WWII shipmates donate flag during 'final' reunion in Le Mars

Friday, June 27, 2008
On behalf of the men of the "L.C.S. '92," John Hart of Le Mars (left) and Edwin "Ned" Wright of Manahawkin, N.J., present the flag which flew over their ship during World War II to the Betty Strong Encounter Center in Sioux City. The flag will be part of a WW II veterans exhibition set to open in late October.

They served on the "Mighty Midgets" during World War II, landing craft deployed in the Pacific in support of the troops.

The men of the "L.C.S. 92", United States Ship Landing Craft Support (Large) (Mark 3) 92 held their last "formal" reunion in Le Mars June 12-14, hosted by John and Gwen Hart.

John Hart was one of the 65 men and seven officers who served on the ship. For the last 20 years, the group has held reunions around the country, and now only 11 shipmates remain that have been "regulars" at the recent reunions.

This year, only one shipmate, Edwin "Ned" Wright and his wife, Maureen, of Manhawkin, N.J., was able to attend. Cary and Candy Taylor of Clinton, N.C., came to represent Cary's father, C.B. Taylor, Jr., who was unable to attend. The Taylors hosted the reunion of the "92" in Clinton, N.C. in April 2007. Circumstances of health and family commitments caused several other shipmates to cancel their reservations for the reunion.

At the past reunions, the flag which flew over the ship during their time of service would be brought out and passed on to the next reunion host. According to Hart, shipmate John Lipinski took possession of the flag when the ship returned to San Franciso on April 1, 1946. The New York native had the flag packed away for many years, until bringing it to a reunion nearly 20 years ago.

As part of their reunion activities, Hart and Wright presented the tattered flag to the Betty Strong Encounter Center in Sioux City, where it will be a part of an upcoming World War II veterans' exhibition later this year. "Now it's found a home," Hart said.

"Prior to the reunion, John and I contacted the remaining shipmates to see if they would approve of the ship's flag being donated to the Encounter Center," said Gwen Hart. "The men responded with a 'yes' and were delighted that the flag would have a home."

Accepting the flag on behalf of the center were Marcia Poole, director of the center, and Mark Monson, president of the Missouri River Historical Development.

"It is a honor for the Betty Strong Encounter center to accept this beautiful symbol of our freedom that so many people fought for, and have given their lives for," Poole said in accepting the gift. "We are a nation of many people with many different ways, but we all have one flag. Perhaps more than anything, our flag stands for our freedom to live as individuals -- to grow in respect for one another and our different ways."

She indicated the flag would be sent to a restorationist before being put on display.

On the first day of the reunion, the group toured the Plymouth County Historical Museum in Le Mars. There Wright donated a Japanese infantry rifle to the museum. He got the artifact from a stockpile of captured weapons in Ieshima, off the coast of Okinawa, in 1945.

The group met Thursday evening at the American Legion Club in Le Mars, with members of Wasmer Post #241. There Le Mars Mayor Dick Kirchoff presented each person with a Le Mars Ice Cream Capital pin, with each shipmate receiving a Legion Pin from Wasmer Post. Snacks and hors d'ourves were provided by several Legion members.

The group also took in several Ice Cream Days activities while in Le Mars, and enjoyed a picnic supper at the Hart's country home.

The reunions have given the shipmates opportunities to reminisce with each other and share the stories with their families of their wartime duties.

The U.S.S. L.C.S. (L) (3) 92 was built by the Commercial Iron Works of Portland, Ore., Her keel was laid on Nov. 30, 1944, launched Dec. 22, 1944, and placed in commission Jan. 8, 1945, at Seattle, Wash.

The L.C.S. (L)s are a landing craft, built with a flat bottom and can be run ashore. However, unlike most other landing craft, these boats were designed to fight rather than to carry troops or materials into the enemy beaches. Instead of troop compartments and cargo space, the space was crammed with rockets, AA guns, and high pressure pumps for fighting fires.

There were 130 ships like the "92" that saw duty in the Pacific Theatre. They fought battles close to shore, providing critical close in gunfire support for the Marines, as they went ashore in amphibious landings, while defending themselves against Kamikaze attacks, suicide swimmers and suicide boats.

These ships carried more fire power per ton than any other ship built for the U.S. Navy, but also performed other important functions such as fire fighting, damage control, salvage work, smog generation, towing, retrieving survivors from the water and providing medical care for survivors.

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