Ernest Thompson, 98, was asked to come out onto the porch of his Gardena, California, home because a couple of people had stopped by.
When he came out to his porch, the WWII veteran was surprised to see the volunteers at The Battleship Center-Battleship USS Iowa Museum and a group of chief selects from the Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Training Center marching down the street in formation. The group stopped in front of his house to perform a rendition of “Anchors Aweigh”.
Thompson enlisted in the Navy in 1936. He was assigned to the USS Tennessee for his first tour of duty which ended in 1941, just before the attack at Pearl Harbor. After completing a job commitment with the Los Angeles Department of Power and Water, Thompson re-enlisted.
For his second tour of duty, he was assigned to the USS Missouri where he participated in the Pacific theater. He was aboard the Missouri when Imperial Japanese forces signed the documents of surrender.
The USS Iowa is docked in San Pedro. It has served as a museum at that location since 2012. The Iowa is a sister ship to the Missouri. Thompson was a regular visitor to the Iowa until a recent fall left him unable to get around anymore.
“He’d come down here on Sundays with other veterans and they’d sit around the wardroom and tell their stories,” said Jonathan Williams, CEO of the Battleship Iowa Museum, and Thompson’s grandson. Thompson inspired Williams to save the USS Iowa.
“After my grandmother passed away, I wanted to get to know him better,” Williams said of his grandfather. “He wanted to go see his old ship so we went to Honolulu (in 2000) and went on board the USS Missouri … When he got on board he became an 18-year-old kid again, it was the most amazing thing.”
The chief selects, members of the Navy that are in line to advance to chief petty officer, met Thompson and the other WWII veterans last year when they visited the Iowa. They wanted to meet Thompson again this year. When they heard that he could no longer come to the ship, they decided to “bring the ship to him.”
Throughout the song, Thompson stood at attention and saluted the group while they performed. After the song was over, the group members walked up his porch steps to personally greet and thank the veteran. A cellphone recording of the event has gone viral with over 5.6 million views and over 121,000 shares.
“I am so surprised and overwhelmed at the attention that it has received,” Williams said. “I was so incredibly impacted by this that I felt other veterans should be able to experience this too.”
“My grandfather told me that it was one of the best days of his life,” Williams said.