Shark saves seaman's life, 1943

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Shark saves seaman's life, 1943 - SAYS SHARK SAVED LIFE Seaman Asserts Big One...
SAYS SHARK SAVED LIFE Seaman Asserts Big One Blocked Other's Way Just Before He Was Rescued Charley Matthews, Survivor Of 'Sinking, Tells How 'Wilbur' Followed Lifeboat tij HTJLBERT FOOTNER Charley Matthews believes that his life was saved by a shark. When the young seaman was forced to jump overboard from his sinking ship, this particular shark, bigger than the others, blocked another ehark, which was about tq sieze him. and before the big fellow could get In his lick, Charley was hauled aboard a lifeboat. For days afterward the same shark followed the lifeboat, look ing lovingly at .Charley, who is an exceedingly well-nourished boy. The shark was easily recognizable because he w as darker in color than the others, and had a jagged whitish scar on his snout. Charley christened him Wilbur. Father Was In Marines Charley lives with his parents, his brother and two sisters at 307 Fonthill avenue, West Baltimore. His father, William McKinley Matthews, served for four years in the marines during the first World War; consequently, Charley felt that it was up to him to carry on the family tradition when this war came along. Charley is 17, 5 feet 11 inches tall, weighs 180. He entered the prize ring when he was only 14 with a manager and everything. For his appca.anc--, in the ring he adopted the name of Charles Paul That was so his mother wouldn't know what he was up to. Turned Down By Navy When he was 16 he tried to enlist in the navy, but since ho neglected to lie about his age, they told him to come back in a year. He couldn't wait and enlisted in the merchant marine instead, as a wiper. On his first voyage he was promoted to fireman. Last fall he was taken sick aboard his ship and was shipped home aboard another vessel for treatment. This vessel was a Dutch liner. "Finest ship on the sea," said Charley. As a free and idle passen ger he expected to enjoy the voy age. "We were bound home from the coast of Africa." he said. "One afternoon I felt kind of nervous. 1 suppose it was what they call a premonition. My cabin was down on C deck and I went down to get my cigarettes. While I was in there Wham! There was terrific shock that lifted me clean off my feet and slammed my head against the overhead. The ship trembled all over like a person with the shakes. Ran For the Stairs "I ran for the stairs. My best buddy was with me: name of Benny. When we got on deck there was so many crowding the ladder to the boat deck, Benny couldn't make it. But I got hold of the ladder and I hung on to it until Benny climbed over my body. Then I went up after him. "Up on the boat deck I saw a smashed lifeboat and I said: 'What's this?' But they told us it was an engine-room explosion, not a torpedo, so Benny and I went down to C deck again to get our money and our seaman's papers. "I never did get my money, because there were two more awful explosions that slammed me around my room and knocked all the sense out of me. I can't tell you just what happened because I don't remember. "I didn't pass out because I found myself upon the promenade deck again. My first thought was for Benny. 'O. God! Where's Benny?' I hollered. Then I saw him on the boat deck just above me. "But it was too late then to try for the boats. The ship was sinking right under my feet. You know, sliding under forward with her 2h CHARLEY MATTHEWS Saved by hungry shark stern sticking up in the air. So I hollers to Benny: " 'I'm going over the side, Benny! Follow me!' "So I jumped down to the well deck and from the well deck into the sea. The suction of the ship was terrible. 1 got my feet against the ship's side and kicked away with all my might. That's when I hurt my knee. Tore the ligaments or some thing. I never saw Benny again. Sharks Sighted The fellows in the water were hollering: 'Sharks! Sharks!' I saw a lifeboat about a block and a half away and I wondered if I could make it. I said to a fellow in the water: Do you think I can make it?' And he said: In your state of mind I guess you can make it.' "Well, I did make it. I learned swimming at the Y. M. C. A. There were sharks around. You could see their fins sticking out. The lifeboat was loaded down almost level with the water. Her capacity was painted on her thirty-five persons and she had sixty-eight aboard. "When I asked them to take me in, the fellow in command, he said 'Sorry, Bud, we got more than we can hold already. If I was to take you, all sixty-nine of us would be lost!' Lost All Strength "When I heard that I went limp. All the strength seemed to run out of me. It was then that I saw the big black shark shouldering the other shark out of the way so he could get me. I gave up hope. But then I felt a couple of pairs of hands reaching under my arms and they dragged me into the boat any how. "The sharks stayed with us tha whole time, including the big black fellow with the whitish scar that I called Wilbur. Every day Wilbur and I looked each other over. I bet another sailor 50 cents that Wilbur would stick by us to the end and I won. "On the fifth morning, as it started to grow light, we found ourselves in the middle of a con voy. How we got there without be ing discovered by the destroyers no body could tell. We lit a flare to show them what we were, but they suspected a German trick and did not stop. I saw the gun captain on one ship training his gun on us to be ready for anything. One Ship Comes Back "I didn't give up hope. I said: 'They have seen us. Somebody will come back.' Sure enough, after they had all passed, one ship came back. We all thought this was a British convoy, but this ship when she came close broke out Old Glory. Oh, boy! Old Glory did not fail us! When I set foot to the deck of that ship I was reeling. Somebody shoved a bottle of cognac into my hand and I drank till I could drink no more. Then I drank some water and sat down and cried and cried because Benny wasn't safe beside me. We were landed on a British island and I went to the hospital for six weeks. Then I shipped back to Baltimore and went to the Marine Hospital here for a checkup. The doctors here told me I would be fit for sea duty on February 25, and I'm ready for it. in of a in on P. I is or as ten to or the $5 was jail by the won fore ater bile The the

Clipped from
  1. The Baltimore Sun,
  2. 09 Feb 1943, Tue,
  3. Page 15

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