WWII survivor to speak at West Hartselle, Danville churches

When U.S. Marine Corporal Ed Harrell was assigned to the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis as part of a detachment of marines guarding the atomic bomb to be used on Japan, little did he know what a terrifying experience lay ahead.

On July 16, 1945, the USS Indianapolis departed San Francisco for the American B-29 base on Tinian island with a top-secret cargo that would ultimately put an end to World War II. This cargo cnsisted of the components for the first atomic bombs. The speedy trip only took 10 days to cover the 5,300 miles to Tinian to deliver the cargo on July 26, 1945.

The USS Indianapolis was ordered to set a course from Guam to Leyte in the Philippines to prepare for the invasion of Japan. However, enroute between Guam and Leyte, the Japanese submarine I-58 fired two torpedoes that sunk the cruiser shortly after midnight on July 30, 1945. The mighty ship sank quickly in about 12 minutes.

Of the 1,196 men aboard, about 900 sailors and Marines entered the water. The Navy did not know the cruiser was missing for five long days for the survivors in the water. The main terror was thast the many sharks in the area attacked the helpless survivors and pulled them down under water. The men also suffered from hypothermia, severe dehydrations, and salt-water hallucinations.

Five long and horrifying days later only 317 men were rescued. Among them was Corporal Ed Harrell.

Harrell, who lives in Tennessee, will be the featured speaker at West Hartselle Baptitst Church for two services on Sunday, June 26, at 8:30 and 11 a.m. He will also speak at Danville Baptist Church in Danville that Sunday at 6 p.m.

He will tell of his experiences and how his Christian faith helped him survive. Ed has written a book and will sign it for buyers at both churches. His program is free and is open to the public. A love offering will be taken to cover his expenses.

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