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thedrifter
01-08-06, 12:37 PM
Alton gets landing craft back after its movie-star turn
By Reuben Meyer
Associated Press
Published January 8, 2006

ALTON, Ill. -- The "alligator" is back at the Armed Forces Museum in Alton.

The World War II amtrack, an armored amphibious landing craft designated as an LTV-4, returned to its home at the Armed Forces Museum after being used in the production of a movie based on the book "Flags of Our Fathers," by James Bradley and Ron Powers.

Capt. C.N. Venable, director of the museum, said the craft looks battle-worn.

Clint Eastwood directed the film, which tells the story of the six men who raised the flag on Mt. Suribachi in the World War II battle of Iwo Jima. Warner Brothers Studios called on the museum for help because only a few thousand LTV-4s were produced and only a couple run.

The St. Louis Car and Foundry plant built the craft from 1941 to 1945. The most common model, the one owned by the museum, was built in 1943.

Venable said the craft was built to hold 30 soldiers at one time, or 15 soldiers and a Jeep. A seven-cylinder aircraft engine, the PT-17 Stearman, powered it.

"The Alligator was used in rough terrain, swamp land and for beach landings," Venable said.

He said it took a lot of work and patience for the museum acquire the craft. In 1992, museum officials promised a group of Marine veterans who fought on Iwo Jima that they would have an LTV-4 ready for the battle's 50th anniversary in 1995. The original price was $6,500, but after a 1993 flood, the owner lowered it to $5,000.

The museum had raised only $450 by that time. Venable said Randy Heil, a Vietnam veteran, helped the museum keep its promise.

"He wanted to pay the balance for us to acquire the Alligator in memory of his father, who served and rode on the Alligators," Venable said.

The LTV-4 was on display at Kiener Plaza in St. Louis for the 50th anniversary of the landing at Iwo Jima. Nearly 2,000 Marine veterans of the battle viewed it.

The Alligators used at Iwo Jima were not limited to transporting troops to the island. The flat, sandy surface at Iwo Jima made the soldiers easy targets for the Japanese defenders on Mount Suribachi.

"The sand was so fine and silty that you couldn't dig a foxhole," Venable said. "The Marines used the Alligators as cover."

"Flags of Our Fathers" is due to be released this fall.

Ellie