For most of its useful life, LST-325 labored in relative obscurity. Like every ship, sailor, soldier, pilot, gun, Jeep, plane, tank, bullet and bomb, it helped win a war. But it was always a bit player, barely an historical footnote to anyone other than those on board.
With its final voyage this winter, at age 58, LST-325 steamed onto the front pages of America's newspapers to remind at least three generations - World War II veterans, their sons and daughters, and their sons and daughters - what it means to serve one's country.
A transport of the type mass-produced during World War II, LST-325 was built in the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1942 to help deliver troops and tanks wherever they were needed. On June 6, 1944, it supported the D-Day invasion that flooded the beaches of Normandy with U.S. troops and began to turn around the war in Europe.
Decommissioned in 1946, LST-325 was idle for five years before being refitted for use in arctic waters. Then it was retired and was idle again for a few years before being lent to the government of Greece in 1964 to serve in its navy. In the late 1990s, it was taken out of service.
The next stop might have been the scrap heap had it not been for the intervention of the United States LST Association, a group that seeks to preserve the legacy of the LST's.
The physical result was the assembly of a crew of 30 70-something sailors, including Joe Sadlier, who was born in Juneau and lives in Ketchikan. They believed themselves up to the challenge of bringing LST-325 from Crete in the Mediterranean to Mobile in the Gulf of Mexico. That's a long way for a rusty relic to travel in the care of men who had not directed such a vessel for about a half-century.
As was heralded across the nation, 29 of the 30 men and their ship made it to Mobile last week. William Hart, 74, Reading, Pa., exhausted himself during the effort to prepare the ship for its trip back to the United States. He died en route home for medical treatment.
At its new home, LST-325 will become a floating museum, all the better for future generations of Americans to develop an understanding of the sacrifices of the men and women who answer the call to serve their country.
We are grateful for what they did - both when they were young and in recent months when the opportunity came to preserve a piece of history.
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