By John Ostapkovich
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — One of World War II’s most notorious naval disasters is the subject of a new book by one of the few men who survived it.
The heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis had just delivered the parts for the first atomic bomb to a Pacific island airbase, when it was torpedoed just past midnight by a Japanese submarine.
“We delivered the components of the bomb July the 26th, ’45,” said Edgar Harrell, author of Out of the Depths: An Unforgettable WWII Story of Survival, Courage and the Sinking of the USS Indianapolis. “Four days later, we’re going from Guam to the Philippines unescorted. They could have said, ‘you need an escort because we’ve broken the Japanese code. We know that submarines are working in those waters.’”
Although the ship sank in minutes, 75% of the crew of 1200 made it into the water. Then the real horror began.
“The next morning, now we had company. We have sharks and every little bit you could hear a blood-curdling scream and you could look out and then, like a fish cork, it would bring that body back to the surface,” he recalled, “but you’d dare not go check who that body might be due to all the blood and all the sharks.”
It was four days before rescue arrived and only about 300 men were left.
One was the captain, who was court-martialed, but Harrell says this book tells the real story of a military mess-up to try to right that wrong.