Photo: Gerald Melbourne; USS Indianapolis survivor
The nightmare of that first day repeated itself as the survivors began to believe that no one was looking for them.
Some took their lives. Others began drinking saltwater to quench their thirst, affecting body function and brain activity.
With saltwater poisoning, some of the shipmates would become delirious, Harrell recalled. “And your buddy may become your enemy. … He may think that you’ve got a canteen of water hidden in your kapok lifejacket.” Sometimes a shipmate would unsheathe a knife and stab the person next to him, he said.
By the third day, Harrell said his group of 80 had dwindled to 17. By the fourth day, he found himself half-delirious and alone with a Navy lieutenant, drifting on the swells.