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Wed, 16th Sep '09 12:59 AM
BIOGRAPHY WORD PUZZLE SUBJECT - EDGAR HARRELL U.S.M.C.
Sorry about the delay. The powers that be decided that after closing the store tonight, large sections of the store needed to be rearranged. Not even a month before Halloween yet and their dreaming about Christmas.
Thanks for posting the link to Robert Shaw's speech from Jaws, Susy. It'd been a while since I heard it and though a bunch of things in it are factually inaccurate, it still sends chills up my spine.
I'll post all the clues and phrases first and then piece them together to tell a fuller story.
Edgar "Ed" Harrell, with his son David, wrote a book about his experiences entitled "Out of the Depths". If you are at all religiously inclined, I think you will find it a tragic, but inspiring read. If you are not particularly religious, then it'll probably come across a bit too heavy handed.
I've been trying to figure out how to put the produced audio file on the web somehow, but haven't figured it out yet. I'll post the story tonight and try again in the morning, because, though he's no Robert Shaw, Ed is a very good speaker and there's nothing like hearing it in his voice.
Wed, 16th Sep '09 1:05 AM
Here is full list of "clues" and phrases -
"Before the torpedo" - the night was hot so many crew members slept on the deck of the ship
"Torpedoed just after midnight!" - the bow of the uss indianapolis was completely blown off
"Into the water" - he stepped off the sinking ship keeping his head above the oil slick
"1st night in the water" - to prevent a friend from killing himself he strapped their bodies together
"Constant struggle with the sea" - survivors tried to cluster together but huge swells broke the groups apart
"1st day in the water" - he saw shipmates eaten by sharks and die of saltwater poisoning
"2nd day in the water" - a short storm gave him a few handfuls of fresh water to drink
"Trouble after the 2nd night" - saturated life jackets began to fail but a raft was found to dry them out
"3rd day in the water" - he found a crate of rotten potatoes floating which he and others ate
"4th day in the water" - delirious he and a few others tried to swim to the philippines
Wed, 16th Sep '09 1:42 AM
Here is a fuller telling of his story.
Ed Harrell was a Marine assigned to the heavy cruiser U.S.S. Indianapolis. In July 1945, the Indianapolis was given a secret mission - to deliver an unknown cargo and a couple of civilians to the island of Tinian, the main base for the long range B 29 bombers. Ed was assigned to guard the cargo of which he said that not even the captain knew what it was. Only after the war ended did they learn that it was parts and the uranium for the atomic bomb which was dropped on Hiroshima.
After making the delivery, they proceeded to Guam and dropped off some crew members whose tour of duty was up and picked up replacements. They then proceeded on towards the Philippine island of Leyte. The night of July 29th was hot and the captain gave permission for the men to sleep on deck. Ed choose a spot under the first gun turret near the bow of the ship.
Shortly after midnight, he heard a deafening explosion. He immediately saw that the bow of the ship was gone and that the ship was plowing ahead quickly, driving the nose of the ship into the water. There was several minutes of confusion and panic as everyone raced toward the stern of the ship, waiting for orders to abandon ship. They had just enough time to send out one distress signal. What happened to that signal and why the Indianapolis was not reported missing is a rather complex story in itself.
Some 300 of the nearly 1,200 men aboard the ship died in the explosions. About 900 made it into the water with kapok life jackets on. When it was Ed's turn to go, the ship was low in the water and twisting onto its side. He stepped over the rail and walked on the side of the ship before stepping into the water feet first.
(Part 2 momentarily)
Wed, 16th Sep '09 2:20 AM
This turned out to be important for him because there was an oil slick on the surface of the water. Those who dived in head first, like his friend and fellow Marine whose name was Spooner, got oil in their eyes. As they tried to rub the oil out of their eyes, they were rubbing the salt water in, creating huge painful sores. Just re-listening to Ed's description, it was some time later after the sun had burned Spooner's already horribly sore eyes that Spooner told Ed that he wanted to kill himself by diving down so deep into the water that he could not come up in time. Ed outranked him and not only ordered him not to do it, he strapped Spooner to him, keeping him close until sometime in the third or fourth day (Ed's memory of those later days was understandably blurry). This also helped Ed survive the nights as their body heat helped lessen the hypothermia.
Ed said there were about 80 or so men near were he was. They tried to stay together, but the ocean swells were strong and kept pulling the groups apart. Ed didn't dwell too much on the shark attacks, but they started that first day and continued off and on the whole time they were in the water. He described seeing many men, crazy with thrist, drinking saltwater by filtering it through their clothes. Their deaths were pretty horrific.
On the somewhat brighter side, Ed described a short storm that came on the second day which gave them a few handfuls of fresh water to drink. And just about the time that his kapok life jacket was beginning to fail (they were designed to last 48 hours), some sailors swam over to his group pushing a makeshift raft where they were drying out some life jackets.
On the third day, a group of men who decided that they were going to swim to the Philippines passed by (my clue on this was a little off). Many in Ed's group thought that they were crazy, but it sounded good to Ed, so he and Spooner joined up. It was while they were swimming that Ed found a crate of potatoes floating in the water. He grabbed a couple potatoes and they just oozed through his fingers. Nevertheless, he ate them and shared the rest with the Philippines bound group. By this time, one of Ed's Marine officers had joined the group. Into that third night and fourth day, Ed became somewhat delusional, thinking this officer was actually his uncle. They had somehow been separated from the rest of the group and their life jackets were starting to give out again.
(Part 3 momentarily)
Wed, 16th Sep '09 2:48 AM
On the 4th day, finally, an incredible piece of luck or miracle (whichever you prefer). The pilot of a plane had opened his bomb bay doors to fix his trailing antenna and just happened to spot a glint of sunlight off a patch of oil some 15,000 ft below. The pilot said that seeing a speck of light like that at that distance was like seeing a single hair across a large room. Ed and the officer saw the plane as it circled around and descended for a close look. He saw the plane dip its wing a couple times to signal they had been spotted.
A PBY plane was dispatched and it landed not far from Ed. However, the pilot had to run the valleys between the swells, so it was quite awhile before the plane finally got close enough to pick him up. The first person he recognized in the plane was Spooner. The PBY did not take off - instead loading every inch of the plane and the wings with survivors. A destroyer arrived a few hours later, picking up more survivors and taking aboard those on the PBY.
Ed spent a long time in the hospital recovering from saltwater ulcers. Just when he was finally back on his feet, his appendix perforated and he spent even more time in the hospital, basically from the time he was rescued to the end of January, 1946.
Like many, he did not share his story for many years, but eventually became an active member of the USS Indianapolis survivors group and helped in the fight to exhonorate their Captain of all blame. They finally succeeded in 2000.
(Level: 221.1 - Posts: 5930)
Wed, 16th Sep '09 8:54 AM
That is incredible. Thanks for sharing that. Again, great puzzle also.
(Level: 168.0 - Posts: 2291)
Wed, 16th Sep '09 10:46 AM
Take a look at the Wiki site about the distress calls. Geez um what if CNN had been around then to open that can of worms.
(Level: 269.4 - Posts: 1636)
Wed, 16th Sep '09 11:29 AM
Yes, read the Wikipedia site at a minimum.
Also very sad is what happened to Captain McVay, and why he needed to be exonerated in 2000.
I read "Abandon Ship," a very good book about the incident several years ago, but Edger Harrell's retelling (via Sploofishy) certainly made the incident that much more real.
Thank you again, Sploofishy.
(Level: 217.4 - Posts: 4456)
Wed, 16th Sep '09 7:15 PM
Dave's Wiki link above didn't work, so try this:
(I run into those problems sometimes when I post links for WTHAIs.)
Here's another site for info on the disaster:
And here's the website for the book Sploofishy mentioned:
There are some photos there of Edgar.
Thank you Edgar, for your service, and thank you Sploofishy for telling his story!
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