EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – A piece of history is weighing anchor soon and will dock at the Evansville riverfront. LST 325 will make its way up to its new home at the former riverboat site at Tropicana to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day. LST 325 board member Chris Donahue joined Brad Byrd to talk about what’s planned for the move in June.
Brad Byrd: Chris, always good to see you. This is going to be a first for LST-325. It is going to be in its new home, but it has never docked right there on the riverfront like this.
Chris Donahue: Right, this is something that started as a novel idea just so people could get a sneak preview of what the ship will look like. It developed into what has become an international event. For those not familiar with D-Day, it was the largest armada in the history of the world. June 6, 1944. We were going to chase the Germans out of France, out of Europe. Somewhere around 600 ships crossed the English Channel that day. 229 LST’s were there – critical to the mission. 25 of those were from Evansville. There’s only one left sailing in the world and it’s the 325.
BB: If we have the pics of the LST 325, we’re so used to seeing it at Marina Pointe, but this is Omaha Beach. That is the ship.
CD: That’s a beautiful shot there. If you know anything about that day, 9,000 casualties on the Allies side alone. About 4,000 of those ended up dead. A disproportionate amount of those were at Omaha Beach where this ship was. So, the last ship standing, we’re fortunate to have one with that kind of history. It’s the 75th anniversary so we wanted to do something cool. So we said, let’s see if Tropicana will let us come down here and tie up. So we’ll be down there for four days. We’ll be down there on June 5 to figure out how to get people on the ship. On the 6th, 7th, and 9th we’ll be giving free tours. This is made possible by Tropicana and Vectren. They both jumped in and helped make this happen. Ziemer’s Funeral Home and Old National Bank helped too. So free tours for four days. On June 6 at 9 a.m., it will be a little bit somber out there. It’s not open to the public until 1 p.m. We’ve invited representatives from all 12 allied countries who participated.
BB: How many are coming?
CD: Four so far. Greece, Canada, the Netherlands, and I think Great Britain is on the fence. So we’re hoping to see some more. With France, Mr. Donald Cobb who was on a Naval destroyer on Omaha Beach on D-Day – he was probably 19 years old – they were shelling the beach. He’s being awarded the Medal of Legion or the Legion of Honor. It’s the highest award you can give. This is being done by a French representative.
BB: Of course, that big band event is coming up on June 8 in the Pavilion there in Tropicana. A celebration – this will be a slice of Americana as it was in the 1940’s.
CD: It’s going to be unique. We’re looking forward to it. That’s Saturday night, June 8 at 6 p.m. Tropicana has donated the old Pavilion. So we have that whole building. We’ve got the symphonic band playing big band hits for two hours from 7:30-9:30. 6 p.m. is when we open the doors. It’s social hour, cash bar from 6-7. At 7:30, your buffet meal starts. You can buy tickets online at LSTmemorial.org or at 812-435-8678.
BB: And I want to show some pictures of the visitor’s center, the rendering. This will be kind of like a recon mission for the LST 325 and you. You’re going to get some idea of what it’s like to have the ship moored on the Evansville riverfront.
CD: About noon on June 5, we’ll be pulling up there for the first time. It’s a little tougher than where we’re at now. Now, we’ve got to come in. They’ve got some barriers there. Don’t judge us too harshly as we try to tie up for the first time.
BB: I don’t know if we have the graphic on how people can get more information and tickets for the big band event on Saturday night.
CD: If you remember Trocadero or the Ballroom at McCurdy, that’s what we’re trying to be reminiscent of.
BB: There’s the information on your screen. Chris, thanks so much for joining us tonight. Good luck on this event and it’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be very exciting because we have not quite seen the LST here before in the River City.
CD: And we might have a B-17 flyover on the 6th. That’s still in the works. Stay tuned for that.
BB: Chris, we appreciate you being here.
CD: Thank you Brad.
(This story was originally published on May 21, 2019)