Golden Oaks community surprises resident and USS Indianapolis navy veteran
World War II navy veteran Buzz Fortin was one of 1,200 men aboard the USS Indianapolis, a U.S. Navy heavy cruiser that sunk 69 years ago. Now a resident of Golden Oaks in Yucaipa, Calif., Buzz was overjoyed with a lunchtime surprise by his family and fellow residents on July 30, 2014, in honor of the 69th anniversary of the USS Indianapolis.
The surprise commemorates the anniversary of the USS Indianapolis in 1945 and the heroic action of the 1,200 men on board. The navy sailors were positioned in the Philippine Sea after delivering the atomic bomb that would be used to destroy Hiroshima during World War II when an enemy submarine torpedoed the ship and sank it in 12 minutes. Because of the confidential nature of the crew's mission, no one was aware of the unfortunate incident.
Only 317 men were rescued, including Buzz, after floating in the open water for five days. Buzz, who did not even know how to swim, found a potato crate to hold on to as his life jacket lost flotation after 36 hours. The survivors battled dehydration, saltwater poisoning, exposure, and shark attacks until they were rescued by a navy ship on routine patrol.
Surrounded by 15 family members and fellow Golden Oaks residents in the dining room, Buzz's brave story was told by his son-in-law, said Sheryl Jerome, enrichment coordinator at Golden Oaks. It was such a touching and inspiring day to learn about the heroic actions of the men aboard the USS Indianapolis and to celebrate the anniversary of the rescue.
To further honor Buzz, the community hosted a viewing of the Mission of the Shark: The Saga of the USS Indianapolis, the wartime drama based on actual events from the shipwrecked navy sailors in the Philippine Sea.
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