Wednesday, July 29, 2015

70 Years Ago the USS INDIANAPOLIS was struck down by two Japanese torpedoes . . . .

Christal Cooper

Article 3,427 words w/excerpts
* All excerpts from Out Of Depths have been given copyright permission by Edgar Harrell and David Harrell.

4 ½ Days of Jaws: 
Out Of The Depths Through God’s Lens

*Featured:  the sole survivor of the USS Indianapolis
Corporal Edgar Harrell, his son David Harrell,
& Edgar’s Memoir Out Of The Depths.

Film clip from the movie Jaws where Quint (portrayed by Robert Shaw) gives the USS Indianapolis Speech.
The speech was written by Howard Sackler, John Milius, and Robert Shaw

“Although I have not seen the movie (Jaws) – I avoid anything that reminds me of the horrors we experienced – the “survivor (Quint)” vividly described our plight in the shark infested waters.”
Corporal Edgar A Harrell, USMC  

       On September 11, 2001 Pastor David Harrell was at his home in Joelton, Tennessee watching Fox news when he like many millions of people around the world watched the 9/11 attacks take place – the second plane, the United Airlines 175, crashed into World Trade Center’s south tower.

       He immediately called his father, World War Two veteran and now sole survivor of the USS Indianapolis Edgar Harrell.

       David:  “I called him to turn on the TV and we watched it together while on the phone.  During those moments, I remember him saying, “Here we go again” referring to the U.S. Being attacked by another fanatic group which would launch us into war again.”

       “Here we go again” happened the first time in Edgar Harrell’s life at 12:14 am on July 30, 1945 aboard the USS Indianapolis that he had worked on since March of 1944.  Edgar was part of the U.S. Marine detachment whose main job was to manage the ship’s brig (guardhouse), operate various weapon systems, and lead any potential landing operations that might be required.

       That night, about the only thing the 20-year-old could think about was the heat – it was hellish hot at 110 degrees outside the ship; and inside the engine chambers of the USS Indianapolis was a fiery furnace at 120 degrees.  Because of the dangerous temperatures the men were given permission to sleep outside on the deck.  And that is where Edgar lay, wrapped in a thin blanket, looking out to the sea and to the starry sky.

The last thing he thought was that he would be under attack – the USS Indianapolis was 610 feet and 3 inches long, 66 feet and 1 inch at her widest point.  Her keel lay 24 feet below the surface, with a maximum of 107,000 horsepower, and maximum speed capability of 36 miles per hour.  She was also armed with three turrets, each containing three 8-inch guns.  She also had four 5-inch guns and twenty-four intermediate-range 40 mmm guns.  

Harrell was not the least bit afraid of the enemy and considered the USS Indianapolis a monster able to defeat the enemy, but he was wrong.

I was stunned and confused.  No one was firing at us, and we were not firing at anyone.  I couldn’t understand what was going on.  I looked toward the front of the ship and to my astonishment, it was gone!  Approximately thirty-five feet of the bow had disappeared.  It had been completely cut off.  I then realized what had happened.  We had been torpedoed.
Beneath me, below deck, I could hear and feel the bulkheads breaking under the pressure of the water as the Indy’s gigantic screw propellers continued to push her forward.  Massive fires from the explosions lit up the night sky, exposing the doomed Indianapolis to any enemy that might still be lurking nearby.  All electrical power had been cut off.  All communications had been rendered inoperative.  As a result, no word was sent to the engine room to stop the engines.  Within a minute of the initial blast, I had come to my senses and knew the ship was going to sink.  The open bow was already going underwater.
I made my way to the emergency station, which was mid-ship on the quarterdeck.  As I did, men were coming up from below deck, screaming cries of excruciating pain.  Most were in their night skivvies and had been blown out of their bunks.  Hysterically they cried for help.  Many had scorched flesh hanging from their faces and arms.  The smell of burning flesh and hair was nauseating.  Compound fractures revealed protruding bones from the bodies of those who had been thrown up against the bulkhead walls.  It was a living hell.   I’ll never forget the fires, the horrified faces, and the cacophony of screams. I can still hear the explosions and the screeching of metal being twisted and torn by the tones of water the ship was taking on.

Excerpt from Out Of The Depths
Pages 64-65

       Soon Edgar witnessed the pitch-black oil leaking from the Indy to float on the water below, the same water he dived into and swam fifty yards to join a group of about eighty others, one of the numerous groups that were scattered across the oil soaked sea.

       Twelve minutes after the first torpedo, the entire USS Indianapolis was underwater, 300 men went down with the ship, and the remaining 900+ men were in the seven-mile depths of the Marianna Trench, the deepest region of the Pacific Ocean, its waters totally poisoned with saltwater and oil, their only safety net the kapok life vests each man was wearing.

       For the next four and half days, Edgar Harrell would endure hope amidst despair, hypothermia, salt water poisoning, oil poisoning; dehydration; sunstroke; and the presence of lethal sharks.
He witnessed his fellow comrades experience the same traumas in addition to watching some of his comrades tormented with hallucinations and being eaten alive by sharks.

       Later on that first day, around dusk, we had company.  To our horror, we saw several large black dorsal fins cutting through the water and circling our group.  I cannot describe the fear of the anticipation of the unknown.  But for some reason the sharks seemed unwilling to launch a full attack on our little cluster.  They just circled around and around with what seemed to be a predetermination.
       Sadly, some of the hallucination boys insisted on swimming away from the group to an island or ship they were sure they saw.  As they swam, their thrashing often attacked the sharks and we’d hear a bloodcurdling scream.  Like a fishing bobber taken under the water, the helpless sailor quickly disappeared.  Then his mangled body would resurface moments later with only a portion of his torso remaining.

Excerpt from Out of the Depths
Page 74

       By noon on the second day Edgar’s group of eighty men now consisted of only 40 survivors, human remains and corpses floating around, with the sharks never too far away.

       On numerous occasions I recall seeing a large fin coming straight at me.  In horror, I would take what I thought would be my last breath, bend my knees up to my chest, and cry out, “Oh God, help!”  Sometimes I could feel a fin brush my body.  Other times I would merely feel the wake of the massive beast streaking through the water just underneath me.

Excerpt from Out of the Depths
Page 91

       By the end of the second day, the group had now dwindled to only thirty men, all who developed ulcers due to the saltwater and the oil.  
By the end of the third day the original group of 80 men had now dwindled to only seventeen, and Edgar was striving to stay sane, which meant being able to tell time, which he was able to by the watch he wore, the same watch that still tells time to this day and is on display at the Indiana War Memorial Museum in Indianapolis. 
The most important thing he did, more than telling time, was to constantly pray.  The results of these prayers were much needed rain, a makeshift raft that floated their way, and a crate full of partially rotten potatoes; but more importantly, for Edgar, the result of his prayers to his God was the peace that passes all understanding.

       I was there alone – or so it seemed.  But as I reached out in desperation to the Savior of my soul, He suddenly made it clear to me that He was going to be the Savior of my life.  There was no audible voice.  Something far more comforting was suddenly given to me.  An unexplainable and ineffable peace enveloped me like a blanket on a frosty night.  With the undeniable marks of the supernatural, the chill of terror was replaced with the glowing warmth of divine assurance.  I know within my heart that God was answering my prayers and going to see me through.

Excerpt from Out Of The Depths
Page 67
Out of the 900+ men at sea, Edgar was only one of 317 men rescued on Friday, August 3, 1945. 

He was shocked to later learn that only nine of his 39 Marine companions had survived.  

The nine men would later have a reunion and try to determine if any of the 30 men were in one of the groups at sea.   

In later years all of the remaining 317 men and their families would question why it took so long to be rescued.

       Edgar:  “The Navy ignored our SOS as well as Lt Com Hashimoto’s cable to Japan saying he had sunk a ship, possibly the USS Idaho. We had broken the Japanese code and picked this up, but the Navy failed to search for the ship Hashimoto said he sunk. 

Eventually a lone Ventura PV-1 aircraft flying a search and destroy mission spotted an oil slick on the ocean below. Thinking it might be a damaged Japanese sub, they dove down on a bombing run. Instead of finding a sub, they discovered many survivors covered in oil spread over a 75-mile area, some being attacked by sharks.”

For the next seven days after the 9/11 attacks Edgar and David felt heavy in heart and spirit about both events, how both were somehow connected, and that something had to be done.   It also opened up old wounds. 

Edgar:  “9/11 was a vivid reminder of how evil is always lurking in the shadows, especially among religious fanatics like the Islamic extremists who seek to dominate others. When I saw how intent they were on killing us to advance their religious and political ideologies, it reminded me of the Nazis and the Japanese. I quickly realized that we must once again go to war to survive.”

David approached his father about the idea of writing a book about his experiences.
 David:  “We discussed the staggering ignorance about WWII history that Dad encountered when he spoke to high school and college students, even many adults.  We shared a mutual frustration over the cavalier attitude many have regarding the high cost of freedom and the existence of evil in our world.

Because of this, combined with the frequent requests people would make for Dad’s story to be put into writing, I told Dad I would carve out some time in the evenings and “write your story.” He was glad for me to do so for all the reasons I just mentioned, but he also agreed with me that it would be an important family document and a tribute to his shipmates.” 

Also included in Out Of The Depths is Edgar’s strong defense of Captain Charles Butler McVay III, how had been deemed the scapegoat for having the USS Indianapolis sink.  To this day, the treatment of Captain McVay still upsets Edgar Harrell.  

Edgar:  “The Navy needed a scapegoat and Fleet Admiral Ernest King was desperate to find one to cover the culpability of his subordinates at CINCAP in Guam and those in command in the Philippine Frontier who were also negligent. Moreover, Thomas Brophy, a man with great political clout who lost his son in the tragedy, set out on a personal crusade to seek revenge upon the man whom he believed was responsible for his son’s death—Captain McVay. Testimonies later proved that he used his influence to pressure Secretary Forrestal, and even his friend President Truman, to do all they could to destroy McVay.” 

The blockbuster film Jaws spearheaded enough action to finally clear Captain McVay by the way of a 13-year-old boy named Hunter Scott who was so impressed with the Jaws scene (Quint giving the USS Indianapolis speech) that he decided to research the incident as a history project.

Edgar:  “By this time the Naval archives were opened revealing many facts that were not considered in McVay’s trial. With his help, along with a couple of U.S. Senators, we got a hearing before the Armed Service Committee that resulted in the exoneration of our Captain. We survivors would not give up until our Captain was cleared.”

David, the oldest son of two children by Edgar and his wife Ola, always knew about his dad’s experiences.  His dad talked about it to his son so many times that he never remembers a time not knowing of what happened.

David:  “So it was easy for me to outline the book according to the days he was in the water and begin to construct the story line. As I would write, I would call him on the phone or talk with him in person about certain things that happened. I spent a lot of time asking for little details pertaining to his senses: “what do you see, hear, feel, smell,” etc. I would also ask him about his spiritual (and) emotional reactions, his innermost thoughts and fears, asking him to relive it with me so I could put some meat on the skeleton and make the story come alive.”

The most emotional Edgar became with his son was when he was discussing his spiritual experiences with the Trinity God while in the Pacific shark infested waters.

       David:  “He especially got emotional when he described the unique ways the Spirit of God ministered to His soul when he prayed and stepped into the water, when He sent the rain, then the rotten potatoes, the dried out spare life jackets on the raft, and especially the euphoria of watching the plane signal to them that they had been spotted.”

       David had a new understanding of his father’s experiences:  his father’s gruesome sufferings while in the shark invested and salt-poisoned waters; but more importantly the presence of the Holy Spirit Edgar experienced during those 4 ½ days.

David:  “As I began to write the story, I had a renewed awareness that what had happened to my father was truly remarkable on many fronts, but especially with respect to the sanctifying purposes in the providence of God that used that horrible trial to shape him more into the likeness of Christ and in so doing use his story and his life to bring glory Himself.”

Soon David, a minister himself, felt the same Holy Spirit that comforted his father during those almost 4 ½ days.
David:  “The indwelling Holy Spirit would mysteriously and inexplicably move upon my heart and mind to cause me to weave a biblical spiritual perspective through the fabric of the story in an effort to accurately portray a true Christian testimony without coming across as “preachy.”

To be sure, the Spirit’s great work in believers is to exalt Christ in and through them. For most, the theological commentary in the book has been extremely well received; for some, it is pure foolishness (1 Cor 2:14). As a seasoned Bible expositor and theologian, my heart is saturated with the Word of God, so it was very natural for me to apply certain texts for specific contexts—especially as they related to my father’s story and character.”

David wrote about a chapter per night and asked his father questions to flesh out the story more.  After numerous rewrites and countless conversations with his father the book was completed by November of 2001.

David had the story self-published and gave it to his father as a gift to possibly sell at his speaking venues.  The book ended up selling 20,000 copies and David felt it was time to get a literary agent.

David:  “The literary agent agreed to shop it around to see if he could find the book a home. In the end, five major publishers got in a bidding war over it and we finally settled with Bethany House.”

There were minor changes to the book but those changes made the book even more powerful in its biblical fabric and, in addition, Lt. Col. Oliver North agreed to write the forward.

David:  “We had a friend who knew him and put us in touch with him. He was very gracious and willing to help (especially being a fellow marine and Christian). He remains a treasured friend that we continue to have contact with from time to time.”
       Edgar considers the survivors, those who lost their lives on the USS Indianapolis and in the sea, and their family members to be among his closest friends.  

The survivors and family members had their first reunion on July 30 and 31 in 1960 and they invited Captain McVay to attend, which he did.

       When the long-anticipated day finally arrived, most of the 220 men and their wives gathered together at the airport to greet our dear captain.  Approximately, five hundred people formed a line in his honor.  In shock, he and his wife, Louise, exited the plane and tearfully made their way past the sailors and Marines who stood at full attention, saluting him with tears streaming down their cheeks.  It was a grand and glorious sight.  He later acknowledged that he was somewhat concerned about how he would be received, given the disgraceful reprimand at the general court martial.  Certainly, with the relentless barrage of hate mail he received from devastated families, he was predisposed to thinking the worst.  But to his great joy, he was received with utmost respect and military dignity.  After all, we knew he was innocent.

Excerpt from Out of The Depths
Page 159-161
The survivors and their families continue to have their reunion every two years on July 29th and July 30th in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

       There is now an organization called Second Watch founded by the families, friends, and supporters of the men of the USS Indianapolis whose main goal is to assist the USS Indianapolis Survivors Organization and to promote citizenship and patriotism, which includes reconciliation with the enemies within (the U.S. Navy) and the enemies without (the Japanese, particularly Command Hashimoto and his crew for sinking the USS Indianapolis.)

       Since then, I have had the privilege to get to know Commander Hashimoto’s granddaughter, Atsuko.  She and her family are faithful attendees of every USS Indianapolis survivors’ reunion.  This is an incredible act of courage on their part.  But it’s important to remember that the atrocities of WWII greatly affected both sides.  Hashimoto’s family experienced profound loss in that horrific war.  The unthinkable happened.  The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima instantly incinerated all of the commander’s family (his granddaughter is the progeny of a second marriage after the war).     
    At the 2013 reunion, Atsuko and I hugged, and she thanked me for opening my arms and receiving her embrace.  She told me she wasn’t sure how I would respond.  And I told her how much it meant to me that she and her family would come to the reunions to honor us and our families.  We agreed to build upon this friendship, and we promised to stay in touch.

Excerpt from Out of the Depths
Page 177-178

       Out of The Depths isn’t just about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, the bravery of Edgar Harrell, and about Edgar Harrell’s own spiritual testimony of the events that took place.  It is also about a love story between the Trinity God and all humanity, Japanese and American, and the reaffirmation of God’s sovereignty.
       Edgar’s excerpt from Out Of The Depths on page 170 perfectly outlines his thoughts on his unshakeable faith:

       Every life story either bears witness to His sovereign grace or denies it.  But no life has ever been lived apart from the purposes of God.  He alone orchestrates the affairs of His creation.  Like all the marvelous and mysterious doctrines of God, the coexistence of divine sovereignty and human responsibility remain an incomprehensible paradox to the human mind – certainly one that offends man’s rabid commitment to self-determination.  But as I look back over my life through the lens of Scripture, I have no doubt that indeed God is in control, and, without coercion, He uses human means to accomplish His purposes – even the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. 

Photograph Description And Copyright Information

Photo 1a
Edgar Harrell
Copyright granted by Edgar Harrell

Photo 1b
Jacket cover of Out Of The Depths

Photo 1c
David Harrell
Copyright granted by David Harrell

Photo 2a
Jaws movie poster, released in June of 1975
Fair Use Under The United States Copyright Law

Photo 2b
Film clip of Quint giving his USS Indianapolis speech from the movie Jaws.
Fair Use Under the United States Copyrigth Law

Photo 3
Edgar Harrell
Copyright granted by Edgar Harrell

Photo 4
The north face of Two World Trade Center (South Tower) immediately after being struck by United Airlines Flight 175.
CCbyS.A 2.0

Photo 5
Edgar Harrell
Copyright by Edgar Harrell

Photo 6
Edgar in his uniform in 1945.
Copyright granted by Edgar Harrell

Photo 7
Edgar in uniform.
Copyright granted by Edgar Harrell

Photo 8
1944 image of the USS Indianapolis in dazzle camouflage pattern
Public Domain

Photo 9
USS Indianapolis off Marie Island on July 10, 1945
Public Domain

Photo 10
Jacket cover of Out Of The Depths

Photo 11
USS Indianapolis dripping oil as it sinks into the sea
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law 

Photo 12
Diagram/ map of the Marianna Trench
Public Domain

Photo 13

Photo 14
Jacket cover of Out Of The Depths

Photo 15
Painting depicting the USS Indianapolis men suriviving in the sea.
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright law

Photo 16
The USS Indianpolis linking oil as it sinks in the sea.
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law 

Photo 17
The USS Indianapolis memorial at the Indiana War Memorial Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law 

Photo 18
The Praying Hands
Attributed to Albrecht Durer in 1508
Public Domain

Photo 19
Painting depicting the rescue of the remaining 317 men in the sea
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 20a
The 39 Marine Guard on the USS Indianapolis.  Edgar Harrell is in the middle row, directly under the middle barrel
Public Domain

Photo 20b
The nine men from the Marine Guard that survived.  Edgar Harrell is far right, in the first row, kneeling.
Public Domain

Photo 21a
One of the 317 men being rescued from the oil-soaked and shark infested sea.
Public Domain

Photo 21b
Lt. Com Hashimoto
Public Domain

Photo 22
Painting depicting the Ventura PV-I flying over the survivors in the sea.
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 23
The flight plans of the four planes that hit on September 11, 2001.
Public Domain

Photo 24
"Good friends in three countries."  Japanese propaganda poster from 1938 promoting the cooperation between the three countries: Germany, Japan, and Italy.
Public Domain 

Photo 25

Photo 26
Edgar Harrell giving one of his speeches.
Copyright granted by Edgar Harrell

Photo 27
Harrell Family photograph on David Harrell’s son’s wedding.  David is third from the left, sitting down holding his grandson.  Edgar is in the front row sitting down, far left.
Copyright granted by David Harrell

Photo 28
Captain Charles Butler McVay III
Public Domain

Photo 29a
Fleet Admiral Enrest King
Public Domain

Photo 29b
Thomas Brophy
Public Domain

Photo 29c
Secretary Forrestal
Public Domain

Photo 29d
President Truman
Public Domain

Photo 30a
Jaws movie poster, released in June of 1975
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 30b
Quint (Robert Shaw), Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and Chief Martin Brody (Roy Schneider) in the USS Indianapolis Speech scene from Jaws.
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 30c
Image of Captain McVay and Hunter Scott
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 31
Newt Gingrich and Hunter Scott
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 32.
Edgar and Ola Harrell
Copyright granted by Edgar Harrell

Photo 33
Edgar Harrell
Copyright granted by Edgar Harrell

Photo 34
Scene depicting the 317 men’s survival at sea.
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 35
Two of the 317 men in the process of being rescued
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 36
The Pentecost painting
Attributed to Louise Galloche in 1841
Public Domain

Photo 37
Jesus Christ’s Ascension painting
Attributed to John Singleton Copley in 1775
Public Domain

Photo 38
David Harrell
Copyright granted by David Harrell

Photo 39
Edgar Harrell giving one of his speeches.
Copyright granted by Edgar Harrell

Photo 40
Jacket cover of Out Of The Depths

Photo 41
Jacket cover of Out Of The Depths

Photo 42
Bethany House Publishers logo
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 43
Lt. Col. Oliver North in Iraq
December 2007
Public Domain

Photo 44

Photo 45
The survivors – Edgar is second from left, sitting down.
Copyright granted by Edgar Harrell

Photo 46
Edgar Harrell shaking Captin McVay’s hand during the first reunion on July 30, 1960.
Copyright granted by Edgar Harrell.

Photo 47
The survivors on their 65th reunion
July 29 and 30 of 2010
Copyright granted by Edgar Harrell

Photo 48
Commander Hashimoto photographed in July of 1945
Public Domain

Photo 49
Edgar receiving a hug from the great-=granddaughter of Commander Hashimoto
Copyright granted by Edgar Harrell

Photo 50
Edgar Harrell
Copyright granted by Edgar Harrell.