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Experiencing War (Companion to the New Book -- Forever a Soldier): Stories from the Veterans History Project

The vulnerability of men serving their country is dramatically recalled in these stories, beginning with two vivid tales of survival at sea. Tales of prisoners of war span five wars, from World War I, with its relatively genteel conditions, to the privations suffered by the men and women who fought the Japanese, Vietnamese, and Iraqis, when civility often took a back seat to expediency and cruelty. In each instance, the prisoner tapped on reserves of fortitude and patience to overcome their captors' brutality.

Image of Giles G. McCoy
Giles McCoy in uniform,
circa 1940's.


After surviving three of the Pacific Theater's most harrowing campaigns and a kamikaze attack, Marine Giles McCoy thought the worst was over when his ship returned to the States for repairs in the summer of 1945. But that ship, the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis, had one more mission to perform, whose aftermath--hundreds of men stranded for days in shark-infested waters--was an event whose horrible consequences still reverberate.

Go to Giles G. McCoy's StoryLearn more about Giles G. McCoy
Jump DownJump to other stories featured in Chapter Five

"I didn't want to end up in the belly of some shark and neither did the other guys." (Audio Interview, Part 2, 5:38)

Image of Rhonda Cornum

"I would have been afraid, except that I was so grateful to be alive."

Rhonda Cornum's story

Image of Roger Dean Ingvalson

"It's very important to exercise your mind in prison."

Roger Dean Ingvalson's story

Image of Johann Kasten IV

"'We are all Americans, we don't differentiate by religion.'"

Johann C.F. Kasten, IV's story

Image of Harold Augustus Lippard

"I wasn't as cocky. It was a pain to go back into battle."

Harold Augustus Lippard's story

Image of John S. McCain, III

"I was privileged to observe a thousand acts of courage and compassion and love."

John S. McCain, III's story

Image of Jose Mares

"I could feel the heat of the muzzle, and I said, 'Well this is it.'"

Jose Mares' story

Image of Harold W. Riley

"It seems mine was the death room, each new patient ... very sick, no one surviving..."

Harold W. Riley's story

Image of John L. Stensby

"I'm probably the only G.I. in the U.S. Army who sunk a warship single handedly."

John L. Stensby 's story

Image of Milton W. Stern

"Let courage be your password, make fortitude your guide/And then instead of grousing, remember those who died."

Milton W. Stern's story

  Home >> Chapter Five: SURVIVORS
  The Library of Congress
  October 13, 2005
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