May 3, 2007 - 12:00AM
Museum casts away WWII ship

After nearly three years, the Museum of the Marine announced it was pulling anchor on its donated World War II ship and looking for someone who could better afford its preservation.

"We aim to find an organization that specializes in the restoration of ships to take on the LSM-45," said Jim Williams, executive director of the museum. "The museum has bought some time for the LSM, and we hope to be able to turn her over to a ships museum that can save this piece of World War II history."

The Landing Ship Medium 45, a medium-sized Navy landing ship, was donated to the museum in July 2004. The Amphibious Ships Museum, now a defunct veterans association, donated and facilitated the transfer of the ship from its home in Omaha, Neb., to its resting place in Camp Lejeune's Mile Hammock Bay where it still sits today.

The LSM-45 is the last remaining ship of its kind in the United States still configured for its original purpose.

Initially, the museum planned to incorporate the 500-ton vessel into a site plan that, at the time, focused on waterfront property on the New River next to Jacksonville's proposed civic center. Location prospects fizzled, though, along with the civic center plans.

Now ready to break ground sans water, the Museum of the Marine rethought its ability to keep the ship afloat.

"We have not discounted the historical value of the LSM-45 and are pursuing options that would preserve her for future possible display," Williams said.

The museum's announcement to break ties with the ship came shortly after members of the USS LSM/LSMR Association - an organization closely tied to the ship's donors - began questioning the fate of the ship after learning of the museum's plans to build in the landlocked Lejeune Memorial Gardens.

"We donated a check for over $36,000 and are working on a fund drive at this time to present some more money for the upkeep of the ship," said David Miller, president of the USS LSM/LSMR Association. "The (LSM was) to be incorporated in the design of the museum so future generations could see part of the history that was made back then."

But Williams said no such promises were made at the time of transfer.

"The museum informed the organization that owned the ship, the Amphibious Ships Museum, in writing that although every attempt would be made to make the ship part of the museum, there would be no guarantees," Williams said. "We do not know if the Amphibious Ships Museum communicated this possibility to the USS LSM/LSMR Association."

Miller, however, has a different interpretation of the agreement.

"We veterans worked so hard to obtain and rely on the word and faith of the Marines in charge of the museum that we would have a place alongside them in the history they are trying to generate through this museum," Miller said.

Since the LSM-45 arrived in Jacksonville, the Museum of the Marine spent more than $19,000 from the USS LSM/LSMR Association's donation for upkeep, Williams said. That money included lead paint removal and asbestos containment among other repairs. The museum also gives tours for former sailors of LSM ships and their families, according to the museum's press release.

Currently, the Museum of the Marine has identified several organizations as a suitable home for the 205-foot, shoebox-shaped vessel and hope to share transportation costs with the benefactor, Williams said.

The last time the ship was moved, Miller said, it cost roughly $500,000 to navigate it across the country.

But while the Amphibious Forces Memorial Museum in Portland, the USS Landing Craft Infantry National Association and the American Amphibious Force Association all have their merits, Williams said, the museum is holding out most hope for the USS LSM/LSMR Association to arrange its home port.

"They have the most passion for this ship than anyone," Williams said. "We're at a critical time where we need to flesh out our option of where the ship will be."

Contact Kelley Chambers at or 353-1171, ext. 8462.