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
Middle Row: Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (2) - World War II Victory
Bottom Row: Navy Occupation Service Medal (with Asia clasp) - Philippine Liberation Ribbon (foreign service award)
on any photographic image to view the full-size version.
Unless otherwise noted, all photos are from Fred Oselett's WW II photo
enlisted in the US Navy on April 1, 1944 and received his basic
training at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station near Chicago,
Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Company 810,
"Boot Camp Buddies 1944"
Clockwise, from upper left: L. Morton (Port Huron, Mich.), J.B. Harris
J. Rolhe (Cleveland, Ohio), Jerry (Detroit, Mich.) and Danny
Upon completion of Boot Camp
with Company 810, Fred was sent to the Amphibious Training Base (ATB)
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
11, 1945, the LST-726 left Pearl Harbor and sailed to the nearby island
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
Marine Divisions, comprised the "Fifth (V) Marine Amphibious Corps"
which was tasked with "Operation Detachment" - the invasion of Iwo
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.
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
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
LST-726 on the beach at Maui, Hawaii, January 1945
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,
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.
0800 hours on February 19, 1945, the LST-726 arrived off the
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
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
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
LST Group 61, including the LST-726, departed Iwo Jima waters for Port
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)
arriving in Guam on March 1st, the ships of LST Group
61 replenished their supplies and departed for Leyte Island,
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 3,200 mile
voyage of the LST-726 in support of Operation Iceberg
The Ship and its Commanding
Lt. Jerome W. Alper, USNR, Commander, LST-726, Sept. 30, 1944 to July
The LST-726 beached near Tacloban, San Pablo Bay,
Leyte, Philippine Islands, March 1945
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
and delivering it to shore.
Okinawa Invasion Photos
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
the beach and finish unloading the remainder of their cargo.
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
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
fire and their artillery shell busts can be seen in the
rises from a downed Japanese plane. The LST-726's 20 mm gun in
left foreground (#3 sky) fired 15 rounds at the plane.and may have
struck it; approx. 1930 hours, April 1, 1945
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
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
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, the LST-726 war diary says only
that one of their 20 millimeter guns (sky #3) fired 15 rounds at the
the next week, LST-726 remained at anchor waiting for its turn to
unload on the beach. During this time, there were several
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.
continued around the clock until orders were given on April 9th at 1845
hours to retract from the beach because of high winds.
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
at 1430 hours on Friday the 13th. The LST-726 retracted from
White 1 beach a few hours later and returned to its anchorage.
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.
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
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
company of seven other LSTs, with Manus in the Admirality Islands as their
destination. At 2230 hours on May 31st, the LST-726 crossed
Equator at a point about 250 miles northwest of Manus Island. That day, in acknowledgment of the crossing, King
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
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
on April 16, 1945 when they left Okinawa, they sailed 1,360 miles
southeast to Ulithi, then another 980 miles to Manus, 1,100
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.
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
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
was planned to begin on November 1st.
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
earlier were having the desired effect and the enemy was on the verge
of surrender. However, the many soldiers and sailors
on Okinawa could not wait to begin celebrating their apparent release
from Operation Downfall. From the Aug. 20, 1945 edition of "Life Magazine":
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
the sky with rifles, 45s, ack-ack and machine guns and the sky was
criss-crossed with literally millions of rounds of tracers.
looked like a 4th of July celebration, only noisier and more
spectacular. Trigger-happy kids fresh from home got their
opportunity to fire their guns but veteran, combat-wise correspondents
and officers donned their helmets and ran for shelter. The
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
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
news saw and heard the celebrant's barrage, they opened fire, too.
Seasoned correspondents of many campaigns said this was the
spectacular show they had ever seen. Shrapnel and bullets
many tents. The pyrotechnics lasted only a few minutes as
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:
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
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
impressed all present that in spite of peace talks, the enemy was still
carrying on with the fight. Further enemy activity in the
other nights confirmed this.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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,
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
Its port side was also moored to the USS Bering Straight (AVP-34),
which was also anchored to mooring buoys. At 1350
Bering Straight's bow anchor chain broke in the high winds and
it was being blown away from its mooring buoy, the mooring
to the LST-726 were put under tremedous strain. Eventually
lines broke and one became fouled in the LST-726's operable port screw
(the starbord screw having been inoperable since Sept. 24th).
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
hours, two LSMs anchored nearby broke loose from their moorings and
were blown towards the bow of the LST-726. As the
grazed the starboard quarter of the LST, they dislodged its
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.
heroic efforts by the crew kept the ship from being blown onto the
harbor seawall. As darkenss fell, the LST-726 was able to
anchor and navigate under reduced power among the other ships in the
inner harbor to a new and safer anchorage. They had to
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
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,
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
and struck from the Naval Register on July 31st that same year. The
sold to the Bethlehem Steel Co., of Bethlehem, Pa., on
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
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
Text and maps by Mike Grobbel
Last updated Jan. 16, 2017