17 days on a lifeboat in the Atlantic

Bob Talley... 12/16/98
Baton Rouge resident Bob Talley spent 17 days adrift on a life raft with several dozen other soldiers during WWII, and lived to tell the tale. (Photo by Mark Schiefelbein, used by permission of The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana)

By George Morris

Shortly after America’s entry into World War II, when German submarines were sinking American merchant vessels at a frightening rate in the Atlantic Ocean, Bob Talley was far from that action — and, he thought, about to get farther.

A U.S. Navy gunner, Talley was aboard a troop ship about to sail from San Francisco to Australia. But, an hour before it lifted anchor, Talley was ordered ashore. He stood on the pier and watched the ship leave.

“We were in San Francisco having a time,” Talley said. “We felt sorry for those fellows on the East Coast. Those subs were knocking them off one a week over there.

“All of a sudden, we woke up one morning and got orders to report to New York City.”

Those orders led Talley directly into the U-boat war in the Atlantic and to an ordeal that all mariners dread.

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