MARYVILLE, Mo. — Edgar Harrell, a Marine Corps veteran of World War II who survived the sinking of the USS Indianapolis by the Imperial Japanese Navy, will tell his story of courage, survival and faith during the 8:15 and 10:45 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 2, services at Laura Street Baptist Church in Maryville.
The Indianapolis was a Portland-class heavy cruiser that served as the flagship of Adm. Raymond Spruance, commander of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, during 1943 and ’44, one of the crucial periods of the Pacific war.
When the ship was sent to the bottom by Japanese submarine-launched torpedoes in the summer of 1945, its sinking led to the greatest single loss of life at sea from a single ship in the history of the U.S. Navy.
Significantly, the Indianapolis was returning to the Philippines following a high-speed trip to the U.S. Army Air Corps base on the island of Tinian in the Central Pacific, where it delivered parts for Little Boy, the nuclear bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
After being hit, the ship sank in only 12 minutes. Of 1,195 crewmen aboard, approximately 300 went down while still aboard. The remaining 900 sailors and Marines faced exposure, dehydration, saltwater poisoning and shark attacks while floating in lifeboats with almost no food or water.
The Navy learned of the sinking when some of the 316 survivors were spotted four days later by the crew of a PV-1 Ventura bomber on routine patrol.
In the years after the war, Harrell owned and operated the Pella Window Co. in Rock Island, Illinois, until his retirement in 1985.
He also spent 15 years as a trustee of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and served as a Bible teacher and lay minister throughout his adult life.
Long an avid fisherman and big-game hinter, Harrell, now in his mid-90s, and his wife, Ola, currently live in Clarksville, Tennessee, and enjoy spending time with their two children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
The former Marine and businessman still makes frequent public appearances across the United States, during which he tells audiences about the Indianapolis sinking and his wartime Christian conversion.
Along with his son David, a pastor and Bible scholar, Harrell penned an account of the destruction of the Indianapolis and his subsequent fight for life in the book “Out of the Depths: An Unforgettable WWII Story of Survival, Courage, and the Sinking of the USS Indianapolis.”