Out of the Depths – A Book Review

Out of the DepthsIt’s been said that war is hell and Edgar Harrell knows firsthand that statement is true. Harrell was only one of a handful of survivors of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis during World War II after it had been hit by a Japanese torpedo. The USS Indianapolis’ end is ironic considering that the ship had left the port in Pearl Harbor just prior to the Japanese strike which has gone down in American history. “Out of the Depths” is Harrell’s own story of survival and faith in the midst of impossible circumstances.

Harrell, a retired Marine, and his son, David, recount his experience in such vivid detail that the images he paints stay with you long after you close the book. He gives just enough background information to keep the reader interested but not too much to make the average civilian still feel like they understand. Harrell recounts the mysterious cargo that the USS Indianapolis carried which turned out to be parts of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Harrell recounts his experience of hearing the screeching metal as the torpedoes ripped through his boat and as it took upon massive amounts of water, of the smell of the burning flesh of his shipmates after the torpedoes had ripped through his Navy destroyer, of the effects of salt water and sun on those who clung to life in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, of seeing his shipmates attacked by sharks while waiting for rescue in the Pacific Ocean, and of so much more. Harrell recalls the moments right after the torpedoes ripped through the ship to the moments when he and other survivors were lifted out of the Pacific Ocean after spending an endless four nights at sea.

Two things in particular struck me after reading Harrell’s account. First was his constant and consistent faith in the midst of all of the difficulties that he faced. Over and over in the book, Harrell talks about his trust in God and his prayers prayed in the midst of circumstances and situations that would make most of us cower. Second was the fact that many more lives were lost at the fault of the US Navy who covered up some of its own mistakes and oversights. Harrell describes the trials of his ship’s commander which took place, trials that seemed to overlook important information simply to find a scapegoat for the Navy’s mistakes.

This book is not for the squeamish. Harrell does not pull any punches in describing what he saw and experienced through the torpedo strike and in the days following as he and his shipmates fought to survive in the ocean. The fact that he was able to recount such vivid details only gives the reader a glimpse of the horrors that he has had to experience every day since that horrific experience on July 30, 1945. While the details and descriptions were vivid, I would not call any of his descriptions gratuitous, just real and honest.

I am grateful that Mr. Harrell wrote his story down and shared it with the world. While the details weren’t always pleasant to read, it stands as a reminder that we have been blessed in the United States to enjoy freedoms that have cost so many so much. Thank you, Mr. Harrell, for your book and for your service. We are eternally grateful to you and so many others.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Bethany House Publishers. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

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