Tag Archives: The sinking of the USS Indianapolis

In Honor of Veterans Day: Out of the Depths

Do you, like me, hate war? Are you looking for something to give you a little hope in the midst of the insanities we’re experiencing around the world? Today I want to join with everyone in our country in honoring those brave men and women who serve in our military, and because it’s Veterans Day, I also want to commend Out of the Depths as one book about war that will leave you with a sense of peace and hope instead of despair. As the author observes at one point, “A man can endure just about anything as long as he has hope. But take away his hope, and all that is left is despair and the relief of suicide.”

Author Edgar Harrell was one of the marines aboard the U.S.S. Indianapolis when she was sunk in the middle of the Pacific Ocean by two Japanese torpedoes during World War 2. The ship was sailing through shark-infested waters above the Mariana Trench, and her loss is today considered the greatest single disaster in American naval history.

Harrell’s harrowing account of the lives and deaths of hundreds of men taught me many things. Heroes aren’t just brave, they are “people who overcome evil by doing good at great personal risk.” It taught me more about “Semper Fidelis” (the Marine motto: always faithful). Harrell points out from his own experiences as a young man that the best way to be prepared for war is to be prepared for eternity. He learned that there are not only “no atheists in foxholes” (which we’ve heard since World War 1), but there are also no atheists fighting for their life in the midst of the sea, either.

Out of the Depths is an amazing story of agony, loss, miracles, mercy, grace, peace, hope, and learning to forgive. Does Harrell still have PTSD? Yes. But, he’s learned the secret of how to overcome evil with good…even down to embracing the great granddaughter of the the Japanese captain who sank his ship.

As a girl, I could never read or watch stories about war. They were too terrible. It was like reading Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (which I could never do either). Instead, it seemed reasonable to simply trust that—like Corrie Ten Boom’s father explained to her—God will give you the “ticket” (strength and grace to endure suffering) when you need it, but not before.

However, once one of my sons joined the military as an army dentist, all that changed, and now I have a deep need to find some hope in the midst of this darkest aspect of history. Out of the Depths helped me, and maybe you’d find it helpful too.One last Veterans Day thought, and then I’ll quit. Like the majority of Americans, I have enough to eat every day and get to sleep in a warm, snug bed every night with a reasonable hope of not being attacked, and that’s a huge blessing… probably more security and freedom than 75% of the world enjoys. As Captain Eddie Rickenbacker said when reflecting on the 21 days he spent floating on a life raft in the Pacific Ocean during World War II:  “The biggest lesson I learned from that experience was that if you have all the fresh water you want to drink and all the food you want to eat, you ought never to complain over anything.” I’ve had nothing to complain about my entire life. Thank you, brave military personnel. I pray for your safety, and for the safety of every godly person in this world, no matter where you live. May goodness and peace triumph over evil and greed.

If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:9-10).