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Out of the Depths: A WWII Vet's Miracle of Survival

Edgar Harrell is one of the handful of WWII vets who survived the worst Navy disaster in the history of the United States. Today his miraculous story is inspiring Americans to appreciate more the cost of freedom. Read Transcript


Reporter: ON A SMALL

FARM IN KENTUCKY, EDGAR

HAROLD HEARD ABOUT THE WAR

IN THE PACIFIC ON THE

RADIO.

AFTER LISTENING TO REPORTS

OF MARINES LOSING THEIR

LIVES, HE WANTED TO HELP.

I THOUGHT, I'M 18 YEARS

OLD, AND I HAD ALREADY

REGISTERED FOR THE DRAFT.

I THOUGHT, I DON'T WANT TO

WAIT AND BE DRAFTED.

I WANT TO GET IN THE MARINE

CORPS.

Reporter: THE HEAVY

CRUISER, THE U.S.S.

INDIANAPOLIS, BECAME HIS

HOME.

WHEN I SAW THAT BIG

U.S.S. INDIANAPOLIS, YOU CAN

IMAGINE WHAT A COUNTRY BOY

THOUGHT.

Reporter: HAROLD SAW

SEVERE ACTIONS ON THE SHIP,

THAT SHOOK HIM TO THE CORE.

ONE INCIDENT, WHEN A

JAPANESE CO COMAKAZIE PLANE

STRUCK THEM.

I REMEMBER SEEING THAT

PLANE THINKING, LIFE IS OVER

BECAUSE HE IS DIVING FOR THE

FIN TALE.

Reporter: HAROLD

SURVIVED THAT ATTACK, BUT

NINE OF HIS SHIPMATES DID

NOT.

THE INDIANAPOLIS HAD TO

RETURN TO THE STATES FOR

REPAIRS.

EVENTUALLY IT LEFT SAN

FRANCISCO BAY, HEADING BACK

TO THE SOUTH PACIFIC, ON

WHAT WOULD BE ITS FINAL

MISSION.

ON BOARD, IMPORTANT

COMPONENTS OF THE ATOMIC

BOMBS.

HAROLD SAYS THEIR NEXT

ASSIGNMENT WAS TO HEAD TO

THE PHILIPPINES TO PREPARE

FOR THE MAIN INVASION OF

JAPAN.

PATTON MCVEIGH ASKED FOR

AN ESCORT.

THEY TELL HIM, YOU DON'T

NEED AN ESCORT.

MAY I SAY, THEY WERE NOT

TELLING THE TRUTH.

THEY COULD IS HAVE SAID, YOU

NEED AN ESCORT.

WHY?

BECAUSE FOUR DAYS BEFORE WE

LOST A DESTROYER, THE U.S.S.

UNDERHILL.

WE LOST 129 BOYS, AND WE

WERE TO GO THROUGH THAT VERY

AREA.

Reporter: WHY NAVY

LEADERS MADE THAT DECISION,

HAROLD SAYS, REMAINS A

MYSTERY.

AND THAT BRINGS US TO

JULY 30th, 1945.

A JAPANESE SUBMARINE SPOTS

THE INDIANAPOLIS IN THE

PHILIPPINE SEA AND FIRES A

SPREAD OF TORPEDOS.

TWO HIT THEIR MARK, AND IN

LESS THAN 15 MINUTES, THE

SHIP GOES DOWN.

AROUND 900 OF THE NEARLY

1200-MAN CREW SURVIVE THE

INITIAL ATTACK, AND FIND

THEMSELVES OIL-SOAKED, MANY

WITH INJURIES, CLINGING TO

LIFEJACKETS IN THE

SHARK-INFESTED WATERS.

AND I THOUGHT OF MOM AND

DAD BACK HOME.

I THOUGHT OF SIX YOUNGER

BROTHERS, AN OLDER SISTER,

AND A YOUNGER SISTER, AND I

THOUGHT OF THIS CERTAIN

BRUNETTE THAT SAID THAT SHE

WOULD WAIT FOR ME.

AND I TOLD THE LORD, I DON'T

WANT TO DIE.

I WANT TO LIVE.

Reporter: HAROLD, WHO

WAS 20 AT THE TIME, SAYS HE

BEGAN TO THINK OF

SCRIPTURES.

I'LL NEVER LEAVE YOU OR

FORSAKE YOU.

SEEMINGLY THAT CAME TO

MIND.

NO AUDIBLE VOICE, BUT I KNEW

THAT THE LORD WAS SPEAKING

TO ME.

LORD, YOU'RE SPEAKING TO MY

HEART.

I'M GOING TO MAKE IT.

WELL, I DIDN'T KNOW I'M

GOING TO BE OUT THERE FOUR

AND A HALF DAYS.

Reporter: FOUR AND A

HALF DAYS OF UNBELIEVABLE

HORROR.

NO FOOD, NO WATER, AND YET

SURROUNDED BY WATER IN ALL

DIRECTIONS.

ALONG WITH SHARKS.

HE SAYS SHIPMATES NOT IN

THEIR RIGHT MIND, SOME

BECAUSE THEY WERE INJURED,

AND OTHERS BECAUSE THEY

DRANK SALT WER SALTWATER,

BEGAN TO HALLS NATE.

HE LEAVES THE GROUP, AND

HE GETS OUT 50, 75 YARDS,

AND YOU HEAR A BLOOD

CURDLING SCREAM.

YOU SEE THE K-POCK GO UNDER,

AND THE K-POCK BRINGS THAT

BLOODY BODY BACK UP.

BUT BY NOW, ALL OF THE BLOOD

AND MORE SHARKS, MORE FINS,

AND THEY ARE KIND OF

FIGHTING OVER WHAT WAS

THERE.

Reporter: DESPITE

WITNESSING SCENES LIKE THAT,

HAROLD REFUSED TO GIVE UP

HOPE.

HE BELIEVES GOD DIRECTED HIM

AND SEVERAL OF HIS BUDDIES

TO A CRATE OF ROT TON

POTATOES.

THE HEARTS OF THE POTATOES

WERE STILL EDIBLE.

AND HE BELIEVES GOD SENT A

SMALL RAIN CLOUD ONE DAY TO

PROVIDE DESPERATELY NEEDED

WATER.

SO WHAT DO YOU DO?

THANK YOU, LORD, THANK YOU

LORD.

AND THAT RAIN DROP COMES

OVER AND YOU GET A FEW

TABLESPOONS OF WATER.

Reporter: THE BRUTAL

CONDITIONS TOOK THEIR TOLL.

THE NUMBER OF SAILORS AND

MARINES DWINDLED DOWN TO

LITTLE MORE THAN 300.

FINALLY A PLANE FLEW OVER

THE AREA, LOW TO THE WATER.

A MIRACLE BECAUSE THE PILOT,

LIEUTENANT WILBERT QUINN

WASN'T EVEN LOOKING FOR THE

SURVIVORS.

NO ONE DID.

THE LIEUTENANT OPENED THE

BOMBAY DOOR, AND IN A FLASH,

HE LOOKED DOWN AT THE OCEAN

BELOW.

AND WHAT HE SAW WAS AN OIL

SLICK.

Reporter: FLYING EVEN

LOWER, QUINN, WHO THEY

CALLED ANGEL, SAW THE DEBRIS

AND SHARKS.

HE RADIOS FOR HELP, AND

EVENTUALLY 317 CREW MEMBERS

FROM THE U.S.S. INDIANAPOLIS

ARE PULLED FROM THE WATER.

HAROLD SPENT MONTHS IN THE

HOSPITAL RECOVERING.

AFTER EVERYTHING HAROLD WENT

THROUGH, IT IS EASY TO SEE

WHY HE IS A DECORATED

MARINE.

HE WAS EVEN AWARDED THE

PURPLE HEART.

"THE PURPLE HEART IS AWARDED

BY THE MEDICAL OFFICER IN

COMMAND TO EDGAR ALVIN

HAROLD FOR WOUNDS RECEIVED

IN ACTION AGAINST AN ENEMY

OF THE UNITED STATES, ON

JULY 30th, 1945."

HE WENT ON TO MARRY OLA, THE

BRUNETTE WHO WAITED FOR

HIM.

TODAY, JUST 36 SURVIVORS OF

THE INDIANAPOLIS, THE WORST

NAVY DISASTER IN THE HISTORY

OF THE UNITED STATES, ARE

ALIVE.

HAROLD SHARES THIS STORY OF

GOD'S PROVIDENCE AT SCHOOLS

AND CHURCHES.

HE CALLS IT A MINISTRY.

HE AND HIS SON, DAVID, ALSO

CHRONICLED THE UNFORGETTABLE

STORY IN A NEW BOOK, "OUT OF

THE DEPTHS."

MANY, MANY TIMES A DAY, I

JUST LOOK UP AND SAY, THANK

YOU, LORD.

Reporter: MARK MARTIN,

CBN NEWS, CLARKSVILLE,

TENNESSEE.

EMBED THIS VIDEO


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