The LST building on Fort Knox is the only building of its kind in the world. The building was vital to the development of the landing ship tank or LST. This large ship helped the Allies land thousands of tanks on the shores of France during Operation Overlord in June 1944. Some people call Operation Overlord “D-Day.”
Why did the US Navy and British Admiralty need these ships? Following the fall of France and the evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940, the British and their allies began to plan for the invasion of Europe. The British designed the LCT (Landing Craft Tank) in 1940 but it could only hold six tanks. A larger, oceangoing vessel was needed. It would need to be able to hold large amounts of tanks and equipment that could be unloaded on any shore in the world, not just a port. Under the Lend-Lease Agreement which allowed the British to buy American war materials, the British Admiralty worked with the US Navy Department to design a ship capable of carrying large armored vehicles.
An LST ship at Normandy.
There were several problems that had to be overcome in the design of this new ship. In order to transport tanks, the ship would be over 300 feet long. It would have to have a shallow draft so that it could land on shore. The vehicles would need to be stored for ocean transport. The tanks would also have to start and operate inside the hold of the ship. The amount of exhaust the tanks produced would suffocate the people in the hold. At first, the problem of ventilating the area inside the ship was considered impossible to overcome.
Loading LST ships with supplies and equipment.
In April 1942, the War Department chose Fort Knox as the place to erect the LST building. It was completed in about two months. The interior of the building was constructed to duplicate every support beam, vent, hatch, door, and rivet of an actual LST. This allowed the designers to track airflow throughout the mock ship and help the engineers create a ventilation system that would remove noxious gases on a real LST. As with any real ship, the building was designed without windows. A steep entry ramp was necessary because the front doors of the building were built to mimic an actual LST.
Outside the LST building at Fort Knox.
For the next three months, various venting systems were tested. The building was changed between the experiments in order to test the different venting systems. Fans were added to the exterior of the building to increase air quality. Instruments measured the airflow and air quality. By early August 1942, the new system proved that the well deck of the ship could be satisfactorily vented and the testing came to an end. LST production began in 1943, primarily in Evansville, Indiana. These ships were used in both the European and Pacific Theaters during World War II for amphibious assaults. The LST type ship remained in service with the US Navy until 2002.
The “well deck” of the LST building with ventilation pipes.
After the war, the LST building was converted into classrooms. Windows and doors
were cut into the side of the building. Today, the LST building at Fort Knox
is used as a holding facility for the armored vehicles of the General George
Patton Museum. Tours of this of this building can be arranged with permission
from the director of the General George Patton Museum at (502) 624-2334.
Tanks lined up inside the LST building with ventilation pipes.
Ft. Knox’s Ark: The LST Building
Landing Ship, Tank (LST) 1942–2002.
USS LST Ship Memorial
A site honoring the men, women and vessels of the Navy and Marine Corps.
Tank Landing Ships (LST)
Tank Landing Ship (LST) Index
United States LST Association