“ I’m going to die right here!”
Ed Warren enlisted in the U.S.Navy on September 7, 1943.
It was Ed’s 17th birthday. He initially attempted to enlist in the Marine Corps, lying about his age. But he was soon found out, and turned away by the recruiters.
He recalled several events during his time in the Navy, but one event in particular stood out to me, in fact it sent chills down my spine.
It was February 5, 1943. Dead of winter. The ship: “ The Spring Hill “
Location: Somewhere in the North Atlantic
It was a cold, windy, blustery night. The men were all below deck, except for those on watch.
Suddenly, the unimaginable occurred; an oil tanker collided with the Spring Hill, setting off a conflagration. Flames and heavy smoke billowed from the injured ships.
The men were all ordered to abandon ship.
And so, although shaken, frightened and with great trepidation, the men began jumping overboard, into the icy, shark infested waters of the unforgiving sea.
In his civilian days, Ed had been a lifeguard during the summer months, thus, by default was an exceptionally adept swimmer.
Ed jumped in, and quickly realized that he was in extreme peril, the icy waters quickly wearing him down, and the flames, oh those nasty flames, surrounded the young sailor and his shipmates.
Ed saw one of his fellow sailors, struggling to stay afloat. Ed knew that the young sailor was in extreme danger, and would drown within moments.
Ed swam to the young man, and called upon his lifeguard training to rescue the young man.
And so, with the young sailor in tow, Ed began swimming…….
But to where? As Ed swam he realized that the flames were everywhere, and closing in.
To the left, flames. Same thing to the right, and in the center. And behind. He was surrounded by fire!
And to make matters worse, much worse, he witnessed sailors being attacked by sharks.
And dying right in front of him. If the sharks didn’t get him, surely the flames would. And the icy cold sea. Oh how cold that water was…. he had never felt cold like that before.
He began to pray. “ Holy Mary, mother of God.. please, please save me! I don’t want to die. Not here. Not now. “
And as if the mother of God was truly listening, Ed saw directly in front of him, the flames part. An opening!
Through the opening, a lifeboat, with two sailors aboard navigated its way through the small opening.
Ed’s prayers were answered!
“ Thank you Mother Mary! Thank you for answering my prayers! “
As the lifeboat approached, Ed handed off the injured sailor to the two man crew.
Ed waited for his rescue, hands outstretched.
He was so
Close now! The nightmare would soon be over.
But, what Ed heard next felt as if someone had just kicked hm
In the face. The second seaman on the lifeboat yelled to the first rescuer, “ Leave Him! We gotta get out of here…. that tanker’s going to blow again!”
Ed was crestfallen. His excitement quickly turned to Despair and desperation. He thought to himself, “
This is it. I’M GOING TO DIE RIGHT HERE! “
But apparently “ Mother Mary “ had other plans for young Ed.
The first rescuer turned to his fellow rescuer and yelled, “ No way! I am not going to leave a fellow sailor in be water! “
And grabbed Ed’s arm, pulling him aboard the lifeboat and to safety.
Ed was one of 69 survivors that fateful night.
For his bravery ( saving a fellow shipmate ) Ed was granted survivors leave.
He used the time to rush home to Lorraine, having just enough time to be with her for a few hours before having to return to duty.
U.S. Navy 1943-1946
“ Fair Winds and Following Seas”