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Article about Rescue Crew Member (USS Register)
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I've always thought about how difficult it must have been for the rescue crew members to come upon that scene.... I'm sure it has stayed with those men throughout their lives.  See below article.

'They were in bad shape'

November 8, 2007

Though he doesn't tell the story like the animated character Quint from the 1975 film "Jaws," veteran George Stockland quietly recalls from experience one of the most talked about events of World War II -- the sinking and rescue of the USS Indianapolis, the ship that delivered the atomic bomb that ended the war.

Stockland was an electrician aboard the USS Register, which had just returned from escort duty when it was enlisted to aid in the rescue of survivors of the USS Indianapolis after it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the Philippines Sea July 30, 1945.

The ship sank in 12 minutes. Of approximately 1,200 crew members, about 300 went down with the ship. The remaining men were forced into open, shark-infested waters.

Their mission was so top secret, the ship was never reported overdue or missing. Survivors were finally spotted four days later by a sea plane.

With the promise of a case of beer, Stockland said his skipper "made a special plea to the crew to look for survivors."

"The first thing I saw was a guy in a raft. It was like Robinson Crusoe."

Only 317 men were plucked from the sea. Many lost their lives to shark attacks, extreme conditions and not having food or fresh water to drink.

About a dozen survivors were boarded onto the USS Register.

"They were in bad shape," Stockland said, noting many of the survivors were badly burned from fuel oil.

In 1990, Stockland attended a reunion of his crew and survivors of the USS Indianapolis, with his wife, Carolyn, whom he met in Scotland and married in 1962. The Lake Villa couple have three grown children, Karen Dahl, Craig Stockland and Laurie Straub, and four grandchildren.

"There wasn't a dry eye in the house. It was very emotional," Carolyn said of the reunion.

Military man

George Stockland, now 81, grew up in Luverne, N.D., the youngest of seven children. Three of his older brothers were already serving in the military when he enlisted in the Navy in 1943, at age 17.

Stockland completed boot camp in Idaho before heading to the Navy base in San Diego.

"It was the first time I saw the ocean," he said.

The full realization that he was serving during wartime, said Stockland, didn't sink in until his ship, the USS Register, headed for Pearl Harbor with about 250 crew members in tow.

On May 20, 1945, the USS Register was struck by a Japanese Kamikaze pilot.

"I was working two decks below and heard guns going off. I thought, 'This is it.'"

The impact of the crash knocked two gun mounts out of commission, but Stockland said it was the best place for the plane to hit. No Navy personnel were killed, though a dozen or so were injured.

"We were fortunate," he said. "Had it hit anywhere else, we would've been in trouble."

Most of the wreckage, along with the pilot, tumbled over the side of the ship, Stockland said. Two other Japanese planes were shot down. A third was damaged, but escaped.

After the ordeal, the USS Register was mended by a repair ship and assigned to escort duty to Okinawa and Ulithi before returning to Leyte, an island in the Philippines.

It would be just a couple months later that the USS Register would recover survivors of the USS Indianapolis.

By the end of his military career in 1969, Stockland served 22 years over the course of three wars -- World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. He also served three years as a commander at Great Lakes before retiring as a senior chief.

Stockland said he is proud of his military service and "would do it over again."

"I found a home there."

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