By Nicholas Cafalone, Contributing Writer
OSWEGO, NY – The H. Lee White Marine Museum hosted a special event this weekend to commemorate the 67th anniversary of D-Day. A piece of World War II history was featured.
“This weekend is about commemorating the 67th anniversary of D-Day, in which our national historic landmark tugboat, the LT-5, participated,” said Mercedes Niess, executive director of the museum. “We’re recognizing not only the veterans of our county but also this tugboat as well.”
“We’ve always had the LT-5 as a floating exhibit but unfortunately in this climate, we’re limited to having the boat open five months a year,” Niess continued. “So we just unveiled a new exhibit about the LT-5 and its involvement in World War II and that will hopefully educate people about the significance of this vessel and its role in World War II.”
The LT-5 is a tugboat that was manufactured specifically for the D-Day invasion.
“When they built these tugs, they built them fast and didn’t anticipate their return,” said Niess.
However, the LT-5 beat the odds.
To expedite the manufacture and lower the cost of these vessels they were not given hydraulic steering or a transmission.
“These ships were meant to be expendable and were built in three months time. So they didn’t put transmissions in them,” explained LT-5 tour guide Ron Wilson.
During the D-Day invasion the LT-5 did something that no other tugboat was able to accomplish. It shot down a Nazi warplane.
Painted on the side of the vessel in white is a picture of a plane and a swastika to remember its accomplishment.
“Although its mission was as a supply ship, the LT-5 gunners shot down an enemy plane during the invasion,” said Niess.
Wilson also stated the vessel is the last of its kind in working condition.
“She is fully operational and is the last one of these that is operational. There were over 200 at D-Day and more built after that. There is another is in Detroit but is in dry dock while this one still runs and a lot of that is due to the fact she spent 40 years up here on Lake Ontario out of Buffalo in fresh water.”
After helping with the invasion of D-Day the LT-5 was given to the Army Corp of Engineers and used in the Great Lakes.
“It served as a harbor tug on the Great Lakes, mainly Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, and that is how is came to be here,” said Niess.
Also attending the museum’s commemorative weekend is a group of World War II re-enactors that are based out of Central New York.
They portray the ‘A’ Company, 5th Ranger Battalion that was in service in Europe from 1944 to 1945. They plan to interpret the unfolding of events of this brave military unit on the days immediately following the D-Day invasion.
The LT-5 is a rare piece of American history right here in Oswego. It offers a unique glimpse at the ingenuity of wartime manufacturers to create what was needed quickly and inexpensively to help with the war effort.