Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 1944


Memorial Day 1944 in Pittsburgh saw the launching of LST-750 from the makeshift ways of Dravo Shipyard on Neville Island.  LST-750 would not officially get the name, but it was unofficially called the USS Allegheny County and had been paid for with war bonds purchased locally.  The moment may represent Pittsburgh's peak as a shipbuilding region. 

LST 750 would be sunk just 6 months later at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. You can now even see the location in this mashup.

These are not big ships and circumstances required speed in their production.  Today it might take years to build something similar. I only mention that because it really does say something about the folks who built it when you consider the ship's end. LST 750 was hit by both a Kamikaze attack and then by an aerial torpedo, yet still didn't sink! It was irrevocably damaged and was then ordered sunk by additional gunfire from a nearby destroyer once its crew abandoned ship. It really is hard to imagine such a small ship taking all that and yet still remain afloat.  In all likelihood the crew at the time has all passed by now, but if there was anyone around we really need to find them and at least get some oral history of the ship.

The launching was a big event with news reports saying 25 thousand people came out to watch as Mrs. Clifford Heinz Christened the ship.  Mrs. Clifford Heinz is more known today as Vira I. Heinz and one of the founders of the Heinz Endowments.

The scene above may soon be repeated as has been dreamed from one of the first posts here.  What is going to be a big event I suspect is that in September a sister ship, LST 325, is slated to come to Pittsburgh along with the reunion of the LST Association.

My strange career has even taken me onboard a latter day LST, having once taken the USS Boulder transiting from the East Coast to Guantanamo Bay many years decades ago.  Like their predecessors, the newer (even the newer ones are all now all retired) LST's had flat bottoms to facilitate their beaching.  So if you liked being rocked to sleep they were the ship for you. I just can't imagine what was like beating out though the weather of the South Pacific, which is known to include more than a few hurricanes.

6 Comments:

Anonymous JohnB said...

great piece CB. It would be nice to talk to the crew of the "USS Allegheny County". I always knew that Neville Island once produced thousands of small ships but the LST thing is something I am learning about, very interesting to hear how indestructible they were to enemy fire.

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