As of this month there is just one living survivor of the 1945 USS Indianapolis disaster
· Oct 4, 2022 ·

The passing of Queen Elizabeth II reminded the world that the Greatest Generation — the men and women who rid the world of genocidal Nazism — is rapidly departing us. There are just not that many soldiers left from that momentous conflict.

That's as true in the U.S. as it is anywhere else — and as of late September, there is precisely one man remaining among what was perhaps the rarest class of war hero in the entire conflict:

With the passing of Cleatus Lebow on Thursday morning at the age of 98, Benician Harold Bray is now the lone living survivor from the legendary USS Indianapolis.

The Indianapolis, of course, was the U.S. Navy cruiser that was sunk by a Japanese submarine, killing 300 sailors on board and sending another 800 into the ocean, where they drifted for days, with hundreds of them dying from shark attacks, dehydration, exposure and other causes.

It can be hard to imagine the horror from that disaster. Bray described some of it years ago:

"With the moon being really bright that night, you could still see people jumping off the ship," Bray told the Times-Herald in 2014. "It was like ants coming off a stick."

When Bray jumped into the water, he only had his dungarees on. Bray said he was not cold right away when he hit the water. He was hot, because of the oil.

"It stayed with us for the remaining days. It just floated along with us," Bray said. "It was coming out and a lot of people were just evaporating in it. I don't know what made me so lucky." ...

Bray also had to deal with another enemy — dozens of sharks.

"Then the sharks came," Bray said in 2014. "I looked down and they were just swarming around us. Their tails would hit me every once in a while. There wasn't really anywhere to go; we had to deal with them. The sharks seemed to go after the people that had big cuts to them, were naked or just in their skivvies. We lost a lot of good men in those first few days."

Merely not losing your mind in such horrifying conditions is an accomplishment in and of itself.

The recently departed Lebow, meanwhile, was eager to go to his much-deserved reward:

After surviving a week in horrendous conditions, Lebow returned to his home state of Texas, where he worked for the phone company for over 40 years while he raised a family. According to the Facebook site, "All Things USS Indianapolis CA-35", Lebow recently expressed that he was ready to depart this life. A deeply religious man, he said he wanted "to go home." He is now reunited with his wife, Joan, who passed away last November.

Words cannot adequately capture the gratitude we should feel for these men. God bless them and the country they fought for.

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