Steiner at home on LST

Lisa Depies
Bernard Steiner of Geneseo stands at the wheel of the USS LST-325, which recently visited Moline. Steiner served as a helmsman aboard USS LST-51 during World War II.

When the USS? LST-325 visited Moline recently, Bernard Steiner of Geneseo found himself in a familiar position ... at the wheel. During World War II, Steiner served as helmsman on the USS LST-51.

LSTs — Landing Ship Tanks — were the only ships ever constructed that could go anywhere in the world, deposit their cargo onto a hostile beach and then go and get another load.

“Our home port was in Norfolk,?Va., but we made all of our landings in Europe,” said Steiner. “We were at Normandy during H-hour, and, about a month after that, we were deployed to Southern France to make a landing there so the Army troops could invade at that point and go north to cut off the enemy.

“The LSTs have been credited by military experts as being a main reason for winning the war. The ships were able to deliver so many troops to such remote places. The enemy didn’t have that capability,” he said.

Though the ships themselves were an instrumental part of the Allis’ success, serving on one was anything but ideal. “It was a trying experience,”?said Steiner. “The ships only draw eight feet of water, and it was like being in some kind of a cracker box. You were bouncing and floating around on very rough seas most of the time.”

All personnel serving aboard an LST had two main jobs — one to do when the ship was going from one place to another and another job when the ship was stationary.

“When we were underway, I was the helmsman on the ship, which meant I steered the ship at the direction of the captain. When we were not underway, my job was as the captain’s yeoman,” said Steiner.

Steering the ship “really wasn’t difficult, except in rough seas,” he said. “In rough seas, the turbulence made it quite difficult to steer, but we persevered and managed to get everything done that was necessary.”

Drafted into the Navy, Steiner — then a first class petty officer — served on the LST 51 from 1943 to 1945.

“You don’t run into many veterans who are familiar with the LST type of craft. That wasn’t the type of duty you asked for,” said Steiner.

While the ship was making a landing in Southern France, it was hit by a German 88 shell, said Steiner. “We took the hit above the waterline, and therefore we did not go down. But we had a big hole in the side of the ship. At the time, we were landing troops, and I’m not aware of what the injury situation turned out to be.

“It was something I sure would never want to do again, and?I hope no one else would ever have to,” he said. “When I look back, it frightens me to think of how we were able to do all of what we did do.”

When the USS LST-325 visited Moline, Steiner said he was happy to have an opportunity to see the ship.

“After all these years, I’d forgotten a lot of the little qualities of the ship. They came back to me pretty fast when?I was on the ship,” he said.

Steiner’s family, who’d never visited an LST, toured the ship with Steiner. “They were very impressed. My daughter even took a picture of me at the helm when we were in the wheelhouse.”

The USS LST-325 now is a floating museum dedicated to the history of Landing Ship Tanks.

Opening the ship to the public “is a good idea” said Steiner. “I think it’s a good thing for people to see, especially if they’re interested in history. They’re not likely to see a ship like that in the future, because military tactics have changed. Having visitors tour the LST can only be a positive because it helps them realize what the men did for their country.”