Wednesday, July 6, 2011

USS LST 325 Memorial Ship (Evansville, Indiana)

During a visit to Evansville, Indiana, I took a tour of the USS LST 325 that's sitting along the banks of the Ohio River. I've been able to visit several WWII era ships already in my travels (USS Missouri in Honolulu, Hawaii and the USS Wisconsin in Norfolk, Virginia) and it's always a blast being able to see a piece of 1940's era history that helped in the fight to battle our enemies.

This was my first time seeing a WWII-era LST, which stands for Landing Ship Tank; which supported in amphibious operations that required the transport of tanks, cargo, and the landing of troops directly onto shore. A fun fact my tour guide told me was that those who served aboard these vessels tended to nickname them Long Slow Targets, due to the fact that they could only travel at a speed of 10 to 12 mph.

This particular LST has the unique privilege of serving for three separate campaigns, involving operations in North Africa, the invasion of Italy, as well as was part of the Normandy Landings at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. My tour guide said that it could have taken part in the Pacific Theater of the war, but the dropping of the atomic bombs in Japan stopped it. He said it would have been one of the few LST's to have served in that many operations during the war. After being used for many years by the US Navy, it was used by the Greek Navy, as RHS Syros (L-144) from 1964 to 1999.

I vaguely remember reading about the LST 325 back in 2000, when a group of 30 military veterans decided to sail the ship back to the states after it was stopped being used by the Greek Navy. Out of all the places along the East Coast and elsewhere, one thing I was curious about was why this ship decided to call Evansville its home port. As it turns out, my volunteer tour guide told me that it was all due to the fact that when the ship went on a tour along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, more people showed up to see this floating piece of history than anywhere else it had been to (roughly 35,000 people in Evansville alone). Another reason why the LST 325 ship calls this port home, was due to the fact that the Evansville Ship Yard employed 19,000 people and made 167 LST's during the course of the war, despite only having a work order of producing 24 of them. So, having this ship here is a memorial to what Evansville gave to this country in its greatest time of need, even though the LST 325 wasn't made here.

The fate of these LST ships is very grim, because there aren't many left out there, all scrapped for their parts. There's only a few still remaining, one of which is the USS LST 393 in Muskegon, Michigan and has been made into a floating ship just like the LST 325. I look forward to one day visiting it if I ever get the chance. Another LST relic from WWII to have survived the scrap yard, is the LST 510, now renamed the MV Cape Henlopen, which was converted into a passenger / auto ferry that today, travels between Orient Point, New York (Long Island) and New London.

The experience that I had at the LST 325 Memorial Ship Museum was really fun and a good educational experience, yet a sweaty one. One thing to remember about being in southern Indiana, is the heavy humidity. So, touring inside a massive hunk of metal really gets you going by being hot and sweaty. A word of advice: be sure to drink your fluids and just like my tour guide was doing during the course of the hour long tour, have a bottle of water at the ready. Don't want to suffer from dehydration like I nearly did by the very end of the tour.

Be sure to check out the LST 325 website:

My tour guide demonstrating how to use the guns

                                    The USS LST 325 Photo Tour

1940's era radio electronics

An old bunk filled with the names of those who served aboard the LST 325

This tiny room was the mess hall for the entire ship
Part of the deck of the LST

Before the age of e-mail! When a person had to be loaded onto this contraption and go from ship to ship to exchange mail.

The LST 325 along the banks of the Ohio River in Evansville, Indiana

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