Haze Gray Photo Feature

LST 325 Returns Home

On January 10, 2001, a group of veterans completed an improbably epic voyage, bringing the 58-year-old LST 325 to Mobile, Alabama, as a museum. With a crew of veterans, whose average age was 73, the ship completed a month long trans-Atlantic with a joyous welcome in Mobile.

LST 325 was built by Philadelphia Navy Yard, commissioning on February 1st, 1943. She saw service throughout the European theater during WWII, including participation in the D-Day landings in Normandy. After the war she went into reserve, and was eventually sold to Greece 29 May 1964. Renamed Syros (L144) and overhauled, she served in the Greek navy into the 1990's. Eventually replaced by newer ships, she and her ex-US sisters went into storage at Souda Bay, Crete. Despite her years of service, she was relatively unmodified, except for an enlarged bridge and superstructure.

The former LST 325 might have gone to scrap, had it not been for a group of US LST veterans seeking an LST as a museum/memorial ship. They came to Greece to survey the available LSTs, and picked Syros/LST 325. The Greek navy donated the ship, and the veterans set to work repairing the aged and deteriorated vessel, working in primitive conditions at Souda Bay. After months of work they sailed LST 325 out of Souda Bay on November 14, 2000, and after a stop at Salamis, set out for Gibraltar. The trip was not without problems, as the old ship suffered one breakdown after another, finally arriving at Gibraltar on November 30th.

After two weeks of repairs, LST 325 sailed from Gibraltar on December 12th, bound for Mobile. Many considered the winter crossing of the Atlantic to be foolhardy, due to the poor condition of the ship, age of the crew, and breakdowns experienced in the Mediterranean crossing. The US Coast Guard strongly advised against sailing. But the veterans paid these warnings no heed, and set off anyway. Although they suffered several breakdowns en route, they arrived in the Bahamas on January 4th. They stopped in the Bahamas only long enough to pick up an emergency supply of lubricating oil to keep the engines running, then set off again. The port engine was leaking oil uncontrollably, and the starboard engine's water manifold was badly cracked, held together only by wooden bracing.

Finally, on January 10th, the aged LST 325 arrived at Mobile. The LST will remain in the Mobile area for the near future, as funds are raised to restore her as a museum. It is hoped that she will be a mobile museum, capable of getting underway to visit various ports.

More information about the LST 325 project can be found at http://www.lstmemorial.org/

If you have photos of LST 325 that you would like to share, please drop me an email.

 [THUMBNAIL] LST 325 at the end of her epic voyage, as tugs come alongside to assist in mooring. The ship is clearly showing her age, as evidenced by the rust present on her hull.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another view of the LST as the second tug comes alongside.

 [THUMBNAIL] The voyage comes to an end as the tugs take charge and push the ship towards the pier. She presents the unique and unmistakable lines of the WWII-era LST.

 [THUMBNAIL] Mission accomplished: LST 325 moors at Mobile as family, friends, well-wishers, and the media crowd the pier. Note the WWII-era 40mm antiaircraft guns (one dual mount and two singles) still installed on the bow. Their survival is remarkable, as this gun has been considered obsolete since the 1940's.

 [THUMBNAIL] A closeup view of the bow. This view shows the bow doors and the dented, bent hull plating, as well as the old 40mm guns. The small tub just aft of the forward-most gun mount appears to contain an original gun director.

 [THUMBNAIL] LST 325 crew at the stern greet the crowd on the pier. Above them is another of the ship's 40mm antiaircraft gun mounts.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another view of the crew on the stern, below the 40mm gun mount.

 [THUMBNAIL] Looking up at the superstructure and bridge. The bridge has been enlarged and enclosed, and a new mast has been installed, since her days in the US Navy. She carries four davit-launched landing craft, two on each side of the superstructure.

 [THUMBNAIL] Veterans on the pier pay tribute to the returning ship and crew.

 [THUMBNAIL] One of the many vessels welcoming the LST to Mobile - the city's fireboat. The fireboat is herself a converted WWII-era vessel.

 [THUMBNAIL] Other well-wishers out to greet the LST in excursion boats and small craft.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another small boat out to greet the LST.

 [THUMBNAIL] This tiny boat was perhaps the smallest member of the welcoming fleet.

 [THUMBNAIL] One of the many "Welcome Home" banners displayed proudly on the day of the LST's arrival.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another congratulatory banner.

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