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One Who Survived
SEAMAN HEYN’S STORY FROM THE NAVAL ARCHIVES OF WORLD WAR II
June 1956 | Volume 7, Issue 4
The fifth day was coming up then. There were only two or three guys gone but things were getting pretty bad. The guys were fighting among themselves. If you bumped into one of them, he’d get mad and holler at you. And they did talk a lot about home and what they were going to do, and a lot of them said if they could get on an island, they’d stay there, they’d never go back to the Navy. They didn’t want to see it no more. And they were mad that they were left out there in the water. It wasn’t fair they should be left like thatl The ships went off and didn’t pick them up.
Well, this day the water was calm and it was very hot. And the fellows that didn’t have shirts on, the sun burned them something awful. It burned their skin all out, and their back, it was just like as if you shaved them with a razor or something, all raw and some of them just decided they weren’t going to try any more. They said they’d rather drown themselves than suffer like that. So that night after dark George Sullivan said he was going to take a bath. And he took off all his clothes and got away from the doughnut a little way and the white of his body must have flashed and showed up more because a shark came and grabbed him and that was the end of him. I never seen him again.
It went on that way, and that night they got two other guys, too. And towards morning, it was rough again and the waves were high and heavy. We were getting very hungry and it started drizzling rain. A sea gull flew around and it landed on our doughnut. We grabbed at him, and we missed. Then he come back and that time we caught him and wrung his neck. There was about three or four of us, I don’t remember for sure, and we ate the sea gull. There wasn’t much of it. We just floated in the water and talked together and the sharks kept bothering us all the time. We’d keep beating them off and try to keep away from them, and planes flew over all the time again. But they didn’t pay any attention to us.
Well, another night went on and the next day, this gunner’s mate second, his name was Stewart, he said that there was a hospital ship there and we were going to go over to it. There was three of us, him, me and another fellow, and he said that we should swim over to it and leave the doughnut. We didn’t know whether to or not. You hated to leave it there because you knew if you got out in the water, you were gone. So he dove in the water and swam off and he just kept swimming out over the water and he wouldn’t turn around. You could see the sharks going after him and he swam and kicked and swam. And he hollered to us to come and get him with the raft, to paddle towards him but he kept swimming the other way. We paddled towards him and finally he got tired. He turned around and came towards us and he got back before the sharks got him.
But that night it got cold again. He had thrown all his clothes away and he didn’t have a thing and he wanted me to give him my clothes. But I said no, there’s no sense to that. And he said, “Well, then I’m going down to the ship and get a clean suit. I got a lot of them in my locker.” He also said, “I got a case of peaches in my gun mount.”
He was really thinking the ship was down there. I wouldn’t let him go because I knew if he dove down into the water that something would happen to him. So I kept talking him out of it. And I kept him in between us to keep him warm. Well, that night he decided he wouldn’t stand it no more. He just swam away and the sharks got him.
Well, then there was just the two of us left. And it was about, I guess it was about the seventh day or so; that’s what I think it was anyway. We talked a lot that day together and I remember I gave my knife to this Mexican boy. He was trying to secure the raft again on his end. We were at each end with our feet kinda up in the water so we could fight the sharks off better. That night we got kinda sleepy and we dozed off I guess, because a shark grabbed him and tore his leg off below, just jaggedy like. And he complained, he said to me that somebody was stabbing him with a knife. I said how can anybody stab you out here? There’s nobody but us two.
And he swore at me and called me all kinds of names and said I had to get him to a doctor. I guess I was delirious, because I was paddling and paddling in the water there. I didn’t know where I was going, I was just paddling, trying to get him to a doctor. Well, finally he screamed and hollered and he came over to me and I held his arm and then I could see what it was. I knew that he had been bit by a shark and I held him and the shark came up and it just grabbed him underneath and kept eating him from the bottom and pulling on him. Well, I couldn’t hold him anymore. The sharks just pulled him down under the water and he drowned. Well then, that’s all that happened, it seemed like the night would never end.
The next day I just floated around some more and it went on like that for the next couple of days and in the morning of the last day, which was the ninth day, I began to get delirious myself. I see these guys come up out of the water. It looked like to me that they had rifles on their backs and I’d holler to them and they said they were up there on guard duty. They’d come up from each hatch on the ship. Well, I asked them how it was. And they said the ship was all right, you could go down there and get something dry and eat. So I said to them, well, I’ll come over there by you and go down with you. Well, I swam over to them and they just disappeared. I went back. I done that twice. Each time they disappeared when I got there. And then my head got clear and something told me just to hang on a little longer.