More properly speaking, what was an APA? APA was the Navy's designation for an attack transport. "APA" stood for Auxiliary Personnel, Attack. These were the ships that carried troops into battle with the use of separate landing craft. APAs were used in the D-Day invasion of Normandy and in every landing in the Pacific war's island-hopping campaign. Some of these ships later served in Korea and in Vietnam.
USS Elmore (APA-42) underway (date and location unknown). Her camouflage is Measure 32 Design 16D.
USS DuPage (APA-41), a Bayfield class attack transport and sister ship to Elmore, underway (date and location unknown).
Army troops climbing down a rope ladder into a Higgins boat in preparation for an invasion landing. Rope provided the advantage of flexibility in storing rope nets and, more importantly, the much higher throughput the wide net allowed versus a bunch of steel ladders. Steel is heavier, more rigid, hotter or colder to the touch, harder to hold on to, harder to store, more difficult to repair and replace and will tend to rock with the ship that it is attached to rather than hanging vertically, and could easily damage the landing craft the soldiers are descending to. Sometimes, low-tech solutions work best.
The Attack transport was a United States Navy ship classification for a variant of ocean-going troopship adapted to transporting invasion forces ashore. Unlike standard troopships – often drafted from the merchant fleet – that rely on either a quay or tenders, attack transports carried their own fleet of landing craft.
They are not to be confused with landing ships, which beach themselves to bring their troops directly ashore, or their general British equivalent, the Landing Ship, Infantry (LSI).
A total of 388 APA (troop) and AKA (cargo) attack transports were built for service in World War II in at least fifteen classes. Depending on class they were armed with one or two 5-inch guns and a variety of 40 mm and 20 mm anti-aircraft weapons.
By the late 1960s, 41 of these ships were redesignated as "Amphibious Transports", with the hull code "(LPA)", and another 13 ships were redesignated as "Amphibious Transport, Small" with hull code "(LPR)", but they all retained their names and hull numbers.
"In the early 1940s, as the United States Navy expanded in response to the threat of involvement in World War II, a number of civilian passenger ships and some freighters were acquired, converted to transports and given hull numbers in the AP series. Some of these were outfitted with heavy boat davits and other arrangements to enable them to handle landing craft for amphibious assault operations.
In 1942, when the AP number series had already extended beyond 100, it was decided that these amphibious warfare ships really constituted a separate category of warship from conventional transports. Therefore, the new classification of attack transport (APA) was created and numbers assigned to fifty-eight APs (AP #s 2, 8-12, 14-18, 25-27, 30, 34-35, 37-40, 48-52, 55-60, 64-65 and 78-101) then in commission or under construction.
The actual reclassification of these ships was not implemented until February 1943, by which time two ships that had APA numbers assigned (USS Joseph Hewes and USS Edward Rutledge) had been lost. Another two transports sunk in 1942, USS George F. Elliott and USS Leedstown, were also configured as attack transports but did not survive to be reclassified as such.
As World War II went on, dozens of new construction merchant ships of the United States Maritime Commission's S4, C2, C3 and VC2 ("Victory") types were converted to attack transports, taking the list of APA numbers to 247, though fourteen ships (APAs 181-186 and APAs 240-247) were cancelled before completion. In addition, as part of the 1950s modernization of the Navy's amphibious force with faster ships, two more attack transports (APA-248 and APA-249) were converted from new Mariner-class freighters.
Mission of an Attack Transport
The mission of an Attack Transport was to combat-load assigned troops and their equipment, to transport them in landing craft and landing boats on enemy beaches in accordance with established doctrine and the tactical plan of the Landing Force Commander. It was then the transport’s duty to evacuate troops, causalities and prisoners of war, as directed, and to provide medical care for the wounded.
It was also the mission of the Attack Transport to provide and train the beach liaison party for a Battalion Landing Team; to provide boats and to train the boat crews for execution of the ship-to-shore movement and, finally, to train troops in the technique of amphibious landing attack operations.
By the end of the 1950s, it was clear that boats would soon be superseded by amphibious tractors (LVTs) and air assault helicopters for landing combat assault troops. These could not be supported by attack transports in the numbers required, and new categories of amphibious ships began to replace APAs throughout the 1960s. By 1969, when the surviving attack transports were redesignated as "amphibious transports" (LPA) (retaining their previous numbers), only a few remained in commissioned service. The last of these were decommissioned in 1980 and sold abroad, leaving only a few thoroughly obsolete World War II era hulls still laid up in the Maritime Administration's reserve fleet. The APA/LPA designation may, therefore, now be safely considered extinct.
Attack Cargo Ships (APA/LPAs) were nearly identical to Attack Transports (APAs) but were used to transport cargo instead of troops and landing craft.
Amphibious Cargo Ship USS Rankin (AKA-103 / LKA-103)
Amphibious cargo ships were U.S. Navy ships designed specifically to carry troops, heavy equipment and supplies in support of amphibious assaults, and to provide naval gunfire support during those assaults. A total of 108 of these ships were built between 1943 and 1945—which worked out to an average of one ship every eight days. Six additional AKAs, featuring new and improved designs, were built in later years.They were originally called Attack Cargo Ships and designated AKA. In 1969, they were renamed as Amphibious Cargo Ships and redesignated LKA.
Compared to other cargo ship types, these ships could carry landing craft, were faster, had more armament, and had larger hatches and booms. Their holds were optimized for combat loading, a method of cargo storage where the items first needed ashore were at the top of the hold, and those needed later were lower down. Because these ships went into forward combat areas, they had Combat Information Centers and significant amounts of equipment for radio communication, neither of which were present in other cargo ships.
As amphibious operations became more important in World War II, planners saw the need for a special kind of cargo ship, one that could carry both cargo and the LCM and LCVP boats with which to attack the beach, and that carried guns to assist in anti-air defense and shore bombardment. Specifications were drawn up, and beginning in early 1943, the first 16 U.S. attack cargo ships were converted from Navy cargo ships that had previously been designated AK. During the course of the war, 108 such ships were built; many of them were converted from non-military ships, or started out as non-military hulls.
USS Leo (AKA-60), an Andromeda-class attack cargo ship, picked up survivors on 1 April at Okinawa after a Japanese kamikaze crashed into USS Hinsdale (APA-120), killing 24 and wounding 21. Leo later towed Hinsdale to Ulithi for repairs.
Attack cargo ships played a vital role in the Pacific War, where many were attacked by kamikazes and other aircraft, and several were torpedoed, but none were sunk or otherwise destroyed. Nine AKAs were present at the surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay on 2 September 1945.
After the war, many AKAs were put into the National Defense Reserve Fleet. Others were converted for other uses, such as oceanographic surveying, undersea cable laying, and repairing other ships.
Some of the reserve ships were recommissioned for service in the Korean War, and some stayed in service during the Vietnam War.
Six more amphibious cargo ships, somewhat larger and of improved design, were built between 1954 and 1969.
In 1969, the U.S. Navy redesignated all its AKA attack cargo ships as LKA amphibious cargo ships. At the same time, the other "A" designations of amphibious ships were changed to similar "L" designations. For example, all the APAs were redesignated as LPAs.
In the 1960s, both the United States Navy and the British Royal Navy developed amphibious transport docks which gradually took on this unique amphibious role and today have assumed it completely. The last amphibious cargo ship in the U. S. Navy, USS El Paso (LKA-117), was decommissioned in April, 1994.
One of USS Rankin's cargo holds. The upper level is the main deck, with cargo-handling winches visible. The lower level is the floor onto which cargo is combat loaded. In between is the mess deck where the crew eats their meals.
See: List of AKA/LPAs
The steepness and narrowness of the LCI made it impractical for landing troops as part of an initial assault against a defended beach, and they were usually reserved for the follow-up waves, after the LCA or LCPL boats had landed.
A landing craft, infantry (LCI), no. 578, following one of the first waves of US Army troops on Morotai Island in the Moluccas.
The Landing Craft Infantry (LCI) were several classes of seagoing amphibious assault ships of the Second World War used to land large numbers of infantry directly onto beaches. They were developed in response to a British request for a vessel capable of carrying and landing substantially more troops than their smaller Landing Craft Assault (LCA). The result was a small steel ship that could land 200 troops, traveling from rear bases on its own bottom at a speed of up to 15 knots. Some 923 were built starting in 1943, serving in both the Pacific and European theaters, including a number that were converted into heavily armed beach assault support ships.
The LCI(L) was designed to carry 200 troops at up to 15 knots and be as capable at landing as the LCA. Since a steel hull would be needed, and steel was already earmarked for building destroyers at home, the U.S was approached. There the plans were developed into the LCI(L) - Landing Craft Infantry (Large). The original British design was envisioned as being a "one time use" vessel which would simply ferry the troops across the English Channel, and were considered an expendable vessel. As such, no troop sleeping accommodations were placed in the original design. The troops were provided benches (similar to a ferry) upon which to sit while they were transported across the channel. This was changed shortly after initial use of these ships, when it was discovered that many missions would require overnight accommodations. The US was able to come up with an easily built and mass-produced design by using non-traditional shipbuilding facilities and equipment. The US established LCI building yards at ten different locations.
All LCI(L) were twin shaft propelled by two banks of Detroit Diesel 6-71 "Quad" Diesel engines that produced a total of 1600 BHP. These engines were a wartime expedient design that utilized existing and readily available engines. Four 2-stroke Detroit Diesel 6-71 (inline 6 cylinder with 71 cubic inch displacement per cylinder) with Roots blower were coupled to create a bank for each of the two propeller shafts. The 4 engines per bank were joined together using individual drive clutches hence the name "Quad Diesel". If a single engine were to fail, the broken engine could be disconnected from the unit via its clutch and repaired while the other 3 engines were still operating. General Motors Corporation Electro-Motive Division supplied the reduction gears, propellers, drive shafts and control units. Each of the two propellers was a reversible pitch propeller, which allowed the propeller shaft to spin only in one direction for either ahead or astern operation. This, coupled with the use of a stern anchor which was dropped as the ship approached the beach, was used to pull the ship off the beach after the troops had disembarked. Two auxiliary Detroit Diesel 2-71's drive the two 30Kw 120V D.C. Ship's Service Generators.
LCI(L) were armed originally with four to five 20mm Oerlikon automatic cannons. Each gun was mounted inside of a round gun tub with an integral splinter shield. As the war progressed, several LCI(L) were modified into LCI Gunboats. These gunboats, called LCI(G) had three of their forward mounted 20mm Oerlikon cannons removed and replaced with heavier single barrel 40mm Bofors cannons. Also, several LCI(L) had various types of Rocket Launcher racks added in place of their side ramps and inside their well decks. These ships were sometimes designated as LCI(R) for Rocket Ships. Still other LCI(L) were modified to carry three 4.2 inch Heavy Mortars. These were designated as LCI(M).
Troops of the U.S. Eighth Army pour off Navy LCI's (Landing Craft Infantry) and wade ashore between San Narciso and San Antonio on the West Coast of Luzon on 29 January 1945.
There were 3 major types of LCI(L) which differed mostly by the location of the ramps and by the shape of the conning tower. All of these ships had similar hulls. The hull of all LCI(L) were 158 ft (48 m) long with a 23-foot beam, making them relatively long and narrow.
The 3 major LCI(L) types are normally referred to as: a) Square Conning tower, Side Ramp (the original style) b) Round Conn, Side Ramp c) Round Conn, Bow Ramp.
On LCI(L)1-349 class, (Square Conn, Side Ramps) the deck was wider than the prow and two gangways on either side of the bow led onto a pair of ramps that were lowered, and down which troops would disembark. The LCI 350 class had a single enclosed bow ramp with 2 bow doors that swung open. The reason for moving the ramp to the inside was to provide some protection for the troops as they disembarked to the beach, if only by concealing them from enemy sight. Also, the low, squared-off conning tower was upgraded on later models (LCI(L)350 and higher) with a taller, round conning tower which afforded slightly more visibility from the bridge.
The steepness and narrowness of either type of bow ramps made the LCI impractical for landing troops as part of an initial assault against a defended beach, and they were sometimes reserved for the follow-up waves, after the LCA or LCPL boats had landed. However, they were included in the first waves at numerous invasions such as Anzio, Normandy, Southern France, Elba, Saipan, the Philippines, Iwo Jima, Guam, and Okinawa.
Troops embarking on USS LCI(L)-196 from a DUKW. [The DUKW (colloquially known as 'Duck') was a six-wheel-drive amphibious modification of the 2½-ton CCKW trucks used by the U.S. military during World War II.]
See: Index of LCI(L)