Quint was referring to the tragedy of the USS Indianapolis, torpedoed in 1945:
Woody James was 23 at the time of the attack and lived to tell about it. His story of horror is very understated:
“Sunday, the 29th of July was a quiet day. The sea was runnin five or six feet waves, just a beautiful day out. Didn’t do too much, read a book, did a little tinkerin as usual. Had the 8:00 to 12:00 watch and just got off at midnight. A guy relieved me about a quarter to twelve. I went down through the galley and had a cup of coffee. Then went to my compartment and got a blanket off my bed and went back up on deck. I slept under the overhang on the first turret. My battle station was inside it so in case general quarters sounded, I slept underneath it. Just got laid down good, using my shoes for a pillow as usual and the first torpedo hit. I was up and down between the deck and the overhang of the turret like Yankee Doodle Dandy. And, I wondered, ‘what in the hell is goin on?’
I got out of my blanket and started to roll out from underneath the turret and the other torpedo hit. Another Yankee Doodle deal, all over the place. I started to walk forward to see what I could see and what I seen was about sixty-foot of the bow chopped off, completely gone. Within a minute and a half, maybe two minutes at the most the bow is startin to do down. It filled up with water that fast. Everything was open below deck and the water just flooded in and we were still under way, just scoopin water. Complete chaos, total and complete chaos all over the whole ship. Screams like you couldn’t believe and nobody knew what was goin on. The word got passed down, “ABANDON SHIP”! It was maybe five minutes and we were really down in the water so we proceeded to abandon ship.”
Survivor Woody James described his ordeal here. It’s even scarier than Quint’s monologue.