As the news broke this weekend on the three teenagers found after 50 days lost at sea, I read this riveting article in the latest issue of Vanity Fair. An excerpt from Laura Hillenbrand’s next book, “Adrift but Unborken” is the harrowing true tale of three U.S. soldiers stranded on two life rafts after their plane went down in the Pacific Ocean. The pages in this excerpt are intense and fascinating. Here’s an excerpt of the excerpt:
On the morning of the 27th day, a plane came.
It began with a rumble of engines, and appeared as a spot in the sky. It was a twin-engine bomber, moving west at a brisk clip and so far away that expending the flares and dye would be a questionable move. The men conferred and voted. They decided to take a shot. Louie fired one flare, reloaded, then fired a second, drawing vivid lines across the sky. He opened a dye container and spilled its contents into the ocean, then dug out the mirror and angled a square of light toward the bomber.
The men waited, hoping. The plane grew smaller, then faded away.
As the castaways slumped in the rafts, trying to accept another lost chance, over the western horizon there was a glimmer, tracing a wide curve, then flying toward them. The bomber was coming back. Overcome with joy, Louie, Phil, and Mac tugged their shirts over their heads and snapped them back and forth in the air, calling out. The bomber leveled off, skimming over the water. Louie squinted at the cockpit. He made out two silhouettes, a pilot and co-pilot. Crying with joy, he thought of Palmyra, food, solid ground underfoot.
And then, all at once, the ocean erupted. There was a deafening noise, and the rafts began hopping and shuddering under the castaways. The bomber’s gunners were firing at them. Louie, Phil, and Mac clawed for the raft walls and threw themselves overboard. They swam under the rafts and huddled there in terror, watching bullets cut bright slits in the water around them. Then the firing stopped.
The men surfaced. The bomber had overshot them and was now to the east, moving away. Two sharks were nosing around. The men had to get out of the water immediately.