Bay Area man talks about surviving sinking of USS Indianapolis during WWII

KTVU spoke with a Bay Area man who lived through the worst maritime disaster in US Navy history.

He survived not only the sinking of the USS Indianapolis during World War II, but also what is considered the worst mass shark attack in history.

When the USS Indianapolis sailed through the Golden Gate on its way to the Pacific Theater in 1945, Benicia's Harold Bray was a fresh 17-year-old sailor on his first deployment.

Little did he or the other crewmembers realize, they were on what turned out to be an historic and tragic voyage.

In one of the ship's hangars was a large wooden crate. The nuclear bomb that would be dropped on Hiroshima to hasten the end of WWII was inside the crate. After the crate was delivered to the island of Tinian, the ship was ordered to the Philippines.

Bray was sleeping under a gun turret in the dead of night when the ship was attacked.

"The first torpedo hit right on the opposite side of where I was sleeping and rolled me off this ledge about a ten foot drop," said Bray.

The ship was already sinking as Bray scrambled for a life jacket and headed for the quarterdeck.

He jumped off the ship about 30 or 40 feet into the water. After about 12 minutes, the ship was gone.

Bray found a floating cargo net in the oily water, which he would cling to for the next four days and five nights.

"Of course the sharks showed up pretty soon after we hit the water. They were there all the time," he said.

When they were finally rescued, Bray had lost 30 pounds in the ordeal. He believes he would have died in several more days. Out of 1,196 people, just 317 survived.

After the war, Bray became a Benicia police officer.

Now retired, he gives talks on his survival story - oftentimes at local schools.