|"It's a funny feeling to see a plane...falling into the sea"|
Assigned to serve in a Landing Craft Infantry vessel—not a glamorous post like battleship or aircraft carrier but a smaller craft designed for the more utilitarian role of delivering fighting troops to the beaches of enemy territory—it is understandable that Frank Stevens might have been somewhat defensive about the capabilities of his ship. After all, wasn’t it an admiral of one of those more imposing vessels that had looked down from his battleship and declared LCIs to look like a bunch of waterbugs? Small wonder the nickname “Elsie Items” was preferred to that by those who manned the LCIs.
Charged with the grunt work of getting right up into the front lines, these servicemen saw an immense number of casualties. Whatever action Frank saw that was removed from the text of this letter, we’ll never know, but the impact it left on him was indelible.
It’s a funny feeling to see a plane burning and falling into the sea. [censor cut out a full line here] …and if it’s a nip that has been made good you’re hoarse for three days. I’ll have a lot to tell you Dad so get set for a long earnest bull session when I get home. Dad our ship had the dubious honor of making the first firing run on both Iwo and this place. We’ve got a cocky and pretty salty crew Dad and the grandest bunch of guys I have ever met in my life. All of our officers are tops and are just part of the crew. When you’ve got a gang of men like those on here tojo just doesn’t stand a chance. We’ve also got the best looking ship in the Flotilla and we do everything possible to keep it that way. She may not be a battleship but she packs a big punch and I’m damn proud to be a part of her.
Photo, top right: A Japanese Kamikaze fighter before crashing into the sea after trying to hit a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier off Okinawa in 1945. At the time of this letter, that was where Frank was serving. Photo courtesy the collection of the U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation via Wikipedia. Photograph in the public domain.