Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

September 6, 2013

Ashland welcomes WWII ship

ASHLAND — Denizens of smaller craft like the LST called it the dungaree navy, said Jerry Chapman.

Crewmen wore the blue denim pants and chambray shirts rather than the smarter-looking cotton uniforms favored on larger warships, he said.

But the uniforms were appropriate, since there is nothing glamorous about an LST — Landing Ship, Tank, that is — the main function of which is to speed straight toward shore, ram its bow right up onto the beach, open its massive bow doors and belch out tanks and trucks and soldiers. In fact, the first ones were placed into action without guns, Chapman said, because naval planners intended each boat for a single landing.

If you are among those who visit the LST 325, the World War II amphibious vessel docked at the Ashland waterfront through Monday, crew members like Chapman are likely to volunteer similar bits of information even if you don’t ask.

That is because the crew members, most of them naval veterans and many having served their hitches on other such ships, genuinely love the vessel on which they spend so many volunteer hours and want others to know more about the vital role the amphibious craft played in the invasion of Hitler’s Fortress Europe.

Chapman, of Albuquerque, served on LST 692 — the strictly utilitarian vessels didn’t have names, just numbers — during the Korean war.

Following a ceremony Thursday morning on the ship’s main deck, visitors began filing in through the big doors, into the cavernous hold designed to carry 20 Sherman tanks, and from there to other parts of the ship, including crewmen’s quarters, the wheelhouse, the captain’s cabin and anti-aircraft gun tubs.

On each side of the ship, suspended from davits near the stern, are smaller landing craft called Higgins boats used to ferry Marines to shore during invasions. Visitors who linger long enough are likely to run into Irwin T. Kuhns, who was stationed on board LST 716 during World War II and piloted a Higgins boat that took 36 fully-armed Marines at a time to the shores of Iwo Jima.

The ungainly flat-bottomed boats were capable of cruising in at 15 mph, Kuhns said. “I’d run right up and bang, drop the door right on the beach. All the people I took in never got their feet wet. They never had to swim for it.”

Kuhns remembers one bit of good-natured inter-service rivalry between him and the Marines he dropped off in the thick of enemy gunfire: “They’d tell me while they were running onto the beach I was turning around and going the opposite direction. I told them I’d be coming back with more,” he said.

The LST 325 cruises for a month each autumn, making stops in towns along the river. In addition, many of the crew, who are all volunteers, commit to work weeks in the spring and fall, said John Noonan of Weatherly, Pa., who is the chief cook — thus the most important man on board, he jokes — and who was a deckhand on LST 983 from 1961 to 1964.

He has been involved with the ship for eight years and enjoys the work, even though it can require crew members to get up at about 5 a.m. and work until around 7 p.m. “It’s definitely a labor of love,” he said.

Deckhand Paul Heintz of Peoria is one of the newer crew members, having been volunteering for two years, and said he is drawn to the World War II era. “It’s a thrill to work in this ship, a unique piece of history,” he said.

Unique is almost literally true. The ship is one of only two remaining operational LSTs, and is now owned and operated by the nonprofit LST Memorial Inc. as a museum. Its home port is Evansville, Ind., the site of one of three shipyards where the vessels were built.

The autumn tours help raise awareness and, just as important, money to keep the aging vessel afloat and shipshape, said Capt. Robert Jornlin, a naval veteran who served on an LST from 1961 to 1969.

The ship is expensive to operate, drinking about seven gallons of diesel fuel per mile, he said.

The approximately 40 crew members are all volunteers, he said. “We get paid well in the tears we see in the eyes of veterans,” he said.

Jornlin also believes young people gain a new respect for military service when they board the boat and learn its history.

The ship will remain at the riverfront through Monday. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and tours are self-guided. There are three sets of stairs.

Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for ages 6 through 17. Children 5 and younger are free. A family admission price of $20 covers two adults and two minor children. Special rates and guided tours are available for school groups.

For more information, visit lstmemorial.org.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or

(606) 326-2652.

Text Only
Local News
  • RONNIE ELLIS: Fancy Farm only days away

    We’re just days away from the annual Fancy Farm Picnic and political free-for-all which used to be the “official” beginning of fall campaigns in Kentucky.

    July 25, 2014

  • 07/25/2014 — This Week in the Tri-State

    Local news

    July 25, 2014

  • Golden Corral sends children to camp

    Ashland’s Golden Corral teamed with other restaurants across nation this year to raise $1.5 million to send a total of 3,000 children to Camp Corral.

    July 24, 2014

  • Burglars steal golf gear

    A couple of golf enthusiasts might not make their tee times Saturday because burglars stole golf equipment from their garages.

    July 24, 2014

  • Music instructor claims age discrimination

    The Russell Independent School District is denying allegations of a former band director who claims in a lawsuit the district discriminated against him because of his age.

    July 24, 2014

  • Financial blunder leads to heated board discussion

    In a surprising turn of events, City Manager Ben Bitter’s supervision authority was challenged by the Board of Commissioners after Commissioner Cheryl Spriggs filed a motion to have legal and finance department heads also report to the board in light of a financial blunder by Bitter.
    Ashland Mayor Chuck Charles and City Attorney Richard “Sonny” Martin confirmed a new ordinance will be drafted so the department heads of finance and legal counsel will be checked by the board, in addition to Bitter’s current oversight.

    July 24, 2014

  • Stricter enforcement, diagonal spots endorsed to help downtown

    A group of business owners operating along Winchester Avenue — Ashland’s main thoroughfare — asked the Ashland Board of Commissioners to replace current parallel parking spots with diagonal ones, and also for more strick enforcement of a two-hour parking law.

    July 24, 2014

  • National act takes stage at Boyd County Fair

    The Building of Dreams erupted into screams Thursday night at the 2014 Boyd County Fair, as country music fans saw Bucky Covington take the stage.
    According to Ellen Keaton, fair board president, Covington was a favorite on season five of Fox’s talent competition series American Idol.

    July 24, 2014

  • Smoke-free advocates bound for Ashland

    Advocates for smoke-free public spaces are touring the state, starting in Ashland, to drum up support for anti-tobacco legislation they hope to pass next year.
    Smoke-Free Kentucky is a coalition of organizations and people who support a ban on smoking in all public and work places in Kentucky.

    July 24, 2014

  • Ohio State Band Direc_Mayn.jpg Ohio State marching band chief fired after probe

    Ohio State University fired the director of its celebrated marching band on Thursday after determining he ignored a "sexualized" culture of rituals including students being pressured to march in their underwear and participate in sexually themed stunts.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo