When the Beaches Trembled, by Zach S. Morris
I recently finished reading a book that continues to haunt me, my requirement for a good read. It’s a book I normally wouldn’t study since it is not about a topic I’m currently researching. It found its way to me via email. The author reached out to me to say how much he enjoyed my Pearl Harbor book. He liked its remarkable detail and gave me a big “Bravo.” His book was the runner-up for the 2022 Gold Medal for History awarded to me by the Military Writers Society of America. I was humbled by his compliment and purchased his book in return. I’m so glad I did.
The book I’m referring to is When the Beaches Trembled. It delivers all that the author, Zach S. Morris, promises. Zach is the Editor-in-Chief of the “Scuttlebutt” magazine and writes flawlessly, something that does not come easy for me. His book is well illustrated with maps, photographs, and charts. I learned a lot from Zach.
Zack wove his grandfather’s WWII memories into a well-researched, vivid narrative about LCIs, Landing Craft Infantry ships which were a vital part in the United States’ victory in the Pacific theater. I’d never heard of LCIs. I thought only Higgins boats—depicted in just about every WWII movie I’ve seen—deposited troops on shores, the one with the drop front that troops huddle behind contemplating their fate.
LCIs, pictured here, are Higgins boats on steroids with ramps that drop from either side of the ship. They have a flat bottom haul, which makes for notoriously rough rides when the seas are high.
Imagine being in a ship that slams its way across the ocean, rising with each wave and dropping like a frying pan into the trough. The crew on board could barely eat for their meals turned to chum without fail.
Troop transports had little storage space; supplies and parts were always short. Fresh water was precious, so the men got used to the smell of each other. Laundry was often done by pinning it to a line and throwing it overboard into the saltwater washing machine they sailed upon. After a few disastrous landings, some LCIs became gunboats as well to help protect the troops as they raced across the slaughterhouse beaches. Zach’s grandfather, Steven Ganzberger, and his shipmates endured and innovated and saw impossible-to-describe-horror when Kamikazes slammed into their convoy. LCIs suffered thirty percent casualties to raise the flag on Iwo Jima.
Zach’s grandfather now floats in the recesses of my brain like other heroes of WWII that I have encountered. Men like Ganzberger were awarded campaign medals to thank them for their sacrifice. It is not enough. I’m glad he survived so his grandson could tell his tale. Zach does a great job of taking the reader into the moment and into the hearts of many brave men.
When the Beaches Trembled now has a permanent spot on my shelf. I hope you will dust off a place on yours so you can read about this remarkable footfall of history. There is no better way to thank the heroes who fought for the freedom we enjoy today. Look into their faces in the photographs. They were fathers, sons, and brothers. Remember them. It’s the least we can do.
Fair use photo credit: The Inman Co. [Landing Craft Infantry, In Action], photograph, Date Unknown; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth37386/: accessed May 19, 2023), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Heritage House Museum.