Vicksburg readies for visit from World War II ship

Published 10:16 am Monday, October 3, 2016

USS LST 325, a restored World War II amphibious warship, was expected to leave Cape Girardeau, Mo., Monday and begin its southward voyage to Vicksburg, where it is scheduled to arrive at City Front Friday as part of a winter cruise down the Mississippi River.

The stop here will be the ship’s second trip to Vicksburg. Its last visit was 2003. People interested in the ship’s voyage can go the USS LST 325 Ship Memorial website and follow it as it navigates the Mississippi.

Jim Tuefel, a board member with USS LST Ship Memorial Inc., which helped restore the ship, said the decision to visit the Red Carpet City was made while the organization was planning the cruise and some of he members said they had never been to Vicksburg.

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He said the organization doesn’t usually do repeat visits unless it’s been five years or more, “And they wanted to go to Vicksburg. We called the city, and they said, ‘Come on.’”

Besides restoring the ship, the USS LST Ship Memorial Inc. raises funding to preserve the ship, educate people on the role of the LST in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, and preserve the memory of the ships and the countless men who died in battle while serving their country.

Volunteers with the organization crew the vessel on its voyages to different locations.

While in Vicksburg, visitors to the ship will be allowed to go on board and tour the vessel and look at its artifacts from other LSTs that participated in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

LST stands for landing ship tank; a class of 328-foot long, 50-foot wide flat-bottomed ships, capable of running aground and discharging 600 troops or military vehicles like trucks, jeeps and tanks to roll directly out on a beach through front bottom-hinged door-ramps.

The ships would run up on a beach as fast as they could, landing their bows in sand before releasing their cargo.

Commissioned Feb. 1, 1943, LST-325 sailed as part of the Northern Attack Force in support of the invasion at Salerno, Italy, carrying elements of the 40th Royal Tank Regiment, and later was part of Force “B,” the backup force for the troops going ashore at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.

It anchored off Omaha Beach on June 7, and unloaded men onto smaller amphibious craft. The ship made further trips to the Normandy Coast and the city of Rouen on the Seine River.

The ship was transferred to Greece in May 1964 and was renamed Syros. It served in the Greek Navy until December 1999 when it was decommissioned.

In 2000, LST 325 was acquired by The USS Ship Memorial Inc., and crossed the Atlantic, arriving in Mobile, Ala., in January 2001.

It is one of only two World War II LSTs to be preserved in the United States and is homeported at Evansville, Ind.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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