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Modeling the Landing Craft Infantry (LCI)
by
Capt. John P. Cummer, USNR-RET


Post-retirement contact with other WWII US Navy vets through the USS LCI National Association ultimately resulted in my producing 80 models of Landing Craft, Infantry, nineteen of which have been placed in museums around the USA. Doing so many models of the same ship has been anything but boring. The three major classes of LCIs were produced in an infinite number of variations as their role evolved during WWII. 

The original Landing Craft Infantry (LCI) concept was the resulted from the British analysis of the costly Dieppe landings. Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten was instrumental in these studies, which identified the need for a craft capable of landing a company-sized force. The initial design was a 159-foot long craft capable of carrying 200 troops, with ramps that could be extended on either side of the bow. With flat bottoms and only a two-foot draft forward, they were capable of landing directly on the beach. A stern winch and anchor enabled the LCI to pull itself off the beach and return to its mother ship. Originally thought to be “one trip” expendables, they were not long on habitability or design finesse. 

The craft turned out to be more robust and survivable than anticipated. The design was revised and, with American input, the conning tower extended upward to provide better visibility, thus producing the first major class – the “square con” version. Figure 1 shows a model of USS LCI(L) 222 painted in the camouflage green used in the Pacific Theater of Operations. 

 

 

The second major version came with the 351 class, known as the “round con”. Figure 2 is of a model of the USS LCI(L) 492 painted as she was for the D-Day Normandy invasion. This was the most numerous of the three LCI variants. 


 

The final version of the LCI borrowed the bow door concept from the much larger Landing Ship Tank (LST) and did away with the external port and starboard bow ramps, thus providing better cover for the disembarking troops. Figure 3 shows the USS LCI(R) 1030, a “bow door” model painted in the two-tone grey that was the original paint scheme used in many shipyards. This particular model has been converted to a rocket assault vessel. She carries a single 40mm Bofors on the forecastle and two on the gun deck forward of the conning tower. In addition, banks of 5” rockets have been mounted on the forecastle and gun deck. 

More heavily armed versions were developed as the Pacific war progressed, and it became clear that better close-in fire support was needed to protect the first waves of landing troops. The Japanese learned to hunker down in deep cover during the intensive preparatory naval bombardments. As the shelling lifted just prior to the first wave hitting the beach, the Japanese would reposition themselves and inflict heavy casualties on the landing troops. Part of the solution to this problem was the conversion of LCIs into offensive platforms, armed with guns, rockets and mortars. These gun-equipped LCIs would accompanying the first assault waves and provide intensive localized bombardment immediately before hitting the beach. 

A variety of gun-equipped LCIs appeared. Some of them were conversions of LCIs already present in the Pacific theatre, such as the mounting of a 3” 50 caliber gun over the well deck of a "square con" LCI. Figure 4, the USS LCI(R) 346, illustrates a more common reconfiguration, a “square con” LCI converted to a rocket assault vessel. Here the 20mm originally mounted on the forecastle has been replaced with a single 40mm, with another installed on the gun deck aft of the conning tower. The landing ramps have been removed and replaced with ten banks of 5” rockets. 

Figure 5 shows revisions made to a “round con” class LCI. This model of the USS LCI(R) 456 mounts two single 40mm guns on the gun deck, and banks of rockets have replaced the landing ramps. Three 4.2in mortars were mounted on some LCIs as shown in Figure 6, a model of the USS LCI(M) 1088. This is a “bow door” version with three mortars mounted in the well deck and a single 40mm gun on the forecastle. Assault versions of the LCI proved invaluable and were used extensively in all later Pacific invasions. These small but tough ships suffered heavy casualties as they slugged it out toe-to-toe with Japanese shore batteries. These 1:96 models were constructed from scratch using plans available from Floating Drydock

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