“Every survivor of war has stories to tell – stories of triumph and tragedy, faith and fear – stories like mine, where fact is often stranger than fiction. Since that fateful night in 1945 when I stepped off a sinking ship into the unknown depths of the Pacific Ocean, there has never been a day when I have not reflected upon the horrors I experienced in the four and a half days of swimming in shark-infested waters. However, while those frightening memories remain vivid in my mind’s eye, one memory eclipses them all – namely the unfailing presence of God that sustained me.
Luck had absolutely nothing to do with my survival. I believe with all my heart that it was solely by the providence of God that I lived through those dreadful days and nights.”
When a book starts out like that, you know it’s going to be an intense, yet inspiring tale. And I promise you, that’s exactly the kind of story Out of the Depths: An Unforgettable WWII Story of Survival, Courage, and the Sinking of the USS Indianapolis is.
The Inspiring Story of a World War II Hero’s Miraculous Survival at Sea
July 30, 1945–The USS Indianapolis and its 1,196-man crew is making its way toward a small island in the South Pacific. The ship is sailing unescorted, assured by headquarters the waters are safe. It is midnight, and Marine Edgar Harrell and several others have sacked out on deck rather than spend the night in their hot and muggy quarters below. Fresh off a top-secret mission to deliver uranium for the atomic bombs that would ultimately end World War II, they are unaware their ship is being watched. Minutes later, six torpedoes are slicing toward the Indy . . .
For five horrifying days and nights after their ship went down, Harrell and his shipmates had to fend for themselves in the open seas. Plagued by dehydration, exposure, saltwater poisoning, and shark attacks, their numbers were cruelly depleted before they were miraculously rescued. This is one man’s story of courage, ingenuity, and faith in God’s providence in the midst of the worst naval disaster in U.S. history.
It reads easy, but I don’t mean the material itself is easy to take in. It’s an incredible tale, but harrowing. Even while reading his descriptions, I cannot imagine surviving in the Pacific Ocean for that long after your ship sank in 12 minutes. It’s beyond amazing.
“It was a living hell. I’ll never forget the fires, the horrified faces, and the cacophony of screams. I can still hear the explosions and the screeching metal being twisted and torn by the tons of water the ship was taking on.”
War is ugly. But even in such darkness (like WWII), stories of amazing survival emerge and you can’t help but be inspired. Harrell’s tale is one everyone should read. His faith is also an incredible example of what it means to truly trust God when it is the absolute darkest of times. Even the words of his fellow survivors and what kept them going for those five days was inspiring: “I prayed silently for the first time in my life. Don’t let anyone tell you he cannot pray; even an atheist cannot deny the existence of God. We prayed to God to ease our pains. We prayed to God not to forsake us, not let us die, to save us. The soothing effects of prayer linked us together as we began to try and to help each other.” Even in the most unimaginable circumstances, God is always there; from how many survived each night to how they were eventually rescued shows that truth in an incredible way.
“If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me.” Psalm 139:9-10
Harrell also includes photos and other survivors anecdotes, giving a complete picture of their journey. It gave faces to names and their stories.
This was an excellent read for history buffs, but also for anyone. I really makes you stop and think of all that was given so we can be the country we are today and also for the gift of freedom we have. Not everyone today does and there are those fighting to make that happen. Freedom isn’t free. It’s the courage and sacrifice of men and women that have made it possible. I’m humbled and thankful once again after reading this book.
If you liked Unbroken, then you definitely need to pick this one up!
What are some of your favorite World War II favorites?
(Thank you Bethany House for the copy in exchange for my honest opinion)