Visitors can tour the USS LST-325, which is moored at Ross's Landing until Sept. 17. (Photo: Jenni Frankenberg Veal)

The USS LST-325 arrived at Ross's Landing today and will be moored there until Sept. 17.

This historic U.S. Navy ship—the only functioning LST (landing ship tank) left in the world—was greeted by waving and cheering crowds during its travels 500 miles down the Ohio and Tennessee rivers from Evansville, Indiana, to Chattanooga.

Irwin Kuhns, former Navy coxswain, served on an LST during World War II and is part of the USS LST-325 team. (Photo: Jenni Frankenberg Veal)

"People were cheering and waving along the banks of the river as we passed by—and traffic stopped on bridges so people could watch the LST pass," said former Navy coxswain Irwin Kuhns, who is part of the LST-325 team and served on an LST during World War II.

Chattanooga's reception was no less enthusiastic. Cars stopped on the highway, and people were waiting on the riverbanks at Ross's Landing this morning when the ship arrived.

"I stopped on my way to work this morning, and it was very emotional," said Chuck Hammonds, assistant executive director of the Southeast Tennessee Development District. "There were a lot of elderly men down there with faraway looks in their eyes."

The Chattanooga Police Department even got in on the action, spending part of the day training on the ship.

LSTs are U.S. Navy ships that were designed for World War II in an effort to deliver battle-ready tanks, vehicles, soldiers and supplies directly onto enemy beaches. The USS LST-325 participated in the D-Day Invasion at Omaha Beach, Normandy, June 6, 1944, as well as other invasions and occupations.

The USS LST-325 was launched Oct. 27, 1942, and commissioned Feb. 1, 1943. On Sept. 1, 1961, it was struck from the Naval Register of Ships and transferred to the National Defense Reserve Fleet. In November 1999, by act of the Congress of the United States, it was given to the LST Ship Memorial Inc.  

Today, the ship is a traveling museum, and it's listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

"Visitors to this LST are seeing the real thing," said Kuhns, who is from Ohio. "Thousands of people have been on this ship. If the ship could talk, you probably couldn't print it."

Tours of the LST-325 will be offered tomorrow through Sept. 17 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for ages 6–17; children 5 and under are free. The family rate for two adults and two children is $20. Visitors are encouraged to bring cameras.

To learn more, visit www.LSTMemorial.org.

Jenni Frankenberg Veal is a Chattanooga-based writer and naturalist who enjoys promoting the region's historical, cultural and natural assets through her work with the Southeast Tennessee Tourism Association. Visit her blog at www.YourOutdoorFamily.com.