The Chester Chamber of Commerce received an update on the return of the World War II-era landing ship LST 325 to Chester this September.
USS LST Ship Memorial Inc. President John Tallent, Assistant Treasurer Owen Chapman and Commanding Officer Captain Bob Kubota spoke to the group about the ship and its return to the riverfront Sept. 7-9. LST 325 last docked in Chester in 2011, at which time an estimated 8,000 people toured the ship.
"The enthusiasm of the Chester community and the work and encouragement of Chesterite Brian Congiardo were a driving force behind the decision to return to Chester," Chapman said, adding events of this type are rare.
During World War II, ships such as the LST 325 were essential in amphibious warfare operations in the Pacific, Atlantic and Mediterranean. An LST could carry 33-ton Sherman tanks, motorized vehicles, landing crafts, a variety of supplies and troops. The LST featured a specially designed hull with a flat bottom that allowed for its bow to be run onto a beach. Then the doors on the tall and blunt bow swung open and a steel ramp was lowered onto the beach for unloading without the aid of cranes and piers.
LST 325, one of the more than 1,000 LSTs produced in the U.S. during the war, was constructed in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, one of 16 shipyards that constructed LSTs for service.
LSTs were produced quickly during the war and the 328 foot long, 50 foot wide LST 325 was laid down on August 10, 1942, launched on October 27 of that year and commissioned on February 1, 1943. Powered by two 900 horsepower General Motors V-12 diesel engines, it supplied American and British forces during the early war North Africa campaign; the July 9-15, 1943 occupation of
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Sicily; the September 14, 1943 landings at Salerno, Italy and the Normandy invasion, which began on June 6, 1944. The ship earned two battle scars for her service.
LST 325 did duty in the Korean War, was transferred to Greece in 1964 and left active service in the late 1990s.
USS LST Memorial acquired her in 2000 and sailed to Mobile, Alabama from Greece in December of that year. She was later moved to Evansville, Indiana and became a museum in 2004.
The LST 325 is the only restored fully operational tank landing ship in existence. Guided tours will include every part of the vessel and visitors will be able to walk up the huge ramp that was used for unloading vehicles and cargo onto beaches during World War II.
During its stay at the Chester riverfront in September, the public will be invited to tour the ship at a cost of $10 per adult and $5 for children. Tickets went on sale at the Chester City Hall on April 30.
For more information or if you wish to schedule a group tour, contact Patti Carter at (618) 826-1430.
Local members of the LST 325 committee are Brian Congiardo, Bob Lockhart, Tom Welge, Chris Blechle, Brandi Maes, Randy Eggemeyer, Ryan Coffey, Charlie Bargman, Terri Crum, Patti Carter, Shannon Wolff, Tammy Grah, Bob Buckham, Ron Rathert and Rick Harrington.