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Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans History Project
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Judith Kent:

Today is November 14, 2002. This is Judith speaking from the Flagler County Public Library in Palm Coast, FL. Joining me today is who was born on 3/30/26. Dr. McCoy resides in Palm Coast, FL. He and I are the only persons present at the interview. Dr. McCoy has spoken about his war time experience at the library in the past and has agreed to this interview for the Veterans Project. Welcome, Dr. McCoy and thank you for participating in the Veterans Project. Would you state, just for the record, the branch of service in which you served?

Dr. Giles McCoy:

I was in the US Marine Corps.

Judith Kent:

And proud of it?

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Very proud of it. I went in, in 1944 and then shortly after I went in they assigned me to the invasion of Pelelieu.

Judith Kent:

Let's hold off on that. Where did you grow up?

Dr. Giles McCoy:

I grew up in St. Louis County, [MO] out near the St. Louis air port, Lambert Field.

Judith Kent:

Tell us a little about your family.

Dr. Giles McCoy:

I have five sisters, but I only have one of them left. I am the only boy; I had two brothers and they were lost (they were older) they were lost in the War to my mother.

[tearing] Of course those are the things that are difficult. I usually always apologize when I give a talk because I get emotional when I think of some of these things. They [his brothers] would have been very proud of me.

Judith Kent:

And you were proud of them.

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Oh my gosh, I just feel like I lost a part of my life. I would love to have had them with me all my life. [voice breaks]

Judith Kent:

So you were very aware of the war effort because of them.

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Yes, I sure was. I know my mother had to sign for me because I was only seventeen years old when I went into the Marine Corps. In fact, on that March I had just turned seventeen on March of that year. My mother didn't want to sign, and my dad was a World War I veteran and he didn't want me to go. I had to beg them. All my buddies out of high school were going into the service. I liked the Marine Corps and I thought that I would get into some action (which I did more than I wanted).So that is what we did; I went down there and finally she came along with me and signed the papers for me (and cried all the way).

Judith Kent:

I'll bet she did. She didn't want to lose you, too.

Dr. Giles McCoy:

What a wonderful woman she was. God, I am very fortunate to have had a mother like her; she was something. She was the most intelligent female, she should have been a doctor instead of me. She was so intelligent; she went to school with each one of us kids(and she had eight). She went through all the books, you couldn't bulldoze her at all; she knew every one of the books. All my sisters were very intelligent ladies and they were all in the top part of their class all the time. When I got there it was a pretty hard chore for me to stay up with them.

Judith Kent:

A hard act to follow:

Dr. Giles McCoy:

My brothers were intelligent. She made sure that we had our education. She really believed in knowledge and she believed that we had to be good. I loved her to death. It was a hard part of my life to give her up. It is a shame that we can't have those people live forever.

Judith Kent:

Were any of your buddies with you in the Marines or did you all go your separate ways?

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Well, a couple of them were. [laughs] One of them in particular, he turned out to be a gangster in St. Louis.

Judith Kent:

Oh my!

Dr. Giles McCoy:

I never will forget, he got married and he invited me down and he wanted to make sure that I was going to come to his wedding reception. I was married then and I went and took my wife with me and oh God! He pulled out a 45 [caliber gun] out of his holster and slammed it on the table (he had me up in front with the wedding party). He said, "Anybody gives you any trouble, you just tell old [name deleted] and I will come and take care of them. [laughter] It scared the living devil out of my wife. I said, "[name deleted] put that damn thing away, she never saw anything like that." I said, "Put that away, you've got her scared to death. I'm ready to get out of here and go home". He said,

"I don't want you to leave yet; I'll put it away.

Judith Kent:

What was your basic training like?

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Well, my basic training... I went through boot camp in San Diego [CA] at the Marine Depot in San Diego. After I fired on the range I made a mistake of firing too good. Out of a top possibility of 250 I shot a 248. The Major in the Marine Corps came up to me and said, "Where is this McCoy at?" I said, "Right here". He said, "We are going to make a sniper out of you. We don't have any and you are going to be one of the first ones." I said, "Why are you doing that to me?" He said, "Look at your firing score.

Before we leave here I'm going to give you ten rounds and I want you at five hundred yards to see how many you put in the black." I put eight in the black and he said, "That's why we are sending you off to sniper school." So that is what I became. I didn't like the job; it was a nasty job. I didn't really like it. I almost got court marshaled a couple of times, once for not shooting two Japanese boys. There weren't any more than ten or twelve years old. I had a sergeant with me as an observer and he told me to take those boys out. I told him, "I'm not going to do it." I said, "I wasn't brought up that way and I didn't come into this war to shoot kids." I said, "I've shot men, and I haven't liked it but I'm sure as hell not going to shoot those boys." He said, "Well, I'll get you court marshaled." I said, "Sergeant, you do what you have to do, but I'm not going to shoot them. Here's my rifle, but I'm not going to have that on my conscience; I've got enough on my conscience."

Judith Kent:

Was that on your first tour of duty?

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Yes, that was on Pelelieu. I don't think that the boys were really in combat.

One had a rifle, but I think that they were doing chores around the bivouac area. I think that they were kind of waiting on the Japanese soldiers; I don't think that they were combat soldiers.

Judith Kent:

Do you remember arriving there on the beach?

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Yes, [laughing] I can tell you a big story about that. On the transport that we went in on (I forget the name of the transport)... On the morning of our disembarkment they gave us all the powdered scrambled eggs that we could eat and all the powdered milk that we could drink. I just had my one share, but boy, when we went down in that landing barge, guys were throwing up on back and all over the deck of the landing barge.

You couldn't hardly stand up; I was trying to protect my rifle because that was what I was supposed to do. Then when we got to the landing area the landing barge went into shallow water and we were about four or five hundred yards from the landing beach. We had to get off of the landing vessel and wade in the water and some of it was up to our chests. We had to wade on in and of course the Japs were trying to shoot us and you could see machine gun bullets hitting the water all around us. Finally we got into the beach where we could walk up the beach on the dry land and it was quite an accomplishment surviving that slippery deck and the landing barge because it was full of junk. I know that I told my sergeant when I got my feet on solid ground I said, "Boy, this beats that damn landing barge!" We went on in to the shore and he helped to guide me.

He had already been through one invasion and when he found out that I was pretty good at my job and then found out how young I was, he took me on as a son. He kept telling me, "You do what I tell you and don't ask questions." That is what I did. He said, "I'll get you through this invasion." And he did. I had to do a lot of shooting that I wasn't proud of.

Judith Kent:

Were there a lot of casualties?

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Oh my, yes! Oh my, yes! There was many right there on the beach and then further in we got quite a bit of shelling and a lot of fire fighting, but it wasn't as bad as what we had on Iwo Jima. Iwo Jima was really bad.

After I survived Pelelieu, I got shot by a Japanese sniper. I got him. My sergeant said, "I got him spotted for you." The Jap made a stupid mistake, he got up and moved and when he moved to try and get into a better position to finish me. As soon as I got him in my scope it was over with and we went on from there.

Judith Kent:

How badly wounded were you?

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Well, I was shot through the groin and through my leg here. I was trying to stop the bleeding and decide how badly wounded I was. My sergeant kept saying, "Do you see him; do you see him, McCoy?" I said, "Hell sergeant, I'm busy trying to stop my bleeding." He said, "Get that damned stuff stopped and pick him up, he's moving!" I looked and I found him and I said, "Yeah, I got him!" I clicked a round off and he said,

"Did you get him?" I said, "Sergeant, you know that I don't miss at this range." He said,

"OK, now go and stop that damned wound." I did, and then they sent me back to an island called Pavuvu which is just north of Guadalcanal. It was filled with rats and land crabs and it was really bad. They knew that I had to go further to get my wound treated so they sent me on back to Pearl Harbor and they took care of it.

Then when I got well I got ready to go back to my outfit and one of the officers in the Marine Corps he looked at me and looked at my record. He said, "You've done enough, son. I am going to put you aboard the [USS] Indianapolis." [laughing] Little did I know that I was going to wind up have to swim for five days, but anyhow, he put me aboard the Indianapolis. They pulled into Pearl Harbor and some of the Marines got off.

We had a 39 Marine detachment on board and some of them were eligible for reassignment, so they got off at Pearl and I replaced some of the Marines who got off.

Judith Kent:

What was your first impression of the ship?

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Oh, it was a beautiful ship. In the living quarters... Once you have been in the Marine Infantry and all of a sudden you get on board a clean ship like the Indianapolis and you can take a shower every day and your food is not filled with bugs and you can eat food without gritting your teeth because of all the sand that comes in with it... So it was really a pleasure; I thought I was in heaven. [laughter] Then I stayed on the Indianapolis and I became a "hot shell man" on the Indianapolis.

Judith Kent:

What is a "hot shell man"?

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Well, it was on a five inch/ 38 caliber [gun]. Two of them (we had eight) were manned by Marines on board. Then the Marines also manned the quad-forty which was a forty mm aircraft gun. The five inch one that I was on, I was "hot shell man"; I would catch the hot shell when it would be shot and it would shoot out of the chamber of the five inch. You can't let them bounce around on the deck 'cause they will hit somebody and break a leg. So, it was my job to catch them and throw them into a net.

That is what I did; I was a "hot shell man" and never lost a shell. Then I didn't have to do any more of the other parts of my training until they took me off and put me on Iwo Jima.

We had the 25th Regimental Combat Team and the Fifth Marine Division, they were climbing Suribachi. The Japs were dug in around it and they were sticking out of their holes and they would drop grenades down the side of the mountain and blow the Marines off the side of the hill. It was my job (there were 80 of us altogether, I think there were only 120 of us [snipers] in the Marine Corps at the time) anyway, 80 of us were assigned to snipe the Japs on the hill on Surabichi. So that anybody that stuck their head up, one of us got him. So it kind of protected the regimental combat team.

I might add this (you can always scratch it out) but we were right by the air strip, right there on Iwo; we were laying there in the dirt in a drainage ditch and we had a full view of Suribachi. I just got settled in and I got myself all fixed up so I could lay my rifle on sandbags and all of a sudden here comes a B29 crash landing on the air strip. He slid all of the way across the air strip and his wing went over the top of my head; he finally stopped. Then right behind him comes another B29 only he landed normally on wheels and you could hear him applying his brakes as he went by me; his wings went right over the top of my head. So in talking about it down here in Palm Coast with some of my old WWII buddies(this guy's name was Jim Little) he said, "Gil, the second B29, I was piloting the second B29." He said, "I got shot up over Japan on the raids on Japan and my hydraulics were shot up and we had to repair them before we could go on to Guam.

He said, "I followed that other B29 that crash-landed and so the second one was me."

Gosh, that is so unusual. That was all that went on there.

After they took me off of Iwo, I had to get on one of the landing barges that were going back with wounded; in fact, I helped the Marines load up wounded on the landing barge that was going to go back to the Indianapolis. I could see her out there off of Iwo.

Judith Kent:

She had been bombarding?

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Yes, she had been bombarding and did a hell of a job! I know she helped...

Again back about a month and a half ago I went up to Charleston, SC and I spoke before the USS Pensacola CA 24 (ours was 35), it was a heavy cruiser. I went up and I spoke before them [at their reunion]. They were there [off Iwo Jima] and they took six hits from the Jap artillery that they had in caves. They would bring them out of the caves and then fire them on the ships and then run them back into the caves so that they couldn't be knocked out. The Pensacola lost 120 sailors. We were right along side of her so we took out the field piece that the Japanese were using and the Indianapolis with our five inch guns, we went in real close(we were within three or four hundred yards) and we took out the field piece so that it didn't produce any more harm.

These are funny things that we always remember, the Indianapolis went on with the War and we went up to Okinawa and we took a [hit from a] suicide plane at Okinawa.

Then we had to go back to the states to get repaired. When we got back to Mare Island in California they put us right along side the Pensacola; the Pensacola was there being repaired, too. So, they were repairing us and of course this kind of rivalry goes on amongst the sailors and all. Both of us on each ship got onto the fantail and got out a crate of potatoes and we had a potato fight. [laughter] When I talked to the bunch up at Charleston, SC I said, "Before I start my talk I want to apologize to any of you men that I might have hurt with my potatoes (cause back then I had a real good arm, later on I became a baseball player for the St. Louis Browns). I said, "I apologize." One gentleman waved back in the audience(there was probably about three hundred people there) and he said, "Dr. McCoy, you hit me twice!" [laughter] So, it was fun, but we had a potato fight and it was all in good humor.

Judith Kent:

The kamikaze hit must have been pretty scary.

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Yes, it hit on my side of the ship; I was on the port side where my gun was. I was catching shells as the gun was going up and shooting straight up. I was jamming them into the deck and kicking them away from me. All of a sudden there was no more shells coming. I thought, "What's wrong here?" I looked around and my gun crew was gone! They were all lying on the deck right off right off where I was throwing the shells; they saw the suicide plane come right down to us. It hit about fifty feet from our gun placement. In fact, I went back to the fantail where it hit (it hit on the main deck aft) and I got a hand on the plane to help push it over the side because we didn't want it to catch fire. I could see the Japanese pilot that was plastered up on the dash of the plane; the Navy boys were already wiggling it and then we pushed it on off the side and got rid of it and it didn't ignite. It put a big hole in us [the ship] and we had creep back to Guam. The Indianapolis was the flagship of Admiral Spruance so we had to take him [back to Guam]. He was on board. We had to take him down to Guam and he got on the [USS]

New Mexico. We went on back to the states after they patched us up and kept us from taking on water. We lost 29 men when the kamikaze hit us; it was hot and heavy back then, too.

On Okinawa we went in real close (we were right at Naha) and we were in close, shelling the beach, the different gun emplacements. We were in very close and some of their gun emplacements fired at us, but their rounds came up short. We backed off and then the suicide plane took us.

Judith Kent:

You had some leave time coming(you thought) while the ship was being repaired.

Dr. Giles McCoy:

[laughing] Well, my mother and one of my sisters (my oldest sister)they came out to California to be with me; we could do that, because they weren't going to give us any leave. I told them that I had to go back, that we were in for repairs and we were going to turn around and go right back. My mother said, "Well, we are going to come out and visit you." So they did, they stayed there in Vallejo, CA.

I had a good visit with them and then we were getting prepared to go on. We knew that we had a mission in the states before we left for overseas. So, as we were pulling out of our repair dock I told my mother and sister goodbye and then we left; they went back to Missouri and we left and went down to Hunter's Point in San Francisco. We pulled up along side of the dock there at Hunter's Point and we should have known that there was something big up because there was Marines out in motor launches out in the Bay area and there was armed Marines all over the dock.

Judith Kent:

Tight security!

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Yeah, then we didn't know what we were going to pick up but we wound up taking the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Anyhow, my mother and my sister were still up in Vallejo and so I asked my Executive Officer,

Commander Flynn if I could call my mother. He said, "No, I can't even tell my wife that I'm not coming home for supper!" He said, "We are leaving shortly." Even before dark we up-anchored and took off. We had the bombs placed aboard the ship; they were placed in the port hanger of the ship(that's the one right there that you are looking at).

[points to a poster showing the ship] They had both crates put in there; they had it roped off and they put a 24 hour, Marine guard on board.

Judith Kent:

You had a part in that.

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Yes, I sat on them [the crates] many times on my watch, but I didn't know what they were. Nobody knew what they were.

Judith Kent:

What were you thinking maybe...

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Well, we were making all kinds of nasty jokes for the admirals and the officers; all the guys were taking bets that that is what it was, but we didn't know that it was that desperate. Anyhow, the Captain told us Marines that we had to guard this with our lives and that we couldn't let anybody come in there that wasn't authorized. My statement to him was, "Sir, what the heck, we are going to be out in the middle of the ocean. How can anybody come in here and get in?" He said, "I don't care, none of the enlisted men or officers who are not authorized are to go in there and mess with those crates. You are not to allow anybody to tinker with them unless they are authorized."

There was only two of the scientists that were assigned to the hauling of the bombs(we carried them aboard ship)and they came in and would check it over, but there was only two of them. Their job was that after we put them off at Tinian and on to the Enola Gay and the Box Car(the other B 29) that they were to put them together in flight up to Japan and then drop them on Japan.

Judith Kent:

So you were making good speed...

Dr. Giles McCoy:

The Indianapolis still holds the record as far as I understand the record books for a surface vessel on the trip from the states to Tinian which is about 5,000 miles. We averaged between 29 and 30 knots; most ships can't even do that many knots. The Indianapolis could do 34 to 35 knots and it was a very fast ship; very few destroyers or any of them could keep up with us when we were opened up. That was why Admiral Spruance took it as his flagship, so he could go around to different areas in a hurry.

The Indianapolis was a good ship; it was a happy ship(I know that sounds strange) but you kind of base a combat ship on, "Did you have a happy ship or was it a bitch of a ship?" Ours was a happy ship; Captain McVay was a great skipper and we all had tremendous respect for him. We really knew that he was top drawer as far as any of us were concerned. There were times when he even came down and got into the mess line. I remember one time I was in the mess line(of course I did orderly duty for him and Admiral Spruance, orderly duty is nothing more than a body guard.) I gave my spot to him and he said, "You've been standing in line waiting there, I'll get behind you. You get in there and get your food." If he didn't like the food he called the cooks out and he said,

"Do you expect these men to eat this garbage? You improve that and you do it by tomorrow!" He was that kind of a man.

Judith Kent:

He was big on drilling and training...

Dr. Giles McCoy:

That's right. He wanted a good ship, a well disciplined ship, but he wanted everything to be done just perfectly. When I did orderly duty for him or Admiral Spruance he expected me to be 100% perfect on every message that I brought from him to somebody else or somebody else back to him. He didn't tolerate, "I don't remember..." He didn't understand that; he didn't tolerate any of that and that is why he and I got along so well together. I had a tremendous respect for him.

Like I said, he suffered out there like we did for those five days. He was lucky that he got off the bridge. The first torpedo hit us and it took sixty feet of our bow and left us wide open. The ship was still moving and it was going at seventeen knots and we were just scooping up water and that's why we sunk so quick.

Judith Kent:

Where were you?

Dr. Giles McCoy:

I was three decks below; I had changed the watch a half hour early. We had a brig watch; we had two of our sailors, a cook and a baker who had got a deck court marshal(they had misbehaved on San Francisco)so they got a deck court marshal and they were going through a ten day sentence so we had to stand watch twenty four hours a day on them. They were on bread and water, but they never did; they had the best food.

All their buddies from the cooks and the bakers brought food down and they brought enough for the Marines that were on guard. I had my share of it. They took care of their men and us too.

I changed the watch a half hour early that night because it was so hot below deck.

The Indianapolis had no air conditioning and so we were on the Equator and it was 118,

120 degrees during the day; it was awful hot at night, you couldn't hardly sleep. So I changed the watch and PFC Davis was the guy that was on duty; he just got back to the Marine compartment when the second torpedo hit. It hit right below the Marine compartment and so he just got back in time to get killed. When the second hit, then it blew up our eight inch magazine (which was amidships) and then it threw me from one side of the compartment to the other and men and bunks came down on top of me.

I squirmed out from underneath all of it and all the lights and controls went out. We had no light so I crawled back to my battle station where the brig was and I had an electric battery operated lantern. I turned it on and guys were hollering, wanting to get the bunks off of them. Fellows had broken arms and broken legs and broken ribs. So we started getting them out. I got my two prisoners out and I told them, "I can't let you go topside. I want you to stay here and help me get these men out from underneath these bunks. They did; they did a great job, that's what they did. They stayed right with me and we hauled these guys out. As we would get them out (no matter if they had a broken arm or broken leg, we would get them to go topside if they could make it).

Then a Chief Petty Officer stuck his head down and he said for everybody that was able (in the compartment) to get out because he was going to close and "dog the hatch". When they "dog a hatch" on board a ship to make [a compartment] water tight that means that it is sealed permanently. They close it from above and they put a metal pin in it where you can't open it again from below. I know that my two prisoners, they left me right when he hollered. The second time the Chief came by(the Chief knew me because I had done work for him) he said, "McCoy, you get your butt out of there because I'm dogging the hatch." I came topside and I said, "Chief, let me go back down there again. There are still men down there that can't get out, they are buried underneath bunks and such." He said, "That's where they are going to have to stay, son. I'm not letting you go back."

That is the part that still bothers me, even in my old age. I can still remember hearing those fellows holler, trying to get out. That was going to be their tomb.

They were going to die there. They were going to breathe until all of the air was gone out of their compartment and then they were going to die. I wanted to try to help them, but he wouldn't let me. [tearing]

Judith Kent:

He was trying to save the ship.

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Yes, he was trying to make the compartment water tight. He made me go topside. I went up through the hatch to the next deck and as I got up there the ship kept listing, dropping over on the starboard side. So when I got on deck the ship was laying over real bad. I got to the eight inch gun(that is this one)[points to photo] and I walked up the side of the turret to get up to my battle station. When I got to my battle station the ship just laid over on her side. She was sinking from the bow first and so I scrambled and got up over the splinter shield and I got up there and looked forward and everything was gone but the quarter deck right here [points to photo]. I just started walking down the side of the ship and when I got to the keel I knew... I had a life jacket and I knew that I had to get away from the ship.

When I got to the keel I just squatted down and slid on down into the water and started swimming away. When I looked back, the ship was standing on her nose and the propellers were still going around and men were still jumping off the fantail, many of them hitting the propellers. Anybody that got off the ship and they were injured, they didn't have a chance to live; they were going to die. I was out there and I thought I had to get away from the ship so I started swimming and the ship sucked me on down. I don't know how far I went down; I went down until my head felt like it was going to blow open. Then I caught an air bubble(some of the experts said) and came back up in the air bubble back to the surface. When I looked back there was nothing left but a big old mountain of foam and the Indianapolis(which was our home)was gone. She wasn't there and you could feel her still exploding; I could feel the explosions under the water hitting me in the groin as I was trying to get my life jacket on.

Judith Kent:

Let's take a brief pause right here.

Dr. Giles McCoy:

OK.

Tape #2

Dr. Giles McCoy:

I guess we were in the water [before the interruption] and we didn't know how long we were going to be out there. The first day (this was at midnight, the ship was sunk right at midnight) it was real dark, there were very few breaks in the sky...

Judith Kent:

Rough weather?

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Yes, the weather was rough, windy and a there was a lot of waves; there was so much oil (fuel oil)on the surface that I swallowed a whole bunch. When you swallowed [fuel oil] it made you sicker than the devil. You just vomited all the time until your insides felt like they were coming out; it just got so bad. Anyhow, I was floating out there and I came across another group of men and got with them. One of them was a bosuns mate that was a good friend of mine that I had done duty with; his name was Gene Morgan. Gene was straddling a five inch powder can, he didn't have a life jacket. I got up to him and he recognized me. I said, "Gene, you can't survive on that powder can. We don't know how long we are going to be out here." He said, "Well, that's all I got!" We had to wait until a dead body floated by with a life jacket on; I took it off the body and said a prayer to it and let it go. I put it [the jacket] on him and then I left him.

A group of fellows had a piece of a raft that had come up and it was damaged from the second torpedo, I guess. The whole front of the raft was all blown off. If you look at that poster you can see the raft [points at detail of poster]. That is the only thing that was out there; they didn't have a bottom to it. There was already a bunch of guys that were holding onto what was left of it. I got there and Gene didn't want to go. He said,

"No, they will pick us up tomorrow." I said, "It may not be tomorrow." And it wasn't.

Anyhow, I got there and one of the guys(I had swallowed a lot of oil and was sick)one of the guys got hold of me and helped me get my life jacket tied on and helped me get through my vomiting and all. Then we started, and we wound up with seventeen of us all together.

Judith Kent:

So you were all in the water, some of you were inside the raft.

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Well, there was no bottom in the raft, it was just a ring, a balsam ring; you had to have a life jacket other wise you would drown. Most of us were hanging on the outside and then when daylight came the sharks came. We had sharks everywhere. The first couple of days there was probably a hundred sharks around us all the time. A couple of guys got hit by sharks and got taken down. We did everything wrong. We kicked our feet and tried to get them up out of the water and we climbed on top of one another because we knew they would come underneath you and come up after you. Even where the raft was damaged, blown apart (the rope netting that was inside the raft) they would come up and would swim with their head into the raft. I kicked seven of them in my days, kicking their nose out of that raft. I never did know, I never had any training on sharks, I was just told you had to try to keep away from them. If you got hit by one of them you were pretty well going to die, because it would attract a lot more sharks. I found out that if you hit them in the eye, kicked them in the eye ball it really hurt them and they would leave you alone. You could see thirty, forty, fifty feet down into the water and you see the thrash back and forth after you hit them. They just couldn't stand that, and they left you alone; the sharks that you kicked in the eye, they didn't come back. The other ones would come back, but not those.

Anyway, we went through the time and (I guess this is what you are wanting) the days went on. I kept trying to encourage everybody that within 48 hours they would be picking us up out of the water. I kept telling a lot of the guys that were wanting to give up (guys started giving up quick) I would tell them, "You can't die, you got to stay alive, you've got a family at home, hang in there." I said, "I don't have a family, I just have a wonderful mother and a bunch of sisters and my father and I want to stay alive for them if I can. Some of you guys got families" So we tried to help one another and as the days went on and nobody showed up we realized we were not going to be picked up out of the water. We were going to eventually die and I didn't want to end up in the belly of some shark and neither did the other guys.

Judith Kent:

Some of them were having some psychiatric problems.

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Yes, a lot of them had them bad. They were seeing thing and they were hallucinating. It was easier to die than it was to stay alive; to stay alive you had to work at it, but to die all you had to do was quit, just give up. We kept trying to encourage the guys. They wanted the easy way out, they had all [the suffering] they wanted. We kept a lot of them alive.

Then one of the rescue vessels came on the forth night. When he [the captain of the ship] was alive I told him(his name was Graham Claytor, he was the captain of the Cecil Doyle which was a destroyer)... I told him many, many times when I had a chance to talk to him, "You not only saved my life, because that is what gave me encouragement, but you saved many other people's lives by doing what you did." [tearing] He did a very brave thing. When he came into the area he got the radio messages from the airplanes so he didn't wait for somebody to tell him to break off and go rescue the survivors. He just took it on his own and when he got into the area he was afraid that he was going to run over some of the survivors and kill them. He decided to put his search lights into the water and to put one up into the sky [reflecting] off the clouds to give everybody hope.

That is what I saw. [voice breaks] I don't like doing this. [pause]

Judith Kent:

That was kind of a beacon of hope.

Dr. Giles McCoy:

It really was. We tried to tell these guys, "Don't die! There is a light; they are going to pick us up out of the water tomorrow. They are going to give us water and they are going to be doctors to take care of us, so don't quit, stay alive!" It was a lot easier to die than stay alive. Some of them listened, some of them did not.

Judith Kent:

Was religion a comfort?

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Oh yes. I prayed so hard to God. I was brought up in a religious family; I was Catholic and my mother was a very devout Catholic. I promised God that if he got me out of this that I would go back home and I would study and I would do something with my life. I would not kill any more of his people. I would become a doctor; that is what I did.

When I got back home I told my mother what I had promised God and she said, "Well son, you better get started!" She said, "You can't expect your dad to help you; he can't afford it." I said, "No, I think the government will help me get through(we had the G I Bill of Rights). I said, "I'll work real hard even in school and I will work in the summertime, but I'll get through. The GI Bill will help pay my way." It did. I will always be in debt to my government.

Judith Kent:

Before we go on with your post military life, I'd like to hear about how you actually were picked up and the happy ending of your...

Dr. Giles McCoy:

All right. Well, like I told you, Graham Claytor put the light on and that became everything because I had already given up. I had accepted the fact that I was going to die and was going to wind up in the belly of some damn shark. I even tried to scrub some of the oil off of my body so I would be a little bit more presentable to God whenever I took my last breath. It is real strange when you are dehydrating and dying of thirst your tongue swells up, at least ours did. My tongue was sticking out of my mouth and everybody else's were too. I put my hand over it to keep from getting sunburned.

Some of the guys got their tongues all sunburned and horrible looking sores came on them. I would hold my hand over my mouth and try to protect my tongue. Then as the days went on food was no problem, you could do without food but you couldn't do without that water. The guys went out of their heads. I still had an old 45 on me from when I was on duty. It was all rusted shut but they didn't know that. I couldn't have put a round in it at all because it was all rusted from the salt water. I took it out and pointed it at each one of them and said, "Take your knife and throw it away(because they were starting to fight with one another and hallucinate). They were going to kill one another. In some groups they did. Poor Dr. Haynes group, he had over 400 men in his group and only 93 of them survived. Dr. Haynes said that so many of the guys fought one another and killed one another with their knives. He had no means of getting the knives away from them. I didn't know all this but I knew the guys with me, they were starting to fight with one another and draw knives, so I just took my 45 out and pointed it at them and said,

"Throw your knife away." I said, "I'm going to throw mine away." Because every man on board ship had a knife; so I threw mine away first and everybody followed suit.

Finally I said, "All right, here goes the 45" and I threw it away. Everybody just got down to arguing with one another and accusing one another of hoarding food and hoarding water and we had nothing but nobody would listen.

Judith Kent:

Then you saw planes in the area.

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Then the way that we were accidentally found, Chuck Gwinn was the pilot of a PV Ventura which was a land based plane. He was on routine sub [submarine] patrol.

He flew out of Pelelieu. He came into our area and he had a trailing wire [radio antenna] problem. They put out a trailing wire with a weight so that they could send a better [radio] message back to their land base. He had his trailing wire out and the weight had broken off and it was banging up against the fuselage so he was afraid that it was going to damage the plane. He went back and opened up the bomb bay doors and got down on his belly and cranked it in by hand to keep it from damaging his plane. When he did he looked down and saw the oil slick and thought that there was a crippled submarine [there]. So he pickled(when they fused their bombs they called it "pickling")so he pickled his bombs and started a bombing run down to the oil slick. The closer he got to the water he could see all these heads bobbing up and down and sharks all around. He backed off and knew that it wasn't a submarine, there was too many men for a submarine.

Then he radioed back and that was the first message that went back. It was just accidental that he found us.

Another brave, brave man(he is dead now too, he died last year)was Adrian Marks. Adrian Marks was off of Pelelieu also, but he was flying a PBY(that was a plane that could land in the water, a sea plane). Anyhow, he heard the message and thought that some Navy pilot had run out of gas or had motor problem and had to ditch his plane and was out there in the water by himself, so he [Marks] would go out there and pick them up and take them back to safety. He went out into our area and when he got there he couldn't believe what he saw with all the men and all the sharks(the sharks were everywhere). He landed his PBY in the water; he wasn't supposed to do that, he could have got court marshalled for it. He got permission from all his crew members and he put the plane down in a trough(we were having 10 to 12 foot seas all the time). He got it in to one of the troughs and went around and started picking up survivors; he wound up picking up 56 survivors. He filled his fuselage and so he was still picking up men. These guys [Marks' crew] were real strong and very brave in doing what they were doing; they would pick up survivors and put them on the wing and punch a hole in the wing and tie them on with parachute shrouds to keep them from sliding off into the water. He exhausted what water he had; he gave everybody a little bit of the water that he had (he had three gallons of water on board).He kept them on all that night and took them off the next morning and put them on the [USS] Doyle. Dr. Haynes was one of them. Whenever they got back to Dr. Haynes then he reported to the Commanding Officer. In fact Captain Meyer(I'm ahead of my story)on the Doyle... Dr. Haynes went up to the Commander of the Doyle,

Graham Claytor and told them who he was and what we were and how long we had been in the water. He couldn't believe that we were out there for that long. He [Claytor] was very careful and finally got Adrian Marks plane sunk; they took all the valuable radio equipment off of it and had his men shoot it and sink it. Then he started back with them [the survivors].

Several other ships came into the area; the APD Ringlesswhich was a small destroyer converted into a personnel carrier that the UDT boys used)that is the Under- water Demolition crew that they used and the Seals used them. Anyhow, the APD

Ringless with Captain Meyer, he picked up Captain McVey (he was one of the last ones) and my group was the very last one. From what we were able(all these authors and everybody was able to figure out) I was the very last person that was taken on board ship.

Judith Kent:

That was cutting it close!

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Captain Meyershe died just a couple of weeks ago) I remember when I got on board the Ringless, I was "Mr. Macho" and I told all the guys with me that I was a tough Marine and I would take care of them as long as I had life in me and I wouldn't let them drown and I wouldn't let the sharks get them. Anyhow, I came up with the idea that I could walk into one of compartments where they had bunks and all. I stood up and my legs gave out and I fell right flat on my face. I couldn't get up, so I remember I turned on my side and kissed the deck. Everybody laughed and thought that was funny. Finally a couple of guys got me into a stretcher and put me back and put me in a bunk.

I remember when the Ringless first came up to us I had everybody tied together because if your life jackets weren't... They didn't last forever, they soaked up water after 72 hours. All of us our chins were just sticking up out of the water because our life jackets were sinking. So I tied everybody together so that they couldn't drop their faces in the water and drown. I tied myself to the group too at the end. I remember when the Ringless came by I was able to talk to them and hollered at them, "We don't have any knives, somebody will have to cut us apart." Two sailors dove in right away and [laughs] they saw these five sharks that had been around us all day long; as soon as they saw the sharks they turned around and went right back to the ship. Then two more sailors came in and they swam out and cut us all loose. Three of the guys were unconscious. We had kept them alive by keeping their heads out of the water. We took them to the ship first and took them up in seats(painter seats) and got them aboard. Then those of us who thought we were real strong tried to climb up on the landing net... It was a big mistake, we didn't have the strength to do it.

They got us aboard and they put us in bunks and just doctored us, tried to take care of us. They gave us a teaspoon of water at a time. They said that "Mr. Macho" here,

I wanted some water. I took my 45... I thought I still had my 45 and I told the sailor that was there taking care of me, I said, "I've got a 45 here and I am going to pull it out and I am going to get some water!" [laughter] He said, "You'll get sick!" The doctor came in there and told me how I would get sick. I said, "I'll take the sickness." He gave me about that much water [gestures with fingers about a two inches] in a coffee cup. Boy, I got sicker than a horse; my temperature went sky high. That was the wrong thing to do. After they finally got us back to Pelelieu(that was the main base)we went to the hospital there in Pelelieu. I remember one of the sad things that we lost three men on Pelelieu that died after they were taken out of the water.

Judith Kent:

After all that!

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Yes. One of them was just two bunks down from me. I tried to get over there to him; I had a hard time [getting there]. I held his hand and tried to help him [voice breaks] until he died.

Judith Kent:

So close...

Dr. Giles McCoy:

He died of pneumonia. They had him in an oxygen tent and he would fight and get out of it and there was nobody there to take care of him. I would get over there and tuck it back in and try to calm him down and hold his hand. Then he finally died. We lost three of them on Pelelieu and we lost two more on Samora (some of the guys went to Samora).Then I remember while we were there in Pelelieu waiting for the hospital ship,

Tranquility, I went blind. I remember when this corpsman came in checking on me; my legs were real bad. We had salt water ulcers and from the [life jacket] straps between your legs and all, then the fact that I got shot in this one [points to leg] my legs got real bad. They were all wrapped up and they would weep [drain] and they were just ugly looking things, terrible. They came in to check my bandages and this one time he came in and I said, "You know what? I think I am going blind!" He said, "You what?" I said, "I can't see you. All I can see is just an outline of your head." He said, "Let me get the doctor real quick." He went and got a doctor and he came in there and he checked me over and he said, "You are sun blind from the reflection off the ocean. Your retinas are inflamed and you are sun blind but your sight will come back in four or five days." It did.

Then they put us on the hospital ship Tranquility. They had to cart all of us out in stretchers, nobody hardly could walk. They put us on this real nice hospital ship and took us all back to Guam.

They put us in Base 18 Hospital on Guam. That was great; we all knew that we had a good shot at living now. Most of us were recuperating. I remember one day the Captain came down and I was up. I had a young Marine right next to me and my bunk and he had lost his leg. He kept forgetting; he would get out of bed to go to the toilet and land on his stub and bust it open and start bleeding. I would jump out and we would put towels around him and pack him with towels to stop the bleeding and get him back into the operating room. He did this twice and finally they said they weren't going to operate on him any more; they weren't going to sew him up. He was going to have to behave. We pulled his bunk up real close to mine. I said, "Damn you, when you have to go to potty you holler and I will go with you." So we did; we would all take turns taking him back and getting him all fixed up so that he could urinate and go to the potty without busting his leg open.

So I was up doing this one morning when Captain McVay came in and he came up to me and said, "McCoy, I see you are up and around. Are you feeling alright?" I said,

"Well, as good as I can, sir. What do you need?" He said, "You know what I need? I need a jeep and I need a driver. Would you be my orderly?" I said, "Sir, I would be happy to do that for you, anything to get me out of here." He said, "Alright, I've got a driver and a jeep out there now, have them take you down there [to the motor pool] and check out a jeep for me; just put it in my name." I said, "Alright, sir." So that is what I did and I drove him back and forth to CINCPAC which was the mountain where Admiral Nimitz and all of them had their headquarters on Guam. CINCPAC means Commander In Chief,

Pacific.

I remember one time coming back down off of there I scared the living hell out of him. We had a big rain shower come over and it pushed some mud down on the road and I come down there and didn't realize the mud was there. I hit it with that jeep and we spun around and wound up right on the edge of the mountain. We looked down and it was about four or five hundred feet. He said, "Are you sure that you are a good driver?" I said, "Well sir, I am sorry. I didn't mean to let this happen." He said, "Well, if you want me to drive, I'll drive." I said, "No sir, I will do my job."

After we got back and got out of that mud he said, "You know what, McCoy? I think they are going to try and hook me for the loss of the ship." I couldn't believe it.

That's all he ever told me, he never did confide in me. I said, "I don't know how they can do that sir. Gosh, you are a survivor just like us." I said, "That was an act of war. Hell, we know we got sunk by torpedoes and but it was an act of war."

Years after they did court marshal him and then years after(back in 1990 after some of the books got out about the Indianapolis) the government sent my wife and me over to Pearl Harbor and I got a chance to met Hashimoto [the captain of the Japanese submarine that sank the Indianapolis].

They brought him over from Japan to Pearl Harbor. They also brought him to the states to testify against Captain McVay. I know that whenever they did that, to me... I had my testimony; I was a witness at the trial of Captain McVay so I was in Washington DC. When it was my turn to go into the court marshal area to testify they sat me right next to Hashimoto. I couldn't believe it! I just was so upset! I even said so, and Captain McVay, he liked that. I said, "How come you got... Who is this guy here? He is Japanese." They said, "Well, he is the one who sunk you." I said, "How can you do that? Is he testifying against my skipper?" I said, "For crying out loud, my skipper is a great man! Why did you bring him over for?" They told me that it was none of my business, it was part of the court marshal. I know that Captain McVay, he liked what I said. When I got through with my testimony I went back and I told the rest of the guys, I said, "You know, they got that Japanese bastard that sunk us.

You are going to have to sit next to him when you testify." That upset everybody, too.

Anyway, we went through it but they court marshaled him. We all felt that it was such a terrible thing to do.

I know in 1964... Well in 1960 I got the [survivor] reunion going and he [Captain McVay] came to our 1960 reunion (the first one) and I asked him for permission try and get him exonerated. He refused me. He said, "No, I was the commanding officer and I will take my punishment." I said, "Well sir, it is unjust." He said, "That's alright, that's the way the Navy works." So he wouldn't give me permission. Then in 1964 (we had them every five years) we were getting ready for the '65 reunion and I called him and said, "Skipper, will you give me permission to try to get you exonerated?" He said, "I can't go to the reunion because my wife is dying, but I am going to give you permission but it isn't going to do any good. Don't work too hard on it because the Navy won't back off." I said, "But you will allow me to do it?" He said, "Yes, go ahead." so I started and didn't get anywhere until that young boy up in Pensacola, FL, little Hunter Scott got started. God love him! He called me and I told him how far I had gone and gave him a bunch of names of guys that I thought would talk to him because some of the guys wouldn't talk about it. Some of them even busted me for getting the reunions going. They thought that was wrong, bringing it back.

Judith Kent:

They didn't want to revisit that.

Dr. Giles McCoy:

No, they didn't want to go back. A couple of them got pretty harsh in their letters. They told me... Boy, they really called me something! But anyhow, they got me upset enough that I contacted a psychiatrist that was over at Missouri University(because I went to school there).I contacted one of them on the staff and told him what I was doing about getting the reunion started and was I wrong (because I didn't want to do anything that would hurt the guys). He said, "No, that would be the best thing that ever happened to them. They need to talk about it. You go right on and do what you are doing." So I went on with the reunion.

But then when little old Hunter got started in it why (God love him, he got more ears and doors opened up than I could ever get done!). Finally last year in October we got the Senate... A bunch of us(I think seven of us survivors) went to Washington DC and appeared before the Senate and we testified on behalf of Captain McVay. He killed himself in 1968 and I got the picture of him. The state patrol that investigated the suicide, they found out that I was the chairman of the survivors group so they sent me a picture of him (he had shot himself and was laying on the stoop). I've still got it at home. I don't know if I should destroy it or what. I have talked to his two sons (one of them is dead now, Kimo) and Kimo said he definitely didn't want it. I said, "Well, I don't want to keep it here because when I die I don't want somebody to turn it over the Indianapolis group unless they really want it." I had a couple of historians say that I should keep it and find a place for it. Maybe someday I will.

That is sort of it. We got him exonerated and I was just overjoyed with the fact that we got him exonerated. I just wish that he was alive to understand that we didn't give up on him, that we stayed with him. That is what I tried to get the Navy and all to understand, that combat people just don't forsake other combat people. We stay there and we fight for honor. That is what was violated with Captain McVay; his honor was violated. It was up to us to fight to get his honor back. That is what we did and I am proud that we did.

Judith Kent:

How does the memorial fit into all that?

Dr. Giles McCoy:

What we did... I am kind of a sentimental person anyhow, but after we got the reunion going (even before we had the monument built) it is hard on me because it was a bad reunion. [voice breaks] I had all the survivors in our 1965 reunion sit together with the ones they survived with. So all we did was cry, everybody was crying. We got Dr.

Haynes to come because he didn't come [to the 1960 reunion] because he said it was just too hard on him. I begged him and he came to that [1965] one. He was sitting up with his group near me and after we got through with it I had everybody hold hands and we made a pledge that we would never forget the men that we left out there at sea. [voice breaks]

That we would always come back until there was no more of us and pay a memorial tribute to the men that we lost on the Indianapolis. We all swore to it, we stood up and held hands and made the pledge that we would never forget them.

Then I finally decided that I had a chance to build a monument. I got people interested and I got the mayor of Indianapolis and he was great [Mayor William Herbert Hudnutt III]. He was a great guy, he listened to me and I told him that I needed some land and that once I had the land I would get the money. I got one lady right from the beginning (she was such a smart lady, she is dead now).She lost a son on the Indianapolis. Her son was one of the ensigns; he had just got aboard the Indianapolis and then ten days later he was dead. She was a very wealthy lady from Hartford, CT. She said, "You're going to need money to pay the architects to get this thing going." I said, "Yes ma'am, I have already started. I have put a thousand dollars in it and I am going to get some of my buddies to put money in it and we are going to go ahead with this." She just sat down and wrote me a check for $25,000.

She said, "Here, put this in that fund and that will help you." Darn it, we got the money and finished while she was still alive and I sent her pictures of it but she never had a chance to come down and look at it before she died. Her name was Mrs. Keeney and her son was ESN [Robert A.] Keeney.

Dr. Giles McCoy:

The real sad part of her son: a couple of survivors survived with him and when Adrian Marks landed his PBY in the water, why he [Keeney] took his life jacket off and was going to swim to the PBY, and didn't make it.

He just didn't have the strength and he just quit and drowned and nobody could get to him. I told the guys, "Don't tell Mrs. Keeney that, let's don't let her know that."

Judith Kent:

She didn't need to know that.

Dr. Giles McCoy:

I don't think anybody ever told her that. I had a little plaque made and put it on the monument, "In memory of Mrs. Keeney" because she was our first big donor. I made many trips back to Indianapolis from Missouri where I was practicing and would meet with people. I remember after I told some of our story this one gentleman (he was a very wealthy man in Indianapolis) he just took his check book out and wrote me a check for $70,000 and gave it to me. I jumped up and I grabbed him and hugged him and I said,

"I would kiss you but I don't want to embarrass you!" He said, "That won't embarrass me" and I kissed him on the cheek. I said, "Thank you." [voice breaks] That is pretty well what went on with all this.

Judith Kent:

This poster that you have shown us, it was something that you did in relation to the memorial?

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Yes. The big donors or any fund that I was going to go to(fund raising thing) I would take this along and set it up on an easel or a chair and tell them that was the Indianapolis, that is the one that we want the monument made for. Then that down below is the same as what is above(that is semaphore down below) it says, "Still at sea". You say that [about lost naval vessels] even among submarine people, they call them, "Still on patrol". I lost a couple, well one real good childhood buddy of mine, he died on the Covina. He was running supplies into Corregidor when it was sealed off and the Japs were getting ready to take it. The Japs caught him running supplies in and sunk his submarine. [tearing]

The only reason that I keep going back and doing talks on this and even the interview today is to remind people that our freedoms are not free, that we have to pay for them. It is a costly darn thing we pay for; we pay with lives! I can remember on Pelelieu holding young men in my arms and watching them bleed to death. Watching them squirting blood fifteen or twenty feet until they ran out of blood and died. I know guys out there in the water with me and all... You don't forget them. If people don't remember them then what the hell did they waste their lives for? Why did we do all this?

I worry about our new conflict with Iraq. I have two grandsons that are eligible for the draft; both of them are in college. I think gosh, if I could just go in their place, I would gladly go. I would have a hard time keeping up with the young people, but I can still shoot a rifle. Hell, take me in their place, because my life is over with but theirs has just started. I would like to see us live in peace for a while. I would like to see one of our presidents one of these days say, "I am going to take care of the United States and nobody else. I am not going to give any aid to anybody until we are 100% taken care of and I am not going to send any more boys into harms way. I am going to have peace in this world." Man, I would love that!

Judith Kent:

Well, I am very glad that you were able to exonerate your captain.

Dr. Giles McCoy:

I am too. I did it before I died.

Judith Kent:

You were awarded two Purple Hearts?

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Yes, one for Pelelieu and one for the Indianapolis.

Judith Kent:

...and a unit citation, finally?

Dr. Giles McCoy:

Well, we got that. It isn't what we really wanted, but it is alright. It is a Navy Commendation for bravery and for what we went through out there in the water.

Everybody should read the book ; a lot of people don't like to read that stuff. People need to know it, to know what went on in our war and why. One thing I always tell them...

I spoke in Springfield, MO to all the high schools a year ago. They flew me from Texas (I have a Texas house and was there visiting my kids) they flew me from Dallas up to Springfield and I spoke before 1,600 kids. This was the first they ever really heard about the war [WWII]. The principal is a very close friend of mine (in fact he was a patient of mine at one time).

He had a terrible blood disease; I had to send him to a hematologist. He wound up loosing both of his legs and had to have artificial legs. I told him, "Make sure when you go to these state meetings (education meetings) that you set aside a program where you can say we are going to teach our kids about World War II."

Every time I talk before them I always say(I start off with this one phrase), "World War II veterans saved the world. If it wasn't for the men in Europe beating Germany and for us in the Pacific beating the Japs our world would not be free.

Our world would be dominated and you wouldn't have the freedoms that you all have right now. Remember this and when you go a little further think back to whenever our fore fathers started this country, when they made the Declaration of Independence, think of what that great document meant and think of the men back then that gave their lives to see that it was held up and that people didn't destroy those ideas." I always tell the kids, "I am proud that I had a chance to serve my country that needed me because it is a privilege to live in this country, so don't ever forget that." I don't want any of us old people to forget it. It is a privilege to be here and to live in this country.

Judith Kent:

Well, I hope that the Veterans Project will further that cause.

Dr. Giles McCoy:

I am sure they will, but I am proud that I had a chance to serve my country.

Judith Kent:

Thank you very much for sharing your story.

Dr. Giles McCoy:

You are most welcome.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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