Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Hardest Post to Write

Location: Muskegon State Park; Muskegon, Michigan
(click pics to enlarge)

This post is from 5 days ago on July 28, 2014. I have been struggling with it in terms of how to say so many important things. Things about freedom, youth, good and evil, leadership, sacrifices, gratitude, country, forgetting and repeating history. Concerned about not saying it correctly, I just kept postponing it. I have reached a point now where I need to post it whether it is right or wrong. There will be several pictures with longer than normal captions (sorry about that, but that is the easiest way for this post).

 There were two reasons I wanted to visit Muskegon. One was to see Lake Michigan and hopefully catch a nice sunset. The other was to tour an old ship from World War II. I have toured other ships from that war, including submarines, destroyers and aircraft carriers. This ship, however, has a special meaning to me. The ship doesn't even have a name because we built so many of them so quickly during the lead-up to the war there wasn't time to assign names to each one. This type of ship played a vital role during the war which is the reason why 1,051 ships of this type were built in only 3 years time. They were so important that various types of manufacturing plants along the Ohio and Mississippi River were converted into makeshift shipyards in order to meet the demand for the ships. At maximum production rate, a new ship was completed each and every day for the 3 year period. This was not a small ship, it was over 300 feet long and had a crew size of 125 officers and enlisted. It could also carry 385 fully equipped combat troops with their equipment and was capable of putting those troops directly onto the beach. Carrying tanks was her primary mission and she could carry 28 Sherman battle tanks with the tanks being able to drive off the ship onto the beach. Of course I'm talking about an LST (Landing Ship, Tank) and the reason it is special to me is that I served on one (U.S.S. Manitowoc, LST 1180) for 3 1/2 years. Mine was the modern version and bears very little resemblance to the WW II version, but there are some similarities, enough to have brought back some striking memories.

The LST I toured was number 393. Like I said, back then they were only numbered and not named. It was in service for only 3 years before being decommissioned, but during that time she was part of amphibious invasions Sicily, Italy and D-Day. After D-Day, she came back home and was repainted for duty in the Pacific. Once the war ended, almost all of the LST's were either sold, sank or given to other countries. LST 393 was purchased by a private company and was used to ferry new cars across Lake Michigan between 1947 and the early 1970's. She eventually found her way to Muskegon, Michigan were she became a museum. She is one of only two LST's left from the thousand that were built. The other is in Evansville, Indiana and is more fully restored. I will visit it when my journey takes me close enough.

The average age of the men/women who served in the U.S. military during World War II was 26. In the military, age isn't important, being able to do the job is the most important thing. Think about what you were doing at that age and compare it to being on a landing ship approaching Omaha Beach on D-Day. You can hear the mortar shells exploding around you and machine gun bullets are plinking off the boat ramp. That is the same ramp that will be dropping any minute and you are expected to run down it and hopefully onto the beach sand. Unfortunately many of the men that landed at Omaha Beach had to jump into chest-high water and wade ashore as German machine guns sprayed bullets everywhere. If you made it to the beach, you then had to cross it and fight your way inland enough to have cover from the enemy fire. D-Day was a success in terms of securing a foothold in Europe to be used to eventually stop Germany's evil ways. The plan was to put men and equipment onto the beaches so fast that the enemy could not stop it. Acceptable casualties was probably way down the list of concerns, because there was no other option for the free world. Germany, Italy and Japan, the three main Axis Powers, had gone completely crazy and thought they were going to rule the world. The frightening thing was the Axis leaders had convinced enough of their population that it was the right thing to do. To believe that could never happen again is just stupid. To allow it to happen again, when the U.S. has the power to stop it, is irresponsible. The world today is beginning to resemble more and more the pre-World War Two world. The wishy-washy leaders of that time have been replaced with todays leaders. When you're the biggest, baddest guy on the block, you have two choices. You can either become a bully and make everyone bow to your will or you can make sure everyone is treated fairly by making sure there are no bullys. For 25 years, the U.S. has been the only superpower in the world. We have had the ability to stop evil wherever it would rear its head although we have not done so and thereby allowed evil to fester. Yes, we are the world's policeman simply because if we aren't then someone else will become the policeman. This is what some countries are trying to do right now and we are standing by and letting them do it. All it is doing is giving them time to get stronger until they "think" they are capable of doing something. This is what happened with Germany and Japan during the 1930's as free countries stood by and did nothing, until it was almost too late. We have squandered opportunities in Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Korea, and Afghanistan  just to mention a few. The principals upon which America was founded are morally strong and correct. The vast majority of the world's population would do almost anything to live in this country. That alone, says that we are the best country in the world. As Kennedy and Reagan stated many times, the exporting of these principles of freedom and liberty is the right thing to do. I am afraid the next generation of Americans are going to pay for the stupidity and naivety of some of our current leaders. 

On the ship there is a poster of a letter. It is from a young French girl after World War II and is addressed to "Veterans". If you enlarge the pic, you should be able to read it. It is says a lot. 

There is so much more to say and but I'll get off my soapbox and post some pictures.
Notice the bow doors

Looking alongside

Looking from inside the ship down the bow ramp
This would be the view of the soldiers and
tanks as they exited the ship

bow doors

Looking down the tank deck.
This is where the tanks or other vehicles
 were carried.

You enter the ship/museum through
the bow doors

Another view of the tank deck
with displays along either side

This show what the soldiers who landed
on D-Day was carrying. Total weight,,,
about 75 pounds

Mess Deck (where they ate)

Sick Bay

Sleeping compartment
"Racks", not cots or bunks

Bathroom, showers and toilets
on right

Everything a seaman owned fit in that locker

For my OS (radarman) buddies

Quartermaster (navigation, not supplies)
located directly behind the bridge

door to the bridge

View the helmsman would have
as he steered the ship

From the deck looking back at the bridge

From the bridge looking forward.
The square in the middle was a steam
elevator used to move equipment from the top
deck to the tank deck below

another view of the tank deck and displays

Just like a big RV, it has a
Potable Water intake
Pictures of the people from Muskegon County
 who gave their
lives during World War II

Letter from a young French girl
to all Veterans.

My ship, The Manitowoc.
It has since been sold/given to Taiwan
and renamed the Chung Ho.
Ya'll take care of each other. Cya down the road.


  1. Good post Darrell!! tks. btw be careful of toll roads in Texas, no booths, they bill you later and the service charge for "late" is HUGE. And some new toll roads around Dallas have fluctuating toll rates. Have fun!!

    1. Thanks Robin. I'll be passing through Texas this winter and maybe Spring. I'm used to toll roads since there are so many in the northeast. I just pay and go on now.

  2. Enjoyed your post and thank you for your service

  3. Mrs. McMillan's classAugust 8, 2014 at 8:24 AM

    I showed my class your site and explained that we would be tracking you on a map. We enjoyed looking at your pictures. One of my students wants to know do you know where you are going to go after this?

    1. Hello Mrs. Mc's class!! I'm glad you enjoyed the pictures. There will be many more.
      My plan right now is to leave here tomorrow (Saturday) and head north into Michigan. I plan to explore the following cities and areas: Traverse City, MI; Mackinac Island, MI; Sault Ste. Marie, MI (btw, Sault is pronounced like "sue").
      Ya'll take care of each other.