Landing Ship Tank 325 – A Floating WWII Memorial

Currently, I’m spending some time in the States visiting family and as luck would have it, a very cool Navy ship docked near my hometown.  The USS Landing Ship Tank 325, based out of Evansville, Indiana, takes summer cruises up the Ohio River each year, and it just so happened that I was at home when it made a stop in Ashland, Kentucky this weekend.  The LST-325 is a decommissioned Navy ship that was first launched in 1942 during World War II.  It is the type of boat in the famous beach scenes in Saving Private Ryan (where troops storm the beaches of Normandy) and Flags of Our Fathers (about the landing at Iwo Jima).  The boats can beach themselves and then tanks can exit directly from sea to land.

At the beginning of its life, the LST-325 operated in Northern Africa, participating in the invasions at Gela (in Sicily) and Salerno, Italy.  Most famously, on 6 June 1944, the ship was part of the largest armada in history, storming Omaha Beach as a part of the Normandy landings.  On D-Day, she carried 59 vehicles, 31 officers and a total of 408 enlisted men.  On her first trip back to England from France, the LST-325 hauled 38 casualties back to an Allied port. Over the next nine months, Navy records show the ship made more than forty trips back and forth across the English Channel, carrying thousands of men and pieces of equipment needed by troops to successfully complete the liberation of Europe.  After many successful missions, she returned to the United States in March 1945, and was decommissioned less than a year later.  Today, the landing ship tank serves as a memorial to all those who served during WWII.

LST-325 docked in Ashland, KY

The Port of Ashland (for scale)

Hanging out (and trying not to pass out in the extreme heat)

The ship’s flags

Amazing piece of history

Mom and me with the LST-325

This man is a Navy WWII vet and he’s still going strong!

Gates open on the bow, where amphibious vehicles were off-loaded

Wheelhouse, where the ship is controlled

Captain’s Cabin

Main cargo area (where tanks were loaded in WWII)

LST-325 defense

Although the LST-325 was sold to Greece in 1964 and served in their Navy until 1999, the USS LST Memorial, Inc., a group of retired military men, reacquired the ship and brought it back to the United States.  Evansville, Indiana was actually one of the main shipyards that built the landing ship tanks during WWII, so it seems fitting that it’s the LST-325’s home today.  The memorial group who man the ship each summer is made up of a 40-member volunteer crew.  Many of the men are former military members that simply enjoy preserving a piece of history.