(Aurora, Ind.) – As the LST 325 opened its front gate when approaching the dock, some of the onlooking veterans may have been expecting soldiers and tanks to begin rushing out as they did when the ship approached the Normandy beachhead June 6, 1944, D-Day.
Instead of a rush of soldiers, an amphibious tank emerged from the ship’s front hull, paddling through the Ohio River. The hundreds in attendance who came to welcome the LST 325 to Aurora Thursday afternoon erupted in applause as the tank climbed onto the shoreline at the Aurora Ferry Landing.
The LST was behind in its arrival – it was originally scheduled to appear at about 8:00 a.m., but held up by fog on the Ohio River – although the 5:00 p.m. arrival may have allowed some who otherwise would have had to be at work or school to witness the arrival.
The 69-year-old landing ship tank's (LST) visit is like a 4,080 ton piece of American history coming to southeast Indiana. It participated in some of the most important battles for the U.S. Navy during World War II and made dozens of trips across the English Channel carrying allied soldiers and supplies.
For World War II veteran Thomas Taylor, having the LST 325 come to his hometown is a great joy.
“Quite a surprise to me,” he said, gazing at the steel behemoth.
Taylor served as a deckhand on a similar ship in the Pacific theatre, running supplies between islands to U.S. soldiers.
“The ships could carry anything. The soldiers liked it when we brought beer,” Taylor laughed.
It was a long process to bring the ship up the Ohio River from its home in Evansville to Aurora.
“Several years ago myself and councilman (John) Lester were down in Evansville and we had an opportunity to tour the ship. We came back home and thought it would be nice to have that boat in Aurora,” said Aurora Mayor Donnie Hastings.
The mayor made the suggestion to his mother, Charlotte Hastings, who then took the reins of the project thinking it would be nice to have the LST 325 in town when the city dedicates a new veterans memorial at Lesko Park on Sunday.
“The first thing (the LST) needed was some money. So I went to city council and they were excited. I have never, in all the work I’ve done on committees, had the support we’ve seen with this event,” Charlotte Hastings said.
The new Lesko Park Veterans Memorial will be dedicated Sunday at 1:30. The ceremony will include a flyover by a B-25 bomber and T-38 Warbirds, a rifle salute, and the LST 325 shooting its massive guns at the closing.
The LST 325 is open for public tours Friday, September 23 through Sunday, September 25 from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. each day. The final tour each day will begin at 4:00 p.m. Cost is $10 per person or $20 per family.
More information on the event is available at www.lstvisitsaurora.com.