Floating WWII Memorial to Visit Alexandria

Floating WWII Memorial to Visit Alexandria

Floating WWII Memorial To Visit Alexandria

<bt>Memorial Day 2005 is the 60th anniversary of the conclusion of World War II. In commemoration of the global conflict and ultimate defeat of the Axis Powers, a battle-tested vessel and veteran crew will visit the Alexandria Waterfront from May 26 through May 30.

LST-325 Ship Memorial will dock at Robinson Terminal near the corner of Oronoco and North Union streets. It will open for visitors beginning at 9 a.m. on May 27, with tours available until 5 p.m. through May 30. Staffed by volunteers and LST (Landing Ship, Tank) veterans, the World War II-era vessel is making a rare journey from its port in Mobile, Ala., to Alexandria in honor of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Tours will be conducted by the volunteer crew and veterans.

Built at Philadelphia's Navy Yard in 1942 and commissioned in 1943, the 328-foot landing craft was designed to land tanks, troops and supplies onto enemy shores under battle conditions. One of those shores was Omaha Beach, Normandy, on D-Day, June 6, 1944. In 1964, it was transferred to Greece, where it became part of the Greek Navy until 1999. In 2000, a group of veterans and volunteers acquired the ship as a memorial and sailed her back to Mobile. The 6,500 mile trip was completed by a crew with an average age of 72, according to records.

Today, the completely restored floating memorial hosts thousands of visitors. Alexandria is the first port-of-call for LST-325 on a 46-day trip up the east coast. It is also the only port in the mid-Atlantic region, the next stop is the Maritime Academy in Massachusetts on June 3.

During its local visit, Mayor William D. Euille will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony May 27 at 10 a.m. He will also receive the "Keys to the Boat," for his support in hosting this tribute to America's past.

Although it was officially decommissioned on July 2, 1946, it was reactivated for service in 1951 to aid in constructing radar outposts along the coasts of Greenland and northeastern Canada. Known as the "DEW Line" they were developed to guard against nuclear attacks during the Cold War.

Survival of LST-325 is a credit to the volunteers and veterans who have worked tirelessly to maintain it, according to Captain Robert Jornlin who was at the helm for her transatlantic return and will captain this summer's journey. The ship's restoration is paid for by donations. Crew members are required to pay $10 room and board for each day of working on the ship. This is in addition to the out-of-pocket expenses for traveling and uniforms, and in some cases, vacation time from work.

Of the 55 volunteers and veterans, 25 have signed on for the entire tour. The remaining 30 will be onboard for periods ranging from two weeks to 30 days. Admission for tours during the Alexandria visit are $10 for adults and $5 for children through age 18. For more information visit www.FunSide.com or call 888-738-2764. For group tour information call 703-838-4200, ext. 209.