The US Navy utilized “Landing Ship, Tanks,” or LSTs throughout World War II in order to land troops, vehicles and supplies on beaches. The large, slow vessels were so important that a shortage of them nearly ended Operation Overlord (the D-Day invasion) before it could begin.
Today, there is only one remaining LST floating in US waters that is operational in its WWII configuration. LST 325 was part of the invasion of Sicily and the 1944 D-Day landings in France.
LST 325 is moored in Evansville, Indiana. City officials are nearing the end of a $3.6 million project to move the ship to a new location on the Ohio River.
The new location is the site of the Tropicana Casino. The river first needed to be dredged in that location in order for the ship to be berthed their. That phase of the project is now done. There are two remaining steps that need completed before the ship can be moved.
First, two barges need to be constructed. These barges, 140 feet long for one and 160 feet long for the other, will serve as a mooring spot for the WWII vessel.
The contract for the barges was awarded to Skanska-Industrial Contractors who sub-contracted the construction to Yager Marine. The 140-foot barge is nearly complete and work on the 160-foot barge will soon commence.
The second thing that needs done is the construction of a visitors center. This building will house offices and a gift ship. Construction is already underway. ARC construction is performing the work on the center.
After the barges arrive at the location, a bridge will be constructed to connect the shore to one of the barges in order to provide a way for visitors to reach the ship. This project will be coordinated between multiple vendors.
Evansville officials believe that the project will be complete by their mid-November goal. The ship itself will not be moved until April 2020. During the week of November 11, the ship will be closed to the public while it is prepared for the upcoming winter weather.
This should not pose too big of an inconvenience as traffic to the ship is always light in the winter and it is typically only open to the public on Saturdays from November through April. Officials are hopeful that the move will increase traffic to the point that they can keep the ship open for the entirety of 2020’s winter months.
Of the $3.6 million budgeted for this project, $2.2 million came from the city and $1 million is being supplied by the Tropicana. The Evansville Convention and Visitors Bureau and the USS LST Memorial, Inc. are each contributing $175,000 to the project.
LST 325 was launched on October 27, 1942. It was commissioned on February 1, 1943. On April 13, 1943, she arrived in Oran, Algeria, where she practiced loading and beaching operations for three months. In July 1943, LST 325 served during the invasion of Sicily. She made seven trips in support of the invasion. Twice, she brought back Italian POWs.
In November 1943, LST 325 reported to Plymouth, England, to prepare for the D-Day landings. On June 7, 1944, she beached at Omaha Beach and unloaded men and vehicles that were part of Force B – the backup force for the June 6th invasion.
After serving in WWII, LST 325 served in the Arctic during the 1950s. It then spent some time in the service of the Greek navy. In 2000, The USS LST Ship Memorial, Inc. bought it and sailed it 6,500 miles from Crete to Mobile, Alabama.
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The group then spent eight months preparing the ship for the public. They unveiled and recommissioned the ship in September 2001.
In 2003, they sailed LST 325 up the Ohio River with stops at many of the communities that had a part in building the ship. In 2005, they moved the vessel to Evansville.
Financial support for the ship comes entirely from private donations and purchases from the gift shop. All the maintenance work on the ship is performed by volunteers.