EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Welcome aboard the LST 325, the only operational World War II vessel of its kind afloat in the United States. LST 325 is docked in Evansville.
LST stands for “Landing Ship, Tank.” Delivering tanks, vehicles, and soldiers, like Pedro Carrillo, to battlefronts during WWII and the Korean War.
It’s been 77 years since Retired Sgt. First Class Carrillo first stepped foot on a ship like this, but after all that time, the 94-year-old Louisville resident has never lost his sea legs. He toured the LST on a surprise trip organized by Honor Flight Bluegrass.
“If you were an 18 year old in 1945, you’re 93, 94 years old. That’s your youngest WWII veteran right now,” said Jeff Thoke, chairman of Honor Flight’s Kentucky chapter. Each year, Honor Flight flies U.S. war veterans to visit the Washington, D.C. war memorials for free. Due to the pandemic, all flights were canceled in 2020.
“Typically this year we would have flown 240 veterans, so that’s 240 veterans who could not go this year, and of course they are the most vulnerable group. Can you imagine taking a planeload of veterans that are 65 to 95?” Thoke said.
With D.C. trips grounded, Honor Flight Bluegrass is conducting smaller ground missions.
“If there is something special a WWII veteran would like to do during these difficult times, we would like to make that happen,” Thoke said.
The mission to Evansville couldn’t have happened without the help of Carrillo’s daughter, Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Connie Carrillo.
“He’s so funny. He keeps everybody in stitches. My dad was so elated knowing he was able to go on an LST,” Connie said.
The Carrillos toured the entire ship including the massive deck, tight sleeping quarters, captains nest, and the big 40 cal.
“I’m so pleased he’s here with us, that he’s able to tell the tour guide a few extra things about what’s going on," Connie said.
“It was a good fun trip,” Carrillo said.
In other words, mission accomplished.