Sixty years ago, Evansville became home port for a rugged ship that would help turn the tide of World War II.
To retake Europe and much of the Pacific from the Germans and Japanese, America needed a way to safely land troops and war machines on enemy beaches. And so, the LST was born.
Every generation leaves its mark on history. And every century or so, world events test the metal of young men and women. Now we begin a sentimental journey, remembering the workers who built the LSTs and the sailors who sailed them into harm's way. It's a salute to our parents and grandparents who met the challenge and became what many now agree is the greatest generation.
They worked around the clock, seven days a week. 19,000 men and women. A city of sparks and steel. Most workers had never seen the ocean and knew nothing about building ships. But they learned and soon began launching a new warship every three days, landing craft that emptied men and material on beachheads from Normandy to Iwo Jima.
Nadine Kolb had the honor of launching LST 1110, the last of the 167 LSTs built at the Evansville shipyard. (bottom photo)
Another generation is now sharing the story of these ships and those who made them. Mike Whicker teaches English at Reitz High School, just up the hill from the shipyard which is now a Mead Johnson parking lot.
Mike's mother was a shipyard welder, his dad, an Army ranger who hit Omaha Beach on D-day. Mike has written a novel about a sexy, German agent on a mission to steal plans for the LST.
Sgt. Andy Clark spends much of his working day flying a patrol plane for the Indiana State Police, but he's a sailor at heart with a passion for the LSTs. Sgt. Clark has also written a book about the Evansville LST connection: A Cornfield Shipyard. That's the nickname given to inland shipyards during World War II.
The Evansville site was not a cornfield but a shantytown along the railroad tracks. Within months, the 45 acres became a manufacturing beehive. Today, a solitary crane is about all that's left.