Throughout the USA there are naval museums that contain battleships, cruisers, submarines, and other former fighting ships of the US Navy. These were the glamour ships of the fleet that made the headlines on almost a daily basis during WW II.
One of the least known and least appreciated type of the fighting ships of the war were the LST's. While the letters stood for Landing Ship Tank, they were generally referred to by those in the amphibious branch of the navy as Large Slow Targets. With a top speed of 11 knots they had no ability to dodge the incoming fire whether it be from torpedoes, aerial bombardment, or shore batteries. However, this was no deterrent to the crews of the LST's. Their mission was to bring tanks, trucks, and military personnel right up to the invasion beaches and to sit there while their precious cargo was unloaded. From the European theater to the Japanese coastline, LST's were a vital part of almost every invasion made by the US (and allied) armed forces.
In all 1051 LST's were built during WW II. 25 were lost due to enemy action, another 13 were lost because of weather, accidents, or other causes. The loss of lives of those serving aboard LST's was not insignificant.
Roughly 265,000 men manned the LST's during the war. They were, and are, proud of their heroic achievements. Another 2,000,000 soldiers, sailors, and marines were transported to the invasion beaches in LST's. These ships became an important part of their past.
The LST's were built in many locations in the US. Of the 1051 LST's built, 670 were constructed by inland shipbuilders, located in such diverse places as Pittsburgh, PA; Seneca, IL; Evansville, IN. Others were built at coastal shipyards such as Vancouver, WA; Charleston, SC, and places too numerous to list here. As a result, many thousands of Americans had a hand in building these ships. They were, and still are, justifiably proud of their participation in this wartime effort. As with the soldiers, sailors, and marines who served aboard these ships, LST's have written an indelible chapter in their personal histories.
Unfortunately, not one LST of WW II vintage remains in the US. Those who served on and built these ships have no memorial dedicated to their history. Because of this, a group of former LST officers and men are endeavoring to correct this situation. Two organizations are involved. USN, Inc., the United Services Navy, a non-profit organization, has recruited a crew of experienced and able former LST officers and men who have volunteered to sail an LST back to the US from wherever one can be located, at their own expense. The US LST Ship Memorial, Inc., also a non-profit organization, has agreed to take possession of the LST when it is returned to the US and to "home base" it at the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans, LA.
The USN organization has located several WW II LST's still in service in Greece. These ships are scheduled to be taken out of service in 1997 because they are to be replaced by newer ships now under construction. The Greek government has offered to return one to the US for the purpose of creating a memorial.
The LST Memorial group has done its homework well. 70 former LST'ers have retrained and are certified to take possession and sail an LST as soon as one is available. If an LST is not obtained at this time, the opportunity, and the memorial, will, in all likelihood, be lost forever.