Monday, May 30, 2011

Women Welders of Pittsburgh

LST-750 on launching day, 30 May 1944, at Dravo Corp.,
Neville Island, Pittsburgh, PA. Source
Something else for Memorial Day, or more specifically for May 30.

Built in Pittsburgh, LST 750 would be launched at the Dravo Shipyards on Neville Island on May 30, 1944, barely two months after its keel was laid.  The citizens of Allegheny County had bought sufficient war bonds it was said to finance the construction of USS LST 750, its official name. LST 750 was an amphibious tank landing ship quite similar to LST 325 which visited Pittsburgh last summer.  Though not officially designated, it would at least unofficially be called the USS Allegheny County. 

A World War II LST was not the largest of ships.  Displacing roughly 1,600 tons they are barely 1.5% of what a modern aircraft carrier weights.  If you took the tour of 325 when it was here, you would have seen LSTs are ships which by design have some large open spaces and thus less of the watertight compartmentation which helps ships survive damage.  In other words, it is not a ship that would be expected to survive a lot of battle damage.
LST 750 did not have a long career.  While transiting in convoy near the Philippines it would come under attack.  By some accounts, the attacks that day included a Kamikaze strike which hit LST 750. One thing is for sure, it was a ship that did not want to sink. According to Naval Historian Samuel Eliot Morison’s description of LST 750’s end on December 28, 1944:
At about 1830, when the convoy was off the southern point of Negros, 20 to 30 enemy planes opened enemy planes opened an attack which lasted an hour and three quarters.  The planes split into two groups for a coordinated attack.  Ships in the convoy opened fire and within the next half hour bagged three.  Shortly after 1900, in bright moonlight, three more groups of planes closed on the convoy on both quarters and astern, and an aerial torpedo hit LST-750.  Seaplane tender Half Moon, sent to investigate, reported that she was “finished.”  After destroyer Edwards confirmed this sad state of affairs, and had sent over a boarding party to search the LST for wounded (the others having been taken off by LCIs), she was ordered by the escort commander to be sunk.  It took two torpedoes, which missed under, and about 150 5-inch hits, to send LST-750 to the bottom.
150 5” shells!?!? On top of a torpedo and possible Kamikaze strike.  It is almost hard to believe that description is completely accurate.  I am not sure many warships at sea today would survive a fraction of that.  One way or another it is a testament not only to the crew who sailed it, but the welders (many of whom were women) who built it right here. 


Anonymous Stu said...

Those times is really fascinating when they build a large ship like that. I wonder if what is the largest ship today. :D

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