Remembering the USS Indianapolis
The USS Indianapolis delivered parts of the atomic bomb used in World War II.
Edgar Harrell, the last surviving Navy on the USS Indianapolis, died Saturday, according to an organization dedicated to preserving the ship’s legacy.
“Ed was very popular in the group and traveled the world sharing the story of his ship and his shipmates,” the organization posted on Facebook. “He joined the crew as a seaman in 1944, which means he was one of the best of the best.”
The group also said the 96-year-old helped protect various components of the atomic bomb and was hailed as a hero among his shipmates.
Harrell’s death came days after James Smith, another survivor, who died on May 5.
The ship with 1,195 employees on board delivered enriched uranium and other parts of the “Little Boy” atomic bomb, which was later dropped in August 1945 in Hiroshima, Japan.
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Four days after the delivery of its top-secret cargo, the ship was sunk by Japanese torpedoes on July 30, 1945. Of the nearly 900 men who went to the Philippine Sea, only 316 survived before being rescued almost five days later. The death toll of 879 was the largest single maritime disaster in US Navy history.
Survivors were stranded in the open ocean with few lifeboats and almost no food or water, and suffered severe burns, dehydration and shark attacks.
Last year, Congress awarded the eight surviving crew members the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor, in a virtual ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the sinking. The gold medal was dedicated to all of the ship’s crew, living and dead, and is on display at the Indiana War Memorial Museum in Indianapolis.
“In an instant, your crew went from fighting without going to fighting inside,” said Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader.
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Retired Navy Captain William Toti, who ran a nuclear-powered submarine named in honor of Indianapolis, said the gold medal recognized the accomplishments of the crew – not the fact that the ship was sunk.
The medal “recognizes the crew of a warship who helped end the most terrible war this world has ever known,” said Toti. He called the crew members “some of the best the US Navy has to offer”.
The organization said with Harrell’s death there are five remaining survivors of the USS Indianapolis.
FOX Television Stations’ request to Harrell’s family for comment was not immediately returned.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was told from Los Angeles.