CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sternwheelers, barges, speedboats and jet skis may be common sights on the Kanawha River, but warships?
Next week, there will be a few folks doing double takes when they see the USS LST-325 making its way upriver to Charleston. The historic 328-foot World War II vessel will dock at Haddad Riverfront Park Aug. 29 through Sept. 3 and be available for tours.
Its visit is a project of Robert Harris of St. Albans, a former WSAZ-TV station manager and Navy veteran. Harris saw the ship in Marietta, Ohio, several years ago and has requested that it put Charleston on a list of possible stops ever since.
Harris said, "So this is our turn. It's a nice attraction for the city. How often does a seagoing ship come to Charleston?"
The LST-325 (landing ship tank) is the only traveling museum ship in the United States. The ships were built in the 1940s to serve in the war and carried tanks, troops, ammunition and equipment to European shores. It can hold 30 Sherman tanks.
Most of the 1,051 built were eventually scrapped or given to other countries. But 50 Navy veterans went to Greece to save the LST-325 in 2000. One of them was Capt. Robert Jornlin of Evansville, Ill., who will pilot the impressive and massive vessel to Charleston.
Jornlin and a crew of about 50 volunteers take time out each year to take the LST-325 on a tour of several cities. Ticket prices to tour the vessel help fund the expenses to keep it maintained and traveling.
"They are devoted people who wouldn't miss this thing going out for the world," said Jornlin, a farmer and Navy veteran. "We have a work week in the fall, and once you come down and work on the ship, you are hooked."
It will take about 9,500 gallons of diesel fuel for the current trip, which includes stops in Charleston; Ashland, Ky.; Madison, Ind.; and Owensboro, Ky., before returning to Evansville. At top speed, it travels 12 mph and uses seven gallons per mile.
Clearing the locks at Winfield will not be a problem, Jornlin said.