A floating piece of World War II history is now docked in Decatur.
The LST 325 is back at Ingalls Harbor for an extended stay, ready to give you an experience like no other. WAAY 31 spoke to a local crew member on board.
Decatur native and volunteer, Owen Chapman, has no problem navigating the ship. After all, the Navy veteran spent a year stationed on one in Vietnam.
"Think of being in the South Pacific in 1944 with no air conditioning. It just would not have been fun," he said. "It brings back a lot of memories."
The ship is based in Evansville, Indiana. Each year, it sets out on a cruise.
"For the cruise, we have about 50 people, have a representation of 17 states, and the average age is just a little over 70," Chapman said.
Most of the crew members are former military, like Chapman.
"We all have a very selective memory and you remember the good things, and the bad things have kind of gotten wiped out," Chapman said.
LSTs were basically used as hauling ships. They would carry big, heavy equipment and machinery straight to the front lines.
In fact, the LST 325 made more than 40 trips between England and France during World War II, landing on the beaches of Normandy, where they would unload heavy equipment like Sherman tanks and then reload with injured troops and carry them back to England.
"Large, slow target. They built so many LSTs during the war that they didn't name them," Chapman said.
The U.S. built more than 1,000 ships for World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars. The LST 325 is now the last operational ship still afloat.
"This is the same ramp that was here in 1944," Chapman said.
Thousands of people visited the ship during its last visit in 2014. City leaders have spent months preparing for its arrival.
"This is so important to our city. We have so many layers and layers of history that has taken place here, and so many different citizens have participated in fighting for our freedoms, and we're just excited to continue to pass that knowledge on to future generations," Chapman said.
In 2014, the ship had a $1.8 million economic impact on the local economy.
The ship will be docked at Ingalls Harbor until September 3rd. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 through 17, and free for children younger than 5. World War II and Korean War vets along with active duty service members get in free.
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