D-Day — the invasion of France on the beaches of Normandy occurred on June 6, 1944, and was the largest amphibious warfare operation in the history of mankind.
Putting an army ashore is hard; keeping it there is even harder. Without weapons, ammunition, vehicles, and supplies (as well as men), the Allies would have been crushed and thrown back into the sea. In a 30-day period more than 1,018,000 troops; 200,000 vehicles; and 730,000 tons of various types of cargo were delivered to the D-Day beaches.
At the start of World War II, the Axis controlled virtually all the deep-water ports in Europe. This dictated that every assault by the Allies during the war should start as an amphibious operation, but Allies were unprepared to cover the gap between ship and shore in 1941.
The British and Americans collaborated to solve the problem and designed the Landing Ship Tank (LST). It was the largest ship built in WWII, designed to beach itself to load or unload and then retract. It could carry up to 1,700 tons of cargo, including up to 20 Sherman tanks. The problem became how to build enough of them.
Coastal shipyards were needed for deep draft ships, so it was determined inland shipyards could be constructed to build LSTs. Three shipyards were built in response, including one at Evansville. Two other inland yards were repurposed to fill the need.
By December 1945, Evansville produced 171 of the 1,052 LSTs constructed during the war. Evansville also produced 6,670 Thunderbolt P-47 fighters, 9 million 37mm shell casings, 20 million 40mm shell casings, and 3.2 billion rounds of .45 caliber ammo, as well as rebuilding more than 4,000 Army trucks and 1,662 Sherman Tanks. Evansville played a large part in “…the Arsenal of Democracy.”
As deep-water ports were liberated in Europe, the beaches lost their importance but the legacy of audacity, valor, sacrifice, and success of the LSTs remains forever.
Today, the LST 325 is ported in Evansville where so many ships like it were constructed. The 325 is the sole surviving operational ship from D-Day in its WWII configuration. She showcases the truly innovative development that was an integral part of victory in the war and the will and determination of the American people. The ship is scheduled to dock across from Tropicana Casino from June 6 – 9, with tours available. Plans currently are underway to move the LST to a permanent position across from Tropicana.
Susan L. Bloom is a retired supervisor of elections who has been an active member of the USS LST Ship Memorial since 2003. John M. Tallent is a retired corporate vice president and served in the Navy. He currently is the president of the LST memorial and the ship’s deck officer.
812-435-8679 • lstmemorial.org