While working at the Knowlton Cemetery in Ashford, we met a wonderful man who lives nearby.
Mr. William Karosi was walking his dog when he introduced himself and we started talking about history, and aircraft. He told us of the day when a P-47 Thunderbolt crashed right into the very woods we were at. He said we won’t find much, if anything, about it in the history books, but he was here and watched it happen. As we talked, the conversation evolved into our new friend telling us about his time in the U.S. Navy, during WWII, aboard the USS LSM-79, an LSM-1 Class Landing Ship Medium.
He spoke of the days at sea, the sights and sounds of what it was like to be the first in and last out for the invasion of Okinawa. He shared his photos of the time aboard the landing craft. He even had some pictures of himself as a young navy seaman. It was great to see him as a young man. Mr. Karosi is a wealth of knowledge and history, and quite the photographer, which we found out as he shared his photos from around the country. We don’t get the honor of meeting people very often who have served this country in the way that Mr. Karosi has, and we are honored that he is willing to share those memories, his pictures, and most of all his time with us.
My name is William Karosi and this is my story about a young man that signed up for War in the Navy Division. I would like to tell my story, which turned out to be quite the adventure; at the time I had no idea what I was really in for. This is only some highlights of my years in the Navy but they were very significant to me and I am sure the rest of the world, so I would like to share this with anyone that has an interest in a decade that would be unforgettable in many ways.
My story begins after many months of training in school to travel to Houston Texas at Brown shipyard to pick up our ship that would be our vessel for a long time to come. We started off having guns installed on our ship and then we went on a cruise but not the kind we think of today. It was what we called the shakedown cruise to the Caribbean then to Panama Canal and then San Diego and up the coast of California to San Francisco, this was a practice of sorts to get to know our ship like how it handled and the general feel of this enormous ship . We were then off to Pearl Harbor; when we arrived at Pearl Harbor Naval Base we picked up 52 Marines, trucks, gas , ammo, food, radar gear, we then picked up weather instruments in Hawaii. In Hawaii we had to practice for what we were assigned to do for weeks on end which was to drop off our supplies and reload, this went on for a long time. We were trying to acquire speed and accuracy with our supplies so that when the time came we would be in complete control of our duties. This act was repartition but imperative to be efficient and fast so there would be no confusion when we were up against the enemy. When I was in Hawaii I met my brother Ernie that was on another ship the LSM 357 as a Radio Man. We were always not too far from each other; it was like he was following behind me the whole trip. After Hawaii we went to Guam and the Marianas Trench, which is the deepest part of the Sea in the whole World, there we repeated the act of unloading and loading the supplies again. It was at this point our Superiors told us that we were an expendable Ship, meaning that after our supplies were unloaded on the islands we were no longer needed, so it was “a suicide mission” for us according to the Military personnel. None of us knew this until we left Guam; even after we knew, we all kept our heads high and our attitudes in check because we still had a job to do, and we knew we could do it as long as we all stuck together. It wasn’t easy to know that we were on a suicide mission, but even with that news we were still determined to do what we needed to do for our Country.
We departed for Lete another island in the Philippines. My main jobs were main portside engine; my title was MOMM/3c which meant Motor Machinist Mate 3rd Class. During General Quarters; which mean that we are being attacked I was also assigned to be a 2nd on our single 40mm guns.
On March 25th 1945 we were the first US Ship to land on Japanese soil; we were on the island of Zamani Shima 6 days before D Day. At this point we unloaded the 52 Marines and the radar gear. We stayed around the island until April 1st 1945. It was a few days into the invasion we were anchored off the island when a Japanese kamikaze was flying straight for us at the bow of the ship. We were at General Quarters when that happened and we aimed at the plane with our guns and hit the kamikaze. It flipped into the stern of the LST 599, the engine of the plane went all the way to the bow doors. The 50 gallon high octane gas on the fan tail was in danger of exploding. The crew quickly began pushing the drums of fuel over the side; we tried to assist them, but were told to back off because of the possibility of explosion. What fire there was from the plane we extinguished quickly.
From there we went to IE Shima to unload ammo, it was there that a news paper reported that Ernie Pyle was shot by a sniper and died. They laid his body next to Marines that had died, lining up the dead with white sheets covering their bodies. Only 5 of the original 52 marines survived from this Banzai attack by the Japanese. Most of our fighting on the LSM was with the Kamikaze planes; with us shooting down a total of three.
On September 18th 1945 we were anchored in Buckner Bay when the first Typhoon came in. We somehow tangled anchors with a large transport ship; we lost our anchor and rammed into another ship putting 5 holes into the Starboard side, then landed sideways onto the beach at Baton Ko bay. Every time the 30 foot waves hit our ship we rolled sideways, this continued to roll us sideways all night long burring us deeper into the sand. We had to wait for the full moon; which is when the water is at its highest tide, for the bulldozer to dig a channel to the sea and have a LST ship tow us into the sea. We had a total of 5 Typhoons; each one battered the ship sometimes pushing us into a coral reef that grounded us for a week, the 3rd Typhoon waves pushed us out to sea where waves pounded our ship for hours. There were 2 more Typhoons when we were out to sea so only rough waters, but not like the other 3 Typhoons this was calm compared to others. While we were dry-dock from the being in the Typhoons we got patched up with the holes that were made in the ship and also had our anchor was repaired. I was on duty of the port engine when the main drive shaft broke in two separating it from the engine; it was chained down but still kept turning, this problem was probably a result of the Typhoon. So at this point we had one engine out, our other engine was only at standard speed, and we had a generator out, this was a problem.
We left Okinawa in December 1945 to Saipan the LSM 378 Ship towed us to Terminal Island in California. I believe that our Ship the LSM was scrapped. Over 40 thousand miles in the Pacific the LSM79 Ship went through a Mine Field, was Torpedoed and Strafed (shot at). We were shelled in Lety and shelled again in Okinawa, attacked by suicide boats, an air raid and shot at by snipers. Amazingly enough no one on board ship were shot, injured, or lost life during our mission. For being “expendable”, and a suicide mission; I guess we fared well at the end. I returned to my life in Connecticut where I was later married to my beautiful wife Jeanette, and started my new mission in life to build the house I live in today with my lovely wife still after 66 years of marriage . I have 7 children; all which have had to endure my war stories over their lifetime, I am now 88 years old. I still reminisce about my adventure in the Navy, I have many pictures to remind me of what was and I now call that adventure my Caribbean cruise. I continue to talk about my life in the War since it was a time of hardship and certainly a learning experience, but the memories are now a lifetime ago. As for this old man, I will never forget the Men and Women that supported us in our time of need. I am still proud that I fought in that War and know that it was the right decision for me at the time. I feel blessed that I made it out alive and was able to continue my life as I know it; and for all my Shipmates that have now gone before me may they rest in peace.
This is a list of Medals that were given to all Crew Members
2 Stars Asiatic Pacific Camp
1 Star Philippine Lib
1 medal each from our home State
A note from Mr. Karosi’s daughter:
I want to thank you for making my dad a very happy person! He loved his navy days and has more information then anyone else I’m sure! I always enjoy listening to his stories and never tire of them. I am glad that he could share it again with someone that could appreciate this. I did go to EO Smith but graduated in 1974 , I have lived now in the west for over 31 years but I do miss Connecticut because of its beauty. I was very heart sick when I was told what happened to the cemetery and when I got a chance to see it I actually cried knowing that some one could be that heartless and destructive. I have visited your website and blog also the face book page and will continue to watch how your job unfolds. I love what you are doing and your doing a beautiful job from what I see. Your line of work I’m sure is not for everyone but seems to me you have your heart into it. If anyone beyond the grave can see how you are taking such care in handling their precious stones then I’m sure that they are really at peace now knowing there is someone out there that can make a difference not just for the living but for the ones who have gone before us. My hat is off to you!!!! Thank you for all you do and for what you haven’t done yet. Sincerely , Lisa Karosi Allegretti