The American World War II Heritage City Program was developed in 2019 to recognize the historic importance of the United States' involvement in World War II. This distinction is only awarded to one city from each state or territory and Evansville, Indiana was recognized in 2022. For more information about the American World War II Heritage City Program, visit www.nps.gov/subjects/worldwarii/americanheritagecity.com.
Evansville WWII History
World War II caused a significant shift within the workforce of Evansville, Indiana. 80 factories adjusted their production to accommodate the war’s growing demands. The need for these products created an abundance of jobs, more than tripling the number of available jobs in the city. The newly growing workforce began producing paint, ammunition, army trucks, planes, tanks, LSTs and more.
When the United States declared its involvement in World War II, the Office of Production Management began their search for a production plant capable of producing ammunition. It was vital that the plant was located on water as this was essential for transporting the goods. Chrysler president K.T. Keller wasted no time in volunteering his Evansville, Indiana Chrysler plant. It was one of the first businesses in Evansville to halt its standard daily operations to begin production for the war. From 1942 to 1944, over 3 billion .45 cartridges were produced, contributing 96% of all .45 automatic ammunition used by the armed forces. The plant also produced almost a half-billion .30 caliber cartridges, army trucks and reconditioned 1,662 Sherman tanks. Artifacts from the Evansville Chrysler plant can be viewed at the Evansville Wartime Museum.
The US Navy constructed the Missouri Valley Bridge & Iron Co. Shipyard, also known as the Evansville Shipyard, in 1942. For three years, the forty-acre plant ran 24 hours a day, producing one ship every four days. By February 1945, the Evansville Shipyard had produced 167 LSTs. This achievement made the Evansville Shipyard the largest inland producer of oceangoing ships. USS LST 325 is docked in downtown Evansville and showcases various military exhibits.
The Republic Aviation Company opened in 1942 and began producing P-47 aircrafts, also known as “Thunderbolts.” 5,000 employees, half of whom were women, worked around the clock to produce over 6,000 aircrafts within 3 years, contributing half of the country’s Thunderbolts. The impact of this contribution was recognized by President Franklin D. Roosevelt when he visited the area in 1943. The Evansville Wartime Museum, located across the street from what was the Republic Aviation Company, features artifacts from the plant.
Several Evansville businesses received the Army Navy “E” Award because of their unrelenting efforts. Chrysler, The Evansville Shipyard, Republic Aviation, Hoosier Cardinal and Servel Inc. are just a few who were honored for their “high standard of practical patriotism.” In presenting the award, Lieutenant Colonel Miles Chatfield of the Army Ordnance Department commended the city's contributions. “This all adds up to a remarkable accomplishment performed by those inexperienced in the ways of making ammunition, but with a wiliness and devotion to patriotic duty second to none.”
The origin of what is now known as the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science dates back to the late nineteenth century when the Ladies Literary Club of Evansville was formed. Created with the hopes of promoting art education within the city, the organization curated the museum's first art exhibit in 1900 hosted by Willard Library. The showcase, titled “Curios Loan,” hosted approximately 400 pieces including tapestries, wood carvings and porcelain pieces from China.
Now, 123 years after its first exhibit, the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science is home to over 30,000 objects and hosts a continually changing schedule of new exhibitions, events, activities and more.
USS LST 325 was launched on October 27th, 1942, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and served the US Navy for almost twenty years. The ship was reactivated in 1963 and transferred to the Hellenic Navy in Greece where it served until 1999. Although this LST was not one of the 167 LSTs built at the Evansville Shipyard, it has called this area home since 2005 when it docked on the Evansville riverfront and was transformed into a military museum.
The USS LST 325 Memorial strives to educate its visitors of the role the LST played in World War II, The Korean War and The Vietnam War. Within the ship are various exhibits featuring the ship's contribution in each war, with emphasis on World War II.
USS LST 325 also serves as a ceremonial hub for Veteran’s Day celebrations, Remembrance Day events and military reunions.
Opening May 27, 2017, The Evansville Wartime Museum was created to honor the sacrifices made in the name of freedom during World War II and to emphasize Evansville’s own contributions to the war effort. Displays at the museum include a 1943 M4A4 Sherman Tank, an Evansville-built P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft, numerous war relics, and captivating stories from hometown workers and battlefront soldiers.