Survivors of world’s deadliest shark attack ‘haunted’ by blood-curdling screams

Survivors of the world's deadliest shark attack have told how they could do nothing but watch as their crew mates were dragged under water and disemboweled in a feeding frenzy that went on for days.

Around 150 men were savagely ripped to pieces in a disaster so terrifying, it inspired the iconic film Jaws. But for those who miraculously survived, they were forever haunted by blood-curdling screams and the fear in the eyes of those resigned to their grim fate of being eaten alive.

It was 1945 when the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine after delivering the components for the first operational atomic device to the island of Tinian. The direct hit split the ship into two and it took just 12 minutes for the giant vessel to sink with 300 men still trapped inside.

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Another 879 men went into the water but their fate was arguably worse, as the ship's frantic SOS calls before it disappeared beneath the ocean's surface went ignored and no search parties were sent out. The submarine's attack had ignited a tank on the ship which contained 3,500 gallons of aviation fuel, meaning that for the sailors on board, the blue waters of the Pacific were their only way out.

Many didn't have time to get life preserving equipment and had to constantly fight to stay afloat. It was so overwhelming that many began to die in each other's arms. But as chaos ensued, the blue waters were about to turn red as hungry sharks descended on the helpless crew, drawn by the noise, the splashing, and the blood.

What followed was a shark attack so horrifying it was even included in the film Jaws in a scene where shark hunter Quint recounts his own fictional experiences of the incident. But for Sergeant Edgar Harrell that terrifying story rings very true, as he was one of the lucky ones who survived the slaughtering in the biggest attack on humans ever recorded by the predators.

To make matters worse, the sustained attacks lasted around four days as the weakening troops started to flag and the sharks kept circling. If they were wearing lifejackets, the jackets would pop back up to the surface after they'd been savaged – if it hadn't already started to drown them by getting too waterlogged.

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Sergeant Edgar Harrell said he could still hear the screams of the friends who were clinging to each other as the creatures began ripping chunks out of their limbs. "You would hear a blood-curdling scream and look and see someone going under – all we heard was men being eaten alive, every day, every night," Harrell said in 2019.

"You’d find your buddy and check him and find that he’s disemboweled, or the bottom was gone." He added: "I swam away from the ship and towards a group of marines who had already fled the boat – one was badly injured and he died in my arms within the next hour."

Mr Harrell, the last survivor of the attack, died in May 2021. He explained what he and his colleagues went through as they kept themselves alive for days on mouldy potatoes from a crate that floated to the surface.

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Troops huddled together in the open water in the hope they could scare the predators away, but many were unable to avoid the inevitable fate. He and a friend only escaped because a group of sailors urged them to join them on a makeshift raft and paddle toward land.

Those who didn't go did not survive, he said. The small group were spotted the following day by a US bomber carrying out an antisubmarine patrol. The pilot saved 56 men with some even tied to the wings with a parachute cord.

Of the 1,195 crew on the ship when it was torpedoed, just 316 were left alive. In August 2017, the ruins of the ship were found 18,000ft below the surface.

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A video posted on YouTube by Weird History about the tragedy attracted thousands of comments. One viewer said: "I took care of a Navy vet that survived this attack. Over 50 years had passed and he told me the story as vividly as it had happened last week. Started getting teary relaying this horrific tale. He said he still has nightmares about it."

One added: "I knew one of the survivors, who has since passed away. He had years of inability of talking about it as he suffered guilt for being in a life raft and surviving."

Another added: "My best friend's grandfather who experienced the horror of being on the ship…remembers seeing a piece of shrapnel or metal lodged into one of the men’s heads in the water as he was still alive being 'bumped' by sharks. Eventually, the dying man looked him in the eyes one last time and got pulled under by one of the sharks never to be seen again."

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