Pittsburgh - October 1945
Great Lakes War Bond Drive
On October 17, 1945, the WWII Tank Landing Ship, LST-512, came to Pittsburgh and moored on the banks of the Monongahela River. A veteran of the Europe-Africa-Middle East Theater, the ship docked in Pittsburgh as part of the "Hit The Beach" demonstration unit of the Great Lakes War Bond Drive. LST-512 was loaded with exhibits and the public was welcomed aboard for a glimpse of the War in the Pacific.
The exhibits aboard LST-512 were impressive. One section included animated maps and color films of Pacific battles. Captured Japanese soldier's personal belongings and small arms, modern Marine weapons and communications equipment were among the many items presented. A second area of the ship was transformed into an authentic living jungle, complete with tropical plants. In the jungle area were enemy bunkers, American foxholes, snipers and a genuine native hut. A third section included a large moving panorama of a full-scale Pacific invasion beach.
On the main deck, visitors were allowed to examine the crew quarters and galley, along with a vast array of heavy American and Japanese guns, including artillery, tanks and trucks.
LST-512 was commissioned January 8, 1944 and saw action on the beaches of Normandy. The ship was damaged during the invasion effort and was no longer battle-worthy. It was reassigned to the homefront to be used for the coming War Bond drive. The tour of the midwestern and lakes cities was at the direction of Admiral Ernest J. King to bring the Pacific War closer to inland cities and as a gesture of appreciation to the workers at home who supported the naval forces during the war.
Along with several awards and citations earned during battle, LST-512 added one further distinction during it's Great Lakes tour. It was the first commissioned naval vessel to navigate the inland waterways since the Civil War.
After the Great Lakes Bond Drive, LST-512 was decommissioned and assigned to the Pacific Reserve Fleet. In February 1957 the ship was struck from the Naval Vessel Register. On October 11 the ship was sold to Peru, renamed BAP Paita (LT-35), and commissioned in the Peruvian Navy. The ship was deactivated and scrapped in 1983.
Pittsburgh - September 2015
Seventy years after the Tank Landing Ship LST-512 docked along the Monongahela River on a three-day stop during the Great Lakes War Bond Drive, another vintage World War II landing ship made it's way east along the Ohio River to Pittsburgh on a vital fundraising mission.
From September 2-8, LST-325, the last operational WWII Landing Ship Tank in the world, came to town and docked along the north shore near Heinz Field. Although the LST-325 was constructed at a Philadelphia shipyard in 1942, Pittsburgh's Neville Island shipyard was one of the primary producers of the LST. The visit was in part a celebration of that effort.
On this trip, the ship did not contain a fully stocked museum of war artifacts like the visit by LST-512 in 1945. This time the ship came pretty much as is, a fully functional floating museum, much like the USS Requin submarine moored nearby at the Science Center.
In the process of restoration, LST-325 is owned by the non-profit USS LST Ship Memorial and manned by a volunteer crew of mostly Navy veterans. It has all of it's original equipment and fixtures onboard, including the anti-aircraft guns. There were multiple displays on the ship and people could walk around its decks and see how it was configured during World War II. Funds raised support the continued restoration and upkeep of the ship.
LST-325 is a decorated war veteran. The ship first served during the 1943 landings in Sicily and Salerno and then made forty-two trips in support of the D-Day landings in June 1944. On return trips to England it transported German prisoners. During the Cold War the ship served in the Arctic Theatre until 1961. It was then sold to the Greek Navy and finally acquired by The USS Ship Memorial in 2000.
Thousands of people toured the ship while it was docked along the Allegheny River. This was actually the second time LST-325 had been to Pittsburgh, the other visit being in 2010. On September 8 the ship set sail downriver to Cincinnati for the second leg of it's 2015 fundraising tour, then it was on to it's permanent station in Evansville, Indiana.
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