Remembering the LST

CBS is featuring a piece on an old sailor named Ernie who is walking across America to remind us of the WWII LST. — Landing Ship Tank. There is only one left in its original WWII configuration, although we built more than 1,000 them.
Know the ship well… I served on one crossing the North Atlantic. By then (1952) the LST I was on had been converted to the ARVA-6, the USS Megara. The ARVA stood for Aircraft Repair Ship, but all that meant is that the Navy took the tank deck and filled it with aircraft fuselage repair machinery. It took a ship designed for a crew of 80, with food preparation for 80, food storage for 80, toilet facilities for 80 and sleeping facilities for 80 — then stuffed 240 men aboard. 

(I slept in the Armory, with a mattress(sic) laid upon the Cosmoline-smelling rifle repair bench. I will never forget the smell!)

As a Seaman, I was returned too late from Korea (aboard the the USS O’Bannon, DDE 450) to enter Annapolis because of an administrative SNAFU, the Navy decided to send me to Europe aboard this ARVA rust bucket. Designed to make a one way trip to heave combat troops on the last mile of invasion, this ship had made…lets just say too many miles. Far too many miles.

Crossing the North Atlantic, we broke a main expansion joint, and as Helmsman I watched the bow first rise to the left, then the right, then the left, while the stern where the helm was located, remained steady on the course. We put into Horta Bay, in the Azores to get repairs after the bucket brigades kept us afloat. 

 I was eventually sent back States from Taranto, Italy, first to Prep School (they wanted to make certain we had not been too long away from school), then to Annapolis.    

It was an experience to serve aboard that ship, as an 18 year-old, but I hope that Ernie gets attention to these ships — they certainly helped win WWII.

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