Code-named Gimik (nick name “Gizmo”), this vessel was developed during WWII by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The OSS was formed in June of 1942 by the United States to collect and analyze strategic information required to conduct special operations not assigned to other U.S. agencies.
Only two of these rare Gimik class semi-submersibles were ever built. Their purpose was to be part of a top-secret mission code-named NAPKO. The main objective of Operation NAPKO was to recruit and train 55 Korean Americans and Korean prisoners freed from Japanese prison labor camps for infiltration into Japanese occupied Korea and finally Japan itself. The OSS operatives were to collect intelligence and conduct sabotage in advance of Operation Olympic, the planned U.S. invasion of the Japanese home islands in late 1945.
The small Gimik was designed for transport across the ocean by a much larger mother ship. Gimik, with one OSS agent and two Korean operatives secured inside, would cruise toward Japan with most of the vessel submerged underwater and only the topside deck slightly visible above the sea. Even though the Gimik was stealthy, the mission of landing OSS agents on Japan’s homeland was extremely dangerous for obvious reasons.
Training for the mission was carried out at the Catalina Island OSS training facility located off the coast of southern California during the summer of 1945. Preparations to execute Operation NAPKO continued until the scheduled departure date of August 26, 1945, but with the end of the war on August 15, 1945, the Operation was cancelled.
On October 1, 1945, the Gimik project was transferred to the U.S. Navy. When the CIA was formed in 1947, the Navy transferred the Gimik to them. The PT Boat Museum’s founder, James M. “Boats” Newberry, acquired the Gimik vessel for PT Boats Inc. in the early 1970’s. The vessel was originally believed to be a Japanese suicide demolition boat. Only after extensive research and the declassification of CIA documents on October 27, 2011 could the true historical origin of the vessel be verified as the OSS Gimik Semi-Submersible.
The enemy's view from the shoreline must have been ominous. After the ferocious pre-invasion bombardment concluded, the clearing dust and smoke revealed scores of small craft headed toward the beach, with many more behind them, circling and awaiting orders to proceed to the line of departure. In each small craft were up to 120 American assault troops, or a single Sherman tank.
There were hundreds of such craft scheduled for the assault. They were Landing Craft, Mechanized (LCM). They brought American and Allied troops to beaches from Casablanca to Leyte, from Normandy to Kiska, from Salerno to Sagami Wan. Their armor could stop a .30 caliber bullet and their capacious fuel tanks not only made them extremely buoyant if damaged; they could cruise almost 800 miles unloaded. The "M," meaning mechanized, meant that the landing craft could carry vehicles up to and including a 30-ton tank.
The LCM (3) on exhibit at Battleship Cove was built by Higgins Industries in New Orleans, Louisiana. Prepared for landing on a hostile beach, the LCM had a crew of four, two .50 caliber machine guns, and armor around the wheelhouse. An eminently adaptable watercraft, the LCM was also used for ferrying troops and equipment, for resupply and medical evacuation, and for various liaison duties.