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Landing Ship Tank (LST)

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A Crucial Landing Ship Design that was Nearly Rejected


Landing ship tank (LST) loading in England

LST-357 loading in England in preparation for the Normandy landings, June 1944. Note the "US" painted on the side to distinguish this LST from British ships. Trucks can be seen already loaded on the weather deck. Note the six pairs of davits for launching LCVPs. Beside the LST near the bow, three ramps are visible which probably part of LCMs, and in the foreground is a rhino barge engine with its propeller up.

Initially the LST was a British design and only a handful of these LST(1)s were constructed in the United States, where the design was eventually heavily modified to became the LST(2). LSTs were first ordered under the Lend Lease program by the British, before the United States was in World War II.


One of the provisions of this program was that the United States would not produce anything that the US didn't need as well. When Admiral Stark, Chief of Naval Operations was approached, he said he saw no use for them. And so a crucial piece of the amphibious assault, one on which the Allies relied so heavily to win WWII, was almost never built.1


However, the proposal was then shown to General Marshall, Chief of Staff of the US Army, who was quick to see the need for a ship which could carry large numbers of tanks, and tank crews, right up onto the beach. And so the LST concept was accepted and put into production. The majority of the LST(2)s were built in the United States, with approximately 80 additional build in Great Britain and Canada.


Ocean-going Ships that Land on Beaches

Approximately 1052 Landing Ship Tanks were constructed during World War II. With ocean-crossing capabilities, they were the largest navel vessels that were actually designed to land on a beach and unload vehicles directly onto land, or at least into the surf. And they were the largest navy ships to not receive an actual name. For the duration of WWII they were only assigned numbers rather than names.


Dimensions and Crew of an LST


LST 759 underway

USS LST-759 underway. US Navy photo.

The LSTs were 328 feet long and 50 feet wide. Crews varied during World War II, but initially they had 107 men. As they added more and more modifications to the ships (most commonly added was more anti-aircraft guns), the modifications triggered the need for more crew members. The addition of radar allowed the ship to navigate in fog or in heavy seas but added at least two more crew member specialists. So by the end of the war there were some LSTs that had a crew of as many as 129 men. But in general, even if the schedule called for 129 men, it was very common during the war, for LSTs to be understaffed as there were not enough crew to go around.


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Notes
8Rottman, Gordon, Bryan. Landing Ship, Tank (LST) 1942-2002. Oxford : Osprey Publication, 2005.

Additional resource
Yves Buffetaut. D-Day ships : the Allied Invasion Fleet, June 1944. London : Conway Maritime, 1994.


Museum LST on website

LST 325 in Evansville, Indiana



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