By Joy Neighbors
A gray, rainy day seems the perfect time to visit one of the last remaining vestiges of WWII.
Docked in Evansville for 11 months of the year, the USS LST-325 is one of only two LSTs to have been preserved, and the last fully functional LST in the country. Today she is a museum and a memorial to the men who served aboard LSTs worldwide.
LST stands for Landing Ship, Tank — a military transport ship designed to carry troops, tanks and supplies directly onto enemy shores in war zones. From 1942-1945, Evansville was home to the Evansville Shipyard with peak employment of more than 19,500 residents working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to turn out 167 LSTs for the Allied war effort.
LST-325 was launched in October 1942 and commissioned on Feb. 1, 1943. She was sent to Oran, Algeria for practice loading and breaching operations before heading to the Bay of Tunis for Operation HUSKY — the invasion of Sicily in July 1943. By late November, LST-325 was part of a convoy sailing for England where she took part in training exercises until March 1944.
On June 5, 1944, LST-325 sailed for Omaha Beach to take part in D-Day operations. She survived D-Day but suffered hull damage during a storm in 1945. She was sent to New Orleans for repairs. As she prepared to sail into the Pacific War, the Japanese surrendered. LST-325 was decommissioned on July 2, 1946, but her war service was not over.
In 1951, she was reactivated for service in the Military Sea Transport Service Arctic operations where she sailed in the Labrador Sea. In 1961, LST-325 was again decommissioned to become part of the National Defense Reserve Fleet.
Reactivated again in 1963, she was transferred to Greece in 1964 and renamed Syros (L-144.) Her third decommission came in December 1999.
Her naval service ended in 2000 when the USS Ship Memorial Inc. acquired her and brought her back to the U.S. to be preserved as a museum and memorial.
LST-325 is the only fully-operational LST in WWII configuration still afloat in U.S. waters. Every autumn, she takes off for a month-long cruise of the country’s inland rivers. Guided tours of the ship cover all decks as visitors learn what it was like to live and work aboard one of these vessels.
The troop mess and troop berthing are narrow areas designed to house 108 enlisted men while nine officers live above with only a few more spare inches of room.
Standing in front of the open bow ramp allows guests to visualize what it might have been like for troops preparing to disembark at Omaha Beach during D-Day. Forty-millimeter naval guns show the seriousness of the ship’s defenses, especially since sailors might joke that LST stood for Long, Slow Targets.
Seasonal guided tours of the ship are offered throughout the year and are available on the hour. Parts of the tour involve ladder climbing and narrow passages. For those who want a less rigorous visit, the Main Deck Tour is also available. Regardless, this is a tour for the entire family: a chance to step back in time and experience what life was like when during a world war that reshaped our lives for decades to come.