LST-325 gets a home on Ohio River in Indiana
January 3, 2005
NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — A World War II ship that returned to prominence after a group of gray-haired veterans sailed it from Greece to the United States has finally found a home.
The LST-325 will head to Evansville, Ind., where it will become a floating museum on the Ohio River.
A group of veterans that own and operate the ship agreed to move the relic from Mobile, Ala., to Evansville this summer.
“It’s going to be great,” said Bob Jornlin, the ship’s “captain” and president of its board of directors. “We’re [going to be] more centrally located … We’re going to get new workers and a whole bunch of people who haven’t seen the ship.”
Veterans approached 15 cities across the nation to see if they wanted to become the ship’s home. They chose Evansville over Jeffersonville and Peoria, Ill., two other cities that lobbied for the ship.
A shipyard in Evansville built 167 LST ships during World War II, more than any other city.
The tank-landing ships carried troops and equipment ashore during the war and are remembered as an unglamorous but critically important maritime workhorse by those who served aboard the vessels.
Evansville plans to dock the ship at a new pier closer to downtown and possibly add a new museum to accompany it, Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel told Stars and Stripes.
“Our community is really excited about this,” he said. “It’s a way that we can pay tribute to our past and also to the many contributions people of Evansville made over the years to the war effort. It’s an exciting time for the city of Evansville.”
The ship has remained in Alabama temporarily since the veterans, in their 60s and 70s, sailed it to Mobile nearly four years ago. The veterans group hoped to make the Gulf of Mexico coast its permanent home, but a docking fee of $150 a day and other expenses made it too expensive, Jornlin said.
A crew of more than two dozen veterans with an average age of 72 sailed the ship from Greece to Alabama in November 2000. They made the journey against the wishes of the U.S. government and some of their family members, but they arrived in Mobile with the 325-foot ship to a hero’s welcome on Jan. 10, 2001.
The story of the ship attracted national headlines, and one writer wrote a screenplay about the trip. The group has spent $600,000 to fix the ship and give it a new coat of haze-gray paint. Veterans plan to sail it from Mobile to Boston and Washington, D.C., this June to take part in World War II tribute ceremonies.
“She’s in as good of shape as she has ever been, probably the best shape since she was new,” Jornlin said.
Sadly, some of the veterans who helped bring the LST-325 to the United States won’t be able to see their dream of finding a permanent home for the ship become reality. Several of the original crewmembers and those who helped get the ship ready for the trip have since passed away, including the ship’s executive officer, Jackson Carter.
Crewmembers hope to use tugboats to push the ship up the Mississippi River to Evansville sometime this summer.