LST-class Landing Ship
|Laid Down||10 Jun 1942|
|Displacement||1780 tons standard; 3880 tons full|
|Machinery||Two General Motors 12-567 diesel engines, two shafts, two rudders|
|Armament||1x76mm, 6x40mm, 6x20mm, 2x12.7mm machine guns, 4x7.62mm machine guns|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
This article refers to the entire LST-class; it is not about an individual vessel.
The LST, short for "Landing Ship, Tank", came about after the Dunkirk evacuation demonstrated a dire need for large seafaring transports for large vehicles. The first attempt at building such ships was done by converting three tankers from Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela with bay doors; they were used during the Operation Torch landings in Algeria in 1942. Meanwhile, experts from both Britain and United States' navies gathered requirements. In 1941, the name LST was born with preliminary specifications. Within a few days, John Niedermair of the US Navy Bureau of Ships completed the first sketch of the design. It called for a large ballast system that could be filled with sea water to give the ship a deep draft for seafaring, or emptied so that the ship could sail very close to beaches to unload its cargo. The design was accepted by the US Navy, then was sent for approval with the Royal Navy on 5 Nov 1941. Almost immediately, the Royal Navy accepted the design and asked for 200 to be built for Britain under the Lend-Lease program. The first LST keel was laid down at Newport News, Virginia, United States, and the first production LST set sail four months later in Oct 1942. From the very first moment, the construction program for LSTs took a very high priority. In some instances, even heavy industry plants inland such as steel yards were converted for LST construction.
The first action that saw LSTs in service was the Solomon Islands Campaign in Jun 1943, and almost immediately they were used in the Sicily landings in the Mediterranean. Although slow and unwieldy, they were tough enough to absorb a tremendous amount of damage. In fact, despite being a valuable target for carrying large amounts of cargo, only 26 were lost in action; of the 26, only 13 were actually sunk by enemy fire. While almost every landing operation employed LSTs, they were also versatile enough to serve in other roles. Some were converted to become repair ships, others into floating barracks for 200 officers and men, while 38 LSTs were converted into hospital ships. In Jun 1944, converted LST hospital ships brought 41,035 wounded men from the Normandy beaches in the first couple days of the invasion.
After the war, hundreds of LSTs were scrapped or sunk, a few were sold to civilian organizations, and most of the remainder were mothballed. 1,051 LSTs were constructed during WW2, 670 of which were built by 5 major inland locations, with the largest being Evansville, Indiana, United States. Of the LSTs exported from the US, Britain was the largest customer with 113 LSTs in service during WW2.
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