Decatur will have three military-themed activities available Labor Day weekend, including the return of the only World War II Landing Ship Tank still afloat in U.S. waters.
The USS LST 325 will be open to the public Aug. 29-Sept. 3 during its second visit to Ingalls Harbor. In conjunction with the ship's visit, the Princess Theatre will host "Concert of Light: A Night with the Veterans" on Aug. 31.
The Battle for Decatur Reenactment returns Aug. 31-Sept. 1 at Point Mallard for its 35th year of displaying Civil War history.
When the LST 325 visited Decatur in 2014, 17,893 people toured the ship, which at the time was the third-largest attendance during a stopover behind only Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, according to USS LST Ship Memorial Inc. board member Owen Chapman of Decatur.
"It's a piece of history," Chapman said. "I went with an LST 50 years ago in Vietnam. It's an extremely important ship for the history of World War II."
The LSTs were used to transport troops and equipment during World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War. Chapman said 1,051 of the ships were built in a three-year span for service in World War II. The LST 325 is the only one in use that retains its military configuration, but there are others overseas that have been converted to other uses, Chapman said.
The ship will arrive in Decatur on the Tennessee River on Aug. 28. An opening ceremony and the first public tours will follow Aug. 29. Tours will run from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for ages 6-17 and free for 5 and under. Chapman said a canopy 100 feet long and 40 feet wide will be set up at the entrance to the ship to provide shade for as many people in line as possible.
The visit will be an Alabama Bicentennial event.
Civil War history
The reenactment, which also has been designated as an Alabama Bicentennial event, represents a battle between Union and Confederate soldiers in October 1864.
Larry Thomson, SCV Camp 580 Adjutant, said the Battle for Decatur is the longest-running reenactment in Alabama. He estimated between 5,000 to 7,000 people attended the event last year.
"I hope the weather is good for us," Thomson said.
Students from local schools can attend School Day on Aug. 30 and learn from historians about the daily lives of soldiers during the Civil War.
"It's one of the most important things we do," Thomson said. He pointed out that students can see firsthand the level of technology from the Civil War era.
The public can observe mock battles at 2 p.m. on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.
For more information about the reenactment activities visit www.battlefordecatur.com or call Thomson at 256-520-2906.
The Concert of Light is a part of the Last National Honky Tonk Series that has been held nationally since March 2014. The concert will have 10 acts, and a percentage of the proceeds from the event will go to the R&D Military Assistance program. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the concert will begin at 7 p.m.
Princess Theatre Development and Communications Director Melissa Ford Thornton said the concert was set for Labor Day weekend to coincide with the LST ship tour.
"We saw the opportunity to entertain and share with veterans and their families," Thornton said. "It makes sense for Decatur as a whole."
Tickets can be purchased at www.princesstheatre.org.