also known as
"plank owners".   Following a shake-down cruise and training exercises in the Gulf of Mexico during the month of October, the LST-726 sailed from Gulfport, Mississippi on November 2nd for the Panama Canal, which they transited on Nov. 11th.  The ship arrived in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Dec. 12, 1944 and the next month was spent getting outfitted for its upcoming missions, which included the loading of various cargo and installation of additional equipment. 

The largest single piece of cargo received was the LCT(6)-689, which was lashed to the main upper deck of the LST.  The LCT-689 was a 120 ft. long vessel of the Landing Craft-Tank (Mark 6) design.  It had been built by the Pidgeon-Thomas Iron Co. at Memphis, Tennessee and delivered to the US Navy on April 18, 1944.  The LST-726 was tasked with delivering the LCT for use in "Operation Iceberg" - the invasion of Okinawa.  But first, the LST-726 would have to participate in a different operation. 

On January 11, 1945, the LST-726 left Pearl Harbor and sailed to the nearby island of Maui, where they brought aboard 249 men and officers from the
1st Battalion (A, B, C and H&S Batteries) of the 14th Regiment of the 4th Marine Division and also from the Fourth Marine Amphibian Truck Company - along with all of their vehicles, howitzers, ammo, equipment and supplies.  

The 4th Marine Division also included three infantry regiments, the 23rd, 24th and 25th Marines.  The 4th Marine Division, along with the 3rd and 5th Marine Divisions, comprised the "Fifth (V) Marine Amphibious Corps" which was tasked with "Operation Detachment" - the invasion of Iwo Jima.  

For the next 11 days, the LST-726, its crew and also its passengers all participated in large-scale training exercises on and off the beaches of Maui to prepare for Operation Detachment.



LST-726 on the beach at Maui, Hawaii, January 1945

On January 22, 1945, the LST-726, accompanied by 14 other ships, departed Hawaiian waters for Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands, under the protective screen of the destroyer USS Rooks (DD-804) and the destroyer-escort USS Connolly (DE-306).  Their 2,800 mile voyage was uneventful and they arrived at Eniwetok Atoll on February 3rd.  Two days later they departed for Garapan Harbor, Saipan, arriving on February 10th. Over the next 4 days they received the 158 remaining personnel of the 1st Battalion of the 14th Marines (1/14) and departed for Iwo Jima on the 15th.  Here is a complete muster roll of all US Navy crew members and US Marines who were aboard the LST-726 during this period.  


The 4,650 mile voyage of the LST-726 in support of Operation Detachment
Beginning on Jan. 22, 1945 at Maui Island, they sailed 2,800 miles west to Eniwetok Atoll,
then another 1,130 miles to Saipan, with a final leg of 740 miles to the northwest that brought them to Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945.


At 0800 hours on February 19, 1945, the LST-726 arrived off the coast of Iwo Jima and laid-to about 8,000 yards off the beach.  The invasion of Iwo Jima began at 900 H-hour.  At 1420 hours, the 1/14 disembarked from the LST-726 in their DUKWs and began heading for the line of departure. The 1/14 was an artillery battery that was equipped with 75 mm pack horitzers. They were the first artillery battery ashore on Iwo Jima and they landed at "Blue 1" beach (map), in an area approximately 3,500 yards northeast of Mt. Suribachi.  From the after-action report of the 25th Marines (link):  "It was requested by the Commanding Officer of Regimental Combat Team 25 that artillery be landed and at 1545 one battery of 1/14 had been dispatched from the line of departure with the other batteries to follow at appropriate intervals.  1/14 was in position and ready for fire missions by 1700."

Unloading operations aboard the LST-726 would continue as they laid-to offshore until they were finally completed at 1815 hours on the 22nd.  At 1600 hours on the 24th, LST Group 61, including the LST-726, departed Iwo Jima waters for Port Apra, Guam.

Iwo Jima Invasion Photos 


Religious service held aboard the LST-726 prior to H-hour, Iwo Jima, Feb. 19, 1945

DUKW departing the bow ramp of LST-726, Iwo Jima, Feb. 19, 1945


LCVPs going ashore, Iwo Jima, Feb. 19, 1945

LCV loaded with 14th Marines heading for Blue One beach, Iwo Jima, Feb. 19, 1945

LST-587 and invastion craft, Iwo Jima, Feb. 19, 1945

Invasion beaches, Iwo Jima, Feb. 19, 1945
(click here to view a USN color photo of Blue Beach)


After arriving in Guam on March 1st, the ships of LST Group 61 replenished their supplies and departed for Leyte Island, P.I. on the 3rd.   All during their voyage from Iwo Jima, the performance of the port engine on LST-726 was below normal, limiting their speed to a maximum of 9.5 knots. The LST Group 61 arrived in San Pablo Bay, Leyte, P.I. late in the afternoon on March 8th to begin preparations for "Operation Iceberg" - the invasion of Okinawa.


The Ship and its Commanding Officer



Lt. Jerome W. Alper, USNR, Commander, LST-726, Sept. 30, 1944 to July 21, 1945

The LST-726 beached near Tacloban, San Pablo Bay, Leyte, Philippine Islands, March 1945



Instead of participating in the Operation Iceberg rehearsals that were held during the period of March 9th through the 25th, the LST-726 remained in San Pedro Bay while unsuccessful attempts were made to identify the cause of their port engine problem.  In between the attempted engine repairs, the LST-726 received on board
572 tons of cargo along with the 345 officers and enlisted men of the 3rd Battalion of the 383rd Infantry Regiment (3/383), which was part of the US Army's 96th Infantry Division.  The soldiers of the 383rd were veterans of the invasion of Leyte Island, having been one of the units that landed with General Mac Arthur on D-Day, Oct. 20, 1944.

At 1130 hours on March 25th, the LST-726 and the 56 other ships in their Task Unit departed San Pedro Bay for the southern shores of Okinawa Island, 1,120 miles distant.  The weather during the first five days was windy and rainy, with large waves that at times caused the LST-726 to roll 32 degrees from horizontal. Despite their engine problem, they were able to keep up with the rest of the ships in their Task Unit, which arrived at their designated station off the western coast of Okinawa early on the morning of April 1st.


The 3,200 mile voyage of the LST-726 in support of Operation Iceberg
Beginning on Feb. 24, 1945 at Iwo Jima, they sailed 800 miles south to Guam, then another 1,330 miles
west to Leyte, P.I., with a final leg of 1,070 miles to the north that brought them to Okinawa on April 1, 1945.



Between 0730 and 0810 hours on the 1st, the 3/383 disembarked from the LST-726 aboard 17 LVTs, which then headed for the line of departure.  H-Hour for the start of the landings was 0830 and by 1030 hours, the LST-726 had discharged 90% of the Army personnel, 60% of their vehicles and 10% of the cargo. Enough tonnage had been unloaded by this point to allow the next critical phase to begin. 

At 1040 hours, the crew of the LST-726 began emptying the ballast tanks on the port side of the ship and flooding the starboard tanks in preparation for launching the
LCT-689.  When the required list of 11 degrees to starboard was reached at 1117, the lashing cables were released and the 143 ton LCT slid off on the greased skids and was launched into the water. After three months and 7,850 miles of riding piggyback, the LCT-689 was underway on its own power at 1255 hours to begin receiving large cargo items from other ships and delivering it to shore.

Okinawa Invasion Photos 
 

LCT-689 is launched from the deck of the LST-726, Okinawa, 1117 hours, April 1, 1945

Deck of the LST-726 immediately after launch of LCT-689, Okinawa, 1118 hours, April 1, 1945

"Air raid"
At 1915 hours on April 1st, several enemy planes penetrated the defensive screen and appeared over the shipping area where the LST-726 and other support ships had retired for the night  The anchored ships opened fire and their artillery shell busts can be seen in the overhead sky.

Smoke rises from a downed Japanese plane. The LST-726's 20 mm gun in the left foreground (#3 sky) fired 15 rounds at the plane.and may have struck it; approx. 1930 hours, April 1, 1945

By 1800 hours, the LST-726 has completed unloading all of the men and cargo that were needed to support the initial invasion landings.  Therefore, they were instructed to move and anchor farther offshore for a few days until they would be able to safely land on the beach and finish unloading the remainder of their cargo.

During the invasion, numerous US Navy destroyers and destroyer escorts were tasked with screening the ships and landing beaches from aerial attacks.  However, at 1915 hours, several enemy planes managed to break through the protective screen and flew over the anchorage area where the LST-726 and numerous other supply ships were floating like sitting ducks.  These ships opened fire with their guns and managed to shoot down one of the planes.  The handwriting on the reverse of the photo showing smoke from the downed plane indicates that shells from the LST-726 gun in the foreground of the photo had shot the plane down.   However, t
he LST-726 war diary says only that one of their 20 millimeter guns (sky #3) fired 15 rounds at the enemy planes.

Over the next week, LST-726 remained at anchor waiting for its turn to unload on the beach.  During this time, there were several more air raid warnings but no attacks materialized.  On the 6th of April, a water emergency was declared aboard the ship because of a failure in one of the evaporation units. The LST-726 finally received their beaching orders and on April 8th at 1836 hours, they began unloading the remainder of their cargo at White 1 beach.

Unloading continued around the clock until orders were given on April 9th at 1845 hours to retract from the beach because of high winds.  However, the ship could not retract before the tide went out because of delays caused by various equipment failures and another air raid warning.  The ship finally floated away from the beach at 0220 hours on April 10th and sailed back to its offshore anchorage, where it remained until the next beaching opportunuity, which came at dawn on April 12th.  Unloading resumed at 0830 hours and continued until they finished at 1430 hours on Friday the 13th.  The LST-726 retracted from White 1 beach a few hours later and returned to its anchorage.

Although the fighting on Okinawa would continue for another 10 weeks, the LST-726 was needed elsewhere for a different operation. The ship and its officers and crew were given orders that would eventually send them nearly 8,000 miles over the next sixteen weeks in support of Operation Downfall, the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands.  At 0930 hours on April 16th, the LST-726 departed Okinawa waters bound for Ulithi in the Caroline Islands, where they arrived on April 22nd at 1320 hours.

During the period April 22 through May 27, 1945, LST-726 remained at Ulithi while the ship underwent replenishment and repairs were made to its hull and propellers.  On May 28th, they departed Ulithi in the company of seven other LSTs, with Manus in the
Admirality Islands as their destination.   At 2230 hours on May 31st, the LST-726 crossed the Equator at a point about 250 miles northwest of Manus Island.  That day, in acknowledgment of the crossing, King Neptune's Court was convened aboard the LST- 726 and Fred, along with 100 other "Pollywogs," were initiated by 12 "Shellbacks". This is called a "Crossing the Line" ceremony and all of the photos taken during the LST-726 ceremony can be viewed here.

May 1945 Photos 


LST-726 in the floating drydock for repairs, Ulithi, May 1945

King Neptune's Court, May 31, 1945




Pollywog initiation ceremony, May 31, 1945

The eight LST's made a 24 hour stop in
Manus, Admirality Islands and at 1230 hours on the 2nd of June, they departed for Banika Island in the Russell Islands, where they beached in Tillotson Cove at dawn on June 8th.  Here they spent three days loading large quantities of small arms ammunition, 75 mm mortar shells, plus a number of trucks. Last aboard were the 202 officers and enlisted men of the 29th and the 14th Marines Depot Companies.  After a quick stop in Tulagi to receive 34,000 gallons of fresh water, the LST-726 departed on June 14th for Port Apra, Guam by way of Eniwetok Atoll. They arrived at Eniwetok early on the 20th and less than seven hours later they left to continue their passage to Guam, where they arrived on the 25th.  


The 7,890 mile round-trip voyage of the LST-726 in support of Operation Downfall
Beginning on April 16, 1945 when they left Okinawa, they sailed 1,360 miles southeast to Ulithi, then another 980 miles to Manus, 1,100 miles to the Russell Islands, 60 miles to Tulagi, then 1,400 miles north to Eniwetok Atoll and another 1,210 miles west to Guam, arriving on June 25, 1945. Following several runs to Tinian and Saipan that totalled 390 miles, they sailed a final leg of 1,390 miles to the northwest that brought them back to Okinawa on August 7, 1945.



At Guam they unloaded their cargo and passengers and spent the next several weeks getting replenished and making minor repairs to the ship.  They also made a "milk run" to nearby Tinian Island and then brought aboard 144 Army and Marine personnel for transportation.  On July 21st, 
Lt. (jg) Thomas E. Tisza replaced Lt. Jerome W. Alper as Commanding Officer of the LST-726.   On July 23rd, the LST-726 departed Guam for Saipan, where they took on more cargo, including several hundred sacks of mail.  Once they were fully loaded, the ship left Saipan on August 1st for Okinawa, which was the staging ground for Operation Downfall - the invasion of Japan that was planned to begin on November 1st.

The LST-726 arrived in Okinawa on Aug. 7th and was instructed to land on the beach at Naha to unload their passengers and cargo. This had been accomplished by Friday, Aug. 10th and they were still on the beach at Naha that evening awaiting further orders when first word was received on Okinawa that the government of Japan had communicated its intention to accept the Potsdam Declaration's terms of surrender.   The atomic bombs which had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki days earlier were having the desired effect and the enemy was on the verge of surrender.  However, the many soldiers and sailors present on Okinawa could not wait to begin celebrating their apparent release from Operation Downfall.  From the Aug. 20, 1945 edition of "Life Magazine":

Okinawa
The first news reaching Okinawa of a peace proposal was greeted by jubilant GIs who slapped each other's backs, danced, cheered and shouted, "To hell with 'Golden Gate by '48', we'll be home by September 8".  Most GIs took every weapon within reach and started firing into the sky with rifles, 45s, ack-ack and machine guns and the sky was criss-crossed with literally millions of rounds of tracers.  It looked like a 4th of July celebration, only noisier and more spectacular.  Trigger-happy kids fresh from home got their first opportunity to fire their guns but veteran, combat-wise correspondents and officers donned their helmets and ran for shelter.  The sky was thick with shrapnel and flak. In the district where I was, 23 men were hurt and hospitalized as a result of the promiscuous shooting and the falling flak.  Some ships in the harbor, not knowing of the peace proposal, thought it was a Kamakazi attack. A general quarters alarm was sounded, causing men to go to their stations clad in underwear, steel helmets and Mae Wests.  Smokescreens were laid and most of the ships opened up with antiaircraft.  This barrage by shore and water batteries was caused partly by the fact that news of the peace proposal almost coincided with with an air alert.  When those who hadn't heard the news saw and heard the celebrant's barrage, they opened fire, too.  Seasoned correspondents of many campaigns said this was the most spectacular show they had ever seen.  Shrapnel and bullets pierced many tents.  The pyrotechnics lasted only a few minutes as those who listened at radios got word from the High Command to cease firing. Some quick-thinking unit commanders ordered troops to fall in with their rifles, then told them, "The first man firing his weapon will be court-martialed." (A saddening note: six men were killed during the excitement.) - George Lacks

The LST-726's  August 1945 War Diary soberly noted the events of August 10, 1945 as follows:

The tremendous amount of anti-aircraft fire which arose is common knowledge. Even more dangerous was the small-arms fire on the beach. It was this command's desire to keep the crew and passengers below decks, when "Flash Red, Control Yellow, Make Smoke" came over the air.  General Quarters was sounded. Two 20 mms. opened fire at nothing but were immediately silenced when they heard the cease firing horn. The gun crews upon being questioned at Mast admitted they had no orders or cause to fire, and were made fully aware of the danger of their actions.....  Afterwards, upon securing from General Quarters prematurely to avoid falling shrapnel and any further display of enthusiasm by our gun crews, it was learned that a transport outside Naha Ko had received a torpedo during and in spite of all the a.a. fire.  The incident impressed all present that in spite of peace talks, the enemy was still carrying on with the fight.  Further enemy activity in the area on other nights confirmed this.

It wasn't until August 15th that Japan formally agreed to the unconditional surrender terms of the Potsdam Declaration and from that point on, the LST-726 was tasked with supporting the occupation of the Japanese home islands.

Additional photos taken after August 15, 1945 appear on this page.

The LST-726 sailed for Guam on August 17th, where they took on the Second Separate Engineer Battalion, V 
Amphibious Corps, USMC, along with their vehicles, equipment and general camp items, a load that totaled 700 tons.  

On Sept. 14th they sailed for the port of Sasebo, Japan as part of an Advance Task Group that included a total of 8 LSTs, 15 LSMs and 3 screening escorts.  They arrived in Sasebo harbor on Sept 22nd and the following day the LST-726 beached and began unloading their passengers and cargo. As they completed the unloading process on the 24th, the commander received a report that seawater was leaking into the boiler room.  Immediate repairs were made to stop the leaking water and divers were sent over the side to conduct an inspection.  They reported that at low tide the starboard quarter of the ship had come to rest on some large rocks that had buckled the bottom plates and bent the starboard propeller shaft approximately six inches out of line, rendering the starboard engine inoperable.

The following day, the Advance Task Unit departed for the Philippine Islands without the LST-726, which was instructed to await further orders regarding repairs.  It was recommended that the ship travel on one engine to Okinawa for repairs, but they needed to wait at Sasebo until they received confirmation orders from the Commander of the V Amphibious Corps.  In the meantime, a typhoon struck on October 10th, which battered the many ships anchored off Sasebo with 70 mph winds that gusted to 110 mph.

In preparation for the storm, the LST-726 was anchored bow and stern to mooring buoys in the inner harbor.  Its port side was also moored to the USS Bering Straight (AVP-34), which was also anchored to mooring buoys.  At 1350 hours, the Bering Straight's bow anchor chain broke in the high winds and as it was being blown away from its mooring buoy, the mooring lines to the LST-726 were put under tremedous strain.  Eventually the lines broke and one became fouled in the LST-726's operable port screw (the starbord screw having been inoperable since Sept. 24th).  The fouling reduced the port engine revolutions from 300 to 250 rpm, but at least they had some ability to ease the strain on their anchor chains, which continued to hold while the ship yawed back and forth in the heavy winds.   However, their luck ran out when at 1613 hours, two LSMs anchored nearby broke loose from their moorings and were blown towards the bow of the LST-726.   As the LSMs grazed the starboard quarter of the LST, they dislodged its stern anchor and the LST was then blown up against the SS Ripon Victory as it swung about on its bow mooring lines.  After an unsuccessfull attempt to moor alongside the Ripon Victory, they used their limited engine power to swing away, but then their bow anchor lost its hold on the harbor bottom and the ship started to drift downwind.  Only heroic efforts by the crew kept the ship from being blown onto the harbor seawall.  As darkenss fell, the LST-726 was able to weigh anchor and navigate under reduced power among the other ships in the inner harbor to a new and safer anchorage.  They had to re-anchor twice before the anchor finally held and then used the available engine power all night long to hold the bow of the ship into the wind and ease the strain on the anchor as the ship yawed back and forth. Only two injuries were reported: the 1st Lt. injured his foot when he slipped on a wet deck in the high wind and a Gunners Mate was overcome by exposure. The Appendix in the October 1945 War Diary describing the events of Oct 10th concludes with the observation, "The Ship's Company had cause to use virtually every evolution in the Watch Bill except Abandon Ship."

The LST-726 remained in Sasebo during the remainder of October 1945 awaiting confirmation of their repair orders, which finally came on Nov. 2nd. The ship arrived in Okinawa on Nov. 5th and repairs were completed on the 24th.  During this time in Okinawa, those sailors with enough points were transferred off the ship and sent to the nearest Receiving Station for discharge from military service.  However, not all of them were replaced.  During the period  of Oct. 1, 1945 through April 1, 1946 the number of enlisted men aboard the LST-726 dropped from 104 to 62 as the ship made its way back to the United States, with stops in Guadalcanal, American Samoa (Tutuila Island,  approx. April 1, 1946), Pearl Harbor and San Francisco (Mare Island, approx. May 1, 1946).

The LST-726 was decommissioned on June 25, 1946 at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and struck from the Naval Register on July 31st that same year. The ship was sold to the Bethlehem Steel Co., of Bethlehem, Pa., on December 5, 1947 for scrapping.

The USS LST-726 earned two battle stars for World War II service:
1) Iwo Jima operation - Assault and occupation of Iwo Jima, 19 to 25 February 1945    
2) Okinawa Gunto operation - Assault and occupation of Okinawa Gunto, 1 to 15 April 1945

Photos of Officers and Crew

"Crossing the Line" ceremony

Photos taken in various Pacific ports

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Text and maps by Mike Grobbel
Last updated Jan. 16, 2017