Living history: Veterans Day remembrance to be held at Merrill Gardens

On July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the Philippine Sea and sank in 12 minutes. Of almost 1,200 men on board, about 300 went down with the ship. The remaining 900 men were left floating with no lifeboats in shark-infested waters. The ship was never missed, and by the time the survivors were spotted by chance four days later, there were only 316 of them left.

The ship's captain, Charles Butler McVay III, was among the survivors. He was court-martialed and convicted of "hazarding his ship by failing to zigzag." Overwhelming evidence indicated that he was a scapegoat for others' mistakes.

In 2000, following years of effort by other survivors, President Clinton finally exonerated Captain McVay (who died in 1968) for the loss of the Indianapolis.

One of the other survivors is Eugene Morgan, boatswain mate second class, now 85. As a voice of "living history," he speaks to schools and organizations about his experience on the Indianapolis. "I was inspired to do this," says Morgan, "when I overheard a kid say he hadn't heard of World War II."

On Veterans Day, Morgan will lead a conversation with other local war veterans at Merrill Gardens, a new retirement community in Lower Queen Anne. A pancake breakfast will be served from 8 to 10 a.m.; Morgan will begin speaking at 9 a.m.

Morgan was asked to speak at this event by his old friend Paul Whaley, who lives at Merrill Gardens. Morgan and Whaley both graduated from Queen Anne High School, Morgan in 1939 and Whaley in 1944. Whaley is a lifelong resident of Queen Anne.

"We want to do something for our male residents," says Toni Rad-ford, community relations director at Merrill Gardens. "Most of our events, like craft fairs, are for women, because a majority of our residents are women.

"But mainly," she continues, "we want to say thanks to our veterans." Radford's brother is currently serving in Iraq.

There are four Merrill Gardens retirement communities in Seattle, and over 60 nationwide. The one in Lower Queen Anne just opened on May 15. With a capacity of about 200 residents, the facility now has a population of 113, at least 25 of them war veterans.

Among them are:

* Frank Evans, who served as an electrician's mate mostly aboard the USS Leary during World War II;

* Jim Husseman, who served mostly aboard the USS Claxton during WWII, starting as an apprentice seaman and retiring after a career in the Navy as a chief quartermaster;

* Paul Whaley, who served in the Army Air Force in occupied Japan after the war; and

* Bruce Poulsen, who served stateside during the Korean War and again in the reserves during the Vietnam War.

Veterans and the public alike are invited to this event. Hard lessons of history, not just war stories, will be told.

Veterans Day Pancake Breakfast

Saturday, Nov. 11

Breakfast served 8-10 a.m. At 9 a.m. a conversation will be led by Eugene Morgan, survivor of the USS Indianapolis naval disaster during World War II

Merrill Gardens at Queen Anne

805 Fourth Ave. N.

Cost: Free for veterans, $5 for guests

RSVP: 284-0055 by Nov. 8

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