By M. Scott Morris
TUPELO – The radio room on LST 325, a Navy vessel, didn’t have a porthole, but that’s OK because the Tupelo Veterans Museum isn’t a ship.
One of the museum’s newest editions is a transmitter and receiver from LST 325 that’s been nursed back to health. It’s on display next to a porthole that features a water scene by artist Della Lentz.
“I sent them a picture and they said it didn’t have a porthole,” said Tony Lute, museum curator, “but they said to keep it because it looks good.”
Barry Brand, 73, and Chuck Young, 75, both of Tupelo, are Navy veterans who specialized in communications. They knew the equipment well.
“This would be 1942 vintage,” Young said. “They were used also in the 1950s and when I was in, in 1959, and I actually have heard from some guys who were in Vietnam that they were used then.”
Lute gives Brand credit for restoring the equipment, but Brand isn’t willing to go that far.
“I didn’t actually restore them,” he said. “I just got them working.”
“Oh, he restored them,” Lute said.
“He spent every day for two weeks up here,” Young said.
Dan Hales, a former Navy electronics technician, worked on the project, too.
In addition to the receiver, transmitter and porthole, the display area features a 1920s home radio speaker that was restored by David Grisham.
The equipment sits on a pair of desks that are recreations of desks from LST 325’s radio room. One of the desks holds Young’s hat from his Navy days, and the other holds a Smith-Corona communications typewriter.
“They look the same as a regular typewriter, but they’re not. These are all caps,” Young said. “This may be the only communications typewriter in the state of Mississippi that works.”
The radio equipment works, too, but it’s more art than science. Its knobs and dials are a far cry from modern digital equipment.
With Morse Code, Young has made contact with ham radio operators in Pensacola, Fla., and Nashville, Tenn.
“If a guy comes in here and proves to me he has an amateur license,” Lute said, “he can sit down and use it.”