Vet runs across U.S. in honor of unsung WWII hero

PAYSON, Ariz. -- Three days a week, 90-year-old Ernie Andrus puts on his support stockings and tennis shoes, gently lowers himself out of the RV he's been living in since October, and slowly returns to his mission.

"The older I get, the slower I go," said Andrus.

Andrus will become the oldest person in America to run across America.

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Ernie Andrus
CBS News

"I'm running the whole thing, every step of the way," Andrus told CBS News.

He began eight months ago near San Diego. As of June 6, he is about a hundred miles east of Phoenix.

Andrus obviously loves running, but the World War II veteran says there's another, much greater purpose here.

"You want people to know what the war was all about, and what it took to win it," said Andrus.

Specifically, this old Navy man is running to raise awareness for one of the unsung heroes of the war -- a ship he served on called an LST. It stands for "Landing Ship, Tank" and it's how the Allies got heavy equipment onto beaches.

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Andrus is running to raise awareness for one of the unsung heroes of WWII -- a ship he served on.
CBS News

The U.S. built more than a thousand LSTs during the war, but today only one remains in its original configuration. It's parked on the Ohio River in Evansville, Indiana. And Andrus says if he can run across the country at 90, the least you can do is drive to Indiana to see the thing.

"This shouldn't be forgotten. Eisenhower and Churchill both made a similar remark that it's the ship that won the war ... Without 'em how could you have taken all those islands? How could you have even taken Normandy?" Andrus said.

Which is why, 70 years later, Andrus is out here returning the favor -- out here, pretty much by himself. He runs five miles, hitchhikes back to his vehicle, and then runs another five, two days later. He's hoping to reach the Atlantic by his 94th birthday.

"If you fail, you're a crazy old man. If you succeed, you're a hero," said Andrus.

And given that he already helped liberate the world, our money's on hero -- again.

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  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.

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