WWII Navy transport spurs memories


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LST 325, a Navy transport that saw action at Normandy in 1944, arrived in Pittsburgh Wednesday morning on its first visit to the city where many of its sister ships were built during World War II.

As they have all along the ship's route from its home base in Evansville, Ind., crowds turned out to greet her as she cruised up the Ohio and moored near Heinz Field, where she will remain from Thursday through Tuesday for tours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Before the ship docked, LST 325 drew alongside the USS Requin, the submarine permanently moored outside the Carnegie Science Center.

The two World War II relics saluted each other with blasts from their deck guns.

The LST -- short for Landing Ship, Tank -- is among the last of its kind in the world and normally a floating museum in Evansville. But twice a year she goes out, and this time her journey took her to Pittsburgh, which has a special connection to LSTs.

Although LST 325 was built in Philadelphia, several hundred of the massive crafts were built by Dravo Corp. on Neville Island and by American Bridge Corp. in Ambridge.

"As a young boy, I saw one being launched," said Gary Augustine, 71, a historian from Leet who served aboard LSTs in the 1960s and is writing a book about them.

During the war his family lived in Ambridge and his father worked there briefly, helping to build LSTs. American Bridge built 123 of the 1,051 assembled for the war effort.

"They were literally building these ships while they were still designing them," said Mr. Augustine. "The idea was British, the design was American."

And the result was a decided victory for the allies, as LSTs ferried troops, tanks and equipment to far-flung battlegrounds in Europe and the Pacific. LST 325 participated in the invasion of Sicily in 1943 and was off the Normandy coast on D-Day. All told, she made 44 trips between England and France, shuttling supplies and men to the beaches and transporting wounded soldiers and German prisoners back to England.

Response to the LST's trip has been overwhelming. Crowds of people, young and old, have turned out along the route since she left Evansville, snapping pictures and taking videos. About 10,000 people toured the ship in Wheeling, W.Va., and more than 1,000 showed up to greet her in East Liverpool, Ohio.

And when the ship arrived at the Emsworth Dam Wednesday -- the last of the locks on the 800-mile journey -- a crowd had already gathered despite the fact that it was 5:30 a.m.

"This," said one man watching yesterday on the North Shore, "is history."


Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510.


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