Sneads Ferry, NC – Mr. Joseph F. Dill Jr. passed away Wednesday, October 13th in Florida. Mr. Dill was the last surviving crew member that served during World War II on the U.S.S. LSM-45, (United States Landing Ship (medium) hull number 45).
Quartermaster First Class (QM1) Dill had enlisted, with parental permission, into the U. S. Navy at the age of 17. He served proudly and faithfully in the Pacific Theater of Operations as a quartermaster assigned to the LSM-45.
A key figure in the navigation team that piloted the ship, Petty Officer Dill worked directly under the ships captain and the watch officer of the deck. As a quartermaster, he was responsible for plotting the courses for the ship and for the safe ship handling required during evasive maneuvers, docking and undocking, and for navigating at sea while underway.
As a first class petty officer, Dill was one of the senior enlisted men on board his warship. The U.S.S. LSM-45 took part in the Battle of the Philippines and the Battle for Okinawa during the final stages of the war.
Dill took great pride in having been a Navy man during the most devastating war in modern history. The Second World War was a global conflict for world domination by the axis powers. Without the critical arms, men and supplies delivered by the landing ships (medium) throughout the far reaching outposts of the Pacific Ocean, the outcome could have been far different for our Allied forces, and our nation.
There were 540 of these class ships built during that war, and the LSM-45 was the very last surviving vessel of its class, still in its original configuration. It was turned over to Greece in 1958 where it served the Hellenic Navy as an amphibious landing ship for thirty years. The ship was then relocated to Freedom Park in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1993, where it was displayed as a war monument for several years.
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Dill attended the ceremonies in Omaha. There had been plans to refurbish the vessel as a museum for people to enjoy for many years to come. Unfortunately, their lack of funds prompted a search for a new owner that could eventually open the ship for the public to again enjoy.
In 2004, the ship changed ownership once more and was brought to Camp Lejeune, NC, with plans to restore it to a safe condition for public display as a part of the Museum of the Marine. Again, there were many former LSM Sailors ready to assist in any way possible and the museum staff put great efforts into accommodating visitors and doing whatever they could on behalf of the ship and the association of LSM Sailors.
Over time, the vessels advanced age and the museums unforeseen funding problems determined the future for this artifact, and the Museum of the Marine had no choice but to turn the worn out vessel over to a place where it can survive to some degree. It now rests in the New River at “Justice Marine” in Sneads Ferry North Carolina, where it is being altered into a barge by its newest owners.
On the up side of this circumstance are the museums plans to remove the ‘tower,’ or superstructure, and the twin 40 mm gun mount from the bow, and then ship them back to the museum to be refurbished and then displayed on the museum grounds.
It is sad to observe the passing of a great ship, but far more tragic to note the passing of a true American, a veteran of the most devastating conflict in the history of the world. Joseph Dill was a member of our greatest generation and will be sadly missed by his family and his friends. He was an icon of the twentieth century, a credit to his country and was the kind of Seaman that all of the young men in our modern new Navy today are all about.
QM1 Joseph F. Dill Jr., United States Navy veteran of World War II, was interred in the National Cemetery at Bushnell, Florida, on October 25th, 2010. He was buried with full military honors provided by the U.S. Naval Honor Guard Detachment from Jacksonville, Florida.
Written with respect by Fred Lehman