Official Home of American Amphibious Force Association
Back about 1999 -2000 a few “GATORS” got together in Newport News, Virginia in hopes of starting an organization for the LST’s (Amphibious Navy).
There may have been as many as 10 ‘GATORS’ who showed up, but I can only recollect five names who were in attendance. They were as follows; Dave Miller, Pete Reenstra, Gary McKnight, Don Nachle and Dan Miller. There was one other (not a Gator) but that name shall be forgotten. Not a whole lot was accomplished at that first meeting.
We met again in 2001, with great expectations of getting really organized. Boom, we lost one of our originals, Don Nachle who passed away. We began discussions on what we wanted to do and when to have reunions. It was then decided to meet again in 2002 and a big weekend was planned. Unfortunately, there was not enough attendance and we almost lost our shirts, dollar wise. We did at that time come up with a name and logo patch for the organization. We became known as the AAFA and designed the patch. We were also privileged to take a tour of the LORAIN COUNTY (LST-1177) and the WOOD COUNTY (LST-1178) as they were in the James River Fleet rusting away. MARAD did this for us. We had to take a tug out to the ships and that is where the problem began. As we all stood around waiting for the tug to come in MARAD informed us we could not go out to the ships without “STEEL TOED SHOES”. Great, what do we do now? A big “THANKS” to MARAD and the ARMY GUYS at FORT EUTIS, they all dug into their lockers and pulled out boots of all sizes. They didn’t stop until all of us had our feet covered properly. After returning to the dock we all said “WOW, THOSE SHIPS REALLY LOOK BAD”.
In 2003 we met again in Hampton Roads and the attendance was very good. This was accomplished thru Pete’s website (“DUTHMANS DOCK”). It appeared as though people were searching for a place to gather and meet old and new friends. Had several Gators sign up for membership at that time including our current historian Larry Adamik and Sue.
Originally we had planned on having reunions every other year. The next reunion, 2004 was in Gatlinburg, TN, at which time we became officially organized and elected officers. They were Pete Reenstra as President, Dirk Brouwer as Vice President and Dave Miller as Secretary/Treasurer. Our first order of business was to change and begin having reunions every year. This was done because of losing members every year due to passing away. To this day we still have our reunions every year and always in a different place.
We have progressed thru the years and gained substantial membership. Attendance at the reunions has been wonderful. Old friends and new friends alike share stories. We opened up the membership to not only LST Gators, but all amphibious forces plus any and all veterans who enjoy the camaraderie. Also included are WWII vets and there membership is free.
We are still growing and hopefully will become a large and well known group. Our new website will give all a firsthand look and the ability to not only join, but be able to attend the reunions. Looking forward to all who are interested.
U.S.S. Suffolk County