History of the LSM 309

This LSM was commissioned on 22 January 1945 at the Amphibious Training Base, Little Creek, Virginia, with Lieutenant (JG) James Ward Gilmore, USNR, commanding. The executive officer was Ensign James. E. Reagan, USN; gunnery and communications officer - Lieut. (JG) James L. Smalling, USNR, and the engineering officer was Ensign Joseph Simons, USNR.

 Information extracted from DECK LOG REMARKS SHEET Monday 22 January , 1945

During training the ship was named a part of the Atlantic Fleet, Group 32, Flotilla 11. In June the ship was taken through the Panama Canal to San Diego where it was reassigned to the U.S. Pacific Fleet and given identification number X4309. 8 August 1946 the LSM309 was decommissioned and mothballed among hundreds of other ships in Mobile Bay, Alabama. The most accurate history can be found here.

The ship did not get into any combat, but did have some interesting adventures. Documents declassified recently show that, had the war continued, the '309 would have been among the vessels in the forefront of the invasion of Japan. The "X" in the ship's number indicated that it was considered "expendable".


Stories from Belowdecks

Pop dictated this story March 2002
The whole crew was assigned to Charleston, SC. We were in a bunch of sailors that were assigned to operate teaching ships, to teach other crews. We did that for almost a month & one day while going down the east coast a German sub stuck its nose up and there were two guys standing beside a 4 inch gun. The first thing I heard was "FULL SPEED AHEAD!!" Being a throttle man, I got it first.

Ed note: There were two throttle men, one to control the speed of each of the two huge engines. Ship's speed was altered according to voice commands from the bridge.

We ran that way for half an hour. The captain called down and asked, "How long can we go this fast?" I told him, "Just as long as you want to." When we got back to Little Creek he was right down in the engine room. He wanted to know how we did that because it was in the specs that you can't run that fast that far with an LSM.

I told him, "Maybe I shouldn't tell you what we changed because it's against regulations." He said, "No. I want to know because we're going to turn this in to the office and we might get you a commendation for it."

So I told him. We had taken a tank that had new fuel in it and repiped it with the tank that held centrifuged fuel. That gave us way more than twice as much clean fuel as we had to start with. He immediately understood what I meant, not what I said. "Well," he said, "we'll see what they do." I expected to get next to a court martial because I didn't have permission when I changed the pipes, but that was the only thing that kept us from going fast.

Oh yes! He also said, "You may have saved the ship."

I thought, well, it won't hurt to turn it in then. That's the last I ever heard of it, but other sailors told me they were doing all the ships that way now. So I quit worrying.

I think I'm the only person the Captain would stop and talk to. A little example: every time I had time off and went out and sat on the deck, the Captain would come and sit down and talk to me. The engineering officer wouldn't do that. He was just out of college and when we got the ship, he gave me his speech. He said, ""Whenever anything happens down there in the engine room, be sure to call me because I really don't know what's going on." He was a young man who just got out of college and he had to learn the ship.

Well, on the way through the Panama Canal, the one sylphon valve blew up. That's the valve that controls the heat of the engine. I told him what happened. He was worried. "O my! We'll have to run on one engine now!" I said, "No you don't. You get me a seaman down here and I'll fix that so you can run it. When the temp goes above 160 degrees," I told the sailor, "you raise up on that thing a little bit. Try to keep it as near 160 degrees as you can. When we got to San Diego, we ordered a new sylphon operator and got that repaired before we left there. 


Stories from Topside

Currently we don't have permission to print the topside stories that have been shared, but watch this space. I'm pestering these guys because their memories are really interesting and ought to be shared.

We are happy to accept and include personal experiences told by sailors from other LSMs if they haven't already been published on another web site. Please keep in mind if you share with us, this is a family web site. LOL

Pop and his buddies

Information for this site comes from the ship's deck log and nearly 300 letters written by Alvy M. Hazen, MoMM1c, better known during his service on the ship as "Pop". To the left above is a detail from the official Navy photo of the ship's company (above) taken on the day the ship was commissioned. Left to right are 3 shipboard buddies from engineering, "Sparky", "Pop", and Sorenson. Sparky was 18 in this picture; Pop was 32. LSMs had two huge engines and required a throttle man to operate each. Pop was the starboard throttle man and Ray Ault was the port throttle man for 309. Sparky and Sorenson were electricians who helped maintain the 220 volt electrical system for the ship. Along with providing all the power for ship's operations, the system also ran a 2500 gal / min electric pump in the bilges.

The picture of Pop and his buddies was the pic of the week on the Oklahoma Sandscrapers' web site the week of May 14, 2000. The O.S. website was the internet headquarters of the national LSM/LSMR association and a goldmine of information on the histories of these workhorse ships. Unfortunately it appears the site has disappeared from the web.

On this web site, engineering gets top billing. However we do have a pretty good picture of the officers who were aboard at the commissioning. They are (left to right): Captain Gilmore, Navigator Smalling, Engineering Officer Simons, and an unknown officer who left the ship before she went to sea. "Pop" remembers that Captain Gilmore was already a war hero before he took command of the LSM 309, having previously had a destroyer shot out from under him in the Pacific.  Engineering Officer Simons was just out of college and only 21 years old. This was his first seagoing assignment.

Charleston, S.C., Jan 22 (1945)  Miss Bertha M. Lunsford, of 71 Society Street, Charleston, is shown presenting a bouquet of flowers to Mrs. Wilmer A. Ankerson, sponsor of the LSM 309, in behalf of yard workers.  Mrs. Ankerson is the wife of Chief Quartermaster Shipwright employed in the Charleston Navy Yard.  Looking on at the left is Rear Admiral Jules James, ISN, Commandant of the Charelston Navy Yard and the Sixth Naval District, who presided over the ceremonies.  At the right is Mrs. Ankerson's matron of honor Mrs. Edwin S. Kain of 405 Boulevard Street, North Charleston.
File No. 1998-5.

Thanks to Ray and Jeanie Gilmore for this picture and caption.

LSM 309 Mail Call

26 December 2001
Hi - I was surfing the web using the Google search engine and found this site. I was pleased to see the recognition of my father, James Ward Gilmore, in the service of his country. I do remember the fascination my father instilled in my brother and I when he told us about the typhoon of October 1945. I can still imagine those towering seas breaking at bridge deck. Of course he had many sea-stories to tell, from Sicily to Korea.

He retired in 1976 as a Commander, USNR. He passed away in March of 1983, one month shy of his 68th birthday. Just this past Christmas eve, our families (the Gilmores and Andersons) got together and toasted the "old man." It was great fun.

Thanks for the website.

Ray Gilmore

13 August 2001
Well, HERE'S a mystery solved! I'll pass this on to Pop. He'll enjoy reading it. Would it be OK to post your locker story on the web site? The statute of limitations has long run out on it.  :)  : wM

(Permission was kindly granted by "The Lone Sailor".)
Every once in a while I think of something that may be of interest to you in your collection of LSM 309 info. Ensign Reagan, the executive officer was also navigation officer. He was regular navy and was a quartermaster.  I believe he was a chief. Several  times he saved my neck in the navigational goofs I committed as a  green QM.  He was a great officer as were all our officers.

One time the Captain had reason to believe that some of the guys had smuggled liquor on board the 309.  He ordered an inspection of all personal lockers.  I don't remember who conducted the inspection, the exec. or the captain.  At that time I didn't drink. Whoever was doing the inspection knew that I didn't drink so during the inspection he skipped over my locker.  It wasn't until after the inspection was over and several shipmates laughingly hurried to my locker that I realized where they had hidden their liquor.  Of course I was mad as hell but on looking back on it the next day I thought it was pretty funny too since there was no real harm done.


We thank Jim Conway who was the lead Quartermaster 2c on LSM309 for this ship's itinerary which he kept on a couple of pages of his "little black notebook" throughout his tour on the 309.



Typhooon Louise: Monday 8 October, 1945

From Ben Casler, 83 yrs. old, who was a Motor Mech and throttle man on the USS Price, a destroyer excort commanded by Captain Walker during WWII. This ship later became Training Ship DE332.

Earlier in the war the Price was in the Mediterranean where Ben remembers that just at moonrise German planes would fly low over the water as right then the light would be such that they were able to see the ships in the ocean and drop torpedoes to deadly effect. That's how the Price lost her sister ship, the Holden. After VE Day, the Price was reassigned to the Pacific Theater and was in the vicinity of Okinawa when warning came of Hurricane Louise. The Price was in a flotilla of 18 ships ordered to leave Buckner Bay for the open ocean to ride out the storm. Of those, 15 were lost. He recalls that the Price was rated to withstand forty-five degree rolls, but that during the storm, it survived two sixty degreen rolls. The sailors literally walked on the walls of the ship as it lay on its side in the water. He says he will never forget the sight of blue water twenty feet above his head and feels lucky to have survived.

From Don Childers who was F1c on the '307, his account of his experience that dark and stormy night when his ship was blowing around the Pacific, keeping contact only by radio with her sister ship, LSM309.

By the middle of the afternoon we were backing down both screws 1/3 to ease the pressure on the stern anchor cable. This seemed to be working as it was holding firm.

A barge that was adrift hit us in the stern and broke the cable. This put us adrift also. The first reef we hit, we thought was the beach. Dropped the bow anchor to hold there. It did not hold and we were adrift again. The next reef we hit already had a barge on it. We were ordered to prepare to abandon ship.

The waves were banging us against the barge and someone shouted "get everyone on the barge".
Several men jumped at made it. John Hayes, a man we called "Shorty" made it far enough to grab the rail of the barge. He was hanging down with his waist at the impact point of the two vessels. A man we called Frenchie grabbed Shorty by the shoulders from above and lifted him straight up just as the ships came together again. (Seven men mde it over).

The Captain then ordered me to go below decks and inspect for damage. As I stood there in shock a shipmate said, "Com on. I'll go with you."

The first area we entered was the forward crew's quarters. A small geyser of fuel oil was squirting against a pipe about 1 inch off the floor. I wedged someone's shoe under the pipe to stop most of it. Further inspection found no major leaks so we reported to the skipper. In the meantime we were washed off or over the reef so went back to stations, fired up the mains, and were underway somewhere.

At one point I climbed out of the rear hatch through the machine shop to take a look topside. The first thing I saw was a wave that towered over me above the ship. As the wave slid under I was looking down below the bottom of the ship in the valley of water. This was frightening until I noticed a floating piece of seaweed rising and falling but still afloat. Figured I could do that too. Returned to duty below decks.

Pumping in ballast to level the ship and pumping out again to free from reefs. Seymour Adoff was busy putting portable pumps in the bilge to keep up with the leaks. When we got our bearings the following day and returned to Okinawa it was with one engine turning slowly as one prop was now a nubbin and the other one had one blade badly bent causing the ship already listing to the starboard to rise and fall slightly at the stern with each revolution of the prop.

Where we were the storm was estimated at over one hundred mile winds and waves of forty-nine to fifty feet.

We picked up the crew members who had escaped from another ship. "All of them safe and unharmed."

Dry dock welded up the leaks and we sailed the ship home.towing an LCI who had lost both main engines several miles out of San Fran.

Some of the (307's) main frames had a decided bend to them so the ship was scrapped (I think).

This rendition is typed 56 years after the fact, but this is the way I remember it.

James Don Childers, F1C

Addendum: 15 Nov 2002
I received a call from Mississippi yesterday. A granddaughter of John Hayes 
read my letter about the typhoon and said that her grandpa had told her the 
same story. He was the man who went through the ship with me.
It would be nice if you could edit his name into the letter.
That was a pleasant surprise.
Sorry he passed away 6 years ago.
Thank you 

Credit duly given to that brave fellow, Don. Thank you for this grand story.

From the Deck Log of USS LSM 309 Monday 8 October, 1945

1420 Made all preparations to get underway for KUTCHIN WAN for protection against possible storm. 1435 Underway. for KUTCHIN WAN. 1447 Moored starboard side to LSM 227 to receive NATHAN, SPENCER, CAPT. M.C. 1500 Underway from LSM 227. 1512 Anchored in Berth Baker 202, KUTCHIN WAN, BUCKNER BAY in 50 feet of water with 450 feet of cable to stern anchor on the following bearings: Beacon "H" 040(t); Beacon "C" 1 14(t); Red Nun Buoy 231(t).
USS LSM 309 Tuesday 9 October, 1945
(X)0-0400 Anchored in berth B-202, KUTCHIN WAN, OKINAWA in 50 feet of water, sand and coral bottom, with 450 feet of cable to stern anchor. Anchored on following bearings: SIGNAL
power 330(t); CHANNEL BUOY 236(t); PIER LIGHT 0?36(t); in company with various ships of
the U.S. FLEET AND ALLIED MERCHANT men. (X)20 Raised ramp, closed both doors, ships ready to execute typhoon plan, X-ray. -315 Winds increasing in velocity. Set condition III watch, stern anchor manned. Let out cable to stern anchor to 650 feet.
0400-0800 Anchored as before. Condition III ??watch in effect. 06(X) Wind velocity increasing to 45 knots.
1000-1200 Anchored as before. Condition III watch in effect, in readiness for typhoon, wind velocity about 50 knots. 0800 crews and passengers mustered at quarters. No absentees. Made daily inspection of magazines and powder samples, conditions normal. 1155 Main engines started to ease strain on anchor cable.
1200-1600 Anchored as before. Condition III in effect, main engines lit off, using engines to ease strain on stern anchor cable. 1215 Increased wind velocity, 55 knots, visibility' 1000 yards. Wind increasing.easing steadily, gusts up to 91-100 knots. Visibility zero, due to spray.
1600-210O Anchored as before. Condition III watch in effect. Using main engines to ease stress on stern anchor cable. 1910 SC 1306 collided with our stern, starboard comer. No damage to our ship or anchor cable. Commanding officer of SC 1306 abandoned his ship because of his damage. 21 men and 4 officers climbed aboard and mustered all present.
2000-2400 Anchored as before. 0000-held muster on crew of SC 1306, 11 men present and accounted for. (names listed in log) '300 typhoon subsiding, wind velocity decreased to 35 to 40 knots.
USS LSM 309 Wednesday 10 October, 1945
1016 received\. YTB 257 alongside to port, transferred all officers and men of SC 1306 0735 Underway on various courses and speeds for salvage operations.
1435 Underway wilh captain at the conn on various courses and speeds to clear entrance to BUCKNER BAY to search for survivors.

USS LSM 309 Thursday 11 October
0814 U.S.S. 307 moored alongside port side to. 1000 U.S.S. 307 cast off port side. (See U.S.S.
307 reference in letter.)

Letter from Al Hazen to his wife Helen and 2 daughters in Mifflin, Ashland County, Ohio, USA.

No mail yet, but a little news which I bettor tell you before you read it in the papers and start worrying. First of all, I'm OK except for being a little sleepy

Yesterday and last night we were in a hurricane and I mean in it. The wind reached one hundred miles an hour and it was really dark last night except for the lights on a couple hundred ships here in the harbor.

There are at least twenty ships of all kinds Iaying on reefs and on the shore of the harbor, some with masts gone and a lot with one or both anchors gone.

The LSM 307 was blown out to sea about 150 miles alter hitting 3 reefs and doing a lot of damage.
They have been in contact by radio all night and didn't even know where they were. They have now found out where and are headed back in.

At least 5 or 6 LSMs are blown up on reefs or the shore. One old destroyer that was converted for a minesweep is on a reef near us and the crew was  taken off this morning.
About 3:30 last night a sub chaser lost her anchor and crashed into our stern caving their engine room in. In less than 30 seconds the whole crew of 25 was on our ship. The sub chaser drifted away and this morning it was washed up on shore about a mile away along with 3 other ships and 3 planes. A tug came alongside of us and took the crew over to the beach. One of them got his arm hurt, possibly broken, but otherwise no one was hurt. We gave them dry clothes and something to eat plus a shot of whiskey. P.S. I am now missing two pairs of shoes. I don't mind though as I might need the same sometime myself.

One of the ships lost a man overboard ?.he is not yet accounted for and several radioed from sea that they were sinking so we really don't know what all did happen as yet. One thing we were lucky enough to keep out of danger and able to save the crew of the Sub Chaser 1306.

The wind was so strong we had the anchor out, and both engines pushing us against the wind from noon yesterday to midnight last night. Now we are standing by to do rescue work in case it is necessary. The storm was headed for Japan, so imagine it is hitting there now.

Content last updated 21 August 2005. Links updated 8 November 2008.

This web site was created and is maintained as a contribution to U.S. WWII Naval History by Pop's daughter, Marji, also known as "Granny Emm". Pop moved to a nursing home in March of 2005 and passed away there later that year. We still hear occasionally from other men from the LSM309 or their descendants. For additional information on this and other LSMs and LSM-Rs, see the USN's Naval History site for both information and additional links. Three years before he passed away, the Ashland County Historical Society made a video of Pop telling his WWII memories for their Veterans' History Project