USS LST-313 landing ship

USS LST-313 burning off Gela.

Built in 1942 at the New York Navy Yard, LST-313 commissioned into US Navy Service on January 13th, 1943 and after extensive training and a trans-Atlantic crossing in early 1943 became part of the landing forces assigned to Operation Husky: the Allied Invasion of Sicily.

Forming part of the first assault wave to hit the beaches on the morning of July 10th, 1943, LST-313 was able to successfully beach herself and offload most of her vital cargo of men, munitions and vehicles before the first Nazi aircraft appeared. Despite her gunners at their posts putting up a pall of Anti-Aircraft fire, a Nazi pilot was able to weave between the shells and dropped his entire bombload into the midsection of LST-313.

Onboard LST-313, those not killed or wounded by the attack struggled to contain the massive fires started by the bombs and fed by ammunition, land mines, and other flammable material loaded in trucks in her hold. With more planes overhead, increasingly accurate fire from both German and Italian shore batteries and explosions of both gasoline and ammunition onboard, the CO of LST-313, Lt. Samuel Hugh Alexander ordered the ship abandoned. After overseeing the safe removal of dozens of badly burned and injured men, Lt. Alexander himself abandoned LST-313 and went ashore, leaving the ship a burning wreck.

For her part in the Sicily Landings on July 10th, 1943, LST-313 earned her first and only Battle Star. Lt. Samuel Hugh Alexander was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions and the majority of the crew were awarded the Purple Heart for injuries sustained in the attack. In the days following the successful landings, the fires aboard LST-313 burned themselves out, and after she was deemed too badly damaged for repair, she was towed offshore to this general area and scuttled by US Forces.

Today the wreckage lies at a depth of about fifty metres, 4.5 nautical miles off Gela.