Eyewitness News’ Brad Byrd talks to Chris Donahue about LST 325’s big move to downtown Evansville.
BB: Welcome to In-depth tonight. Moving a great ship from Evansville across an ocean and making it ready for the greatest invasion of all time. It happened. So how about moving that ship, one of them from its current mooring near downtown to its new home in front of Tropicana. It has turned into a major effort.
Joining me tonight is Chris Donahue from LST 325 board. Chris, we’ve got a giant piece of history on our riverfront and moving from point A to point B it’s about a mile in a half but its a long mile in a half. Where are we on this?
CD: Talking about 76 years to get here. Where we’re at on it? We just received the keys through the new visitors center a day or two or go. The construction crews are still cleaning up. It is pretty much done. A little bit of wiring to do. We have four-five people paid people on our staff. The rest of us are volunteers.
BB: Let’s take a look at the mooring site if we can pull that video up grace. To give you some idea this is still working a progress right here.
CD: The mooring site it’s going to take while outside but as long as we can get in the building. We need to and a half to 3 months to get that. Not only that its a museum. It’s our working offices and its a gift shop. So were inheriting an empty building. There you’re looking at the front of the building. That’s where you enter the building. I’m seeing shots there of the mooring itself outback.
BB: You’ve got a beautiful view. If we can get to the welcome center itself. You’ll be able to see, well obviously the river but also the fact you’ll be able to look out and see the land. The 45 acres where the LST’s were built.
CD: That’s one of the coolest things about it, there’s a big panoramic window on the rear of the building. While you’re waiting for the tour you’re looking out at the ship. Then you look over this way there’s a shipyard, not even a half-mile away so that’s cool.
BB: 20,000 people almost were working on that shipyard and the LST as we know is a survivor of the LST 325 because it went through all kinds of ordeal just getting through the coast of France.
CD: oh yeah, left Philadephia went over to North Africa ….. if you go on the tour today if you’re down in the tank deck you’ll see where two shells 20 millimeters, 30 millimeters came through. So we got down there went to Italy, Sicily, Salerno. They didn’t like us either so they were shooting at us. Made it through there so it went to Normandy. If you’re familiar with Normandy Omaha beach was the bloodiest. That’s where this ship was. It survived all that to come to Evansville, Indiana. Spent 14 years. It was a good place to give the ship a home when it had no home.
BB: Its the only ….LST left?
CD: In its original configuration.
BB: With that said, Evansville was the largest from what I understand … plant for the LST? Getting one of those boats ready to go through.
CD: It the largest period. The cornfield shipyards I think there were seven of them. But the Evansville made 171 ships. 167 of those turned out to be LST’s. 3 were made into other ships. Number two producers was little bitty …Illinois by Peoria 157. We are the LST capital of the world in that sense.
BB: This new location there at Tropicana, one of the big issues that LST 325’s placement has been the location and all due respect to the location you have been operating from. It’s going to offer up a whole new opportunity.
CD: Yeah, we’re going to have to change our new business model. Right now we’re closed 30 percent of the year. From December 1st to April 1st were only open on Saturday’s. Why? Because there’s nobody there. Well, be open every day down there. The first year and extended hours so we’ll have to work a little harder. There’s alot more traffic.
BB: The traffic is so important. what about the school? We’ve got less than a minute right tell me about it. Do you hope to get more kids at the new location?
CD: Yes. EVSC its a bit of an issue. They gotta block off a couple of hours probably to get school buses. We don’t see a whole lot of EVSC I wish we did. The kids were seeing are more so from the Catholic schools or from Mt. Vernon or Poseyville. People don’t have the bureaucracy to deal with. One item before we sign off I just wanted to let you know there’s no charge to visit the museum, the land base museum. To visit the ship there is. So you can come in and check out the stuff for free.
BB: Well if your child’s school does not have a field trip or are unable to do so. Parents great weekend or what have you. Bring your kids to downtown Evansville to see this remarkable piece of history. Opening date is tentatively May 2nd.
CD: May 2nd we hope to sail the ship down on May 1st.
BB: Alrighty. Chris Donahue with LST 325 well talking to you again probably, shortly before everything gets started.
CD: Thank you, Brad.
BB: Alright. You’re watching Eyewitness News at 9 Brandon will be back in just a moment.