Edgar Harrell, the last surviving Marine of the USS Indianapolis, died at the age of 96 over the weekend. He lived out his final days at the Tennessee State Veterans Home in Clarksville.
Anybody who has tuned into the Discovery Channel during Shark Week knows all too well the horrors faced by the crew of the USS Indianapolis. In 1945, torpedoes from a Japanese submarine sunk the U.S. Navy’s Portland-class heavy cruiser, leaving close to a thousand survivors stranded in the middle of the Leyte Gulf.
Five days of shark attacks and crippling thirst left the men devastated. Only 316 survived the ordeal. Edgar Harrell was among them.
The Life of Edgar Harrell
According to the Facebook page for the USS Indianapolis, Edgar Harrell was a Kentuckian. He was born in Trigg County in 1924 and joined the Marines in the midst of World War II. Edgar was a true sea-goer, however. He joined the USS Indianapolis in 1944 and was charged with guarding components of the atomic bombs.
Edgar Harrell reportedly traveled the world, sharing his story and those of his shipmates who weren’t as fortunate.
Apparently, James Smith, a fellow Indy survivor, passed away last week. That leaves just five living members of the USS Indianapolis crew.
Edgar Harrell lived a long life, but the loss of his firsthand experience is a major blow. Rest in peace, Marine.
In the words of Ronald Reagan, “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don’t have that problem.”
The Experience of Edgar Harrell and His Shipmates Inspired Countless Depictions in Media
The story of the USS Indianapolis has been told countless times over the years. Some of them have come in the form of documentaries, and others have been works of fiction. In one case, the true story was chillingly told by a character in a fantastical movie about a killer shark.
It is perhaps the most famous of these depictions in popular culture. And it came in the 1975 movie “Jaws.” Robert Shaw played the character Quint, a salty shark hunter who had seen it all. In a terrifying monologue, he recalls the story of the USS Indianapolis. Edgar Harrell lived the events that Quint describes in the movie.
You can watch the scene below.