Rare Survivor of the USS Indianapolis

Nearly seven decades ago, the USS Indianapolis, the United States Navy’s flagship, lose nearly three fourths of her crew. Even so, a rare few survivors still live on to share their experiences aboard the ship. These experiences include harrowing accounts of the ship’s final expedition. At least one survivor has revealed his full story to the press, detailing his time aboard the USS Indianapolis and how he survived a nearly fatal encounter during WWII.

Marine Corporal Edgar Harrell was aboard the ship on July 30, 1945, the day that would prove fatal to a large majority of the ship’s crew. When explosions rock the ship to her core, Harrell was not entirely certain that he would live to tell the tale. Two Japanese torpedoes had completely wrecked the structural integrity of the USS Indianapolis, and she was on a fast descent into the water. Almost a quarter of his crewmates had already lost their lives to the explosions. Not wishing to join them, he joined the other nine hundred or so in the water. He would become one of only slightly over three hundred of them to ever see shore again.

Today, only three dozen of those survivors remain. Those who are able still meet occasionally, along with their families. In honor of those who are not around to join the reunions, Harrell has begun sharing his stories from aboard the USS Indianapolis in a public setting. He has been touring the United States, speaking in educational venues to those who do not know much about the ship or how she was lost. A religious man, he feels that sharing his experiences can help him to fulfill a debt for the fact that he was spared when so many were not, the Stars and Stripes reports.

His survival was not a simple matter. Once the ship sank, Harrell was set afloat amidst dozens of other crewmates, many of whom did not live to see the next day. Between the heat above and the sharks below, the survivors of the USS Indianapolis were prone to lose their lives at any minute. Harrell found himself in a constant state of prayer until he was finally rescued. The majority of the crewmates around him were already dead by that time.

Although Harrell’s experiences aboard the USS Indianapolis were treacherous, he survived to tell his tale. He and his son have now put his story onto paper, in a new book entitled Out of the Depths. In it, he relates a story of which he feels too few are aware. As one of the greatest American naval disasters during WWII, the story of the USS Indianapolis is something Harrell would like to make common knowledge.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE