The last operational World War II tank-landing ship, the USS LST-325, was scheduled to refuel at the Port of Indiana-Mount Vernon during the weekend of April 16 on a visit to the city’s riverfront. This LST – which stands for Landing Ship, Tanks – is one of only two such ships preserved in the U.S. and the only one capable of sailing on its own. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.
“This is the last LST out of 1,051 – all built for World War II service,” said Terry Tull, a member of the LST-325 Memorial board of directors and a crew member of six years. “These are the ships Winston Churchill was waiting for the U.S. to build so we could do the invasion on D-Day.”
The ships were made during World War II to carry large amounts of battle-ready vehicles, cargo and troops. LSTs were unique because they could land and unload on shores with no docks. According to Tull, the LST-325 was built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and first launched in 1942, a time when many workers at the shipyards were women. During the war, the ship made 44 trips across the English Channel and was part of the backup force on D-Day, unloading troops and vehicles at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, on June 7, 1944.
The LST-325 was taken out of service after World War II, but was recommissioned in 1951. For 10 years it was used by Military Sea Transport Service in arctic operations for building radar outposts along the coasts of Canada and Greenland. The ship was transferred to Greece in 1964, where it served in the Greek Navy until 1999. The Greek Navy had plans to scrap the LST-325 when USS Ship Memorial Inc. acquired it in 2000 and sailed it 6,500 miles back to the U.S. After LST-325 was restored and configured to how it was during the war, it found a homeport in Evansville, Ind., the city that produced 167 LSTs during World War II – more than any other inland shipyard. The LST-325 Memorial, which features a $3m dock facility, opened in 2005. The ship is open for tours at the memorial site and makes trips to others cities, including Pittsburgh this August.