World War II vet shares memories

May 25, 2009 (PARK RIDGE, Ill.) Nick Korompilas survived a bombing that sent him and hundreds of other Americans into shark infested waters.

"I thank the Lord every night. I do my Orthodox cross and I thank him for being here," said Korompilas.

Nick Korompilas remembers April 12, 1945 like it was yesterday. To this 84-year-old World War II veteran, that day is the most significant in his life.

"It's the day when my ship was sank by to kamikaze suicide airplanes," said Korompilas.

Just 19 years old when his father sent him off to the Nayy, Korompilas was fresh out of boot camp when he was assigned to the U.S.S. Mannert l, Abele. The new destroyer was on radar picket patrols north of Okinawa, Japan.

"We had 32 bogies - that is enemy aircraft - in our radar…they kept, like bees over a hornets nest, and they coming one at a time," said Korompilas.

The Abele shot down three of the planes but more were coming. Korompilas couldn't see out of the ship but he could hear as the enemy was getting close. As Korompilas prayed, a bomber came down five feet above the water and hit the U.S.S. Mannert l, Abele mid ship breaking the destroyer in two.

"The ship was out of sight in three minutes exactly. Out of 320 men, we lost 79 and 37 were wounded," said Korompilas.

Korompolis and others carried the wounded onto two rafts they were able to save from the ship before it sank. Meantime, Japanese planes continued to bomb. But it was the dangerous waters that had Korompilas worried.

"There were sharks around, you could see the fins, but they didn't come close because of the oil. A couple of guys with their knives stabbed a few of them," said Korompilas.

Four hours later, Korompilas and his shipmates were rescued. It may have been almost 60 years ago, but this veteran thinks about that day all the time.

"To help our country was a great deed. I feel very proud of my participation," said Korompilas.

Nick Korompilas helped a doctor on board with many of the wounded soldiers. They administered morphine on the rafts while those sharks circled and the Japanese kept bombing from above.

Korompilas served three years in the Navy. He is one of a handful on the ship that is still alive to their incredible story of survival.

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