The National Rifle Association’s Life of Duty channel is honoring U.S. military members who made the ultimate sacrifice, this Memorial Day with a tribute featuring a WWII veteran who spent 47 hours in shark-infested waters after his ship sunk.
Norman St. Germain, a Seaman First Class on the USS Gambier Bay, was 18 years old when the vessel went down in the Leyte Gulf. He was one of 400 seamen aboard the ship on October 25, 1944, when it underwent enemy fire and eventually sunk, taking an estimated 200 men with it. St. Germain was one of the lucky to live and be rescued.
Watch this clip from the feature showing St. Germain visiting the WWII memorial in Washington, D.C.:
After graduating high school at 17 and before going to war, St. Germain was set work in ship yards in Washington state with his father. He worked there for a couple weeks but didn’t like it and had his parents sign for him to enter the Navy. The St. Germain family then had four sons serving in the war.
After the battle that sunk the USS Gambier Bay, St. Germain and others who had abandoned ship were floating in the water on rafts — or at least clinging to a raft. But after a while sharks began attacking some who were dangling in the water.
“I could hear screaming, and I think that’s when they were being taken,” St. Germain said.
“It was a long night — a real long night,” he said, noting they couldn’t wait for daybreak when they were expected to be rescued. But even upon daybreak, rescue didn’t come. Without food or water in the hot sun, the soldiers at least took turns hanging onto the raft or being inside of it.
On the second day toward evening, St. Germain said he thought they were officially goners. On the third day, a rescue ship came and dropped a net, which he didn’t even have the strength to climb up.
When he eventually got back to the United States and went to his family’s home, “all hell broke loose” when they found out he was alive, he said.
His older brother though was killed in a death march during the war. St. Germain, now 86, said he is still “so bitter” over his brother’s death.
Here’s the full emotional feature of St. Germain and the battle, which includes the perspective of other WWII veterans involved as well: