All this week on ABC 13 News, we'll profile heroes from right here in the Heart of Virginia who have served and sacrificed for us.
Reporter: Ashley Singh
Danville, VA - Louis Shannon spent long days and nights at sea with enemy submarines below the surface and German planes above. He watched as allied ships sunk around him. Still, he continued to deliver supplies to soldiers that needed them.
Louis Shannon joined the Navy at 21 years old. He was a gunner on a Merchant ship during World War II.
"Right many of our people were 19-20 years old. They never had been away from home," he said.
He spent four years at sea delivering war materials to other young men in war zones. Every trip was a risk. Louis says once, he watched as a ship right in front of him blew up; he says no one made it out alive.
"We didn't know whether it was torpedoed or the sea plane dropped a bomb on it or what but it went down in less than a minute," he said.
He and his crew almost suffered the same fate.
"We were supposed to go to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and that night we got torpedoed," he said.
They lowered their rafts and life boats and watched as the ship sank. Suddenly, it started to storm. Louis thinks that's what kept the German sub from coming after them.
"I couldn't see my hand in front of me, so they didn't know where we were we could hear them talking on the sub but they didn't know where we were," said Shannon.
The crew of about a hundred were left at sea to die.
"We stayed three days at sea with just that raft. We could see sharks swimming around," he said.
Finally, on the fourth night, they were rescued. Louis says it's a miracle that everyone on that boat survived.
"The Cuban gunboat came on scene it looked like a battle ship to me. We all were so happy to see somebody coming to rescue. It was a mighty good thing to see," he said.
He says the first thing the rescuers did was give them a shot of vodka to warm up. He says the crew hadn't eaten much and so he felt that drink from his head down to his toes. He says that was a very good night.
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