OHIO VALLEY —As LST-325 navigated up the Ohio River from its port in Evansville, Ind., many along the river caught a glimpse of WWII history. LST stands for Landing Ship-Tank, and was considered crucial to the war effort by General Dwight D. Eisenhower and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Many LSTs were built by the DRAVO Corporation and American Bridge Company in Pittsburgh, PA. in the early 1940s and piloted down the Ohio River. Residents recall lining the river banks and cheering as the vessels passed, similar to what occurred when the LST passed by on Sunday.
Early British plans named it the Tank Landing Craft. American designers, refusing to call something that could deposit 1,900 tons of equipment directly into an amphibious combat zone a ‘craft,’ re-titled it the Landing Ship-Tank.
Americans G.I.’s ‘hitting the beaches’ in plucky and small Higgins boats has worked its way into the public consciousness through films like Saving Private Ryan. The LST served a similar purpose for tanks.
Beach landings in World War II were intensely logistical affairs and in 1942 there existed no good way to get overwhelming amount of weaponry produced in American factories into battle. Enter the LST, the first cargo ship in history designed from scratch to offload onto unprepared beaches. Still less of a boat than an aquatic tractor, the LST needed no harbor, dock, pier, or favorable tide to get the might of American industry onto enemy territory.
Though tanks figured prominently in its role and name, the ship was designed with all vehicles and equipment in mind.
The hull turned out to be an extraordinarily adaptable platform, which the Allies easily reconfigured into medical ships, radar controllers and floating repair facilities. After the war clever entrepreneurs revolutionized the ferry industry with decommissioned vessels.
LST-325 was launched on Oct. 27, 1942, from Philadelphia, PA. The vessel saw action in the invasions at Gela, Sicily and Salerno, Italy before becoming part of the armada that landed on Omaha Beach on 6 June 1944.
Navy records show LST-325 made over 40 trips shuttling men and equipment across the English Channel in the following nine months. The vessel continued runs between England and France, returning to the United States in March 1945 and decommissioned July 2, 1946.
When a need arose for support vessels for “Operation SUNSAC” (Support of North Atlantic Construction), LST-325 was recommissioned to assist in the building of radar outposts along the eastern shore of Canada and western Greenland.
LST-325 was transferred to the Maritime Administration (MARAD) in the National Defense Reserve Fleet on Sept. 1 ,1961.
Reactivated in 1963, the ship was transferred to Greece in May of 1964 and renamed Syros, or L-144. The vessel served in the Greek Navy until Dec. 1999 when it was again decommissioned.
When her fate was uncertain, she was eventually acquired by the USS Ship Memorial, Inc. in 2000. After making a final voyage across the Atlantic, the ship docked in Evansville, Ind. and is now a museum and memorial named the LST-325 Memorial. Evansville also serves as its permanent home.
As one of only two remaining LSTs in the U.S., snd ummers are usually spent traveling the waterways agiving people a chance to experience the ship in many locations.
This summer, LST-325 Memorial left port on Aug. 27 and is traveling upriver to Pittsburg, where it will be open for tours Sept. 2-8 at North Shore Riverfront Park adjacent Heinz Field.
Departing from Pittsburgh September 9, the vessel will make a trip down the river and arrive on the riverfront adjacent to the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati Sept. 11 and again be open for tours Sept. 12-16.
To follow LST-325 on the river, visit http://www.lstmemorial.org/pages/progress.html.
For more information and history, visit their web site at lstmemorial.org.