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Post Info TOPIC: USS Indianapolis Presentaion in Wanaque, NJ


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USS Indianapolis Presentaion in Wanaque, NJ


USS Indianapolis survivor, rescuer recount WWII tragedy
Friday, November 14, 2008
Last updated: Friday November 14, 2008, EST 6:38 AM
BY JAMES YOO
STAFF WRITER
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WANAQUE "The next time I turned around and looked, there was no ship. I had no life jacket. I was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean," Don Blum recalled of that day in 1945 when his ship, the USS Indianapolis, was sunk by a Japanese submarine.

The Navy ensign spent the next 112 hours in the water with 900 of his shipmates. And sharks.

Just 317 men survived the carnage in the water. It was the worst disaster in U.S. naval history.

William Van Wilpe of Wanaque, now 83, was one of those who pulled the survivors out of the Pacific, diving in to drag them to safety.

He stayed until the rescue was done, often in the water.

"Every time you saw a life jacket go by, you check it for a body in it," he said of his time in the water.

Blum, now 84 and of Scarsdale, N.Y., and Van Wilpe, who met for the first time Thursday, shared the rapt attention of almost 200 at Lakeland Regional High School. The presentation, called the "USS Indianapolis Still at Sea," reunited two men connected to one of the worst naval tragedies of World War II.

"I had the chills run up and down my back when they said the sharks ate those guys," said George Cattiny Sr., 72, of Pompton Lakes, who served in the Navy during the Korean War.

The Indianapolis, a heavy cruiser, was attacked by a Japanese submarine on July 30, 1945, just days after it had delivered parts of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It capsized and sank in just 12 minutes.

Of a crew of 1,197 officers and men, the 900 who survived the torpedoing spent almost five days afloat in shark-infested waters, an ordeal memorialized in a scene from the movie "Jaws."

While not all the dead were victims of sharks, director Stephen Spielberg blurred reality for dramatic effect. In the movie, Quint, the grizzled fisherman and captain of the Orca, who was portrayed by Robert Shaw, recounts the unbearable dread and terror the sailors faced as sharks preyed upon them. He concludes:

"So, eleven hundred men went in the water; [317] men come out and the sharks took the rest. June the 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb."

The Indianapolis' survivors were saved by a number of ships, including the USS Bassett, a transport ship that was the second to arrive and on which Van Wilpe served as a gunner's mate.

Van Wilpe never talked much about the war, according to Councilman Tom Balunis, who wrote a book, "Sixty Years Later," about his efforts to get recognition for the borough resident.

Van Wilpe was working as a custodian at Lakeland when a librarian reading about the Indianapolis saw his name and asked if he was the man mentioned in the book.

Borough officials later took up the case and finally got recognition for Van Wilpe with aid from Rep. Scott Garrett, R-Wantage.

In 2005, he was awarded the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Medal for Heroism for his part in the rescue.

E-mail: yoo@northjersey.com

WANAQUE "The next time I turned around and looked, there was no ship. I had no life jacket. I was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean," Don Blum recalled of that day in 1945 when his ship, the USS Indianapolis, was sunk by a Japanese submarine.

1114L_L1VetsRST.jpg
LESLIE BARBARO / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
William Van Wilpe, left, of Wanaque helped rescue Indianapolis crewmen such as Don Blum of Scarsdale, N.Y., after the cruiser's sinking in 1945.

The Navy ensign spent the next 112 hours in the water with 900 of his shipmates. And sharks.

Just 317 men survived the carnage in the water. It was the worst disaster in U.S. naval history.

William Van Wilpe of Wanaque, now 83, was one of those who pulled the survivors out of the Pacific, diving in to drag them to safety.

He stayed until the rescue was done, often in the water.

"Every time you saw a life jacket go by, you check it for a body in it," he said of his time in the water.

Blum, now 84 and of Scarsdale, N.Y., and Van Wilpe, who met for the first time Thursday, shared the rapt attention of almost 200 at Lakeland Regional High School. The presentation, called the "USS Indianapolis Still at Sea," reunited two men connected to one of the worst naval tragedies of World War II.

"I had the chills run up and down my back when they said the sharks ate those guys," said George Cattiny Sr., 72, of Pompton Lakes, who served in the Navy during the Korean War.

The Indianapolis, a heavy cruiser, was attacked by a Japanese submarine on July 30, 1945, just days after it had delivered parts of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It capsized and sank in just 12 minutes.

Of a crew of 1,197 officers and men, the 900 who survived the torpedoing spent almost five days afloat in shark-infested waters, an ordeal memorialized in a scene from the movie "Jaws."

While not all the dead were victims of sharks, director Stephen Spielberg blurred reality for dramatic effect. In the movie, Quint, the grizzled fisherman and captain of the Orca, who was portrayed by Robert Shaw, recounts the unbearable dread and terror the sailors faced as sharks preyed upon them. He concludes:

"So, eleven hundred men went in the water; [317] men come out and the sharks took the rest. June the 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb."

The Indianapolis' survivors were saved by a number of ships, including the USS Bassett, a transport ship that was the second to arrive and on which Van Wilpe served as a gunner's mate.

Van Wilpe never talked much about the war, according to Councilman Tom Balunis, who wrote a book, "Sixty Years Later," about his efforts to get recognition for the borough resident.

Van Wilpe was working as a custodian at Lakeland when a librarian reading about the Indianapolis saw his name and asked if he was the man mentioned in the book.

Borough officials later took up the case and finally got recognition for Van Wilpe with aid from Rep. Scott Garrett, R-Wantage.

In 2005, he was awarded the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Medal for Heroism for his part in the rescue.

E-mail: yoo@northjersey.com



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