World War II and Korean War veterans sailed into Mobile, Alabama, on a LST-325 warship from WWII. The Coast Guard warned the 29 member crew, whose average age was 72, against crossing the Atlantic during the stormy winter months. They cited the ship’s lack of safety equipment, questionable steering and uncertainty about the crew’s ability to respond to emergencies.
The veterans rejected the Coast Guard’s advice and left Greece November 17th and crossed the Mediterranean in 11 days despite storm and equipment problems. Capt. Robert Jornlin, Earlville, Illinois, described the journey as fairly smooth, with a few problems. Sadly, crewmember William Hart’s health problems forced him to leave the ship early. He died shortly after.
Other than that disappointment, the trip was a success and a wonderful experience for all of those on board. Crewman Jim Edwards said, “This is the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but I wouldn’t do it again for all the world.” Joe Milkovich, another crewman said that outside of greeting his wife and daughter, the next best thing upon his return was a hot shower.
The ship was built in 1942 and decommissioned in 1946. In 1964 it was lent to the Greek government and was taken out of service last summer. Congress passed a bill authorizing Greece to turn it over for use as a memorial. Crewmembers paid their own way to Greece and donated $2,000 to help cover expenses, the boat needed rehabilitation. The 328-foot vessel delivered troops to Normandy during the D-Day invasion and will become a museum.