Built in 1942, The USS LST-467 was a United States Navy LST-1-class tank landing ship used in the Asiatic-Pacific Theatre during World War II. As with many of her class, the ship was never named. Instead, the ship was referred to by its hull designation.
Landing Ship, Tank (LST), or tank landing ship, is the naval designation for ships first developed during World War II to support amphibious operations by carrying tanks, vehicles, cargo, and landing troops directly onto shore with no docks or piers. This enabled amphibious assaults on almost any beach. The bow of the LST had a large door that would open with a ramp for unloading the vehicles. The LST had a special flat keel that allowed the ship to be beached and stay upright. The twin propellers and rudders had protection from grounding.
LST-467 earned eight battle stars and the Navy Unit Commendation for World War II service and was credited with shooting down five enemy planes.
Following the war, LST-467 returned to the United States, was decommissioned and refitted as a cargo ship. Over the years, the freighter was bought and sold several times, including a stint in Canada hauling logs. The last owner was the West Indies Trading company that bought the ship in 1973. They renamed the ship WIT Shoal II and it was used as an inter-island freighter in the Caribbean. In 1984, Tropical Storm Klaus created havoc in the US Virgin Islands and the WIT Shoal sank just off Charlotte Amalie. The ship’s career as a freighter was over. The owners patched, raised and sold the ship for scrap in Puerto Rico. However while being towed to Puerto Rico, one of the hull patches broke loose and the tow lines had to be cut. The WIT Shoal sank 2 miles south off of St Thomas.
The whereabouts of the LST-467 was unknown to the general public for years but eventually, St. Thomas divers found it.
The ship is a large 400-foot cargo shipwreck sitting upright on a featureless sand plane, 90 feet below the surface. Towering 70 feet out of the sand from keel to wheelhouse, it has five decks - from the first level engine room to the Captain’s control room. The immensity of the wreck is overwhelming. We were in awe when we got our first glimpse of the wreck.
A ripping current surrounded the wreck. Bathed by currents, this wreck is the most colourful wrecks of the Caribbean. Coated with Tubastraea or Orange Cup Coral, it is an underwater painting. A school of horse-eyed jacks floated effortlessly in the current at the stern of the wreck. We however, needed to duck into the wheelhouse regularly to recover from the work of staying abreast with the jacks.
The wreck is a virtual magnet for marine life and many fish have taken up residence in this steel reef. Barracudas hung out on the deck and we saw a few turtles swimming around the superstructure. Large Southern stingrays rest on the deck and can be seen in the sand surrounding the shell of the ship. The shadowed recesses of the hold are home to Goliath grouper and reef sharks make occasional patrols of the area. The life on the wreck was astonishing.
Some of the most spectacular highlights of the wreck were the large coral encrusted orange and yellow cargo crane, the impressive propeller half buried in the sand, the wheelhouse, the galley and the deck hardware and railings. But with only a few dives on this wreck, we still have so much more to discover.
There is a great community interest in this wreck. There have been a couple of reunions organized for soldiers who served on the ship during the Second World War and efforts are underway to have LST-467 declared a historical site.