By Bruce W. Jacobsen
There are two old “operational” U.S. Navy ships. One is the USS Constitution (Old Ironsides), ported in Boston, that had its keel laid Nov. 1, 1794, and launched Oct. 21, 1797. The other ship is the USS LST-325, whose keel was laid Aug. 10, 1942, and launched Oct. 27, 1942. While the USS Constitution has limited operational ability, the USS LST-325 is fully operational and cruises navigable rivers and coastal ocean waters under its own power. It also shares an important feature with the newest, most modern high-tech ships the U.S. Navy has: it has an EVAC ORCA-IIA, and it can’t leave home without it.
EVAC North America, a local firm in Cherry Valley, has again donated critical system equipment that is required to allow the LST-325 to sail our rivers and shores.
As the invited guests for the Oct. 1 presentation ceremony and reception lunch approached the building in Cherry Valley, they were assured they were at the right building by a large banner picture of the LST-325 displayed next to the door. Inside the modern building and lining the walls were pictures of the latest in U.S. Navy war ships, giant cruise ships, offshore drilling rigs, and buildings where EVAC has provided vacuum collection and sewage treatment systems.
Without the ORCA-IIA system, the World War II LST-325 ship would not be an action fighting vessel, but just the usual naval museum piece permanently tied to a dock. Certainly, that wasn’t the plan of the aged World War II veterans who rescued the ship, and also according to the Greeks, who saved its life from being scrapped in 2000. This brave group of veterans repaired the ship to “working” condition and sailed it home to the United States from Greece on Jan. 10, 2001. Despite the best efforts at restoration, it wouldn’t have been licensed for operation without a piece of critical modern equipment that would process and clean the sewage wastes of the ship. To the rescue came Envirovac Inc., then located in Machesney Park, Illinois. Spearheaded by Sales Manager Shirley Frederick, Envirovac donated an ORCA-IIA-36 in August 2002. The ORCA-IIA is a black water processing sanitation unit that ensures the ship is compliant with current clean water standards.
That ORCA-IIA is now being replaced by a new EVAC ORCA-IIA-330, valued at nearly twice the cost of the original at $70,000, and allowing a much greater capacity that is better able to handle the increased operations of the LST-325. The last port visit for LST-325 set a new record with 40,000 visitors.
Shirley Frederick is still the sales manager of EVAC and still shepherding the corporate caring for the historic LST-325. “We at EVAC have always held the highest regard for all the men and women who have served our country,” she said. “These sailors and their families have carried that honor beyond their original service. The love they have for their country and each other shows in their efforts to restore this ship. We felt that this was something we had to do to recognize their continued sacrifice.”
The LST-325 presentation ceremony was attended by members of the original crew that sailed the LST-325 back home from Greece, along with local business and government dignitaries. A speech and video presentation was given by Captain Robert D. Jornlin.
Now home ported in Evansville, Indiana, the historic LST-325, which recently returned from a cruise, has regular visiting hours and ship tours. For information, call (812) 435-8678 or visit http://www.lstmemorial.org/.
From the Dec. 24-30, 2014, issue