The Surviving Veteran of a USS Indianapolis

The WWII cruiser, USS Indianapolis, sank in 1945. Many lives were lost with the ship, but marine Edgar Harrell was fortunately not one of them. Today, he is able to share his inspirational story with anyone willing to listen. Less than ten percent of veterans from the Second World War survive today, with over sixteen million having served. The veteran of the sunken WWII cruiser is one of the lucky few.

Harrell had never seen anything like the USS Indianapolis when he first signed on to join the marines. He was a young man from Kentucky who was inexperienced with such large industrial feats. While living and working aboard the WWII cruiser, he learned a great of things, particularly about battle. He encountered his first kamikaze early on, and thought it would be the death of him. For a number of his comrades, that’s exactly what it was. But the nature of war was that life went on; the ship was repaired and the mission continued without the fallen marines, the CBN News US reports.

The last mission embarked on by the USS Indianapolis was the most important of all, and certainly played a vital role in the victory of the Allies over the Axis. The atomic bombs were being constructed for use against Japan, and the WWII cruiser was charged with the task of transporting parts used in their configuration. Their mission was an easy success, and they were quickly assigned to another. What they were not told is that their next mission was in the same waters in which a destroyer had been sunk mere days prior.

The Japanese sub which sank the USS Indianapolis did so with little effort. About a quarter of the ship’s population was dead as soon as the torpedoes struck. As for Harrell, he spent over half a week with no provisions, surrounded by death after the destruction of the WWII cruiser. He witnessed his fellows suffer massive injuries, leaving blood trails in the water which attracted sharks. With the terrible circumstances all about him, Harrell was thankful for the little blessings he received such as drinkable rain water.

Harrell and other survivors from the WWII cruiser eventually escaped to safety. They were rescued by a pilot who happened upon the wreckage despite having no idea the sailors had been attacked or even that they had gone missing. Of those who lived through the wreckage of the WWII cruiser, Harrell is one of only three dozen alive today.

Ian Harvey

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