Category Archives: World War II

Out of The Depths: An unforgettable WWII story of survival, courage and the sinking of the USS Indianapolis – Edgar Harrell USMC. 

Shortly after midnight on July 30, 1945, just weeks before the end of World War II, the Japanese submarine I-58 launched a spread of torpedoes at the USS Indianapolis. Two of the “fish” found their mark. In less than fifteen minutes, the heavy cruiser, a battle-scarred veteran of the bloody campaigns for the Marianas, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, went down without a trace, and without anyone but the survivors knowing the ship had been lost.

Some nine hundred of the ship’s 1,196-man crew, cold, oil soaked, many with injuries, were suddenly alone in the shark-infested waters of the Philippine Sea. For five horrific days after the sinking, their numbers were cruelly depleted by shark attacks, saltwater poisoning, hypothermia, and dehydration. When they were finally spotted and rescued, only 317 remained alive.

This is their story, recounted by one of their own, Edgar Harrell, a young member of the ship’s U.S. Marine detachment. It is an unparalleled account of perseverance, courage, self-sacrifice, and faith.

Lt. Col. Oliver L. North, USMC (Ret.)

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I remember hearing Dad talk about the war from time to time when I was a little boy. I recall his reluctant stories about the secret mission of the Indianapolis, the atomic bomb components they carried, and especially the gripping tales about the sharks when the crew was lost at sea for five days. I even remember attending some of the Indianapolis reunions and meeting Captain McVay and being awestruck by his white Navy uniform and medals.

David Harrell

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Out of The Depths: An unforgettable WWII story of survival, courage and the sinking of the USS Indianapolis.

by Edgar Harrell USMC

Every survivor of war has stories to tell, stories of triumph and tragedy, faith and fear, stories like mine, where fact is often stranger than fiction. Since that fateful night in 1945 when I stepped off a sinking ship into the unknown depths of the Pacific Ocean, there has never been a day when I have not reflected upon the horrors I experienced in the four and a half days of swimming in shark-infested waters.

The escort carrier Hollandia transported all of us from Guam back to San Diego. On September 26, over three hundred survivors of the greatest naval catastrophe at sea arrived on the shores of the country they loved and served, only to be met with a paltry Salvation Army band.

I cannot say that we knew what to expect, but we certainly thought there would be a more enthusiastic and official welcome.

The rather large crowd on the pier had assembled to welcome home the crew of the Hollandia and knew nothing of the Indianapolis survivors. To my knowledge, none of our families or friends greeted us. Most did not even know our whereabouts.

We remained on land as we were at sea, lost and neglected. We all had a mounting sense that we were somehow an embarrassment to the Navy, though at the time we did not understand why. With no official welcome, we all came ashore and invisibly made our way through the crowd, somewhat envious of the jubilant and legitimate welcome for their loved ones on the Hollandia.

My eight Marine companions and I looked in vain for an official Marine reception that would at least transport us to the Marine Corp Base. We finally located an MP who helped us find a bus.

I relate this story not to elicit sympathy, but only to underscore the realities that caused us all to become increasingly suspicious that something was wrong.

Someone has well said, “Truth and time walk hand in hand.” Indeed, over the next few months we began to understand why we experienced such a mysterious cloud of concealment and disregard. The Navy was up to something. And the story of the Indianapolis had to stay out of the headlines until they had all their political ducks in a row. 

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Out of The Depths: An unforgettable WWII story of survival, courage and the sinking of the USS Indianapolis.

by Edgar Harrell USMC

get it from Amazon 

USS Indianapolis, sunk at the end of WW2, has finally been found – AAP. 

The wreckage of the US warship Indianapolis, which was sunk by a Japanese torpedo off the Philippines in the final days of WWII, has been found.

The ship is more than 18,000 feet (5.5km) below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, the Navy said on Saturday.

The cruiser was returning from its mission to deliver components for the atomic bomb that would soon be dropped on Hiroshima when it was fired upon in the North Pacific Ocean by a Japanese submarine on July 30, 1945.

It sunk in 12 minutes, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington.

No distress signal was sent. About 800 of the 1197 crew members aboard survived the sinking, but only 316 were rescued alive five days later, with the rest lost to exposure, dehydration, drowning and sharks.

After a Navy historian unearthed new information last year about the warship’s last movements that pointed to a new search area, a team of civilian researchers led by Paul Allen, a Microsoft Corp co-founder, spent months searching in a 600-square-mile (1500-sq/km) patch of ocean.

With a vessel rigged with equipment that can reach some of the deepest ocean floors, members of Allen’s team found the wreckage somewhere in the Philippine Sea on Friday, Allen said in a statement on his website.

The Navy asked Allen to keep the precise location confidential.

Allen said that the discovery was a humbling experience and a means of honouring sailors he saw as playing a vital role in ending WWII.

“While our search for the rest of the wreckage will continue, I hope everyone connected to this historic ship will feel some measure of closure at this discovery so long in coming,” he said.

The Navy said it had plans to honour the 22 survivors from the Indianapolis still alive, along with the families of the ship’s crew.

NZ Herald 

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It was shortly after midnight, on the 30th of July, 1945, when disaster struck.

After delivering Hiroshima-bomb components to Tinian Island, the USS Indianapolis and her crew of 1,196 sailors were sailing west, toward Leyte (in the Philippines).

Suddenly, an explosion rocked the ship.  She’d been struck by a torpedo from Japanese submarine I-58.

The Indianapolis capsized and sank in twelve minutes. 

Spending days in the water, without life rafts, the men were terrorized by sharks.  With no rescue in sight, two-thirds of the original survivors died from various causes.

The USS Indianapolis (CA-35) was commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 15 November 1932. The ship served with honor from Pearl Harbor through the last campaign of World War II, sinking in action two weeks before the end of the war.

On 30 July 1945, while sailing from Guam to Leyte, Indianapolis was torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-58 [in the Philippine Sea]. The ship capsized and sank in twelve minutes.

Survivors were spotted on 2 August. All air and surface units capable of rescue operations were dispatched to the scene at once, and the surrounding waters were thoroughly searched for survivors.

Upon completion of the day and night search on 8 August, 316 men were rescued out of the crew of 1,199.

Survivors tell us that approximately 900 men survived the ship’s explosion and sinking. Those who died, thereafter, were overcome by exhaustion, exposure, injuries sustained in the explosion, lack of safe drinking water (instead of salt water) and shark attacks.

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NOTE: There is a very significant postcript to this story.

For many decades, the surviving Indianapolis crewmen tried to get the U.S. Navy to exonerate their skipper, Captain Charles Butler McVay, III who was:

  • Not warned about lurking enemy subs;
  • Was misled into thinking his route was safe;
  • Was court martialed on two charges of improper conduct;
  • Heard the favorable testimony of the Japanese commander who sank the Indy;
  • Was found guilty of one charge of negligence (despite all evidence to the contrary); and
  • Committed suicide in 1968.

Despite the crew’s efforts, nothing happened to exonerate the Captain … until … a 12 year old school boy, working on a middle-school history project, decided to do something about it (in 1998).

The US Congress finally cleared McVay’s name in 2000 (as a direct result of Hunter Scott’s efforts). The Japanese commander – who’d testified in McVay’s court martial that he could have sunk the Indy no matter what its skipper tried to do – sent a letter to Congress reiterating his earlier testimony. Among his words were these:

“I do not understand why Captain McVay was court-martialed.  I do not understand why he was convicted on the charge of hazarding his ship by failing to zigzag because I would have been able to launch a successful torpedo attack against his ship whether it had been zigzagging or not.”

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