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CinC File No.

RESTRICTED San Pedro, California
3 November 1939


NOTE: Previously issued as Cincus Restricted Letter File S82/P11-1/1792 of 17 May 1938, addressed to certain Force and Type Commanders, and now revised and issued as a U. S. Fleet Letter.

From: Commander-in-Chief, United States, Pacific Fleet
Subject: Surf Landing Training.
Inclosure: (A)  Copy of Commanding Officer, Second Engineer Company, Fleet Marine Force letter dated 19 April 1938.

     1.     In time of war the landing of expeditionary personnel will be in boats operated by Navy personnel. Even in time of peace Navy personnel will be called on from time to time to carry out such operations.

     2.     Training in making landings through surf has not received the attention that is required to maintain a nucleus of adequately trained boat personnel and, in order to correct this deficiency, it is desired that it be carried out at least once annually by each surface unit.

     3.     The Commander-in-Chief realizes that all combatant ships have such crowded training schedules that it is difficult to set aside regularly designated periods for training in making surf landings. He believes, however, that opportunities can be utilized by individual ships and larger units, under the directive supervision of Type Commanders, such as when ship is engaged in overhaul periods at bases, in the vicinity of Pyramid Cove or other operation area anchorages awaiting availability of targets or sufficient visibility for target practice, etc.

     4.     The making of landings against hostile opposition is recognized to be a very difficult task—one in which most of the factors favor the defense. The major factor in favor of the offense is its ability to select the time and place of attack. This flexibility of selecting the objective by the offense depends, to a large extent, upon the ability of the offense to accomplish landings under adverse natural conditions,—weather, surf, unfavorable shores, etc. If the offense is trained to the maximum extent to accomplish landings under such adverse conditions, its chances of selecting objectives where little, if any, enemy opposition will be found are vastly enhanced.

     5.     A further factor to this end is the ability to make such landings early in the period of hostilities before such defenses can be organized and extended.

     6.     Inclosure (A) is an excellent description covering the handling of motor launches in surf landings prepared in the Fleet Marine Force as a result of considerable experience in making these landings. Addressees are accordingly furnished copies of this letter with copies of inclosure for their guidance and use as may be found desirable in their training exercises.

     7.     This training will be profitable whether carried out by only one boat, or a number of boats of the ship, or ships, concerned.

     8.     In carrying out this training it will not be possible to avoid damage to boats in some instances. The severity of the adverse conditions should, however, be adjusted to the development of proficiency of the personnel involved.

     9.     Type Commanders will include in the Annual Military Inspection of ships a surf landing made by a boat of the ship inspected, when it is practicable to do so. If it is not practicable to do so, a statement to that effect will be included in the report.




   List IV, Case 2, V.

T. J. Ryan, jr.,
Flag Secretary.

USS Penn.47811-3-392925.











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19 April 1938

From: The Commanding Officer, Second Engineer Company, FMF, and Officer in charge of Boats.
To  : The Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Marine Corps Base, San Diego, California.
Subject:    Surf Landing.

     A.     The description of the equipment and handling of motor launches in the surf as described herein has been used by the Second Engineer Company, Force Special Troops, FMF, in approximately one hundred (100) landings and found most satisfactory.

            Thirty (30) landings were made in 1937, at Coronadp, California, sixty (60) in 1937 at San Clemente Islands, ten (10) in 1938, at Coronado, California, and two (2) at Lahaina Roads, T. H.

            Of the total number of landings made no boats were lost, broached or damaged other than damage to rudder or propeller. However, on two occasions, two 33' motor launches were swamped at San Clemente Island in 1937. The waves broke over the surf screen and filled the boat before the troops were disembarked. No fault in either case could be found with the handling of the boat or use of equipment.

     B.     PART 1 EQUIPMENT:
NAME 50' ML 40' ML 36' ML 33' ML

Anchors 120
Chains 3/8" gal. 10 fathoms
Line, anchor 3" Manila 60 fathoms
Line, bow 3" Manila 15 fathoms
Buckets 8
Oars 5 40' & 50' ML; 3 36' & 33' ML.
1st Aid Box Boat 1 1 1 1
Hatchet (w/lanyard) 1 1 1 1
Breakers, water 2 2 2 2
Surf Screen 1 1 1 1
Fire Extinguisher, C02 2 2 2 2
Fog horn 1 1 1 1
Life jackets 50' ML 96, 40' ML 66, 36' ML 46, 33' ML 36
Grommets & Thole pins
  for each oar.
Luff tackle 1 1 1 1
Cargo nets 2 (40' & 50' ML only)
NOTE:   All unnecessary gear, thwarts, boat boxes, etc., should be removed from boat.


            (a) Surf screen: The surf screen should be made of #1 canvas and all edges re-enforced. On account of the difference in boats and guard rails no specific pattern can be given

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for a surf screen. They will have to be cut to fit each boat. The top edge will fit around the stern of the top rail and to a point abeam on each side and is fitted with No. 4 grommets spaced not more than six (6) inches apart. It will be lashed to top rail with ¼" manila line.

            The bottom of the screens will extend six (6) inches below the poop deck and forward to the stern sheets on each side.  (See Plate I).


            The bottom is secured with 1"x2" wooden battons securely nailed or screwed down.

            Three openings are made in the screen. One for the tiller and one by each stern post. The tiller opening should be as small as possible to allow a full swing of the rudder. The openings at the stern post 6"x6" and flush with the deck are sufficient.

         (b) Anchors and Line: Anchors and lines are made up in the following manner using one line with anchors in tandem. The heaviest anchor, shackled to the chain. Then the line secured to a shackle on the other side of chain. The second anchor secured to the line 12 fathoms from the first anchor by the ring. (See Plate II).


To stow in the boat ready for use the bitter end of the anchor line is passed through the opening on the port side of the screen and faked down on the port side engine compartment deck. Sufficient line is left to carry the 2nd anchor (lightest) forward to port side of thwart of engine compartment. The remainder of the line and chain are faked on the port engine compartment thwart. The 1st anchor being placed on the after end of the thwart.

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            The advantages of rigging in this manner are that the man handling the stern anchor can stand on the thwart aft and well clear of anchor chain and line as it runs from the thwart and the 2nd anchor man can stand in the forward compartment and be well clear also.

            The muffler and exhaust pipe give the engineer a certain amount of protection from the line running out and men working hauling it in.

            This also leaves the starboard side clear to drop the hoisting sling and chains into the boat and not foul the anchor or lines.

            One turn is taken on the stern post and must be made so that the line will pass from the anchor on the outboard side then around on top lead to boat. (See Plate #111).


            The line must come over the top to the boat so it will not bind when paying it out. When pulling off the beach, the turn is thrown off, then the line will be held steady between the bitt and the outboard guard rail bracket. If the line is lead by the inboard side of the bitt any tendency of the boat to broach to port will throw the strain of the line on the surf screen and it is quite likely to rip it across.

            As a precaution any cleats on the washboard in the port stern sheets should be removed to prevent the chain and line on the thwart fouling it as it runs out.

        (c) Luff tackle: The luff tackle is to be rigged before making the landing. One end is secured to the towing post, run out on the starboard side to the engine compartment thwart and secured to the starboard wash-board or riseing. It is a simple matter if the boat cannot be pulled off the beach to bring the tackle over and secure the stern block to the anchor line and increase the amount of pull with the tackle. (See Plate #IV).


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        (d) The remainder of the equipment can be stowed away where it is easily accessible. The port side engine compartment is to be kept as free of gear as possible. All hands should know where each item is stowed.


            A boat officer and crew of six has been found satisfactory. Two more may be used in a 50' ML.

            The coxswain, engineer, bow hook and three anchor men.

            The coxswain must have a thorough knowledge of his job. He must know when to drop the anchor, how much strain to take on the lines, how to go through the surf and back out again. He must see that every member of the crew know their job and perform it correctly. If he can keep cool his crew will also, and thus avoid the confusion that results in many poor landings.

            It has been found that to dispense with the bell is the most satisfactory. If it is mounted on the poop deck it is best to remove it and guide the engineer by verbal command. After the anchors are dropped and the run through the surf is to start the coxswain will give the engineer the command to go ahead one half or two thirds speed. At this point the engineer should be cautioned to keep it going until the boat hits the beach. Considerable confusion is thus avoided by the engineer interpreting commands to the anchor men. On reaching the beach and grounding the engineer may receive the order to either leave it going ahead or throw it out of gear. On a steep beach when the stern and propeller are free the coxswain will want it left going to help the boat square to the beach. On a shoal beach where the stern hits, the clutch will have to be disengaged in order not to damage the propeller. When backing from a shoal beach the engineer must back hard only when a wave is under the stern and stop before the boat settles to the beach again. This is repeated until the boat is clear of the beach. When backing down the engineer must be careful not to back any faster than the anchor men can take in the line. Over running the line may foul it in the propeller. The engineer must be alert every minute in order to give the anchor men as much assistance as possible with the engine.

1st Anchor Man:
            The 1st anchor man's job is to keep the anchors, chain, and line in good order. At the command from the coxswain he will drop the first anchor keeping well clear of the chain on thwart.
            As soon as the anchor is dropped he will face the stern and stand by to pay out, check, or hold the anchor line as the coxswain directs.
            When coming off the beach he will throw the turn from the bitt and heave or hold as the coxswain directs.

2nd Anchor Man:
            He will stand forward of the thwart on which the chain and line are faked and drop his anchor at the order of the coxswain, (when the chain and line between the two anchors has run out).
            He will then move aft to assist the 1st anchor man being careful to keep clear of the line on deck which will be running out.

3rd Anchor Man:
            He will stand by until the boat hits the beach. Then pick up the anchor line behind the 2nd anchor man and carry it to the forward compartment and either secure it to a cleat or pass it through a shackle on the hoisting sling. It is his job to take up all slack and hold it as the boat moves back to keep it from being driven on the beach again. He must have in all slack and be secure when a wave is about to hit the stern.

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Bow Man:
            The bow man will see that the bow line is faked properly in the peak ready for running out and the end secured to the post. As soon as the boat hits the beach he will jump with the end of the line and carry it out. The purpose of the bow line is to hold the bow from swinging or receding with a wave while the troops disembark. As soon as the boat is empty he will get back aboard immediately and go to the assistance of the anchor men and take his place behind No. two (2).

NOTE: Nos. 1 & 2 anchor men should provide themselves with leather gloves to avoid rope burns.


            Surf landings are one of the hardest duties a coxswain is called upon to perform. Special training and study are necessary to perform this duty.

            From the seaward side surf always appears a good deal less severe than it actually is. With this in mind a coxswain should never under estimate the size of a surf and must take every precaution to make a safe landing.

            When approaching a beach it should be studied to determine whether it is a steep beach or a shoal one and where the waves are breaking.

            The most dangerous place in the surf is from where the waves make up to the crest to some distance after they have broken. This area varies in distance from the beach according to the slope of the beach.

            On a shoal beach they will break well out from shore and once a boat is through this area it will be found it can come on in some distance and is in a comparatively safe area. The stern may strike first on such a beach, or will, when a wave recedes, in which case the propeller has to be stopped to avoid damage.

            The tiller is put hard to port locking the rudder so it cannot unship. To get off such a beach the coxswain will have to watch the waves very closely. An instant after the wave hits the stern and lifts it, then is the time for the engineer to back down hard and the anchor men to haul. Before another wave hits the anchor should be secure to hold everything.

            The crew should not be discouraged if no progress seems to be made after several attempts.

            On a steep beach the bow of the boat may be grounded-and the stern in, or nearly in, the breakers. In such a case the stern will be afloat and the engine can be kept going ahead at a good speed and the rudder can be used to help keep the boat square to the beach. The greatest danger on this kind of beach is from waves breaking over the stern and swamping the boats, particularly boats under 40' ML's. This can only be avoided by getting out fast.

            The greatest help on making a successful landing on either beach is with well set anchors and a taut anchor line. Coming in, hold the anchor line frequently until the boat loses headway and the last few feet secure it and let the boat take up the stretch the rest of the way in. Bear in mind it is always easy to let out more line but extremely difficult to take it in. When bringing a boat through the breakers the coxswain should try to time the boat so that he will follow directly behind a breaking wave. However, do not hesitate once in the surf, keep going. If the anchor line is properly handled you will not broach to.

NOTE:  A crew should practice several landings on a beach where there is little or no surf running before attempting an open beach.

        PART 5  LANDING:

        (a)  Proceed in cautiously and drop first anchor at proper place (7 or 8 boat lengths from beach).

        (b)  Drop second anchor as soon as line has run out between the two.

        (c)  Approach breakers cautiously and at prudent speed, snubbing anchor line frequently to set anchors and stretch line.

        (d)  As the boat comes to breakers open up to 2/3 speed and follow a breaker in. Keep a good strain on anchor line.


        (e)  A few feet before the boat beaches have the anchor men hold and secure the line.

        (f)   When the boat beaches: (1) on a steep beach, keep the engine going and use rudder to help keep square to beach; (2) on a shoal beach put tiller hard to port and have engineer throw out clutch. The bow man will go over as soon as the boat hits.

        (g)  The boat officer or coxswain gives the order to disembark, (h) Recall bow man as the last man leaves boat.

        (i)  As soon as the bow man is aboard start to back from beach. Use the method according to the nature of the beach. Use luff tackle if necessary.

        (j)  Be sure the anchor line is being secured and held when a wave hits the stern.

        (k)  As soon as the boat is back through the breakers watch that the engineer does not back over line and foul it. It is best to take it in by hand once through the breakers.

        (l)  Get both anchors aboard and squared away then carry out any further orders.

        PART 6  REMARKS:

        (a)  Quarter lines have proved of little practical value in most cases. They have to be of considerable length and manned by five or six men to give the desired results. A boat will or will not broach before these lines can be run out and are manned properly. It is impractical to carry the ten or twelve men necessary for this in a boat crew.

            However when a boat is using a ramp or is to stay on the beach for some time their use is recommended. That should only be attempted in reasonably quiet water.

        (b)  The use of bridle to hold the anchor line dead astern when coming in is of small value, if any. It has to be dropped when pulling off the beach anyway. It seems to be, in brief, more trouble than it is of value.

        (c) Landing in a strong cross tide or wind, the boat will fall off as it goes in and will result in having its anchor to windward or against the tide, which is where they should be.

            Shifting the anchors to the port or starboard side to help counter-act against a tide or wind will not help much, when the anchors are in the vicinity of 300 feet away and it is only about .4 or 5 feet across the stern. In view of this the port side is always used because of the advantages previously stated.

First Lieutenant, U.S.M.C.
Commanding 2nd Engineer Co.

            Submitted by the 2nd Engineer Company, Force Special Troops, FMF, Marine Corps Base, San Diego, Calif.

     DATA BY:
       1st-Lieut. R. E. FOJT, USMC.
       1st-Lieut. V. E. KRULAK, USMC.
       Sgt. N. L. CURRIER, USMC.

USS Penn.47811-6-392925.


National Archives & Records Administration, Seattle Branch
Record Group 181, 13th Naval District Commandant's Office Central Subject Files, 1925-42

Transcribed by RESEARCHER @ LARGE. Formatting & Comments Copyright R@L.

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