LST-325 returning to central Illinois

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The LST-325, the World War II vessel that was part of the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach in June 1944, is returning to central Illinois this weekend, with plans for docking and public tours in Peoria and Henry.

The ship will be docked on Peoria's riverfront when the reunion of LST-325 crew members and those who rode the ship will be held at the Hotel Pere Marquette Sept. 7 through 10.

"We take the ship to various cities so people can tour a World War II ship and witness a piece of history first hand," said the vessel's captain, Bob Jornlin. "This is the only operational LST in the U.S. All the crew is volunteer and the proceeds from anything we make go toward maintaining and refurbishing the ship and to keep it operational."

The LST (which stands for landing ship tank) will dock in Henry from Friday through Sept. 6 just south of the Illinois River bridge on Illinois Route 18.

It then will dock on Peoria's riverfront next to the RiverPlex Recreation and Wellness Center Sept. 8 – 12. During the ship's five-day stay in Peoria, military vehicles will be on display next to the riverfront for visitors to view while waiting in line to board the ship.

The ship will be open for public viewing and tours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Cost is $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 5-18 and free for children 4 and under. A $20 family ticket pass is also available.

One person who plans to tour the ship is Emil Kolar of Springfield, but his view will be different from most.

Kolar, 87, served on the 325 for 43 months in the 1940s, including while it was ushering troops, artillery, tanks and other vehicles across the English Channel in June 1944. Kolar has been back on the 325 many times since and each time, he said, "it almost feels like you're coming back a liberty."

He was part of 36 trips between England and France during June 1944, including D-Day, and said the 325 first landed on Utah Beach. At Omaha Beach, he added, debris kept the ship from reaching the beach. There were times, Kolar said, he wished he could have been on a bigger ship during the war, "but as I reflect on it now, I'm glad I was on the LST. We had a mission, a purpose."

At no time, he said, did he ever feel his time was up, even as battle waged around him. "But I do feel I was very fortunate," he said.

 The 328-foot LST is an amphibious vessel designed to land battle-ready tanks, troops and supplies directly onto enemy shores. This particular vessel was originally known as the LST-325 during WWII. Its name changed to USNS LST-325 during its arctic operations in the 1950s and again later to L-144 while it was in service of the Greek Navy.

The ship was acquired by the USS LST Ship Memorial in 2000 and is now docked much of the year at a site in Evansville, Ind., the housing ground of the vessel.

In honor of the 10-year anniversary of September 11, the LST crew will observe a moment of silence at the time the planes struck the towers of the World Trade Center.

For more information about the ship, go to lstmemorial.org.

Those attending the Amphib Reunion will be offered the chance to be aboard when the ship cruises from Henry to Peoria on Sept. 7. They also will be the guest of the ship at a "Captain's reception" at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 8.

 

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).