For the badly wounded men in the water, the hot days and cold nights
brought more horror, agony, despair and death.
ZOOK: We finally ended
up with about three rafts and life nets. You had to lay prone on the life
nets, but in the life rafts you could either sit on the gunnel or you
could stand up in the life raft.
HOLMGREN (USS Juneau Crew): The next thing you know the guys were startin'
to goin' out of their heads a little bit.
Thought they could
jump off the raft and go dowin and get some food off the Juneau and I think,
I think that was about the third day.
situation was just horrible. They didn't have anything to eat.
Nothing to drink except salt water and a lot of them drank salt water
and went mad.
LESTER ZOOK (USS
Juneau Crew): Now the people on the nets were the injured people.
They couldn't stand up, they couldn't support themselves or whatever
- they were - mangled legs or arms or skulls.
And so they were put on the nets.
And then so each morning - this may ghouly, but each morning we would
roll the dead people off the nets and the same sharks stayed with us all the
time. And they were- they were
- satisfied to get their feeding each morning.
the place was just full of sharks and men were being eaten alive left and
just went out of their heads one time and sharks took 'em.
They would have all been alive today if we were picked up right away.
Gunner’s mate Wyatt Butterfield had always dreamt of being a hero and
rushed to enlist when the war broke out.
BUTTERFIELD (USS Juneau Crew): Well I think of those guys.
It didn't bother me when they were- when I saw it happen.
I got used to seeing 'em getting eaten up and torn apart.
As I got older -- it hit me.
As I say, as I
got older I realized what they- how much they really suffered.
When I was young, like I say, I got used to watching it for 7 days
and it was like an everyday occurrence.
When it did happen, I - I knew it was going to happen anyway, so- no
big deal. We saw it yesterday.
We saw it again today.
The only officer among the 10 men who ultimately survived was Lieutenant
Charles Wang, He had been the first officer to be assigned to the ship prior
to its launch.
ZOOK: Wang had
a broken leg so he couldn’t maneuver at all. Then a plane come over and
dropped a package. In this package was a rubber boat and certain survival
gear. And we thought we could see land. Well it was obvious that Wang was no
good to us there -- if he got to land he could do something from his stature
of the Lieutenant JG and he took two people with him.
started moving toward an island which is about fifty miles away and they
really went through hell for several days - storms and sharks and just about
everything was threatening them. They finally managed to get to a beach of
the island and they were fearful though when they got on this beach that
there could be cannibals- they heard stories of cannibals on these islands.
men went off to look for food and water, Lieutenant Wang was left there, you
know in the sand with his bleeding leg, and he was sleeping and when he
awoke he looked into the faces of these natives and he thought "my God
here I go to the cooking pot."
It turned out
of course that they were friendly and he was saved together with the two
other men. They were very very
lucky indeed. They were three
of the ten men who managed to survive.
NARRATOR: Finally, after two days, Capt. Hoover
returned to base and reported to Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, the
Commander of the South Pacific fleet. It was incredibly the first time
Halsey had heard of the Juneau incident. He was furious.
ROBERT SWENSEN (Son of
Lyman Swensen): Halsey wrote Hoover a letter which pointed out that radio
silence should have been broken because the force that Hoover had had been
already recognized by the enemy, ... 2.12.17
And that was what resulted in relieving Capt. Hoover.
NARRATOR: Halsey ordered an air and sea search for
the survivors. But, t wasn’t until November 19th that a PBY search plane
found the remaining Juneau crew.
HOLMGREN (USS Juneau Crew): We had Zook up there, we were holding him, he's
givin' all that flag stuff there and the darn plane looked like- it was!
Takin' goin' off. "Christ" we was saying "he's gotta see
us." And all of a sudden
it turned back again.