Voices of Veterans: Glenn Morgan

By: Andy Conner Email
By: Andy Conner Email

July 30th, 1945 -- the single biggest Naval disaster of World War II - when the U.S.S. Indianapolis was torpedoed and sunk on its way back from delivering the components of the bomb that later was dropped on Hiroshima.

Of the nearly 1200 men on board, some 400 went down with the ship, 800 safely abandoned ship, but of those, only 316 survived the five days alone in the Pacific before rescue finally came. Many died of exposure, many others from shark attack.

One of those who lived to tell the story of the U.S.S. Indianapolis was one of its buglers - meet Glenn Morgan of the Brazos Valley.

"They took us to San Francisco, loaded a big box aboard at Hunter's Point, and of course we didn't know what it was, but it happened to be the little boy...bomb so to speak, for later that they dropped on Hiroshima."

Glenn D. Morgan spent 2 years aboard the Indianapolis in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

"I was a bugler, so...I had gotten off of watch, I believe it was about 8 o'clock, and I went down to my house keeping area which was right below the bridge..."

"And about 10 minutes after midnight, this terrific explosion, it just bounced you off the deck..."

A Japanese submarine torpedo attack on the ship in the early morning hours of July 30th, essentially tore the ship in two.

"...my intent was to get off this thing and get away from it as fast as I could."

"…so I crawled over the railing, slid down and jumped to the next deck, walked around and slid down the bulkhead into the 44 millimeter gun mount."

"...and my little inntertube life belt kind of buoyed me up a little bit and as the ship went down, I went right up the barrel, and..."

"...there was a flash cover, a flash funnel, on the end of this barrel, and that's the last thing I touched and I watched my home of two years sink beneath the surface."

Morgan was able to secure two life rafts from a sinking airplane that had fallen off the Indianapolis, collected some of his fellow sailors, and began to float.

But dehydration, sunburn and starvation were only the beginning.

"...We lost a canister that first morning...I said, well being as a good swimmer as I was, I'd go after it....and this guy was named J.J. Moran and he said, 'I don't know if you want to do this or not,' but he said, 'look out there.' And out between the waves was this classic fin of a shark. And I changed my mind."

The men were scattered in pockets for miles. Morgan's group of 20 were not aware there were any other men alive in the water.

"...some of the raft people were 50 miles from the swimmers. So, it's true, we actually didn't know that there were any other survivors."

The men who were left swimming in the water were the ones who were most vulnerable.

Largely considered one of the worst attacks in human history, many of the crew were eaten by sharks.

"...and you believe these guys stayed alive out there floating in a kapok life jacket for all this time with these sharks. And many of them swam off out of their head with all kinds of delusions. And I guess maybe, well how they ever made it was a miracle, there's no doubt about that."

The men in Morgan's group were equipped. They rationed water and a few cans of spam...and waited.

"...The evening of the 4th day, the guy in the next raft, Ken Lantern, said...lookie there, there's a dock down there. Is that an airplane?...And about that time, a little flash of light came off that airplane...We knew that somebody was out there looking for us...and sure enough, the next morning came, and..."

"...right after dinner, lunch time, we saw a radar of a ship coming over the horizon. And sure enough, it was the APD Ringness, and it pulled up right beside us and backed down and that's how we came out of the water."

Of the over 800 men that went into the water, only 316 were pulled out alive.

Adding to the legend, the 1975 film "Jaws," depicts a fictional account of that fateful night.

"Eleven hundred men went into the water, 316 men come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945...anyway, we delievered the bomb..."

But the only ones who know what really happened out there in the South Pacific are those men who survived spending almost 5 days adrift at sea in late summer, 1945.

"...you would never be able to tell this and all the things that went on out there, because there were a lot of things that went on..."

For Voices of Veterans, I'm Tom Turbiville.

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