Historic World War II ship stops in La Crosse

The LST 325, a Landing Ship Tank, will visit La Crosse, Wis., from Aug. 31 to Sept. 4.

The LST 325, a Landing Ship Tank, will visit La Crosse, Wis., from Aug. 31 to Sept. 4. This 328-foot-long ship will be docked on the Riverside Park and be open for tours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Now for a history lesson!

Who inspired the design and construction of this ship, later named a Landing Ship Tank? Sir Winston Churchill. Since World War I, Sir Winston had dreamt of a ship with versatility after British troops were slaughtered at Gallipoli for their lack of tanks and artillery to fight the Turkish people. Churchill, as the foremost advocate of the Gallipoli invasion, was blamed for the defeat.

Early in World War II, Churchill convinced the British Admiralty to build a ship versatile enough to carry troops, tanks, fuel, ammunition and other equipment across large bodies of water and deposit its cargo onto enemy beaches. 

British shipyards were too swamped with work for the task, so in early 1942 several British naval officers, armed with only an idea, were sent to the U.S. Navy with a request for just a ship. U.S. Naval leaders agreed and assigned the designing task to a civilian, John C. Niedermair, at the Bureau of Ships. He was primarily a submarine designer but in less than an hour he designed the require (LST 1) which was commissioned and put into service later that year, Nov. 2, 1942, at Dravo Corp. Pittsburgh, Pa. One hundred enlisted men and 10 officers became its usual crew. 

At this starting point, the U.S. Navy embarked upon its largest shipbuilding program ever. Seventeen old and newly-built shipyards built 1,051 LSTs, of which 957 saw service in World War II and took part in all theaters of the war, both in Europe against Germany, and in the Pacific against Japan. 

In retrospect, Winston Churchill’s vague dream became the right ship at the right time. It became known as “the ship that won World War II.”

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