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About The Bay: A Veteran’s Silence Ends And The Spirit That Moved Him

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(Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images)

(Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— David Holly is on a mission that’s been six decades in the making. He says he “couldn’t” talk about it for 62 years, but now he talks about it every chance he gets.

Today he’s talking with Kenneth White, a nephew of Eugene Harris. White said he was only nine-years-old when it happened. Eugene did not survive what David did; the sinking of the USS Benevolence hospital ship 30 miles off the coast of the Bay Area in 1950.

Benevolence was rammed by the freighter Mary Luckenbach in heavy fog. 505 crewmembers, including David, survived, but 23 sailors -including Eugene – did not.

“I knew we were going to die. I knew that ship was going to cut Benevolence in two,” David said.

He did not. Though living through it was harrowing. He now credits a spirit that guided him.

“The spirit then told me to jump in the ocean and I jumped in the ocean and I said, ‘Well, I’m gonna die’ and the spirit said, ‘No. You swim away.’”

David kept silent for so long about his experience until a couple of years ago, and now he shares it with everyone he can by talking about it – like Kenneth, who wanted to know more about his uncle Eugene. David considers it therapy for himself and to those like Kenneth who will listen.

David speaks at Hayward City Hall Monday for a Veteran’s Day festivity. He knows others will pay attention, but he wishes every day was like this one.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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