DUBUQUE — A 328-foot-long floating tank that was part of the D-Day invasion 79 years ago is open for tours in northeast Iowa. It’s called a “Landing Ship Tank” — designed to deploy soldiers, vehicles and other supplies — and more than a thousand were built for World War II service.
Julie Kronlage of Travel Dubuque says the last one that’s still operating has docked in Dubuque. “It is home ported in Evansville, Indiana for 11 months out of the year,” Kronlage says, “but as a fundraiser annually, for one month, they travel the open waters throughout the United States, bringing the ship to various communities around the country.”
Sixty-thousand people toured the Landing Ship Tank when it was in Dubuque five years ago. Kronlage says the vessel is open for tours from nine to five every day — through next Tuesday. “As I stand here and look at the ship right now, I’m seeing the guns that were used when this ship landed in Normandy,” Kronlage says. “I’ve been fortunate to be on the ship several times already and during the tour people can see where the kitchen is, the mess hall. They give an amazing tour of the first floor and really get to see what it was to be a soldier on this ship.”
According to the U.S. Navy, LST ships could carry 20 Sherman tanks in the hold and up to 40 trucks on the main deck. LSTs were used during World War II and in Korea and Vietnam. The Landing Ship Tank that’s in Dubuque was put into service in October of 1942 and decommissioned twice before it was sold to Greece in 1964. In 2000, a group of retired veterans bought the vessel, went to Greece and sailed it back to the U.S. It’s permanent dock is in Indiana, near a shipyard where Landing Ship Tanks or LSTs were built.
A ceremony was held in Dubuque Thursday morning for the ship and Kronlage says one guest brought a unique perspective. “A wonderful woman who is almost 98 years old from Des Moines, Iowa…Evelyn Houser…was actually a journalist in Seneca, Illinois where LSTs were also made,” Kronlage says. “She and her daughters made the journey today from Des Moines to see the LST and be a part of our opening ceremony.”
Tickets to tour the massive vessel are $15 for adults, $7.50 for kids between the ages of six and 18. Younger children can get in free. All the money raised goes to preserving the Landing Ship Tank — and moving it to dry dock in the winter. The vessel’s next stop is in Hannibal, Missouri, where it will be open for tours, starting September 15.
(Photo courtesy of Travel Dubuque)