PANAMA CITY BEACH -- July 30, 1945 the naval warship the Indianapolis was hit by two Japanese torpedoes. The ship sank leaving much of its crew in the water fighting for their lives.
Students from NSA’s naval dive school got a lesson in naval history Friday, when they heard the story of one of the last survivors of the USS Indianapolis.
92-year-old Victor Buckett is one of about 35 remaining survivors of one of the US Navy's deadliest tragedies.
He was on-board the USS Indianapolis when a Japanese submarine torpedoed and sank it during World War 2.
Buckett shared his story Friday with students at Naval Support Activity Panama City's dive school.
The Indianapolis had just dropped off a shipment of uranium to be used in one of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan. In the early morning hours of June 30th, 1945, a Japanese sub spotted the Indianapolis and sank her.
Three-hundred people went down with the ship. The 900 left in the Pacific battled exposure to sun, heat and saltwater...dehydration, starvation....and shark attacks.
After four days a PV-1 Ventura aircraft spotted the crew and called in a rescue.
"Possibly we would not be found and that they would forget all about us and we'd be so lucky that our angel Wilbur Gwen finally found us and we became good friends actually," said Buckett.
Of the 1,200 Indianapolis crew members, only 317 survived.
Buckett's story inspires thousands. But for the people in the auditorium, it also gives them a sense of pride.
NDSTC Officer Hung Cao said, "It's like passing the torch from one generation to another these men are about to do great things for this nation and it's great to understand the people that went before them.”
"I think I would like all the young people really to learn the story about World War II and all the experiences a lot of people went through. And i think its wonderful to share it with them,” said Buckett.
Buckett's grandson, Trevor Buckett, who is scheduled to graduate from the Navy dive school in a week, had never heard his grandfather share his story.
Dive Student Trevor Buckett said, "It made me proud, it made me really proud to be an American for sure but it definitely made me proud to hear his side of the story and see how resilient he was during the World War and just to see how far he's come in his life after going through an ordeal like that it's just...It hits your heart."
More than a dozen of the Indianapolis survivors attended the group's final large-scale reunion last August in Indianapolis. It's the last because of the dwindling number of survivors.