Most of the time during the Korean War Jack Potter served as a coxswain aboard a LCM (landing craft) attached to the attack transport USS Andromeda (AKA-15). He made the second landing at Inchon, South Korea and brought Marines ashore in the first wave.
“It took us 15 days to sail from Pusan, in the south, to Inchon, further north up the coast, for the invasion,” the 79-year-old former North Port, Fla. sailor said. “My memory is so bad I don’t remember much about the landing.
“The Andromeda was a couple of miles off shore when she put her LCMs and LC VPs over the side for the trip to the beach. We went over to nearby transports and picked up the troops who climbed down boarding nets into our land craft. After 120 Marines and their equipment were aboard we circled out there waiting for the man to give us a flag to go ashore,” he said.
“For some reason we went ashore without our.50 caliber machine-guns. We had nothing to protect ourselves with,” Potter said. “The 50-foot-long all steel LCM with its two Grey marine engines brought the troops as close to the beach as we could get ‘em before we dropped ‘em off.
“I don’t recall any problems getting in or getting out. Before the day was over I made three trips from the ship to shore and back again,” he said. “If we made one successful trip ashore with troops the Navy figured the LCM had paid for itself.
“On the way back to the AKA we’d keep the ramp on our LCMs down to wash the sand left by the troops out of the landing craft. When the guys on the smaller LCVPs tried doing the same thing some of them sunk immediately and went right to the bottom.”
The landing that Potter recalls most vividly was when his boat took 112 engineering troops and their mutt mascot ashore some place in Korea, but he no longer remembers where. It’s been 60 years!
“They had sailed with us aboard our AKA all the way from the States to Korea. Then we took them ashore for the last time,” he recalled. “When we landed these troops we were supposed to have a destroyer escort. It never showed up and we were all by ourselves.
“They were shooting at us from the shore when we were in the process of landing these guys. They told us on the way to Korea that they were being sent over there to build a runway,” Potter said. “After we pulled away from the beach in our LCM the enemy was shooting star burst shells at us to illuminate the area. They came within 50 feet of hitting our LCM with their artillery.
“Since we were all by ourselves because the destroyer didn’t make it Capt. John White, our skipper, decided to get the hell out of there. We only had a 3-inch main gun and some 40s and 20 antiaircraft guns,” he said.
“I heard later all the engineers were killed by the enemy and nobody ever saw the dog again,” Potter said as he grimaced. “People over there eat dogs.”
Every 10 months for almost 4 years the Andromeda would sail back to the United States for a three-month upgrade. The journey home took the AKA 15 days and usually when the ship reached San Diego, Calif. the sailors were given 30 days leave. The last six weeks of their stay stateside Andromeda’s sailors chipped paint and painted the topside.
“They used to call our ship “The Galloping Ghost of the Korean Coast,’ because we went back and forth so many times,” he remembered.
When Potter first arrived aboard the AKA in 1950 he was assigned to a 36-foot LCVP landing craft. They were still using the plywood Higgins boats from World War II. After six months on the LCVP he was transferred to the captain’s gig as its coxswain.
After a year on the gig he had had enough. The spit and polished 36-foot wooden boat that served as the captain’s personal transportation was hard to maintain primarily because they were forever taking officers wives’ from shore to ship in their spike heels.
“They screwed up our paint with their high heels,” Potter explained.
He asked to be reassigned. He became the coxswain of LCM #4 aboard the Andromeda until till war’s end.
It wasn’t all sea duty and high heels for the former coxswain.
“When we were in Japan on R & R things could get rough,” he said. “Invariably our AKA would be anchored way off shore at Sasebo when I would be in charge of running my LCM ashore as the liberty boat to pick up the drunks.
“It was so damn dark I’d have a bow hook standing up on top of the ramp with a flashlight to see where we were going. When we reached shore we’d have to throw half the guys in the boat because they were all liquored up. Then we got them out to the AKA and we’d have to help ‘em up the gangway,” Potter said.
“I remember we were over in Japan somewhere on liberty and all of us bought a bottle of something and taped it to our leg and brought it back aboard ship. We met down in the hold of the Andromeda, found an old metal wash tub and dumped all our liquor in it. The stuff turned green and none of us were feeling any pain,” he said.
“One old boy was so drunk he couldn’t climb back up the ladder out of the hole to the deck. They tied a couple of lines around both legs and dragged him upside-down topside with his head hitting the steel rungs of the ladder as he went topside,” Potter recalled.
When he was discharged from the Navy in 1954 he went back to work for a print shop in Cincinnati he worked for as a 16-year-old before the war. He spent 50 years in the book printing business before he and his wife, Eileen, retired to North Port in 1999. They have six children, four boys and two girls, 13 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Name: John Edward Potter
D.O.B: January 29, 1931
Hometown: Covington, KY
Current: North Port, Fla.
Entered Service: January 1949
Discharged: August 1954
Rank: Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class
Unit: USS Andromeda
Commendations: Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Ribbon, Korean Service Ribbon with Four Stars, United Nations Ribbon, China Service Ribbon
This story was first printed in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Florida on Thursday, September 9, 2010 and is republished with permission.
Click here to view Potter’s Collection in the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.
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