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History comes alive with docking of USS LST 325

Sep. 06, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

ASHLAND -- McKinley Pack recalls crossing the ocean in a Landing, Ship, Tank similar to the one docked at Port Ashland for the weekend. The Flatwoods, Ky., resident was a sergeant in the Army from 1956 to 1959, and Thursday's tour of the LST 325 brought back a lot of memories.

"Nostalgia," he said of the feeling he got walking through the hull of the ship, where hammock-style beds still serve as a reminder of the living conditions for those aboard when it landed in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

"I want those (who tour the ship) to take away patriotism," Pack said. "To see something like this, it thrills you to see it."

The LST, which could hold 20, 30-ton Sherman tanks, was designed in 1942 to land battle-ready tanks, vehicles, soldiers and supplies directly onto enemy beaches. More than 1,000 of these ships were built for World War II. Many more were built for the Korean and Vietnam wars for their ability to navigate inland waterways.

The LST 325 served multiple missions during the war, and afterward it was used to assist in building radar outposts along the shores of Canada and Greenland in the 1950s.

Thursday's opening day of tours included several school groups from Russell, Boyd County and Blazer high schools, along with numerous veterans who wore their hats to signify their branch and/or when they served. Captain Robert D. Jornlin, who has led the LST 325 since 2000, said the enjoyment he gets out of the volunteer position is simply seeing the public's appreciation of the ship and the story it tells.

"When I get a vet who thanks me for bringing the ship to his town, especially the LST guys, they get tears in their eyes," said Jornlin, who served in the Navy from 1961 to 1969. "That's my pay."

Even after more than a decade, he said his favorite moments are standing on the main deck thinking about it being at Normandy on D-Day, saying it still makes the hairs on his neck stand up.

Aside from the memories, one of the reasons the ship still makes its round through the waterways of the United States is so younger generations can see and touch what they had only read about in textbooks or seen on television.

That's why retired U.S. Navy Lt. Howard Faber, who now leads the Navy JROTC program at Boyd County High School, brought his students Thursday.

"I was explaining to them that the generation (from WW II) are in their 90s," he said. "And they were probably not much older than them when they served."

Faber also expressed his personal appreciation for the preservation of ships like the LST 325, saying it tells a lot about the character of those past generations of veterans.

It wasn't lost on the kids. Sydni Massie, a freshman in the JROTC program, said she was inspired to tour the ship, calling it "a great symbol of America's history."

Her commanding officer, senior Austin Peterman, said standing on the ship brings the history alive and allows visitors to get a picture of wars that were fought in those past generations.

For more information, visit www.LSTmemorial.com.

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