From our vantage point the Second World War was just about over by July 30, 1945. But the 1,196 men sailing aboard the USS Indianapolis enjoyed none of our benefits of hindsight. They were planning to join the impending invasion of the Japnese mainland. But in reality they didn't even know the contents of their ship or the purpose of their mission. They didn't know that they had recently delivered the necessary uranium for the atomic bombs that would soon devastate Hiroshima and Nagasaki and end the terrible war. And just after midnight on that fateful day at the end of July, they did not know they were being tracked by a Japanese submarine intent upon sinking their vaunted heavy cruiser. Indeed, U.S. Navy personnel witheld key information from the ship's captain that would have warned him that his route to the Philippines was not safe.
About 300 men perished with the ship when two of the six Japanese torpedoes hit and crippled the Indianapolis. Around 900 initially survived in the water. But in another travesty, no one reported that the ship did not arrived as expected. Over four days these men struggled for life without the aid of lifeboats. They faced dehydration, saltwater poisoning, and exposure that tortured their minds and bodies. Worst were the sharks that prowled their ranks looking to pick off stragglers. After a plane that wasn't even looking for them miraculously spotted the survivors, 317 men were saved not long before all would have likewise perished in what was already the worst naval disaster in U.S. history.
Marine Edgar Harrell was one of those survivors. His steadfast faith in Jesus Christ sustained him during unimaginable horror. He sees the hand of God's providence in his unlikely rescue and has recently told his story in the page-turning new book Out of the Depths: An Unforgettable WWII Story of Survival, Courage, and the Sinking of the USS Indianapolis. He co-authored this book with his son, David Harrell, senior pastor-teacher of Calvary Bible Church in Joelton, Tennessee. And he spoke with me about how God preserved him at sea and how the Lord has continued to work through him in 69 years since the sinking. Listen to hear this veteran discuss the difference between praying and really praying, the controversy over whether the U.S. government knew about Pearl Harbor ahead of time, and the need for all of us to prepare to die.