Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin’ back from the island of Tinian to Leyte, just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in twelve minutes. Didn’t see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. Thirteen-footer. You know how you know that when you’re in the water, Chief? You tell by lookin’ from the dorsal to the tail. What we didn’t know… was our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent. Heh.
They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin’. So we formed ourselves into tight groups. Y'know, it’s… kinda like ol’ squares in a battle like, uh, you see in a calenda. Like the Battle of Waterloo and the idea was, shark comes to the nearest man and that man, he’d start poundin’ and hollerin’ and screamin’, and sometimes…the shark’d go away.
Sometimes…he wouldn’t go away. Sometimes that shark, he looks right into ya. Right into your eyes. Y'know the thing about a shark, he’s got… lifeless eyes. Black eyes, like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be livin’… until he bites ya. And those black eyes roll over white, and then… oh, then you hear that terrible high-pitch screamin’, the ocean turns red, and spite of all the poundin’ and the hollerin’, they all come in and they… rip you to pieces.
Y'know, by the end of that first dawn…lost a hundred men. I dunno how many sharks. Maybe a thousand. I dunno how many men, they averaged six an hour. On Thursday mornin’, Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Bosun’s mate. I thought he was asleep. Reached over to wake him up. Bobbed up and down in the water just like a kinda top. Upended. Well…he’d been bitten in half below the waist.
Noon the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us. He swung in low and he saw us. Young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper. Anyway, he saw us and come in low and three hours later, a big fat PBY comes down and start to pick us up. Y'know, that was the time I was most frightened, waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a life jacket again.
So, eleven hundred men went into the water, three hundred sixteen men come out, and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945.