Oregon

WWII vet hopes to visit war buddy for 100th birthday

The Navy veterans helped bring home survivors from the USS Indianapolis

ALBANY, Ore. (KOIN) -- A group of veterans in Albany is helping raise money to send a World War II veteran across the country to celebrate his friend's 100th birthday. 

Wilbur "Lee" LeMasters and Wilbur Hill worked in the boiler room of the USS Hollandia, an aircraft carrier that brought home survivors from the deadliest Navy disaster in US history. Their ship was the first to arrive after the USS Indianapolis was sunk by Japanese torpedoes right after delivering components for the atom bomb that ended WWII. 

LeMasters and his crew brought them home from the hospital in Guam to the United States. A total of 880 men died, 316 survived. 

At 93 years young, LeMasters can still fit into his Navy uniform and he'll be wearing it if he makes it to Indiana for Hill's birthday. 

"He said 'I want you here on my birthday' I said, 'giving the availability I will be there," LeMasters told KOIN 6 News. 

The horrors of war bonded the men on both ships. That bond great even stronger after LeMasters and his life Marilyn started attending ship reunions, but now, almost all those sailors are gone. 

"I for bloody dickens don't understand why I'm in the shape I'm in," LeMasters said. 

He knows it's most likely his last chance to see Hill.

Most of those heroes may be gone, but their memories are still in LeMasters heart. He looks forward to sharing them with Hill soon. 

Contribute to Lee's fundraiser 

Watch: Lee LeMasters reads a poem he wrote to the men lost in the USS Indianapolis attack


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