Welcome to the USS LST 494 Assoc. Web Site!
 
Full History of LST 494
in the European Theater
A LOOK AT LST 494 IN THE
EUROPEAN THEATER
DURING WORLD WAR II
by Mike Guarino
 
PREFACE
 
During LST 494`s 9 months in the European Theater she compiled an impressive record while participating in 2 major invasions:  the Normandy Invasion on June 6, 1944 and the invasion of Southern France on August 15, 1944.  LST 494`s story is a great example of why LST`s during WW II were known as the “workhorses” or “mules” of the invasion forces.  For months after both invasions, LST 494 continued to support the push against the Germans by bringing in badly needed reinforcements, tanks, jeeps, trucks, ammunition and other equipment and supplies.  She also served as a hospital ship returning wounded servicemen to hospitals in England.  LSTs were in great demand in both the Pacific and European Theaters of War.  Winston Churchill meeting with General Eisenhower as they prepared for the Normandy invasion once remarked:  “The destinies of two great empires seem to be tied up in some God-damned things called LSTs.”    
LSTs (Landing Ship, Tank) and the sailors who manned them were almost universally assigned to “extra-hazardous duty”.  LST`s were slow, lightly armored and lightly armed.  Their nick-name of “Large Slow Target, Loaded for a Single Trip” pointed out how vulnerable and expendable they were.      
   
THE BEGINNING
 
USS LST 494`s keel was laid down on August 10, 1943 by Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Co. in Evansville, Indiana.  She was launched on October 11, 1943 and commissioned on December 18, 1943 as a U.S. Navy amphibious warship.  LST 494 was placed under the command of Lt. Irving “Chet” Noyes of Colebrook, New Hampshire.
 LSTs were 328 feet long, 50 feet wide with a displacement weight of 1,653 tons (4,080 tons fully loaded).  They were powered from a Main Engine Room by two 900 horsepower General Motors V-12 engines (known as GM 567s) which were railroad engines adapted to marine use. Their maximum speed was approximately 11 knots.  Additional engines in the Auxiliary Engine Room provided the ships with electricity. LST 494 was armed with a 3 inch/50 cal. gun on her stern (later replaced with a twin 40-mm gun) and multiple 40-mm and 20-mm anti-aircraft guns. In the European Theater LST 494 carried 6 LCVPs (Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel), also known as “Higgins Boats,” each of which was armed with two .30-cal. machine guns.  Invasion bound LSTs were manned by a crew of approximately 150.  
From Evansville, LST 494 traveled down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to the Gulf of Mexico.  After a shakedown cruise and more training around Panama City, Florida, she made stops in New York City; Davisville, Rhode Island and Boston picking up troops and cargo.  She then sailed to Halifax, Nova Scotia where on March 14, 1944 she began her trip across the icy North Atlantic in a convoy with 71 other ships (Convoy SC 155).  While crossing the Atlantic, LST 494 carried on her main deck LCT (Landing Craft Tank) 776.  LCTs were 114 feet in length and weighed 285 tons.  The 494 arrived in Milford Haven, England on March 29th.  She convoyed to Southampton arriving April 2nd and launched LCT 776 from her deck.  LCT 776 later fought at Omaha Beach and survived the campaign.  After reaching England, LST 494 continued to prepare and train for the largest amphibious assault in the history of warfare, the invasion of Europe.
 
NORMANDY CAMPAIGN
June 6-July 18, 1944
 
 168 American LSTs of the U.S. Navy`s XI Amphibious Force took part in the Normandy Invasion. LST 494 was assigned to hit the Fox Green Sector of Omaha Beach as part of Task Force B, LST Group 30, Flotilla 10. On June 5, 1944 LST 494 departed Plymouth, England headed for the beaches of Normandy, France.  During the initial assault, LST 494 carried 378 men from units attached to the 26th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division.  Men of the 26th Infantry were known as "Blue Spaders" from their distinctive, spad-shaped regimental emblem.  The  1st Infantry Division, known as the "Big Red One", was America`s most combat-tested Army Division.  It had fought in North Africa and Sicily.  Units aboard LST 494 were from the 26th Infantry Regiment`s 3rd Battalion under the command of the Battalion`s Executive Officer Major James B. Carvey (West Point, Class of 1939).  Men from Battery “C” of the 33rd Field Artillery Battalion under the command of Captain Gordon Peltier were also aboard as well as the Battalion`s Medical Section.  
As LST 494 approached Omaha Beach a line of burned out tanks could be seen on the beach as well as many landing craft destroyed by the insidious triangular obstacles the Germans had placed in the water near the shore.  LCTs and LCIs were burning and exploding and a continuous artillery and mortar fire barrage peppered the beachhead.  One U.S. destroyer could be seen steaming in as close as possible to shore while pounding German positions with her 5 inch guns.  The Battleship Texas was blasting German defenses with her 14 inch guns.  
During the afternoon of June 6th LST 494 received word that infantrymen were desperately needed to reinforce the 1st Infantry Division`s 16th and 18th Regiments that had landed earlier. The 494 was ordered to launch 2 of her 36 foot long LCVPs and land troops on the Fox Green Sector of Omaha Beach.  An LCVP could carry up to 36 combat equipped infantrymen.  As the LCVPs approached the Fox Green Sector they encountered intense enemy fire from German 88-mm guns and heavy beach congestion from destroyed landing craft.  They were unable to land and pushed further down the beach to the adjoining Easy Red sector.  One of the LCVPs never made it to shore.  It hit a mined beach obstacle that was submerged and was blown out of the water about 100 yards from shore.  Major Carvey was on this LCVP.  He saw the obstacle briefly when the lead LCVP's wake (Donald Beach's craft) parted the water and exposed it.  Carvey tried to point it out to his coxswain (Ray Bauguess) but it was too late. The LCVP`s crew of 4 was pulled from the water by a rescue craft and eventually returned to LST 494.  Some of the soldiers aboard, including Major Carvey who was wounded, were also rescued but a number were thought to have perished.  
The 494 was also designated as a hospital ship and carried an Army doctor and 2 corpsmen plus 2 Navy doctors and over 20 pharmacist`s mates.  The first 12 wounded men to reach the 494 were tagged as having been treated by a U.S. Coast Guard doctor.  The 13th casualty taken aboard was the doctor himself.  
On June 6th LST 494 aided the USS LCT (Armored) 2037 that had been hit on her starboard side by enemy fire or a mine and was in danger of sinking.  She tied up to LST 494`s starboard side and salvage work was performed.  LCT (Armored) 2037 had been assigned to an LCT Gunfire Support Group for the invasion.  16 LCT (Armored) crafts were assigned to Omaha Beach and 8 were assigned to Utah Beach.  These special LCTs were heavily armored and had 2 tanks on them.  They were not designed to land on D-Day but their job was to support the infantry with the tanks` firepower.  Wooden timbers raised the tanks high enough to fire over the bow ramp.
 On the evening of June 6th German planes attacked American ships supporting the landings at Omaha Beach.  Under a terrific barrage of gunfire from LST 494 and other ships, one burning plane fell and splashed into the water about 50 yards from LST 494, seconds after a bomb fell very close to the ship.  The LCT tied the 494`s side opened fire with her anti-aircraft guns during this attack and her rounds came dangerously close to the men on the 494`s conning tower.  Capt. Noyes passed on a heated message to the LCT: “Cease fire immediately or we`ll cut your line.”  They complied.  
By the end of the first day LST 494 had become home for many casualties, survivors from other ships, remnants of army outfits and small boat
crews from other ships. On D-plus-one the crew remained at battle stations with the beach still under continuous German fire.  LCVPs from LST 494 landed additional troops on Omaha Beach on D+1.  Many beach obstacles still in place prevented LSTs from landing. LST 494 was ordered to the Easy Red sector of Omaha Beach to unload her remaining troops and cargo onto a rhino barge during the early morning hours of D+2.  During the first 3 days of battle, bodies of American soldiers and sailors could be seen on the beach as well as floating in the surf.  Many bodies were collected by landing craft and stacked like “cordwood” on their decks for transfer to Army Grave Registration Units who prepared the dead for burial in a temporary cemetery.  
 On the evening of June 8th German planes again attacked American shipping at Omaha Beach and 2 German planes were shot down over the beach area.  
 On June 9th LST 494 left Omaha Beach and returned to England (Southampton) to unload casualties and reload for a return to Normandy.
 On June 15th (D+9), LST 494 landed the first Heavy Maintenance Unit on French soil when she landed 93 soldiers and 88 vehicles of the 897th and 3562nd Ordnance Heavy Automotive Maintenance Companies on Omaha Beach.
  On June 26th in convoy back to England from Utah Beach a flying German aerial bomb (V-1 “buzz bomb”) exploded 2 miles off LST 494`s port bow.
On June 29th the men of LST 494 witnessed 3 Liberty ships hit German mines.  LST 494 and the Liberty ships were in a convoy back to England from the Normandy beachhead. Allied ships moved in to take survivors off of stricken ships.
On July 7th a ship ahead of LST 494 in convoy hit a mine.  Also on that day, V-1 “buzz bombs” passed over LST 494 for many hours.  One passed 300 feet over LST 494.  The crew of LST 494 saw American fighter planes shoot down a number of the aerial bombs.
On July 10th LST 494 aided 17 officers and 320 men from the Polish cruiser Dragon.  The Dragon had been torpedoed off the coast of Caen, France by a one man German mini-submarine on July 8 and had to be scuttled.  LST 494 safely returned them to England.  These Polish sailors spoke perfect English and brought their ration of rum and gin with them.
On July 14th “navy brass” ordered the 494 into drydock so an inspection of her hull could be conducted to determine her structural integrity.  Before the invasion, many believed that once LSTs landed on the beach and the tide went out, the dried out underside of LSTs would split in half rendering them a “one trip” ship.  This did not happen and LSTs gained a well deserved reputation for being tough and reliable under the most adverse circumstances.  The 494 passed the inspection with flying colors and quickly went back into action.  
LST 494 made a total of 8 landings during the Normandy campaign:  2 on Omaha Beach, 4 on Utah Beach and 2 on Juno Beach.  The 494 transported and landed a total of 1,420 soldiers and 577 tanks, trucks and other vehicles during the campaign.  The 494 also carried a number of injured servicemen back to England.  LST 494 carried American and Canadian soldiers during the campaign.
1,068 American sailors were killed in action during the Normandy Campaign and another 32 died later from their wounds.
 
During the Normandy Campaign, 8 LSTs were sunk due to enemy action:
USS LST 507 - April 28 - Sunk by German motor torpedo      boats in Lyme Bay, England (Operation     Tiger)
USS LST 531 - April 28 - Sunk by German motor torpedo     boats in Lyme Bay, England (Operation     Tiger)
USS LST 499 - June 8 - Sunk by mine off Normandy
USS LST 314 - June 9 - Sunk by torpedo from German     surface craft in English Channel
USS LST 376 - June 9- Sunk by torpedo from German     surface craft in English Channel
USS LST 496 - June 11 -  Sunk by mine off Normandy
USS LST 523 - June 19 -  Sunk by mine off Normandy
USS LST 921 - August 14 - Torpedoed by German      submarine in English Channel
 
During the Normandy Campaign, 11 LSTs were damaged by enemy action:
USS LST 289 - April 28 -Torpedoed by German motor torpedo    boats in Lyme Bay, England (Operation Tiger)
USS LST 538 - June 11 - Torpedoed by German submarine
USS LST 280 - June 14 - Torpedoed by German submarine
USS LST 2     - June 15 - By German coastal defense guns
USS LST 266 - June 15 - By German coastal defense guns
USS LST 307 - June 15 - By German coastal defense guns
USS LST 331 - June 15 - By German coastal defense guns
USS LST 360 - June 15 - By German coastal defense guns
USS LST 133 - June 15 - By mine off Normandy
USS LST 312 - July 8   - By V-1 or glider bomb
USS LST 384 - July 8   - By V-1 or glider bomb
 
NEW ORDERS ARRIVE
 
Toward the end of the Normandy Campaign, scuttlebutt centered on where LST 494 would be sent next.  Many men predicted the 494 would be sent to the Pacific where the war against Japan still raged.  Others bet that the 494 would head to the Mediterranean for further action against the Germans.  The 494 received orders to travel through the Straits of Gibraltar for service in the Mediterranean.  LST 494 departed Falmouth, England on July 18, 1944 with 23 other LSTs and 18 LCIs en route to Bizerete, Tunisia (North Africa) under escort by a number of destroyers and the famous cruiser the USS Marblehead.  On July 24, they passed through the Straits of Gibraltar and entered the Mediterranean, arriving at Bizerete on July 28th.  On July 31st, LST 494 and 23 other LSTs left Bizerete en route to Naples, Italy.  They arrived on August 4th and prepared for the upcoming invasion by making practice landings at Salerno with Army troops.  
 
SOUTHERN FRANCE CAMPAIGN
August 15-November 24, 1944
 
On August 12, 1944, LST 494 departed Naples, Italy as part of a large allied fleet bound for the invasion of Southern France. The 494 was now assigned to the VIII Amphibious Force and during the initial assault on August 15, 1945 landed troops from the 45th Infantry Division (The “Thunderbird” Division”) on Blue Beach, Delta Area.  The 45th Division was made up of seasoned veterans of the Sicily, Anzio and Salerno campaigns in Italy. During the landing 2 rounds fired from a large German coastal defense gun fell within 50 yards of LST 494 but fortunately missed their mark.  
LST 494 made a total of 15 landings/shuttle trips in support of the Southern France invasion.  She carried a total of 3,318 soldiers and 717 tanks, trucks and other vehicles.  Allied soldiers carried were American, Free French and French Moroccan Goums “Gourmiers” and “Senegalese fighters.”   200 mules that belonged to the “Gourmiers” were also transported to France.  A number of live chickens that belonged to these fighters were attached to the saddles of the mules by string.  The “Gourmiers” were one of the most fearsome warriors of WW II.  They came from the Atlas Mountains of French Morocco and were members of the Berber Tribes.  
On a brighter note, LST 494 also carried a contingent of French nurses on September 9, 1944 from Ille Rousse, Corsica to St. Raphael, France as well as 16 American Army nurses on September 12, 1944 from Calvi, Corsica to St. Raphael, France.  The French and American nurses were a welcomed change of scenery for the men of LST 494.
On September 27th en route from Corsica to Sardinia, LST 494 sighted its 2nd mine in several days.  This mine was to the port side and was far too close for comfort.
On September 30th, LST 494 left Cagliari, Sardinia in convoy with 5 other LSTs en route to Marseilles, France. The 494 carried 166 troops and 50 vehicles. On October 2nd the convoy encountered a vicious Mediterranean storm with high velocity winds, 40 foot waves and 75 foot sprays. After experiencing a small crack on the starboard bulkhead of the tank deck, Captain Noyes asked the convoy commodore for permission to turn the ship around and ride out the storm but permission was denied.  Nevertheless, Captain Noyes ordered the 494 to turn about so as to ride out the storm.  His action saved the 494 from grave danger and peril.  His courageous decision further endeared him to his crew.  LSTs that followed the commodore`s orders and failed to turn about were severely damaged and almost sunk.  One LST lost both bow doors.  They were unable to continue on and had to return to Cagliari for repairs.  As the 494 drew close to the commodore`s LST, Noyes saw the commodore`s signal light began to blink out a message to the 494: “Operate independently. Proceed to destination. Good luck!”  Captain Noyes thought to himself: “Well, I`ll be damned.”  LST 494 continued on to Marseilles.  Captain Noyes was never disciplined for failing to obey the commodore`s orders.  
 36 sailors were killed in action during the Southern France campaign and 8 died later from their wounds.
 
During the Southern France campaign 1 LST was sunk due to enemy action:
USS LST 282 - August 15 - Sunk by German glider bomb off       St. Tropez
 
LST 494 TOTALS FOR BOTH CAMPAIGNS
 
During the Normandy and Southern France campaigns, LST 494 made 23 landings/shuttle trips.  She transported 4,738 allied soldiers, airman and nurses (American, British, Canadian, Free French and French Moroccan); a number of wounded servicemen from the battlefront back to England for treatment; 1,294 tanks, jeeps, trucks and other vehicles; hundreds of tons of other supplies and equipment; 200 mules and an undetermined number of chickens.
 
PACIFIC THEATER
 
LST 494 returned to the U.S. in December 1944 and was readied for service in the Pacific Theater.  She saw action in June 1945 during the latter stages of the assault and occupation of Okinawa under the command of Lt. Frank Van Deren Coke. Having been modified to serve as a small mine craft tender, she survived kamikaze attacks and one of the worst typhoons in Pacific history. She served with the occupation forces in Japan once the war ended and saw service in China in 1946. The exploits of LST 494 in the Pacific will be told in more detail another day.
 
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
 
LST 494 certainly packed a lot of experiences into her relatively short 30 month life in the service of her country.  She served faithfully in two theaters of war and sailed over 40,000 miles while crossing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Irish, Mediterranean, Tyrrhenian and East China Seas.  To the men who manned her she was known as the “lucky ship.”  During 3 campaigns she survived German artillery rounds fired at her, German bombs dropped on her, flying buzz-bombs, floating mines, kamikazes at Okinawa, a ferocious storm in the Mediterranean, one of the most powerful typhoons in Pacific history, the freezing temperatures and ice of the North Atlantic as well as the hellish heat of the Pacific.  LST 494 was decommissioned on June 29, 1946.  She was sold to Bosey, Philippines in 1948 and was thought to have been scrapped. At wars end, all of the 200 or so men who served on her survived and returned home to begin their lives again. God indeed smiled on the 494. The men who served on her, their families and friends are forever grateful to God for the blessings He bestowed upon LST 494 and her crew.  The late John Heyl, a beloved LST 494 sailor probably described best how he and his shipmates felt about their service aboard her when he wrote: “We wouldn`t have missed it for anything, but we wouldn`t want to do it again!”
 
ACKNOWLEDGMENT AND SPECIAL THANKS
 
This history is based on my study of: LST 494`s deck log; diary entries made by Ellis Duke and William Hartman; “Journal of the 3rd Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division”; Samuel Eliot Morison`s Volume XI of his "History of U.S. Naval Operations in World War II"; written account of the Normandy landing by LCVP coxswain Donald Beach (and interviews); “From Europe To Japan on LST 494” by Chief Yeoman John Heyl; “The Storm” by Captain Irving “Chet” Noyes, oral interview of Colonel James B. Carvey, U.S.A. (Ret.) and a number of  LST sailors including my Dad, Joseph M. Guarino, who was LST 494`s gunnery officer.  A special thanks is due LST 494 sailor Howard Buhl who has compiled a number of historical records on the 494 and has written a comprehensive history of LST 494.  Howard has been kind enough to share his material and writings with me in recent years. I hope all who read this gain a new insight into the life of the 494 and the men who served on her.
     
February 2006
 
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