Vietnam veteran travels from Knoxville to see LST-325 in Chattanooga
A war ship from World War II—almost too big to fit in a single camera shot—recently made its way to Chattanooga. So did Steve Portwood.
“But when you’re in the ocean, this is a toy,” Portwood said, speaking of the massive size of the vessel.
Portwood was just one of hundreds who braved the rain on Sunday to explore the LST 325. It is an amphibious vessel used in World War II that is designed to land battle-ready tanks, troops and supplies directly onto enemy shores.
“Dad’s ship was decommissioned several years ago,” Portwood said.
Portwood is a US Army Vietnam veteran. His father served in the Navy during WWII--on a ship just like this one.
"He was a radio man and he was an assistant gunner,” he said.
While waiting to tour the ship, he shared his dad’s memories from his tenure on a similar Landing Ship, Tank.
“It was imprinted in his brain, Morse code,' he said.
Once on the ship, he put himself in his dad’s shoes.
"Just think... young boys, 18, 19... some of them younger than that ... in boats like these in the middle of the Pacific Ocean," Portwood said.
Steve’s friend, Jerry Mustin, a US Navy veteran, is more familiar with the LST-325's purpose. He explained many of the LST’s bells and whistles to Portwood. He told NewsChannel 9 what the vessel was made to do.
"[These ships] would not only have spare equipment, and ammunition but also food and cigarettes," Mustin said. He explained these ships would transport cargo to and from the land during World War II.
But just the feeling of being aboard this vessel, Steve Portwood didn’t need any help navigating those waters.
“[It] makes me respect him for even more of a man than I knew he was," he said. "My dad was an awesome individual, he really was. I was honored to have him as a father.”
This is just one of the many stops the LST makes as it travels across the United States for people to explore. It is completely run by military volunteers. This LST will be docked in Chattanooga until August 27.