The last surviving Marine who was on board the USS Indianapolis when it was torpedoed in World War II has died at the age of 96.
Edgar Harrell, survived for five days in the ocean after the heavy cruiser sank in July 1945, and later told his horror story of watching other survivors being eaten by sharks while they waited for rescue.
The crew were fresh off a top-secret mission to deliver uranium for the first atomic bombs to the island of Tinian, 500 miles east of the Philippines, when the ship was attacked by a Japanese submarine.
Harrell, who had been assigned to guard the components of the atomic bomb, passed away on Saturday, according to the official Facebook page for the naval ship.
‘Ed was beloved among the group and traveled the world sharing the story of his ship and shipmates,’ a post on the page reads. ‘He joined the crew as a sea-going marine in 1944, meaning he was one of the best of the best.’
‘Of course, we’ll miss his passionate telling of the rescue story, and how he felt the Lord’s comfort throughout the ordeal.’
The sinking was the greatest single loss of life at sea from a single ship in the history of the US Navy.
Harrell said he was able to survive due to his faith.
‘There’s times when you pray and there’s times when you pray, and I’m pleading with the Lord, ‘I don’t want to die,’ he recounted to the Deseret News last year. ‘I have a certain brunette back home, mom and dad, six young brothers, an older and younger sister, I don’t want to die.’
In 2018, Harrell was officially promoted to Sergeant in a small ceremony.
In 2020, he and seven other surviving members of the attack received the Congressional Gold Medal on the 75th anniversary of the ship sinking.
The Montgomery County Commission also named a Tennessee road in Harrell’s honor in 2018, but Harrell said at the time, ‘I want to pass on this honor to 880 of my shipmates that were not as fortunate.’
There are now only five living survivors of the USS Indianapolis sinking that are still alive, according to the U.S.S. Indianapolis Facebook page. ‘Let’s all do what we can to keep their legacies alive,’ it posted.