A piece of history lands in Pittsburgh
The US Navy’s WWII Veteran landing ship LST 325 recently visited the Pittsburgh area this month. This unnamed ship now belongs to a nonprofit organization in Evansville, Ind., named The USS LST Ship Memorial Inc., and provided tourists a possible once-in-a lifetime opportunity to tour an actual piece of World War 2 history, without having to leave the city.
LST (or, Landing Ship, Tank) 325 was commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on Feb. 1, 1943, built with the intention to serve during the invasion of Sicily, in Oran, Algeria. It delivered men and tanks of the First Armored Division to fight in the invasion. In September of 1943, it served in the invasion of Salerno, Italy, where it helped deliver troops of the British 40th Royal Tank Regiment. Later, it was sent to England to prepare for D-Day; during which it delivered troops of the 5th Special Engineer Brigade to Omaha Beach. Finally, the LST was decommissioned on July 2, 1946.
However, its service was not over yet. In 1964, it was transferred to the Greek Navy, where it served until 1999, when The USS LST Ship Memorial Inc. acquired the ship and sailed it home.These days, the landing ship stays home most of the time and serves as an invaluable WWII museum for visitors. Once a year, it sails out and visits cities on the inland waterways, such as Pittsburgh.
The LST’s were 328 feet long with a beam of 50 feet, designed to drive up onto a beach and land their cargo through large doors in the bow of the vessel. Their crew included 10 officers and approximately 100 seamen. The primary cargo for the LSTs was a whopping 20 tanks, usually the Sherman type. 10 would fit comfortably on the exposed main deck, and 10 could be placed in the interior tank deck. Tanks could be interchanged between decks via a very large elevator. On board weapons consisted of one 75 millimeter cannon, 12 smaller anti-aircraft guns and six machine guns.
Junior Otis Williams visited the landing craft-turned-museum on Labor Day of this year. Otis was asked how he would describe his trip.
“Exciting. The inside was nothing I expected. It was so much better”, he said. “Half way in the lower deck they had a LEGO scale model of the LST landing on Omaha Beach during D-Day. It was one of my favorite things to see, and it was completely unexpected.”
The landing craft, which remained in the ‘burgh from September 2-8, is truly an interesting and inspiring craft. To think it was actually used on such an important day in history is really astonishing. Williams agreed.
“I think that fact it was built in Pittsburgh and then used in D-Day shows a significant amount of importance in Pittsburgh’s history. It’s really cool.”