8:04 | Ed Harrell describes in detail the sinking of the USS Indianapolis from Japanese torpedoes, which left nearly 900 Sailors and Marines in shark-infested Pacific waters. Part 1 of 4.
Ed Harrell remembers his first impression of the USS Indianapolis and his first experience being at sea headed into combat during World War II.
Ed Harrell recalls the bombardment and successive invasion of Saipan during World War II.
Stationed aboard the USS Indianapolis, Ed Harrell remembers his ship being hit by a kamikaze aircraft near Okinawa.
Ed Harrell describes the events leading up to the Battle of the Philippine Sea and the threat that kamikaze aircraft posed to U.S. ships during that battle.
Ed Harrell makes the case that invading the island of Peleliu was a costly mistake on the Pacific front.
Ed Harrell recalls the bombardment of the island of Okinawa prior to the landing-force invasion.
Ed Harrell recollects the mystery surrounding a very important and dangerous package the USS Indianapolis was tasked with delivering to the Pacific front - the first atomic bomb.
After his ship was sunk by Japanese torpedoes, Ed Harrell continues his story of survival, fighting off hallucinations and sharks, while adrift in the Pacific Ocean. Part 2 of 4.
Ed Harrell continues his story of survival into the third day adrift in the Pacific Ocean. Part 3 of 4.
After being adrift in the Pacific for four days, Ed Harrell concludes his story of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, which only a quarter of the crew ultimately survived. Part 4 of 4.
Ed Harrell describes the injuries he suffered after surviving the sinking of the USS Indianapolis and floating in the Pacific Ocean for four days, for which he received a Purple Heart.
Ed Harrell shares the efforts he and other former crewmembers went through to clear Rear Admiral Charles McVay's name after the admiral was court-martialed for his accused role in the sinking of the USS Indianapolis.
The first operation for the 4th Division was the landing on Roi-Namur. Lawrence Snowden remembers that, though it was an easy victory, valuable combat experience and important lessons were imparted on the Marines.
Two engines were out, a third smoking, and they were were losing airspeed and altitude, but they were flying level and pointed home. Then time ran out for the B-17 and Don Scott had to slip down the hatch into the slipstream. Part 2 of 3.
It was their third mission over Berlin and they were heading home. Four German fighters pounced on the B-24 and it was engulfed in flame and going down. Clyde Burnette fought for consciousness as the other crew in the back of the plane bailed out. He woke in free fall with no idea how he had made it out, and soon he was in German custody. Everyone made it out of the plane except George "Danny" Daneau, the nose turret gunner, who went down with the aircraft.
After a nerve-wracking mission to bomb Tokyo and a typhoon, B.E. Vaughn and the destroyer O'Brien suffered a second kamikaze attack which killed all three of his hometown pals who served with him on board. Then, began the grim task of collecting the personal belongings of the dead and preparing them for burial at sea.
They went in the recruiting station just to "bug them a little bit." Val Archer and his friend were only sixteen but they sailed right on through. It was 1944 and, after a little work on their birth certificates, they were off to basic training, where they faced the indignities of segregation. Off base, it was even worse.
Hubert Aaron was drafted in 1943 and after a short stop in North Africa, his unit joined the push into Southern Italy. Soon he was celebrating his twentieth birthday in combat. He recalls diving into the mud in a cabbage patch as the bullets punctured the vegetables all around.
Val Archer was in an Aviation Engineer battalion when he got orders to report to Lockbourne Army Air Field in Columbus, Ohio. He was now assigned to the 332nd Fighter Group, the Tuskegee Airmen, as ground crew. The famed unit was preparing to go to the Pacific when the war abruptly ended.
Ross Bacon served as a radioman and gunner on a torpedo bomber and several different seaplanes in the Pacific theater. New Guinea was "awful," he says. Dehydrated food, constant rain and the heat could make one miserable, however the locals were very friendly after being dominated by the Japanese. After the war, he was sent right back to the Pacific, which annoyed him, so he reenlisted in the Air Force.
After breaking out at Anzio. Hubert Aaron's unit marched into Rome, the only American unit to capture an enemy capitol during World War Two. He received a Silver Star for actions during that operation. When he went into St. Tropez, with dry feet for a change, he ignored his platoon leader's order to move out through an open field. Then he let his Thompson submachine gun do some talking.
On his last combat flight, B-29 radar navigator Dick Almand's target was 300 miles past the main Japanese Islands. At the time, it was the longest bombing mission ever attempted. They used the Norden bombsight but, since all their missions were at night, the bombardier didn't actually look through the sight. That's when the radar navigator came into play.
Sterling Baker had to wait several days to get all his cargo unloaded at Iwo Jima because of the slow advance inland. This was his last action and he was transferred to Alameda Naval Air Station where he manned a converted PT boat used for rescue operations. He reflects on his scout training that he never got to use.
Hubert Aaron says, "I know I'm going to heaven because I spent three months in hell at Anzio." During this battle, he directed some artillery fire that was highly accurate, but then he was on the receiving end as an incoming enemy round put him in the hospital with a concussion. After being pinned down for three months and nearly being pushed back into the sea, the Americans finally prevailed.
At Leyte, Sterling Baker had to operate in a smoke screen, unloading landing craft and supplies for the invasion. It was unnerving because he could hear attacking aircraft above but he couldn't see them. When underway, the amphibious cargo assault ship would lower paravanes into the water, which would cut the mooring cables on mines so they could float to the surface for disposal.
After capturing an entire German Panzer division, Hubert Aaron's outfit was moving up the Rhone River Valley when he was wounded in an ambush. Evacuated to Naples, he found out how great was his sacrifice.
Dick Almand recalls dodging rats and watching movies in the rain at the air field in Guam in between bombing missions. The unexpected use of the atomic bomb ended the war and his biggest problem became flight time. Everyone in his squadron needed the scarce hours to maintain their flight pay.
Ashore at Guam during a lull in the fighting, the sailors of the USS Almaack started eating coconuts and drinking coconut milk. This caused quite a commotion in the toilet facilities later aboard ship. Sterling Baker relates what one old Chief did to get the line moving, and how someone got revenge.
Threatened with the Army draft in his last year of Georgia Tech, Dick Almand enlisted in the Air Corps and entered the training for flight crews. Classified as a navigator, he was sent to radar navigator school, where he learned the new technology. A broken ankle delayed his graduation and he narrowly missed going to Europe on a B-17 crew. Instead, he went to B-29's.
The GI's were always looking around for souvenirs and most of them had quite a collection. Sherwood Merchant reveals what he did with his and then relates a sadder memory about something he found in a frozen apple orchard. When the unit had time, one of his jobs was movie projectionist and he showed films to the men in both castles and caves.
On his first combat mission, B-29 radar navigator Dick Almand recalls a vicious crosswind that caused the bombs to miss the target. The squadron commander was on board to observe and he didn't get vexed at that, but what the ground crew discovered when they returned caused some ruckus.
After a successful operation at Algiers, The USS Almaack was headed back to England when it was torpedoed off Portugal. Sterling Baker was in his bunk when it hit and, though the ship remained afloat, he never slept below deck again. While repairs were underway, he served in Casablanca, where he had a memorable Christmas.
Before deploying to Europe, Sherwood Merchant had undergone winter training in Upper Michigan. He says it was probably worse than the combat conditions. Although his unit regularly commandeered German homes, their relations with the civilians were warm and friendly. That continued into the postwar period as he stayed on for occupation duty.
Assigned as radar navigator on the latest B-29 model, Dick Almand had to wait in the States and extend his training because the air field in Guam was still under construction. In fact, the war in Europe came to an end while he was waiting. Once he got to the Pacific, his squadron began long range night missions over Japan.
Sailor Sterling Baker saw a note on the bulletin board asking for volunteers who were single, had no close family ties and who were excellent swimmers. Off he went to become an amphibious scout, one of the precursors to today's SEALS. Armed with only a knife, he was trained to infiltrate a beach undetected ahead of an amphibious landing. He did not get to try in his first operation at Algiers.
The B-17 squadron departed the West coast bound for a stopover in Hawaii en route to the Philippines. Co-pilot Roy Reid recalls what they found when they got to Hawaii, a big surprise. It was December 7th and his aircraft was destined to be the first of something that was unexpected.
The USS Almaack had been repaired and upgraded and headed out again, this time to the Pacific. Coxswain Sterling Baker had moved up the food chain to hatch leader, supervising the unloading and loading of landing craft. During an air attack, he became a 20mm gunner. At Saipan, he looked through his gun sight toward shore and saw something disturbing.
Charles Commins was already on his way to the ship that would take him home when the news came, Germany had surrendered. Back in the States, he was driving a jeep at an air base when he was told to prepare to leave for India and the Pacific Theater. This called for some serious beer drinking, but the next morning, he discovered the best hangover cure.
Sterling Baker had been trying to join the Navy since he was fourteen and he finally succeeded in 1942. Trained as a coxswain in the amphibious force and assigned to the USS Leonard Wood, he had a short detour when he went AWOL because the others had leave after boot camp and he didn't. This would prove fateful when he visited his girlfriend and fell for her roommate.
Sherwood Merchant was one of a group of eager recruits who shipped out to the European Theater late in the war. In the support battery of a field artillery unit, he was fortunate to be behind the front lines, but he still had to endure the coldest winter on record.