SEATTLE - A West Seattle man was one of the survivors of the USS Indianapolis that sunk in July of 1945 after being hit by a Japanese torpedo.
Less than one-third of the sailors aboard the USS Indianapolis survived the sinking, including Eugene Morgan of west Seattle who spent four days on the water after the ship sank.
His grandson, Jason Witty holds onto a newspaper clipping of his grandfather with a picture of the USS Indianapolis.
“He was a proud man, proud father, proud of the job that he did,” said Witty remembering his grandfather who passed away in 2008.
With tears in his eyes, Witty, who followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and joined the armed forces serving in the military, says his grandfather quit his dream of being a baseball player to join the navy.
“He wanted to fight for his country, like any other man in the armed services. We do it for our country, we do it for our brothers and sisters next to us,” said Witty.
Serving was a bond bringing grandfather and grandson together over occasional stories about Morgan’s time aboard the USS Indianapolis.
“The binders came out, the pictures came out, the medals came out, his Purple Heart came out. He was on the ship for all 10 battles,” said Witty recounting the memories of time spent with his grandfather.
He says talking about his grandfather brings on a lot of emotion, but none as strong as the emotion he felt today when he found out his grandfather’s ship was finally discovered.
“I couldn’t believe it, they found it,” said Witty.
The news came from Witty’s friend, Kim Roller, who reached out to Witty to meet him for breakfast.
“I texted Jason first thing and I said, ‘I need to meet you at Denny’s right now.’ I didn’t tell him why,” said Roller.
Roller calls herself an honorary survivor of the USS Indianapolis. She says after reading a book about the ship’s sinking she has devoted the past 13 years traveling with the remaining survivors across the country and putting together presentations for reunions and sharing their story with people. She says she remembers Mr. Morgan fondly.
“We need to understand even 72 years later why we have what we have. We are free because of what these men did in 1945,” said Roller.
She says there are 19 survivors of the sinking still alive today, many of whom fought shark attacks and survived at sea for days before help arrived.
Roller says she’s been hearing from survivor’s family members all day who were stunned the ship was finally found.
“I didn’t over react like I thought I would if I lived to see this day. Then when I saw the pictures I cried because it became visual and real,” said Roller.
A real moment shared between friends at a Denny’s.
“We ended up sitting there for three hours,” said Witty.
“We sobbed, I mean really sobbed, not a nice cry,” said Roller.
Happy tears that Witty says his grandfather is also sharing with them.
“He’s be excited. Finally, it’s found. Just more closure,” said Witty.
The USS Indianapolis delivered components for one of the two atomic bombs used by the U.S against Japan to end that part of WWII.
A search team put together by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen found the ship’s wreckage at the bottom of the Philippine sea after 72 years.