Daughter of USS Indianapolis survivor talks about warship discovery

Daughter of USS Indianapolis discusses warship discovery

NEW ORLEANS- A discovery at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean is bringing old memories to the surface for Maria Eck Bullard.

"I think that my dad would have been happy that it was found," Bullard said. "And I think it would've been some closure for him."

Bullard's father, Harold Eck was only 18 years old when he served on the USS Indianapolis.

"He was just so proud, because it was such a great ship, and people wanted to be on the Indianapolis. It was the most talked about ship," Bullard said.

That ship, unfortunately met a tragic fate on July 30, 1945. The crew was headed back from delivering the components of the atomic bomb that would soon be dropped on Hiroshima when they were suddenly attacked by a Japanese submarine.

"He had just gotten off watch and was asleep, and then the torpedoes hit," Bullard said.

Within minutes, the ship sank.

"From when the first torpedo hit until the ship was completely submerged, took no more than 15 minutes. He'll say 'I didn't get off the ship, I just walked, and that's how quickly the ship had gone down," Bullard said.

Historians believe only 800 out of the 1,196 crew members survived the blast and the sinking. Only 316 were rescued. Those who waded in the water, either died of dehydration, drowning or their injuries. Then, there were the shark attacks.

"All of a sudden there were the shark attacks. And he watched, one just as close as you and I, just get taken. And that just went on day, after day, after day," Bullard said.

Eck told Bullard the days stranded in the water, felt like an eternity.

"He was in the water, you know, it was five days and four nights. Each day, I think they became a little less hopeful that they would ever be found," Bullard said.

On the fifth day, the brave men still alive, were finally rescued.

A team of researchers located the warship, but the navy is keeping the location a secret.

Harold Eck passed away nearly a year and a half ago. The tragic event from that day stayed with him for the rest of his life.

"It was only in the latter years of his life that he would talk about it," Bullard said.

Eck received a Purple Heart for his service, but he never wanted any recognition. Bullard says he lived his life remembering his friends and fellow countrymen who sacrificed their lives, to end the war.

"My dad just always said, 'I'm not the hero. The heroes are those guys that didn't come back and the families that lost their ship mates."

Bullard is now the Chairman of the USS Indianapolis Second Watch, a organization representing the second generation of survivors, as well as those lost at sea.

The Navy will honor the survivors from the Indianapolis and their families, and the families of those lost at sea.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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