LOSS OF TANK AND CREW AT ENIWETOK ATOLL
18 February 1944
The sixteen LCM(3)' carrying medium tanks proceeded to Line of Departure assembly area in preparatory to landing on ENGEBI Island in fourth and fifth waves. HOW hour was 0845. At 0900 the boat crew of LCM-6 had returned on board and stated that LCM-6 had flooded with water due to failure of boat ramp mechanism and that the tank had sunk about 500 yards from the beach. The boat capsized and the tank personnel were missing. At 1000 one man from the tank crew returned to the ship. All other boats and tanks landed on schedule without difficulty.
LCM-6 was towed alongside by LCI-441. The LCM was floating upside down, ramp cable's broken. The boat was hoisted on board and complete repair effected.
While enroute from line of departure to beach LCM No.l 6 flooded due to faulty ramp mechanism. The boat swamped and the medium tank sank in about sixty feet of water. Four members of tank crew, Second Separate Tank Co., 22nd Marine Regiment are missing, presumed to be drowned. The LCM was salvaged. At 1600 the landing craft were sent to beach to reembark all medium tanks.
The special incidents which are of interest are the loss of the medium tank during the assault landing on ENGEBI Island and the decision to transport the tanks for a distance of twenty five miles in LCM's rather than loading the boats into the ship.
As to the loss of the tank which sank when the LCM began to flood, it does not appear to have been caused by enemy shell fire hitting the boat. All boat coxswains were directed to lower the ramp as quickly as possible once the boat is on the beach. This is necessary to reduce the time that the boat may be under small arms fire, to permit the tank to proceed quickly onto the beach and to reduce the possibility of the boat broaching.
In this case, the port engine of LCM-6 had stopped running because of over-heating. The boat was proceeding on only the starboard engine. The coxswain, after leaving the Line of Departure and approaching the beach began to prepare the ramp for lowering. Apparently, the foot release mechanism was operated inadvertently during the excitement and the ramp opened three or four inches and the boat began to flood. Had the port engine been running the ramp could have been closed and no ill effect resulted.
At this time the tank crew had already manned the tank and secured the hatches inside. Every effort was made by the boat crew to warn the tank crew to get out of the tank but the hatches could not be opened from outside. As the boat continued to flood, it listed and capsized. One man escaped from the tank as it sank. Action has been taken to direct all LCM coxswains to keep all ramp holding devices in place until the boat first touches the beach and the tank crews should not lock the hatches until the boat is firmly beached.
C.L.C. ATKESON, COMMANDING OFFICER
Action Report, ENIWETOK Atoll, Marshall Islands, 17 Feb. to 23 Feb. 1944