Inside deadliest shark attack EVER as 150 sailors from USS Indianapolis eaten alive after warship sunk in WW2
WHEN the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine towards the end of World War 2, the 1,195 men on board had just two choices: stay on the ship ravaged by flames, or plunge into shark-infested waters.
What ensued was the grizzliest shark attack tale of all time, with Pacific turning red while survivors watched as, one by one, hundreds of their crew mates were eaten alive.
Four years ago today the ruins of the ship were finally discovered on the ocean floor by explorers – revealing the graveyard where so many US sailors met their end.
Rewind to the night of July 30, 1945, and the Indianapolis was sailing from Tinian Island to the Philippines after completing a secret mission delivering uranium for the Hiroshima atomic bomb, which was dropped just one week later.
As the warship made its way through the Pacific, the Japanese submarine I-58 fired six torpedoes at the vessel at 12.14am.
Two hit it directly – and in an instant the blasts claimed the lives of around a quarter of the crew as 300 went down with the burning ship.
The sinking left almost 900 bobbing and helpless in pitch-dark waters.
Adrift in the open ocean without adequate lifeboats or life jackets and with no food or fresh water, they prayed daylight would bring solace.
But little did they know their ordeal had just begun.
As the morning sun began to break through, the horrified sailors realised the bleak outlook as they saw countless dorsal fins cutting through the waves around them.
Drawn in by the aftermath of the carnage, hundreds of oceanic whitetip and tiger sharks which terrorise the Pacific began to prowl.
The following four days become a living nightmare for the sailors, and the beasts picked off dozens of men – one at a time, ripping them apart as terrified survivors clung to each other in fear.
Edgar Harrell was just 20 when he watched the traumatic ordeal unfold in front of his very eyes.
All we heard was men being eaten alive. Every day, every night
"You would hear a blood-curdling scream and look and see someone going under," Harrell, who died at the age of 96 in May this year, told The Sun Online in 2019.
And as the victims' blood spread in the water, sharks – which can smell blood up to three miles away – were attracted to the defenceless sailors, creating a feeding frenzy.
Harrell added: "When you get some 900 boys out there decaying in misery, sharks are gonna swim through there and they’re gonna attack what’s in their road.
"If I’m flopping around in their road, they’re going to take me under, and they only have to hit you once.
"All we heard was men being eaten alive. Every day, every night."
But it wasn't just shark attacks the men had to battle, as with each passing day the dwindling group of starving sailors had to endure baking heat during the night, and extreme cold at night.
They were also severely dehydrated — which drove some desperate men into drinking seawater.
Harrell said: "You could nearly time it after they’d drunk that salt water — within the hour their mind was completely gone, hallucinating."
On the second day, the men were able to drink a few drops of rainwater that fell by catching it in their mouths.
But by noon on the third day, of a group of 80 men Harrell had first huddled with in the water, only 17 were still alive.
With hope rapidly fading and survivors becoming fewer and fewer as sharks continued to feast on despairing, delirious sailors, the fourth day dawned.
By sheer chance, a navy plane flying overhead stumbled across the men while on an antisubmarine patrol.
At first, the bewildered sailors were sure the American bomber had missed them – but just before sunset, a seaplane appeared and changed direction to fly over the group.
Until that point, the US Navy incredibly had no idea the Indianapolis had gone under — and that there were survivors waiting to be rescued.
Navy intelligence had intercepted a message from the Japanese submarine that obliterated the Indianapolis which said it had sunk a US battleship – but it was disregarded as a trick to lure rescue boats out.
A massive search operation was immediately launched — with Robert Adrian Marks first to arrive on the scene in an amphibious plane.
Harrell said: "He saw sharks attacking boys, he saw stragglers out in the distance."
Marks disobeyed orders to not land in the rough seas when he saw the shark feeding frenzy, hauling 49 survivors into the small aircraft and strapping another seven to its wings.
That evening, after nearly five days of constant shark attacks and dehydration, seven ships arrived and pulled the other remaining survivors to safety.
He saw sharks attacking boys, he saw stragglers out in the distance
Of the 1,195 crew on the ship when it was torpedoed, just 316 were pulled out alive – including Harrell, who was shipped off to hospital to recuperate.
It is thought at least 150 died through shark attacks.
For decades, the wreckage lay rotting on the ocean floor – until naval records with new information on the ship's lat-known position were discovered in July 2016.
The uncovered details placed the vessel further west than previously thought and finally, a year later, the wreckage was found.
On August 19, 2017 – just four years ago today and 72 years on from the harrowing incident – the ruins were located at a depth of 18,000ft by the USS Indianapolis Project aboard the RV Petrel – a research vessel funded by American business magnate Paul Allen.
A month later, the first images of the wreckage were released to the public, showing the eerie remains of the colossal World War Two ship that tragically became the final resting place for so many men.
The disaster has since become known as the worst shark attack in history and inspired the character of Captain Quint in the 1975 blockbuster Jaws, who said he had survived the attack.
In 2016, the shocking story was transformed into a film starring Nicholas Cage.
But the Mario Van Peebles directed movie – titled USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage – was not well received by survivors and experts due to its historical inaccuracies.
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