Historic WWII Landing Ship Tank visits Vicksburg

Navy vessel LST 325 enters Nickajack Lock Sept. 18, 2014. (USACE photo by Paul Weaver)
Navy vessel LST 325 enters Nickajack Lock Sept. 18, 2014. (USACE photo by Paul Weaver)

Vicksburg is honored to have a venerable old lady, in the form of WWII tank landing ship, LST 325, placed in the dock. This fully functioning vessel is a floating museum and is open to the public.

She only makes short trips from her home base at Evansville, Indiana, where these boats were built during the war.

She was built by the Dravo Corporation, launched on the 30th June 1943 transferred in 1964 to the Hellenic Navy where she served with distinction for 36 years as Syros (L-144).

Not many people are alive today that served on these vessels, but one who is still alive is a volunteer and WWII veteran, Irwin Kuhns.

Kuhns served as Naval Coxswain on board an LST during WWII where he transported troops using Higgins boats from the LST to shore.

His memories of that time are still vivid in his mind, “We had shirts or no shirts. We did what we had to do. It wasn’t spit, polish, inspection – nothing like that. Just ‘do what you’re supposed to do’ and it was okay.

public domain
LST-325 (left) and USS LST-388 unloading while stranded at low tide during the invasion of Normandy in June 1944.

Life on board the LST was not luxurious by any manner of means. Cots lined the sides of the boat for both sailors and marines and combat was an ever present companion.

These boats could hold up to 20 tanks and were usually the first ashore, landing both men and machines, KNOE News reported.

The Higgins boats were held against the side of the LST and used to transport men as quickly as possible to the beach.

Your feet on that ship, it makes you feel good. It’s not like a movie. It’s not like all that. You actually do it, you’re here, you’re stomping on it where thousands of troops and people walked these decks. Just think about it, a lot of blood was spilled on these decks,” Kuhns says.

It is well worthwhile visiting this historic vessel, to soak up some history through which she sailed.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE