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Muskegon has its fair share of historical and nautical museums giving everyone the chance to be immersed and enriched by so much local and US history. Another great example of this is the USS LST 393 Veterans Museum, one of only two LSTs to survive in their original WWII configuration. The LST 393 served during WWII completing 75 voyages to three continents (including 30 trips to Normandy), carrying over 9,000 soldiers and 3, 248 vehicles out to the front lines, transporting over 5,000 prisoners, and logging 51,817 nautical miles. The LSTs, or landing ship tanks, were developed because of a need for armored infantry divisions during invasions by sea. England's Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, requested that the US develop a ship that was big enough to travel an ocean, but could also deliver armored vehicles and personnel straight to an unimproved beach. The LST 393 was launched from Newport News, Virginia on November 11, 1942. She won battle stars for service in the occupation of Sicily, the invasion of Salerno, and the D-Day invasion of Normandy. She was decommissioned in 1946 and then became a merchant ship, carrying vehicles from Muskegon to Milwaukee. She was renamed the M/V Highway 16, which referred to US Route 16 that ran from Detroit to Muskegon, then spanned Lake Michigan, and picked up again in Milwaukee. The LST 393 worked as a merchant vessel until 1973 and then sat unused and unattended. Since then two groups have undergone efforts to restore the LST 393. The first was a Muskegon museum group that started in 2000. They made some progress with some help from the Michigan LST Association, but the effort fizzled out after about two years. Then, in 2005, a group headed by Dan Weikel and Bob Wygant asked Sand Products Corp., the owners of the LST 393, if they could pick up where the other group had left off. After a couple years of vigorous cleaning and painting they resulted in a ship that was ready for tours. In 2007, after a huge effort, they managed to open the bow doors for the first time since the late 1940s when they were welded shut. The USS LST 393 Veterans Museum is still a work in progress, but since opening has received thousands of artifacts for display and is still under restoration. Be sure to walk the ship and experience WWII from a new perspective and don't forget to stop and spend some time at the Wall of Honor, honoring all military veterans from all branches of service. So come out and support this wonderful piece of local and US WWII history. It will be an experience to remember.
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