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Florence native of last living USS Indianapolis survivors

Adolfo Celaya
Posted at 7:16 PM, Nov 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-11 21:23:04-05

FLORENCE, Ariz. (KGUN) — A standing ovation brought tears to 94-year-old Adolfo Celaya's eyes on Thursday.

"Very seldom do I ever have tears in my eyes, but today, when I finished my speech and they all stood up, I couldn't help it," said Celaya.

People of all ages came to hear the World War II veteran share his incredible story. It's one that few are left to tell, today.

"You can never forget that. I've never forgotten it," said Celaya.

He was aboard the USS Indianapolis, in 1945, when it was sunk by Japanese torpedoes. Just around 300 of the over 1,000 people on board survived. Celaya was one of them.

"At first, I didn't have any life jacket. I thought I was a good swimmer. I helped a couple of the sailors get back to the rafts," said Celaya.

Celaya spent five days in shark-infested waters before being rescued. Today, he carries a gold medal of honor. It's a symbol of his bravery.

For the people of Florence, Celaya is a hometown hero.

"I've enjoyed today very much. I have to say this is one of my favorite days of all time. I really enjoyed it," said Celaya.

Celaya spoke at McFarland State Park as a part of their "Ernest Talks" series. To learn about upcoming events, click here.