Dan Carlin's Hardcore History: Addendum - Nightmares of Indianapolis

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I’ve just heard the audio that you’re about to hear and this is

my own critique of the audio that you’re about to hear and

it’s a little redundant only because I actually start off the

program with a little bit of that sort of talk too. So I

apologize for the redundancy. But I’m going to call this

episode. I’m going to throw a nightmare somehow, because it

sounds like a nightmare. And I don’t just mean because of the

material, which is nightmarish. Nothing new about that, of

course, on, you know, what we do. But almost my recounting of

it is like that, like you woke up in the middle of the night,

you know, screaming, and the next morning, your spouse says

to you, what the heck was that all about? And you try to

recount, you know, what happened to you in your

nightmare. And it always sounds like a bunch of disjointed,

flashing images. You know, we always like to try to put a

little artistic touch or a little flair here or there with

the big hardcore history shows. And I feel like that’s what’s

missing in the audio that you’re going to hear now. It sounds

like a nightmare. It sounds like I’m just telling you the

highlights or worst moments or the things that freaked me out

the most or whatever is sticking in my memory after going back to

sleep in the middle of the night. But for some of you,

especially I think, you know, those of you who already know

some of this or all of this story, it will remind you once

again, that, you know, if I’m recounting a nightmarish sort of

story to you, I mean, think about how many people actually

woke up in the night for many, many, many decades after this

event with this exact same nightmare. And it’s pretty safe

to say that unlike me who wasn’t there, the people who were there

would probably be unable to tell anyone else who wasn’t

there, you know, what they were seeing in their dreams. So

apologies for the lack of artistic flair and what you’re

going to hear now. But, um, you know, welcome to a nightmare of

the Indianapolis.

It’s hardcore history.

I’ve tried to think about what the difference between one of

these hardcore history addendums, and one of the larger

hardcore history shows is I mean, what’s the difference

between the two of them? Besides, obviously, that we’re

doing some interviews. But I thought, you know, there’s a

whole bunch of great stories out there. And I write them down,

you know, whenever I think of one, I put it in a book so that,

you know, someday when I don’t have enough ideas, there’s a

bunch already down. I know a lot of you do this too. And a bunch

of these ideas are not worth a whole history show or you can’t

do a whole history show. I mean, I’d love to do something

and I’ve wanted to do something for a long time on the ancient

Egyptian neighbor, known as Cush, the Cushites, but there’s

no primary source material. I mean, it’s one of those things

where you just can’t hang a whole show on what you have to

work with. There’s a lot of stories like that. The one today

is like that. I mean, there is actually enough material to do a

whole big four hour thing on this subject. But it would get

repetitive and it would get repetitive in a way that makes

the first world war program we did, which was pretty repetitive

in terms of, you know, ongoing horror. It would make that seem

a little tame because at a certain point in this story,

there’s nothing but that. And it’s psychological torture after

a certain amount of time. And so it’s hard to not get gratuitous

or it’s hard to not just get redundant at a certain point.

You want to be able to say to the audience, and there’s just

more of that and you know what that’s like. I thought about

talking about this because I caught really the tail end the

other night of a movie that’s underrated. Although when I went

online to do some more modern research on it, I was surprised

to find that it is considered kind of an artistic classic. Now

it’s one of Steven Spielberg’s really early movies. It’s Jaws.

I think it came out in like 1975. I was 10. And I can tell

you that it was a huge event and sort of an unexpected one.

There’d been a novel that had done pretty well, but the novel

was very different than the movie. And the movie, as all I

think really great films do, has a number of really fine actors

in it. And you give those people a really fine script. And I

guess there was a significant amount of improvisation from

time to time that made it into the final version that the

actors did. But you remember who was in that? I mean, Roy

Scheider, who was great. You had Richard Dreyfus, who was still

great. And my God, you had Robert Shaw, who was

unbelievable. And in that role, I mean, among others. And you

get the three of them at certain points in the story, and they’re

just in the cabin. I mean, there’s no scenery, there’s no

movement really of the cameras. It’s just those three actors

work in a fine script. And at one point, Robert Shaw goes into

a monologue. And it’s incredible, from a from a

appreciating the craft standpoint. Those of you who

remember, though, the monologue, it has to do with the character

that Robert Shaw is playing in his past. He’s playing sort of

an old sea dog kind of fisherman who’s going to catch this shark

and he knows a lot about sharks. And he goes into the background

and it turns out he was on the USS Indianapolis. And those of

you who know that story know how that’s connected to sharks. And

so I’m watching this, the tail end, like I said, of Jaws the

other night, I just thought, you know, the Indianapolis is an

amazing story. And it typifies where sort of some of my

interests tend to lean, as you all know, I always like to say,

maybe it’s a nice way of saying it, that I’m into the extremes

of the human experience. But some people think I’m just into

war and this and violence. And, you know, it’s funny, sometimes

I’ll read accounts from like 100 years ago, there’s a famous

one from a German general named Von Moltke, where he talks about

sort of the reasons you wouldn’t want to go too long between wars

because it brings out something in the human character. And he’s

not talking about the low level side, you know, the killing of

your fellow man in butchery, he’s talking about sort of the

higher side of the human experience. And it’s weird to

think about that. See, I don’t agree with him about that. I’m

not going there. But the story of the Indianapolis is a perfect

example of something where it only happens because of war. But

what happens after the sinking of the ship, the famous sinking

of the ship is one of these tales where I mean, you just it

sends tears down your face, and not just because of the human

suffering, but because of the human reaction to the suffering,

right, that it was kind of those higher qualities that Von Moltke

was sort of referring to when you see people under amazing

amounts of physical and psychological pressure with

fellow human beings and how they act in situations that are far

more stressful than what one could be expected to reasonably

handle. The Indianapolis combines a number of things

which would make my top 10 list of worst nightmares, wrap them

all into one wonderful package. If you are a fan of disaster

movies, not to compare this to a disaster movie, no offense,

um, family members of Indianapolis survivors, or not

survivors. But I mean, think you’re my my mom was in a movie

once that was a knock knock off of the towering inferno. So

build burning building, that’s a disaster movie, you hang a whole

movie on that. And you have something like the Poseidon

adventure or Titanic, which is a disaster movie of a ship

sinking at sea hang a whole movie on that. There are I mean,

each each segment and phase in the Indianapolis story is one of

those disaster films. And by the time the the story is over,

and is the story ever really over? Um, you know, these

people, it’s like these people went from the towering inferno

hopped on board the Titanic. I mean, just one thing after

another. And I don’t mean to make light of it. Because when

you read the accounts of what these people went through, and

then you sort of magnify it because what they went through

is not that uncommon in human history. They’re not like these

real outliers. It’s uncommon for you and me to have gone

through it. But how many mariners over the waves over the

eras have had their ship sink and gone through the terrible

things that that involves, and then had to deal with some of

the subsidiary things that all of the people who went in the

water with the Indianapolis had to deal with. So in a funny way,

this is a kind of common, uncommon human experience, if

you will. But the Indianapolis a story is, there’s just it’s

got its own twists. In this case, if you don’t know it, let

me fill you in for a minute. And I don’t know how well this is

going to work in short form, because you know, that’s not my

normal genre. But the Indianapolis is famously known

it’s a USS Portland class cruiser, heavy cruiser, heavy

cruisers, generally mean, you know, bigger, more armor, bigger

guns. So in the United States Navy in the Second World War, if

it had six inch guns, it was probably a light cruiser. If it

had eight inch guns, it was probably a heavy cruiser, about

10,000 tons big ship, between 600 and 700 feet long. And in

this case, the Indianapolis is famous because it delivered some

of the key components, you know, to an island in the Pacific that

would be put together and made into the first atomic bomb. But

because of that, it was a secret mission and people weren’t

really in the know about the comings and the goings of the

Indianapolis, perhaps as well as they should have been aware

of it. And this kind of plays into the story in a pretty big

way. Because after delivering the components to the island of

Tinian, this Indianapolis Portland class heavy cruiser

goes off on its merry way kind of towards the Philippines, I

think it was. And in the night, gets torpedoed by a Japanese

submarine. Now this is in 1945. I think it’s July. So it’s, you

know, we are not that far from the end of the war at all. I

mean, as we said, they’re kind of putting the parts together

for the Hiroshima bomb. So not that far away from the end of

the war. But now you get to the first level of this disaster

that these Indianapolis folks have to deal with. Imagine being

asleep in your bunk at night on a ship and two torpedoes slam

into it one slammed into the bow at the front of the ship one

slam sort of a midships but a little forward survivors

accounts. And by the way, you want to read a good book on

this. Let me just break into this for a minute. I really

loved in harm’s way by Doug Stanton, although there are

several books on the Indianapolis, I’m going to quote

a couple of pieces from Stanton’s book. But if you think

this story is interesting, and you want to get the real feel

for it, he does a great job, I think. But Stanton talks about,

you know, when the two torpedoes hit, he’s talking to a survivor

that was sort of in the front of the ship. And he was a

sleep in his bunk in one of these, you know, sort of ship

rooms that they have that you probably have 6, 8, 10 guys, and

the bunks are stacked against the wall. And when the torpedoes

hit, the survivor says the lights go out, and all the bunks

fall, and everybody’s in a pile of people, and some have broken

arms and ribs, and everybody, of course, woken up from a deep

sleep, you’re totally confused. And with the lights out, it’s,

you know, extra bad. So immediately, this ship starts

having problems. And so the crew starts doing the typical things

you do to try to, you know, prevent the ship from sinking.

And one of the things you do is you start walling off the

compartments that are damaged and flooding. Dogging things

down is the way Stanton has the Navy guys describing it in the

book. But the problem with that is if you’re cutting off

compartments that are flooding, what do you do with the people

that are still in the flooding compartments, right? So the

first thing that just horrifies you in this story of the

Indianapolis going down at night, in the tropical waters,

sort of east of the Philippines, is that you have these sailors

who have to cut their own shipmates off in flooding

compartments. And Stanton says, you can hear him scream, you

know, don’t don’t leave us here. I mean, what do you but what are

you supposed to do? So right there, you get you want to talk

human experiences that are extreme and that are already

larger than most of us will ever face. In the first five minutes

of this disaster, there are guys dealing with things that are

going to haunt their memories the rest of their lives. And the

and the affair is hardly started. You know, when you talk

about the human capacity for endurance, survival, and not

just survival through the event, but then to be able to live with

it, you know, afterwards. And by the way, the guy who was the

captain of the Indianapolis made it about 20 years. Afterwards,

he’ll survive the whole thing, but he’ll kill himself. Still

getting Christmas cards from people who say and I’m quoting

one here. Merry Christmas, our family’s holiday would be a lot

merrier if you hadn’t killed my son. Stanton says that the

captain, a guy named McVeigh, would keep all of these letters

and put them, you know, with a ribbon around them and keep them

in his desk, blaming himself always for what happened on that

dark night. But on this ship, these people that survive will

talk about seeing him, you know, running around this sinking ship

as it starts to take on water. And by the way, they have 12

minutes between the time the torpedoes strike till the time

it goes down. And once again, the idea of having a between 600

and 700 foot long 10,000 ton ship begin to disintegrate out

from under you and go underwater as the waves begin rolling

people off the deck is crazy. Also, so now, right away, we’re

like the second stage. So you had to cut your semen off and dog

down into the compartments and consign them to certain death.

So the rest of the ship might survive. Now you’re dealing with

the mental image of the ship starting to go down by the bow

that’s in the front and the stern starts to slowly rise out of

the I mean, the ship is going perpendicular, and people are

dropping off and Stanton described survivors saying people will

jump off and hit the rudders, people will jump off and hit the

propellers that are still spinning and be launched off into

space. Once again, how do you even in 12 minutes or less,

really process all this. And it’s dark, and people are

freaking out. I mean, this is like a giant accident scene

right away. There’s like between 11 and 1200 guys on this ship.

And more than 300 are going to die in the first 12 minutes. And

so you’re watching all this happening. And many of these

people now are grievously wounded. Stanton, one of the

main survivors he talks about in this thing, I mean, the first

thing he hears when he recovers from hearing the torpedo hits is

somebody screaming in the compartment next door, and he

runs over there realizes it’s his friend, the dentist, but he

can’t open the door because the whole thing’s on fire. And he

just has to let him burn to death in the first two minutes.

And then he burns his hand because the ship itself is

turning red hot. He puts his hands on the deck or on a rail

boom, he’s got burned hands. And then as the ship starts to go

kind of perpendicular. He tells the story about they have a

bunch of wounded people, I guess in the sickbay, but they’re on

cots, and they’re tied to their beds and whatnot. And he says

they just all slide right into the sea. And he’s sitting there

watching this happen slack jawed. I read a book a while

back, and it’s about how people react in disasters. Trying to

remember what it was like if the worst should occur or something

like that. I think we talked about it once. But but it’s by

one of these experts who studies these things. And one of the

things that they said is in situations like this, right

plane crashes or shipwrecks or whatnot. Most people are like

stunned into numbness. They don’t do anything. Right. And

some of these bad plane crashes, everybody could have gotten out

but they sat there and burned to death. You know, on the tarmac.

That’s shocking, but that’s what you would expect to happen on a

ship like this. And yet, maybe it’s the military training. Who

knows, maybe it’s the fact you have officers barking out

orders, but you’re not seeing a ton of that. You are seeing

people jumping in the water as fast as they can go because

they’re all afraid of the same thing. When a big ship goes

down, it sucks stuff down with it. A lot of the time, it

creates a vacuum that can drown swimmers who are anywhere

nearby. So everyone knows that the ship’s going down, you got

to get as far away from it as possible. It’s like, you know,

when you get into an auto wreck, and you’re worried that the

gasoline is leaking in the car is going to catch on fire, you

want to get far away from it. Well, when the ship goes down,

it’s going to suck everything down with it. And several of the

survivors, once again, imagine this, what one of them talks

about having it feel as though somebody was yanking his foot and

his shoe came off. And all of a sudden, with a life vest, he

went way underwater to where his ears are popping and his eyes

feel like they’re gonna, you know, pop out of his head. And

then he said he got caught in a giant air bubble, you know, that

escaped from the sinking ship, and it goes, pops him up and

shoots him up. He said three feet into the air before he came

down again, in an absolutely pitch black ocean, covered as

far as the eye could see, if it could see in the dark, with a

two inch thick molasses like consistency oil spill from the

ship that is burning the eyes and coating all of these men.

And if you ever look at photographs of people being

rescued from like, their ship being torpedoed when maybe they

were in the Merchant Marine, maybe they were on a destroyer,

but you can kind of see there’s some great life magazine ones I

recall. And when they come on board, they’re covered in oil.

And that’s what these people are instantly covered in. And what’s

worse is that oil can catch on fire and the surface of the

ocean can burn. That happened if you look at movie footage, you

can see that happened at Pearl Harbor, you know, the ocean

caught on fire in places. So at this point, what you have is the

equivalent of like, the Titanic sinking, or the Lusitania’s

torpedoing, you know, big ship going down in the middle of the

ocean. Now difference between both the Titanic and the

Lusitania, though, if I can boil it down to one thing is the

temperature. When the Titanic sank, you had icebergs, so it’s

cold. The Lusitania went down, sort of over by Ireland, I

believe, cold water, you’re not going to have people surviving a

long time in the water. Now, if you’re trying to rescue them

actively, this is a nightmarish situation, right? You’ve got to

get to the people before they, you know, get hypothermia, and

they die in the water. On the other hand, if you’re going to

die anyway, in the water in the Pacific, in the very tropical

warm regions, you might wish it had come as quickly as cold

water. Because with the water as warm as it is sometimes slightly

over 80 degrees, you can stay in the water a long time. Good

thing if you’re trying to be rescued. Bad things if there’s

other things in the water, you know, besides you, that you need

to worry about. Also bad if you don’t have any fresh water,

which they don’t. And all of a sudden, I think 300 or so men

perished right away. 900 or so men are in the water. And you

begin now the other part of the nightmarish thing. Um, I don’t

know how many of you have been in the ocean at night in the

water in the ocean at night. There’s something calm and

beautiful about it, isn’t there? But there’s something a little

freaky about it, too. First of all, you have no idea what’s

going on underneath you if you’re in the deep areas, right?

I mean, you know, there’s a whole world of ocean underneath

you. What’s more is if there’s no moon out, it can get pitch

black, and you can’t see anything. So now when we talk

about personal things that would bother us, we’re getting into my

own personal nightmares a little bit here because you throw me

out in the middle of the ocean in pitch black darkness. That

is so I’m already going to have some psychological problems, I

think. And I do think that this is why these stories fascinate

me because these figures in the story, because of things like

war are cast into situations that are, well, unimaginable.

And if they just gave up, we would totally understand the

fact that they don’t is, you know, it’s the old, it’s a

cliche, but it’s the triumph of the human species, right? And

let’s be honest, a bunch of people do give up in this story.

And you can totally sympathize with them, too, when you hear

what they’ve gone through. So the story continues, and you

begin to find, you know, the men, you know, as the light of

day breaks out, in groups, they’re all in clusters spread

out over a great distance, you know, calling to each other

trying to find each other trying to sort of swim to each other as

best they can. The horrible part of this story now when they’re

in the water, though, is a lot of people have horrible

injuries, you didn’t have a bunch of healthy, you know,

ready to go lifeguard type people jump in the water, you

had a bunch of shipwreck survivors, people who’s, you

know, one guy in the story. And once again, I always try to

remember that the people who were with these people who

survived carry these memories with them forever. But one guy

in this story, a friend of one of the people he keeps quoting

in the book, Stanton has his eyes completely burned out. And

he’s going to die, but it’s going to take him time, but

nobody wants to leave him. Again, you see these higher

qualities come to the fore where, I mean, nobody might

survive this, but we’re going to take a guy who’s certainly not

going to survive it and expend, you know, important energy that

could be spent on living people that are, you know, could go

either way. But that’s, that’s the higher human qualities,

right. And so he talks about this guy eventually saying, I’m

not going to make it. I want here’s what I want you to tell

my wife, you know, and all these kind of things, and it’s

wrenching. Once again, I can’t help but think that if the

person, I think he’s a doctor, who’s hearing this man with the

burned out eyes, tell him, you know, here’s what I want you to

tell my wife, if he’s in no danger at all, he’s going to

take that memory to the grave with him, right, probably going

to drink a lot more whiskey than he otherwise would have

drank in his life, because that is such a emotionally impacting

moment. But he himself is about to go through this harrowing

experience. And it’s going to be one hammer blow to the psyche of

these people. After another, you have a lot of wounded people in

the water bleeding, a lot of burns. And as you all know,

burns are particularly nasty and horrible. And not enough life

jackets, people floating on flotsam and jetsam. The guy I

just mentioned, who had to hear, you know, what the dying sailor

wanted his wife told was named Dr. Haynes. And he’s quoted by

Stanton in the book. And this incident is particularly

highlighted. And by the way, people are vomiting because

they’ve ingested saltwater and fuel oil. Stanton writes, quote,

a few boys were vomiting so violently that they were

actually doing somersaults in the water. Trying to keep calm,

Haynes called out, here, right here, where’s the sick sailor?

And then he moved into the throng. About a dozen sailors

were holding a body aloft, an amazing feat of strength,

considering that they were all treading water furiously to stay

afloat beneath the added weight. The man in question was in

terrible shape, Stanton writes. His eyes had been burned away.

The flesh on his hands was gone. And what remained were bare

tendons. The boys held him up in an effort to keep these wounds

out of the stinging bath of saltwater. Haynes recognized the

man as his good friend and liberty buddy, Gunnery Officer

Stanley Lipski. Miraculously, Lipski had made his way blind

from the quarterdeck, off the ship, and into the water. Haynes

knew that Lipski’s pain must be intolerable. He himself could

barely look at his old friend, who was moaning softly. Stanley,

he knew, was one tough bird. Haynes also understood that he

didn’t have long to live. Reluctantly, he turned away to

those he could actually help." And yet that guy with the burned

out eyes will make it onto a life raft and eventually tell

that same doctor, you know, what he wants his wife to know, last

words and, you know, get married again after me and all that. Now

I should point out that at this point in the story, you know, it

could be a war story from many theaters, many different kinds

of conflicts over many different eras. The part, though, that is

about to happen now, the part that inspired me to talk about

this, perhaps tapping into, you know, your own secret

nightmares, is a little bit different. And no doubt it

happened many times in history not recorded on anyone’s

parchment or, you know, logs anywhere. But this happened in

close enough to modern times that we have many, many, many

gruesome memories written down by survivors of what it was like

to go down in the middle of the ocean with sharks everywhere.

Have you ever seen the drone footage? Some of it came out

recently, they were showing I think it was the Florida coast

from a drone above, I don’t know, I wanna say 500 feet, 1000

feet above just the coastline. So it was, you know, basically

taking pictures of 100 yards offshore. And it appears to be

schools of fish. That’s what it looks like if you’re not paying

close attention. So you know, lots of fish. It’s not, you

know, fish in the general term, I guess it’s officially still

fish, but they’re sharks. And I guess they maybe were migrating.

But the first thing you notice if you’re paying attention, you

watch it over and over and over again, not that I’m obsessed

with it or anything like that, is that most of these sharks I

was reading in the photograph or in the drone footage are in the

four to six feet range, kind of a, you know, fully grown, decent

sized shark from one of these particular breeds of shark. But

you can instantly tell amongst those average size ones, you

know, every now and then there are big, big, big ones. I mean,

you don’t even know what they are 18 feet, maybe I mean, you

look at them and they go, that’s three times as long as the other

one. Imagine being, you know, just you’re paragliding one day

off the Florida coast, and you just splash down right in the

middle of that. Now, there’s no guarantee that anything will

happen to you, right? They may just all scatter and fright and

leave you totally alone. But they might not. Now, what if

you’re bleeding at the same time, not going to make any

difference or wounded? What if you’re there for a long time, and

you don’t go away? I mean, it’s one thing to say I crash landed

off the coast of Florida into a school of sharks, and I swam to

the shore and I made it out miraculously alive. Yeah, but

what if you stay there for four days? Hmm. Is that a nightmare?

It’s a nightmare in the daytime. What happens when you turn out

the lights on that? And what happens when the sharks start

attacking? Not you, but people within hearing distance of you.

The nightmare of the Indianapolis and the key part of

the monologue that Robert Shaw gives us the Quint character in

Jaws is what the moment when the sharks start attacking the

hundreds of men in the water is like. They can see them

underneath them. I mean, this is what’s so freaky is that this

water is apparently clear to like 40 or 50 feet. You know,

you’re in the tropics, it’s a gorgeous color. As a matter of

fact, it’s so bright when the sun starts hitting the water,

that that it’s blinding people. And it’s over 100 degrees in the

daytime. So they’re frying the parts that are above the water.

If these people have life vests, a bunch of the people who are

floating in the water with life vests will lose everything

underneath the water to the sharks. And there are multiple

accounts of people, you know, tapping a buddy who appears to

be sleeping in his life vest on the water’s surface. And having

you know, by the way, Quentin Jaws actually talks about this

too. And having them turn over like, like, like, you know, Bob,

if you will turn over and there’s nothing below the waist.

You can see the sharks below you. Some of these sailors that

Stanton talks about, say that they would see some of the same

sharks and recognize them so often that they gave them names.

One sailor gave a tiger shark, a huge tiger shark, the name

Oscar. And eventually another sailor took a two inch penknife,

which is you know, nothing, and tried to stab at one of these

things. Some of these sailors were on a raft where it was the

raft was disintegrating over time, and it had a sort of a

lattice floor, if you will. And there was a little hole

developing in the floor. And these big sharks would come up

and stick their snouts right through. I mean, again, you saw

this in jars with jaws with mechanical shark stick their

nose right through and try to get ahold of something. The

sailors started kicking it in the face. To me being adrift in

the ocean, in the middle of the night, you know, no land

anywhere, no ships anywhere, no birds, no planes, and sharks all

around hundreds of them. To me, that is the most terrifying

situation I can think about. And what I what I was going to do

once is I was going to do either a book or maybe a TV series,

where the entire premise was based around the worst place you

can be in the world, you know, on any given moment in history,

don’t January 27, 1987. And Tunisia is the worst place to be

in the world. You know, the Battle of Cannae in Italy, worst

place to be to work. This is the worst place to be in the

world to me, on that date, and maybe any date, it takes a lot

of the things that are the most nasty things I can think of

packages them together in one horrible sort of event. And then

put these people in this psychological challenge where

day after day, they’re in the water because nobody knows

they’re gone. This mission so secret delivering the components

for the bomb meant that they were it wasn’t like they were

totally off the radar. When you read the reports, it was quite a

scandal after the war because the Indianapolis going down will

be the worst disaster in US Navy history. But there were several

sort of let’s just call them variables maybe I mean, first of

all war, okay, variable number one, but these ships should have

been noticed when they were missing. There were a number of

little things that happened. And you can see this. I mean, the

Pearl Harbor attacks another one where a little variable here, if

that doesn’t happen, this doesn’t happen. I don’t want to

call it okay. But you can kind of see how it happened. And yet

what it meant was instead of being rescued within a

reasonable period of time, these people are going to be out there

for day after day after day, they have no water. And

eventually, think about the psychological torture that comes

from being absolutely able to see almost nothing but water,

but you will go crazy and then die if you start drinking the

water around you right again. It’s another kind of disaster

movie. It’s being stuck in the desert with water all around you,

but it’s essentially poisonous, right? And there will come a time

in the story where and it’s funny because it will like spread from

one man to another where people will just start drinking the

saltwater and knowingly die or be so crazed from thirst that they

don’t care. One thing I found particularly fascinating about

the shark aspect that Stanton explains in his book, was the

idea that most of these sailors probably did not have a very

clear conception of sharks the way we do. I mean, Jaws was the

big, you know, sort of before and after moment on that, but

we’ve been fascinated with sharks ever since. He points out

that it was kind of the stuff of legends back in this era. And

the idea of confronting one had not been really talked about

very often. And what’s more, he says, Stanton says that the Navy

kind of downplayed the danger because it wasn’t good for

morale to talk about. Yeah, you could run into an 18 foot tiger

shark out there and they’ll eat anything. Stanton says that

initially, the sharks probably mostly went after the cadavers in

the water. And that’s why the real big attacks did not start

for a while. But that once they ran out of those to go after

that they started going after lone floaters in the water as

opposed to the ones that are all gathered into groups. And then

they would go after the ones at the outside of, you know, the

circle of people floating in the water. Stanton talks about, you

know, the incident that we just mentioned the sailor being cut

in half below the waist, and then says that there was a

sailor who was on the verge of drowning that was calling for

help. And so well, let me let Stanton pick up the story. He

writes, quote, at one point, Bob Goss swam away from the group

to aid an exhausted sailor who was on the verge of drowning.

The boy had clearly gone out of his head at the sight of the

fish, meaning the sharks circling below him. He was

waving his hands and calling for help. As Goss paddled out, he

was intercepted immediately by a large dorsal fin knifing towards

him. So he swam as fast as he could back to the group. The boy

in distress soon disappeared. As the shark attacks multiplied,

Stanton writes, the once optimistic boys were filled with

a sense of helplessness. Jack Cassidy came face to face with a

tiger shark that had been bothering him for so long that he

had even given it a name. He called the beast Oscar. He swung

at it with a homemade knife and buried the blade an inch deep in

the fish’s tough snout. But Oscar swam away as if only

annoyed. Cassidy was furious. He wanted to kill the shark, but

he was relieved to be left alone. As the water flashed with

twisting tails and dorsal fins, the boys resolved to stay calm,

clamping their hands over their ears against the erupting

screams. But this resolve vanished when one of the boys was

dragged through the water like a fisherman’s bobber tugged by a

big catfish. The victim, clenched in the uplifted jaws of a shark,

was pushed at waist level through the surf, screaming. Others

disappeared quietly without a trace, their life vests shooting

back up to the surface empty, the straps in shreds. As the

excited sharks grew more agitated, the attacks intensified

in ferocity." End quote. There are many people who consider the

shark attacks over several days against the Indianapolis

survivors to be the worst incident of mass shark attacks

in history. I would suggest that that’s a hard one to know. Think

of how many ships have perished over the ages. And well, sharks

are not a new phenomenon, right? Nonetheless, we have very few

accounts like that. And when you add up all the various elements

working on these people, you just imagine that no one could

last long in that environment without losing their mind. And

that’s what begins to happen. And we’ve seen this before, right?

We did a, we mentioned one guy when we were doing Blueprint for

Armageddon in the First World War, um, that, you know, it’s

funny what sort of images make it into the history books and

what sort of memories, right? So you’re in the First World War

and you’re at Passchendaele, and you see some guy stuck in the

mud. And with all of the things available to modern society at

that point in time, they can’t get him out. And he’s begging

people to help him and no one can do anything. So then they

come back. I forgot how many days later it was. It might have

only been one day. But the guy whose memory this was says the

guy was still in the mud, but he’d sunk all the way up to his

head and he was insane, begging people to shoot him. We all have

a limit, right? So it should not surprise any of us when some of

these people start losing their minds in the water under these

conditions. And you know, you should also point out something

that’s not always apparent when you’re young. But as a 52 year

old person now is really apparent to me is how young most

of these people in this story are. In my mind, they’re kids.

The captain’s an adult and some of these officers are, you know,

old enough to have young families and whatnot. Although

these people were having families at 18 years old back

then a lot of them so a lot of them were parents. But I mean,

when you read the biographies of these people, I mean, you know,

they’re kids to me and you’re 18, 19, 20, 21 and you’re having

to deal with this. I don’t agree with von Moltke’s line about, you

know, that we need war because it preserves these human

qualities, but you sure see them on display here, don’t you? You

wish you’d never have to see them on display again, but you

can’t help but marvel that people can, you know, get

through this and many of them don’t. I mean, Stanton tells

story after story about people that consciously decide to give

up. That it’s even talking about it with other people who are

stuck in the water that it’s easy to do. All you have to do,

he says, is swim away from the group, and you will get hit by a

shark within 100 yards. People will drink the seawater knowing

it will kill them. Doug Stanton writes, quote, those with broken

arms and legs and backs had gone into shock and died. Others had

succumbed to massive bleeding or head wounds that suspended them

in another world. Still others simply drowned because they were

too exhausted to keep swimming. They’d been afloat now without

food, water, shelter or sleep for over 40 hours. Of the 1196

crew members who’d set sail from Guam three days earlier, probably

no more than 600 were still alive. In the previous 24 hours

alone, at least 200 had likely slipped beneath the waves or been

victims of shark attack. Since the sinking, he writes, each boy

had been floating through the hours asking himself the same

hard question. Will I live or do I quit? And as Tuesday unfolded,

some of the starved, bleeding and delirious men began to form

their answers. For those who gave up, death now seemed a

matter of destiny. They started committing suicide. Those still

lucid enough looked on in disbelief, he writes, as their

former shipmates calmly untied their life vests, took a single

stroke forward and sank without a word. Others suddenly turned

from the group and started swimming, waiting for a shark to

hit and then looked up in terrified satisfaction when it

did. Others simply fell face forward and refused to rise. A boy

would swim over to his buddy, lift his head by the hair from the

water and begin screaming for him to come to his senses. Often

he refused and continued to quietly drown himself." End


Now, we should point out that there are people in every Navy in

the Second World War that saw actual combat that had incidents

like that. And there were quite a few people in the merchant

marine and the various civilian versions that, you know, kept

the supplies, you know, coming across the water and handling

the logistics that would have their ships torpedoed who would

go through similar things. There’s something perversely

nasty about having the water be warm enough to keep you alive

for days, so giving you an opportunity to be rescued you

never would have had in the North Atlantic, for example,

where you’d be dead in an hour or two from the hypothermia. But

it also gives you time to go through what Stanton just

described, as I said, multiple disaster movies all wrapped into


Now, as the hours drag on, Stanton says that the delirium

starts to set in. And again, the Indianapolis survivors are going

through all of these movie tropes that forever, the movies

will wrench drama and emotion and, you know, your sense of

feeling for the people, the fake people in these movies or

stories, and the Indianapolis people are going through it for

real. Their ship went down, remember it like 1215am, first

thing in the morning, but in the middle of the night on Monday,

Stanton writes that by Wednesday, the men start

attacking one another, they think they’re seeing enemies.

And at one point, he writes, you know, and he says in within 10

minutes, an estimated 50 boys were killed by their compatriots

when everybody snapped at once. See, we have another movie here

too. It’s like the shipwreck movie. So it’s another kind of

disaster film. You know, people are stuck in rafts and dealing

with sharks and going crazy and not having I mean, it’s as though

we tried to figure out how many things you could hit the same

people with before they broke. The higher human qualities

though, are visible throughout. I mean, the part that got me was

as as people start dying more and more, they need their life

vests because the life vests are failing, they’re not meant to be

in the water that long. So you have these stories about people

that will, you know, go over make sure someone that they

think is dead has actually expired and then take their life

vest off. But the one guy that Stanton was quoting in the story,

he just he would not let them go. Without some sort of a

prayer, he’d hold them close, which you know, these guys are

exhausted by this time. So anything more than the most

minimum effort is excruciating. And yet he was going to see that

each one of these people had a prayer said over them before he

let them go, you know, to be eaten by the sharks. I mean,

those are the little touches in a story like this, that break

your heart. Because those are the I mean, that’s what

separates us from just being some mindless thing that’s torn

apart by the sharks. I mean, the thinking that goes into all of

the I mean, that man survived, the one that said the prayers

over the people he had to unstrap from the life vests. What

are you thinking about at night, the rest of your life?

They will eventually be rescued by a pilot that they’re not

looking for anybody, the pilot just kind of sees these people

in the water. And he swoops down low and he can see the sharks

attacking them. Stanton writes of a guy named Lieutenant Adrian

Marx, who’s, um, you know, one of the early people on the scene

once they figure out they’ve got people in the water. And

it’s interesting because of the secrecy involving this. They

don’t know who these people are. It’s not like they’re going we

found the Indianapolis crew. One of the first questions they’re

going to ask when they pick the first person up is who the hell

are you and where you’re from. So Stanton writes, quote,

Lieutenant Adrian Marx reached the scene of the survivors at

320pm and what he found astounded him. Lieutenant

Atterbury informed Marx that there were a great many people

scattered over a wide area. He said not to drop any lifesaving

equipment until he made a full tour, which Marx quickly did.

Both pilots then decided to steer away from the people

clinging to the rafts and to concentrate on those held up

solely by vests. 30 minutes after he arrived, Marx began

bombing the boys with his provisions. About the same time

the destroyers Ralph Talbot and Madison received orders to cut

short their patrols near the island of Alethi and head

directly to the rescue site. Their ETA, 12 hours from the

present, sometime early Friday morning, Marx knew the situation

was dire. From his recon altitude of a mere 25 feet, he

had a clear view of the deep green sea and the hundreds of

sharks circling the men. Night, which he knew was the sharks

normal feeding period, was approaching. One of Marx’s

crewmen watched as a shark attacked one of the men and

dragged him under. As Marx himself witnessed more attacks,

his anxiety grew. It looked to him as if the survivors were so

weak they couldn’t even begin to fight back. End quote. And

then there’s a footnote Stanton put in that says the sharks

had in fact remained a constant presence throughout the men’s

ordeal, even during the daylight hours. Not long after

Gwyn, who was the first pilot to find the people in the water,

by the way, not long after Gwyn showed up, a massive shark

attack involving an estimated 30 fish had, in about 15 minutes,

taken some 60 boys perched on a floater net. End quote. That

doesn’t begin to even do justice to the parts of the

story that seem, by comparison with crap like that, to be

nothing. I mean, how do you talk about no water and how that

makes you feel day after day when you’re suffering and no

decent food? I mean, these no sleep the wounds. I mean, they

said that one boy in one of these rafts, one of the

survivors couldn’t help but point out was sitting there with

his mouth wide open, in such pain that he couldn’t even make

a noise. You ever been in a situation with a person like

that? Just one person in one situation? Any one of these

things is, you know, again, when you talk about war, the first

thing you think about is none of this stuff should ever happen

again. And then the next thing you think about is that when it

does, look what people can endure. And look at what they do

in terms of self sacrifice for another human being who’s in a

situation, you know, that’s awful and a situation that you

yourself might be sharing. So that’s when it becomes extra

heroic when some of these people are doing things like giving

their life vest to a guy who needs it more. It’s not like

you’re doing a good deed for someone you found on the street.

It’s it’s reducing your own chances of survival to help

somebody else’s chances of survival. Those are pretty

amazing stories. And I think the reason that we’re so fascinated

with these horrible tales is there’s something life affirming

about the people that get through them, and not just how

they conducted themselves at the time, but how it both changed

them. And how you know that the silent heroism of living with it

afterwards. And I think we, we have more understanding of that

now than we used to with things like PTSD, but I don’t think we

even give it anywhere near the thought it deserves. I mean, we

all have traumatic memories in our lives. Life provides you

with some by default. But some people get way more than their

share. Can you imagine if like plugging something in the back

of your head like from the matrix, I could upload the

memories of one of these Indianapolis survivors into your

not just your brain, but like have it fused with your emotions.

So you know, you have the feelings, you could have the

flashbacks from an experience you never had. Imagine what that

would do to you pretty darn quickly, right? I just gave you

the memories of an Indianapolis survivor. Now imagine not being

able to ever get them out of your head. Now imagine going

through the original experience. You know, my brain never wants to

ever do any research on this personally, you understand, but I

can’t help but wonder if somehow, the cumulative effect, you

know, over decades of all these horrible, you know, memories and

flashbacks and nightmares. Does that ever come close to equaling

the terribleness of the experience itself? And if it

doesn’t, how much of it is like, you know, picking at the scab

continually, you know, of the wound that changed your life

forever. Now, we may not have gone through the wound, but

think about how upset you’d be just having the memories all of

a sudden implanted in your head about what it was like when you

got it, mentally or emotionally speaking. In my mind, when you

look at it, the sinking of the Indianapolis is not really a war

story. If it was a war story, I think maybe we would have

included it in the series that we’re doing on the Pacific War

and the war in Asia and the Second World War right now. But

it’s not like that in my mind. It’s about as connected to war

as I see it, as the 9-11 attacks were connected to terrorism. They

are the thing that creates, you know, the first domino falling

and a number of horrible incidents. But once the initial

attacks happen, you go from having a war movie, if you’ll

pardon the connection again, to entertainment, to a disaster

film, you know, like the kind I grew up with. And as I said,

what is so… I don’t know if amazing is a good word to use in

such a horrific situation. What is so frightful about what the

Indianapolis survivors and non-survivors had to go through

is they don’t get to just have one disaster film be, you know,

their traumatic memory. They get to walk out of one of these,

you know, movies like, you know, the Towering Inferno and get

right on, you know, the Poseidon and then they get to experience

the Poseidon adventure. And it’s one right after another. It is

as though, you know, the great gods of history were trying to

see exactly how much they could pile on the same group of human

beings. And since we’re going to do a study here, why not have

hundreds of people in your sample size and see how much they

can take and what happens to them, you know, as you continue

to give them as much material as some of the people we pity the

most for going through terrible human experiences, what several

of them put together experience. That’s why for me, if you’re

talking about, you know, terrible places in human history

to have found yourself in, or if your time machine happens to go

awry and you hit the button wrong and you end up in just

about the worst place you could, for me, that would be anywhere

from about July 30th to August 2nd, 1945, a couple hundred

miles from the nearest land in the Philippine Sea. And I would

definitely say if that happened to you, you would have found

yourself for that particular time and place in the worst

place in the world.

Audible has the largest selection of audio books on the

planet. What more do you need to know really than that? When

Audible started sponsoring our programs, they were in a similar

situation to podcasters, where if somebody said, what do you do?

I said, a podcaster, and then had to explain that for a long

time. Well, once upon a time, audio books were something that

people had to have explained to them. Now everybody understands

audio books. And so everyone understands Audible, the leading

provider. And well, to give you an idea of selection, if you’re

ever worried about that sort of thing, they have multiple books.

And I mean, I stopped counting it like five on the USS

Indianapolis sinking. So let’s just call it an unmatched

selection. And if the story you just heard acts as an appetizer

towards finding out more, and there’s a lot more, Audible’s got

plenty to choose from. In fact, they actually have the book we

quoted from Stanton’s book, In Harm’s Way, which I’ve read and

it’s incredible, but there’s a bunch of other ones too. If

you’ve read that or heard this story, you can get granular. I

mean, there’s a new book that just came out on the

Indianapolis. So you want some more information on this? You

want to have somebody speak to you for a little bit longer than

this one lasted? Well, why don’t you go to Audible, sign up for

their free trial offer, you know, audible.com forward slash

Carlin, text my name to 500500 to get started. And you can

download 123. I think I stopped counting at four or five books

that they have on the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. It’s

just one of those stories that it’s so hard to believe that

it’s true. And as I said, you know, there’s almost this

vicarious horror movie fascination with it. And then it

just breaks your heart to actually think that no, this is

real stuff. And the basic information you’re getting comes

from the mouths of the people who are experiencing this. But

that’s what makes history so compelling, at least to people

who have whatever it is, the gene, or just a sense of the

dramatic. And there’s a reason that this story continues to

both fascinate, but also inspire. Why don’t you go to

Audible, check out what they have available. As I said,

audible.com forward slash Carlin gets you into the free 30 day

trial, and then you can start to see what it’s all about. I mean,

I’ve talked about every angle that Audible has in terms of

advantages. In the old days, these were the things that were

new and unusual. Now you just sort of expect this sort of

stuff from your audio book provider. Because Audible is the

one that came up with all this stuff and made this the

standard you want to own your books, Audible lets you own your

books. I mean, stuff like that, that has made me happy to, you

know, tell you about them all this time. I mean, as I said,

you want a little bit more USS Indianapolis info, go to

audible.com forward slash Carlin sign up for a free 30 day

offer today own the books you get and start experiencing all

the little things that Audible just does right about audio


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