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Marine vet promotion to sergeant officially recognized 73 years after the demise of the USS Indianapolis



Good things come to those who wait. And wait. And wait.

In the case of Cpl. Edgar Harrell, a promotion to sergeant in 1945, eventually became official – 73 years later.

A chance conversation with Capt. Scott Montefusco, while both led to Harrell at a recent veteran day parade in Salt Lake City, received too long last, the documents that officially make his sergeant's rank on 9 August.

Harrell, who is 93 and a resident of Tennessee, told Montefusco about his time at the USS Indianapolis – how he would sleep on lifeboats because of the heat below deck was too intense.

He stopped taking off to the lifeboats after his unrecognized promotion because he did not want his new title to be stripped of him, he told Montefusco.

Montefusco, organizer of the Utah Military History Group, I considered it unacceptable to allow Harrell to continue without official recognition of his promotion to sergeant major.

I learned how this amazing man was never recognized for his sergeant rank. I sat there all the time thinking that we needed to fix that.

– Capt. Scott Montefusco, who led the effort to promote Edgar Harrell

"At that time, I learned how this amazing man was never recognized as a sergeant," said Montefusco. "I sat there all the time, thinking we needed to fix that," he said. So he grabbed Senator Bob Corker's office for help.

Harrell did not often speak of his "unofficial" rank He considered it "more trouble than it is worth"

Instead, he has dedicated his life since his days in Indianapolis to talk about the heroism of men, which were killed when the Japanese torpedoed the ship in the last months of the war. War II.

Harrell remembered floating aimlessly in salt water – mixed with black oil and blood – with a group of 80 other men killed by the fiery USS Indianapolis had jumped.

  US Navy Heavy Cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35) underway at sea on September 27, 1939.

The USS Indianapolis in 1939.

(US Navy)

It was July 30, 1945 and it was 110 degrees. They had no water. Dehydration covered her lips with wounds and her tongues swelled.

In the afternoon of the third day, the group decreased to only 17 men. Shark fins surrounded her. Harrell kept praying.

Of the 1,196 men on board, nearly 900 died. It was the only major loss of life from a single ship in US Navy history.

  Cpl. Edgar Harrell, marine veterinarian, was eventually promoted to sergeant 73 years later

Cpl. Edgar Harrell.

(US Marine Corps)

Harrell spent months in the hospital recovering from a perforated appendix. He remembered that he had been promoted to sergeant on the ship, but it was not official. Documents were lost along with the shipwreck.

But the lament over his unrecognized milestone was eclipsed by a sense of duty to honor the men at the USS Indianapolis and tell their story.

There was no fanfare when the men returned from the Pacific. Shortly thereafter, President Harry Truman announced that Japan had capitulated

"I can not tell the story without reliving it," he said in an interview with USA Today Network – Tennessee. "I am an old man today, but God is still watching over me, I hope I have some more time to tell this story."

The church where Harrell's son David Pastor is was full with his family and friends who were dressed for a special occasion. They had prepared for something long overdue: Harrell's official promotion.

"We have a saying that once a Marine, always a Marine, we could be a bit late with this one," said Major General Paul Kennedy in the fast-paced but emotional ceremony. "The Marines were inspired by Harrell's heritage."

The sergeant turned and looked at the group, who got up and clapped for him.

"Stay faithful," he said simply, touching his belief that he deserved to have saved him at sea.

His "little" brother Bill Harrell, who overshadows Edgar Harrell's small frame, went forward and hugged his brother.

"I'm so proud of you," he whispered. He was as proud as he felt when he saw his brother come back decades ago.

Then, just 8 years old, the younger Harrell sat with her father and mother while listening to a Indianapolis radio news program] Soon after, they received a telegram that his brother was missing.

I can not tell the story without repeating it a bit. I am an old man today, but the good man is still watching over me. I hope I have some more time to tell this story.

– Cpl. Edgar Harrell on his mission to pay tribute to the men of the USS Indianapolis who died

"We stayed on the radio for days to hear what had happened to Edgar, and when we finally found out that he had survived it was unbelievable." Bill Harrell told the USA Today Network – Tennessee.

"Going through this and seeing him standing here with this recognition is beyond description."

Harrell has written a book about his appalling report from Indianapolis. He has shared his story with everyone who asks, still continuing his promise to remember the deceased.

He became a celebrity last year when the shipwreck was finally located after seven decades of search.

He replied as many phone calls and e-mails he could get from those who wanted to hear about what had happened. His calendar filled with stations in cities like Knoxville, Indianapolis and New Orleans.

And in what Kennedy described as "the fastest legislation to sign," Harrell's honorary promotion was approved.

"I felt sense to see this," said Montefusco, "(Harrell) has dedicated his life so that future generations will not forget this tragedy."

Harrell called his promotion a "double honor" and something he did not know it was working until he was asked on Monday he might be available.

"I'm just delighted and to see this I feel very honored. It is an honor for me to live and tell of the tragedy that all these 880 boys have to experience for the freedom that America has today, "he said.

The Associated Press has contributed to this report 19659046] Elizabeth Llorente is senior reporter for FoxNews.com and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente@Foxnews.com Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente.


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