LST 388: A World War II Journal

By Robert von der Osten with his daughter Barbara von der Osten

This is a wonderful memoir on so many levels. Robert von der Osten was able to keep a journal during his time of service. He and his journal not only survived the war, but his ship did. LSTs (Landing Ship Tank) were new. Von der Osten, the son of a WWI veteran, became a radioman on the new USS LST-388, which was commissioned in late 1942. The ship hauled equipment and men to North Africa, the UK, and made landings on Sicily, Salerno, and many trips to the beaches of Normandy. I was surprised at how much traveling he was able to do when he had time off, how easily this gregarious sailor collected friends, and how grueling their days could be.

I was amazed to learn that the US had shipped over 1000 locomotives and about 20,000 rail cars to the UK. Railroad tracks were welded to the deck and ramp of LST-388, and it made 29 round trips between England and France carrying rail cars. This is not only the story of a young sailor and his corner of the massive war, but the story of a ship, taking it to its eventual fate after the war. Robert von der Osten eventually served on the NYPD, then taught high school and college. Robert didn’t get his book finished, but his youngest daughter Barbara did. It has several good pictures in it and is a real treasure.

Author’s Note

Through his journal entries, von der Osten takes us with him to war, from his training days in the newly created amphibious force, to practice beachings on the Chesapeake Bay; from the ports of North Africa and the United Kingdom, to the hostile shores of Sicily, Salerno, and Normandy. All the while serving as a radioman aboard this new kind of ship, the landing ship, tank.

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