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    ‘God Would Help Us, and He Did’: Texas Veteran, 103, Recalls 18 Days on Lifeboat

    ‘God Would Help Us, and He Did': Texas Veteran, 103, Recalls 18 Days on Lifeboat

    Even now, almost eight decades later, Art Watson can still feel the sting.

    He reaches for the right side of his face, pausing as he takes a moment, as if to make sure his memory is correct. It is, and while the pain is no longer real physically, it lives on in the sharp mind of the 103-year-old resident of Dancing River, an assisted living residence in Grapevine, Texas.

    The memory is one of his Merchant Marines ship, the SS Oklahoma, being torpedoed by a German Nazi submarine in 1945 while on a mission to Aruba to gather fuel for delivery to Senegal.

    “When it hit I was up on the bridge. It knocked my legs out from under me and I went flying,” Watson recalled, intensity still in his face after all these years. “It blistered this whole right side of my face.”

    Watson doesn't consider himself a hero, though many others do. But he does believe stories like his must be told. And while there is pain in the memories, there is also a satisfaction of knowing that each time he tells it — and he's told it many times to young and old alike in gatherings large and small — someone might leave having learned something about the value of life.

    He lost 50 of his shipmates in the explosion. He and 21 other survivors scrambled to lifeboats, realizing it was their only hope of survival.

    Waiting for Help

    And survive they did, for 18 days at sea, floating in a lifeboat, with little rations and virtually no shelter from the elements. The…

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