Ernest E. Andrus was born August 19, 1923, Wolf River Township, Donaphin County, Kansas and moved to Los Angeles, California at age 14.
Ernest is currently getting nationwide recognition for running the Pacific Ocean near San Diego, CA, on October 7th, 2013 and will touch the Atlantic Ocean near Brunswick, GA two to four years time. The purpose of this run, is to raise money for the LST 325 Ship Memorial, Inc. ” I was one of the crew that brought the LST 325 back from the Isle of Crete, Greece to the US in 2000-2001 as aired on the History Channel as “The Return of LST 325.” Ernest said.
One thousand Fifty-One LST’s were built during World War II. The 325 is the only one left that has been restored and is still operational. Plans were being made to return the ship to Normandy for the D day memorial service (D day plus 70, 2014) and beach it at the same location where it was on Omaha beach 70 years before. The cost of taking this ship across the Atlantic and back is tremendous. Shortage of finances caused the 2014 trip to be canceled. Ernest hopes he can raise enough money for the 75th D Day anniversary in 2019.
Ernest, despite his busy schedule, was kind enough to give me an interview on his service during WWII:
“I was in my senior year of high school when Pearl Harbor was bombed.
I was cruising the streets of Los Angeles with my best friend in my model A roadster on December 7, 1941 when the news came over my portable radio. “Pearl harbor was bombed” I asked my buddy “Where’s Pearl Harbor?”. He replied “I don’t know but I think were at war. Let’s go join the navy.”. A friend had been bugging us to join the navy and see the world. We told him to wait till we got our diplomas then we’d consider. We drove to his house and said “let’s go join the navy”. He said “not me, I’ll get killed. Wait till the war’s over.” We said “either come with us or we’ll go without you.” so he went with us. Much to our regret he was right, he was killed. The navy turned me down because of a lazy eye. I drove back and forth between Los Angeles and Wilmington Beach trying to enlist. On my sixth try the line was so long I had time to memorize the eye chart. I joined the navy in June, 1942.
I was taken by bus from Los Angeles to San Diego for five weeks of boot camp. Then five weeks Hospital Corps School then two months at Corona Naval Hospital. Took a train to the bay area and boarded a ship at a dry dock in Oakland, California. Spent the first half of the war taking troops to the South Pacific and bringing back the wounded. I took a merchant marine ship to New Caledonia and was assigned to the LST 124. Spent the rest of the war island hopping (Retaking the island back from the Japanese).
My battle station on the transport AP 63 (USS Rochambeau) was on the 3 inch gun. I just passed the ammunition. They wanted a Corpsman on every gun. My battle station on the LST was sick bay. My job was to keep the wounded marines alive until we could get them to a Hospital or Hospital Ship. God was good to me, I never lost a patient during the whole war. I brought one aboard at Cheracanoa Saipan on a stretcher who appeared to be dead, but he moved his head when I set the stretcher down. The doctor said “he’s dead let’s take care of the others”. I said no he was not. I never was much good at taking orders so I poured blood plasma into him for half the night and brought him back.
I couldn’t see much of the action being in the sick bay, but there was a port hole in the overhead and I could stick my head out once in a while and see all the fireworks.
I was rotated back to the US and was lounging by the swimming pool in San Diego waiting for my transfer to Long Beach Naval Hospital when I heard the news “The war was over” The best news the world has ever heard.
After the war it was just advance my education, find a good job, own a home, raise a family. and make sure my kids never had to go through what we went through. It seems that may not have been too good because we started the spoil the kids process and it keeps snowballing generation to generation so when hardship comes it’s more than some can handle. I think the great depression was what made our generation the so called “Greatest Generation”.
I decided to run coast to coast because I had heard of others doing it and it just seemed like an adventure I’d like to tackle. When I did my first two hundred mile relay I was 88 years old and I got so much attention I thought what if I a 90 year old man ran coast to coast, maybe I could raise some money for the LST Ship Memorial. The LST means a lot to me because not only did I serve on one identical to it but I was one of the crew that brought it back to the US. Also I was married to my third wife on board. Wedding performed by Captain Jornlin. The greatest captain I served with.
We refer to our ships as ladies and this lady needs to be remembered as a hero because it was the LST that won the war. Everyone in our generation was somehow involved in the war effort. Every ship of every kind and every piece of equipment was necessary but they couldn’t have done it without the LST.
It does my heart good when I run through towns and see the school children by the hundreds cheering me, waving flags and chanting USA USA. These are the kids were depending on to keep this country free.
The thousand who’ve said I’ve inspired them to get out and get more exercise. That’s got to be a good feeling.
My message to the people is “You’re living in the greatest country in the world. Let’s keep it that way.”