|WWII vet recalls mission almost 70 years after D-Day |
|Posted: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 9:09 pm |
| By DONNA RYDER |
A cargo ship that carried tanks into the D-Day invasion during World War II and now serves tourists recently made stops in Nashville and Clarksville in Middle Tennessee.
The LST-325 was first launched in 1942 and decommissioned in 1999. It was bought by a private company in 2000 and is currently one of two World War II LSTs to be preserved in the United States, according to its website. LST is an acronym for Landing Ship, Tanks.
During its stop in Clarksville, at least one of its visitors could tell his own stories about the day it carried heavy equipment to the beaches of Normandy in northwestern France because he was behind the wheel of one of them.
Lloyd Klutts of Troy was a member of the Army 149th Engineer Combat Battalion stationed in England when he loaded his crane into the cargo ship for the D-Day invasion, which took place June 6, 1944. He served on the front lines during World War II until May 8, 1945.
The 149th was assigned the mission to clear, organize, develop and operate the assault landing beach sectors in order to ensure the rapid movement of personnel, supplies and vehicles across the beach and to clear and develop a beach exit to permit the egress of wheeled traffic off the beach, according to a Citation of Units penned on Dec. 12, 1944, by command of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The Citation of Units states, “A stubborn enemy firmly held and defended strong points in the cliffs commanding the beach, such strong points being made up of concrete pillboxes, gun emplacements and connecting trenches. Heavy artillery, mortar, machine gun and small arms fire on troops on the beaches was maintained from those positions and additional hazards were encountered in the form of underwater obstacles and the vehicles defense line on the beach itself.”
Still, despite the heavy enemy resistance, the 149th went ashore and immediately began clearing a path through the minefield to allow for the infantry to make use of the exit. After construction of the path, members of the battalion joined the infantry in combating the enemy, “reducing its strong points and wiping out snipers on the face of the cliff.”
“The outstanding heroism, courage and skill of the men of the 149th Engineer Combat Battalion in successfully completing its assigned mission materially contributed to the successful establishment of the Omaha Beachhead on D-Day,” the Citation of Units states.
Klutts said when he saw a story in The Messenger that the LST-325 was going to be in Clarksville, it resulted in a double-take at the paper.
“I didn’t think I’d ever see it again,” he said, adding he told his wife, Dorothy, “It was the ship that put me across the English Channel on D-Day.
“It was just a surprise to think about seeing it again,” he said.
This time, though, Klutts got to see more of the old cargo ship than he did 68 years ago. During his 45-minute long tour, he was able to see the main deck, troop berthing, tank deck, mess deck, galley, aft of ship (guns and anchor), wheel house, officer’s country and the captain’s cabin. On D-Day, he stayed with his equipment.
Klutts said he and his unit stayed on the front line from the point they rolled out of the hull of the LST-325 on D-Day until the day the war was over. He said he served in the European Theatre, seeing time in France, Germany, England and Belgium. He was in Dartmouth, Germany, when the war ended, he said.
After returning home, he served as a truck driver, working 20 years with the Obion County Highway Department. He also worked for Maloney Farms, Younger & Sons and A&J Salvage. He was an alderman for the Town of Troy for about 30 years.
He and his wife, members of Greater Vision Ministries, recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. At 91, Klutts enjoys fishing and hunting.
The LST-325 made regional news recently when it became grounded in the Cumberland River on its way back to Evansville, Ind. Coast Guard Lt. Dan McQuate said the ship traveled outside the channel and got stuck about nine miles above Lake Barkley Lock and Dam. It was stuck for two days before being freed. The ship’s captain told the Evansville Courier & Press that it wasn’t damaged.
Published in The Messenger 10.9.12