Edgar Harrell

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Edgar Harrell is one of the 317 survivors of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. He was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps at the time of the ships sinking. He earned his sergeant stripes 73 years after the sinking of USS Indianapolis due to an honorary promotion (On May 8, 2019, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that he was 94 years old.).[1][2] He is a public speaker and he also co-authored the book Out of the Depths: An Unforgettable WWII Story of Survival, Courage, and the Sinking of the USS Indianapolis with his son David Harrell.

The Tennesean declares about Edgar Harrell:

Cpl. Edgar Harrell floated in the shark-infested Pacific Ocean for four-and-a-half days.

He swam aimlessly in the salt water — mixed heavily with black oil and blood — with a group of 80 other men who had jumped off the fiery USS Indianapolis after it has been torpedoed by the Japanese during the closing months of World War II.

It was July 30, 1945, and it was 110 degrees. They had no water. Dehydration left their lips covered with sores and their tongues swollen.

By the afternoon of the third day, the group dwindled to just 17 men. Shark fins and the torsos of those they had killed surrounded them. One would scream each time as they were pulled under, just for unrecognizable parts to bob back to the surface.

Harrell prayed continually.

Ultimately, Harrell was among the only 317 of the 1,196 men on board to survive, making the incident the single largest loss of life from a single ship in the U.S. Navy’s history.[3]

CBN News wrote about Edgar Harrell:

Around 900 of the nearly 1,200-man crew who survived the initial attack found themselves oil-soaked, many with injuries, and clinging to kapok life jackets in the shark-infested waters.

"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," Harrell recalled. "And I told the Lord, 'I don't want to die; I want to live!'"

Harrell, who was 20 at the time, said he began to think of scriptures.

"'I'll never leave you nor forsake you,'" Harrell quoted from the Bible. "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 [sic] going to be out there four and a half days."

Four and a half days of unbelievable horror. No food; no water; and yet surrounded by water in all directions, along with sharks.

He said shipmates, who not in their right mind either because they were injured or because they drank salt water, began to hallucinate.

"He leaves the group," Harrell said, referencing a shipmate. "And he gets out 50 to 75 yards, and you hear a blood curdling scream, and you see that kapok go under. And then like a fish cork, then that kapok brings that body back up. But by now all the blood and more, more sharks, more fins, and they are kind of fighting over what was there."

Despite witnessing scenes like that, Harrell refused to give up hope.

He believes God directed him and several of his buddies to a crate of rotten potatoes. The "hearts" of the potatoes were still edible.

He also 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! Thank You!' And that little rain cloud comes over; you get a few drops, maybe a few tablespoons full of water," Harrell explained...

Finally, a plane flew over the area low to the water -- a miracle because the pilot, Lt. Wilbur Gwinn, wasn't looking for the survivors. He didn't even know they were missing -- no one did.

"Lt. Gwinn goes aft; he opens the Bombay door, and in just a flash, he looks down at the ocean below, and what he saw was an oil slick," Harrell said.

Flying even lower, Gwinn, who they called "Angel," saw debris, sharks, and sharks attacking survivors.[4]

Andrew Ferebee wrote about Harrell:

Edgar Harrell owned and operated the Pella Window Company, Inc., Rock Island, Illinois for thirty-five years until his retirement in 1985. During the years 1970 to 1985, he served on the board of trustees of the Moody Bible Institute, in Chicago, Illinois, and has been a popular Bible teacher and lay minister throughout his adult life.

He has enjoyed many years of fishing and big game hunting in the Rocky Mountains from Alaska to New Mexico and currently resides in Clarksville, Tennessee with his wife Ola, together enjoying their two children, eight grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. As a survivor of the USS Indianapolis, Mr. Harrell speaks extensively around the United States about his experience at sea.[5]

Edgar Harrel's testimony about his experience during the USS Indianapolis sinking incident

You see maybe a body on an eight foot swell. And all of the sudden that swell breaks and that body comes down and he he hits you and he leaves that residue on you. And you see that and say, "Is that going to be me tomorrow or yet today?". And see you look up. And may I say, "There is no such thing as atheists in foxholes. There were no atheists out there."

Everyone prayed. I can hear one of those sailors praying today, "God if you are out there. I don't want to die. I have a son back home that I have never seen. I want to live, but we have to have help." So we prayed and we prayed and we continued to pray.

So the lesson that I have learned is I know that there was a higher power looking over me or I wouldn't be here today. And there is not a single day that I don't thank my heavenly Father for sending that Plane #1.[6]

Excerpt of a sermon which mentions Edgar Harrell

See also: There are no atheists on a sinking ship and There Are No Atheists In Foxholes

The USS Indianapolis is considered to be the worst case of shark attacks in history.[7] Most of the shark-related causalities came from oceanic whitetips which are one of the most aggressive types of sharks.[8]

The sinking of the USS Indianapolis is considered to be the worst case of shark attacks in history.[9] Most of the shark-related causalities came from oceanic whitetips which are one of the most aggressive types of sharks.[10]

Of the 1,195 crewmen aboard the USS Indianapolis, about 300 went down with the ship.[11]

The website Sermon Central gives the following excerpt of a sermon:

NO ATHEISTS IN THE WATER

David Harrell wrote a book telling the story of his father, Edgar Harrell. Edgar was one of the 300 survivors of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, the last US ship sunk by enemy contact in WW2. 600 of the 900 men who survived the ship's sinking were stranded in the water for five days - many with only a life vest - all facing thirst, hunger, injuries, dehydration and sharks. They all came face to face with fear and their own mortality.

Edgar testifies of those days alone in the ocean, 'Clearly there were no atheists in the water that day. Gone was that damnable attitude of pride that deceives men into thinking that there is no God...'[12]

See also: Atheism and arrogance

Videos of Edgar Harrell

Book

  • Out of the Depths: An Unforgettable WWII Story of Survival, Courage, and the Sinking of the USS Indianapolis by Edgar Harrell, David Harrell, Oliver North (Foreword), Bethany House Publishers; Reprint edition (June 21, 2016), ISBN-10: 076421764X; ISBN-13: 978-0764217647

External links

References

  1. Tennessee Marine earns his sergeant stripes 73 years after the sinking of USS Indianapolis, The Tennessean
  2. 94-year-old survivor of the USS Indianapolis sinking, tells his story, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
  3. Tennessee Marine earns his sergeant stripes 73 years after the sinking of USS Indianapolis, The Tennessean
  4. An Indianapolis Survivor Shares His Miraculous Story
  5. 75: Edgar Harrell: A WWII Survivor’s Story of the Sinking of the USS Indianapolis
  6. Edgar Harrell, USS Indianapolis Survivor, YouTube video
  7. The Worst Shark Attack in History, Smithsonian website
  8. The Worst Shark Attack in History, Smithsonian website
  9. The Worst Shark Attack in History, Smithsonian website
  10. The Worst Shark Attack in History, Smithsonian website
  11. Neuman, Scott. "Navy Admits To 70-Year Crew List Error In USS Indianapolis Disaster", NPR.org, 23 March 2018. (en) 
  12. No Atheists In The Water, Sermon Central