Marine in Flames

Ken Cantrell  in front of the submarine

This is the story of a U.S. marine who was preserved from death through the power of the Holy Spirit. Today, brother Ken Cantrell preaches about the redemption of both the body and heart. The Holy Spirit surrounded his body and saved his life from the fire!

The explosion on the aircraft carrier, the USS Lake Champlain, occurred in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Gibraltar. At 11:03am on August 7, 1953. At the time of the explosion, Ken Cantrell was in the Catapult Room of the largest aircraft carrier in the Navy. At the time of the explosion a crew of 16 men, sending off planes every 2½ minutes. Fifteen of the crew were killed instantly, but the 16th crew member, Ken Cantrell, survived.

The explosion caused an inferno of death, but Ken Cantrell was protected by the power of the Holy Ghost: “God told me that I should not be afraid, but to open the door and go out. I went in and out, and I carried the burning bodies one by one out of the ‘melting death oven’, while the flesh fell from their bones.” This took approximately 35 minutes. “We were on our way to Italy facing 40 knot winds when it happened. At that time, the power of Jesus and His Holy Ghost (ACTS 1:8) were upon me so strongly that this supernatural ‘Holy Ghost Power’ kept me from being scared or from suffering any injury or burns.”

The Beginning

“I was born on June 15, 1932, in Huntsville, Alabama. My father was a nightclub owner. The name of the nightclub was ‘Bloody Bucket’. It was the most notorious, toughest and bloodiest nightclub in the entire state of Alabama. I remember that in one week, 17 people were killed inside the club and in front of it. Sometimes in the gambling world hundreds of thousands of dollars changed hands in a single night. I saw my Dad win as much as $80,000 in a single hour.

Before I was 16 years of age, I had been arrested 117 times. When I was only 11, I could whip any boy up to 18 years of age in our town. I was as deep a sinner as anyone could have been. It was in this kind of environment in Huntsville, Alabama, that I was raised, without knowing the Lord Jesus Christ.

At the age of 18, a great transformation came over my entire life. My grandfather was a Baptist minister. Although I was one of the worst sinners, I had respect for my grandfather and the Baptist church. I often wondered what it would be like to be a Baptist minister. I gave my heart to the Lord at 18, and I gave up my old ways. I took my Havana cigars out of one pocket and my Tampa cigarettes out of the other pocket. I then took out and threw away my loaded dice from yet another pocket and removed my marked playing cards from still another pocket.

I meant business when I accepted the Lord as my Savior. I was determined to serve and follow Him all the way.

Fasting for Power with God

After reading Franklin Hall’s book about fasting, “Because of Your Unbelief”, I started a 21-day fast (water only). After 3 days, hunger left my body and I felt the presence of the Lord on my body in a way I had never felt before. The Lord gave me the verse in LUKE 10:19, and showed me that nothing would hurt me: "Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you."

On the tenth day, I felt a warm healing power come over my whole body. Daily, this ‘covering power’ over my body grew stronger and stronger. I had the same experience as the 120 disciples in the upper chamber, in ACTS 2:3: "And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them." These tongues of fire also sat upon me. In LUKE 24:49, Jesus said that this would happen.

The Scripture in PSALM 118:17 also came to my mind: "I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD." I later learnt that it was the baptism of the Holy Ghost on my body which preserved and saved me from death and destruction.

After the 10th day of fasting, several of the boys remarked that they saw a light around my body. They asked me if I had some type of luminous clothing on. Anyway, I felt more wonderful about my salvation than I had ever felt. I felt that I had a lot more of God’s power within me. I also had a greater love and burden for my fellow man.

Death Let Loose

“At 10.30am, on the 17th day of my 21 day “consecration fast”, I was alone in the Catapult Room, where I was engrossed in brother Franklin Hall’s book, “Because of Your Unbelief”. I was alone, because I was fasting. All of the rest of the crew were out to get candy bars, coffee, cigarettes, refreshments, etc.

The events proceeded as follows:

  • 10:55 am – The crew began coming back to the room.
  • 11:00 am – Many of the boys were back in the room.
  • 11:02 am – Every one of the 16 crew were now back in the room and we were ready for our duties.
  • 11:03 am – Someone above us had made a blunder. The high grade gasoline that was pouring into our room was now a huge sheet of billowing flames. If many of the boys, who had just returned a few seconds earlier, had stayed away for just a moment longer, they would not have been engulfed in the ‘flames of death’. They would not have been in the room.

Horror came over their faces. Some tried to run. Many were screaming: “Fire! Fire!” I also yelled out: “Fire!” Huge billows of raging flames were rushing towards everyone. It moved quickly. It was like lightning. As the ‘flames of death’ engulfed the crew one by one, my eyes seemed to have a supernatural strength as I could look at and even see through the flames.

Joe and Don were the furthest away from the only door in the room when the explosion occurred. Don fell to the floor with Joe Carnes, whose flesh fell from his bones as I held him in my arms. Joe was my best friend. He was heavy-set, crew cut and came from Louisville, Kentucky. When in Norfolk, Virginia, I tried to get him to go to church with me. I talked to him about Jesus. He would not come to church and refused to accept Christ.

I reached over to where Joe Carnes had been sitting and placed him on my left arm and partly on my shoulder. The floor was getting red hot. The dog wrench over near the hatchway was also red hot. I was struggling with my friend Joe’s corpse. I had carried him back and forth a couple of times time in the room of fire. Now as I was facing the hatch, the Lord told me, "Be not afraid. Grab the wrench, open the door and walk out." I got closer to the door and hesitated. Although flames were around me I did not dare to touch the glowing red hot door. Again the Lord said, "Be not afraid, I am with you, you shall not die, open the door and walk out." I still held the corpse of Joe. I picked up the red hot dog wrench with my right bare hand and used it to open the hatch. I walked out, much to the amazement and bewilderment of the Officers, Chaplain and spectators.

Then I went to my other mate, Don Hatcher. He was a dark-haired young man from Kansas City, Missouri. Don was trained and worked in electronics, and he had assisted me with the P.A. system. I really liked him, but I had not been successful in turning him around to Jesus. I tried and tried, but in vain. I believe that if he had been saved, God would have somehow rescued him from the flames. He did not want to die, and he screamed when the fiery ‘arms of death’ came towards him. Don tried in vain to escape from the deadly fire’s reach, but the flames overcame him. The flames filled the whole of the 10-15 metre long room. If this had not been a supernatural event, I should not have been able to get away.

There was also another sailor to whom I was very close. He was a red-haired young man, Elbert Schaeffer, from Washington State. He had a quick temper and was always looking for a fight. He sometimes fought with the other guys, and he also fought a lot with me before I became a Christian. I spoke with Elbert of how Jesus could take away his lust for fighting, but he had shrugged this off. He even tried to fight the flames by thrashing wildly with his arms, but to no avail.

Thomas Moore was a man of average build whom I tried to win for Jesus. He answered in passing that there was still time for him to make up his mind.

When I carried each body from the room, they were unidentifiable. The heads and torsos were burnt so far beyond any normal expectation, that you could not even recognize them as human beings.

Note in the picture how high the flames were and how the smoke spread up through the flight deck. It took seven months to repair the damage to the Catapult Room. The metal, control valves and maneuver panel were totally melted. Everything had to be replaced.

burning submarineIn front of my eyes I saw all 15 of the crewmen die. I did not understand the nature of the power with which my beloved Jesus had equipped my body. First of all, it was almost unbelievable that the fire was real, because I could not feel the heat at all, although the flames totally covered me from every corner. I therefore did not understand how the fire could injure my colleagues to such an extent that they burned in front of my eyes. But Jesus was so close, and I felt the power of the Holy Spirit so strongly, that this supernatural power of the Holy Spirit prevented me from being scared or injured.”

He walked through fire for 35 long minutes

Three thousand sailors were witnesses to the explosion and to the ‘Holy Ghost superman’ who walked through fire for 35 minutes and was completely unhurt, with no smell of smoke on his clothes.

Light - Miracle - A Coat of Power

Lt. Jim Brown, U.S.N. Rey., Spokane, Wash., reported:

“I was the First Officer when the accident happened and I saw Ken Cantrell walk through the flames several times. I saw Ken go in and out of the room. He carried out 15 bodies, the whole crew that had been working with him. They were all dead and impossible to recognize. They looked like roasted meat. I tried to stop Ken when he was going in and out of the ‘melting oven’. I tried to stop him outside the door but came too close to the entrance of the room and got burned and had to be treated. The fire did not have any effect on Cantrell’s body. He was like a superman, though he became exhausted in his exertion of carrying out the bodies.

“I saw the Doctor examine Cantrell after the fire was put out. There was not the slightest sore on his body. Cantrell was asked by the Doctor to come to the sick bay for observation. I saw with my own eyes a sick boy stand up healed when Cantrell’s shadow got close to him. This got me thinking about Peter’s shadow which healed the sick, as related in the Acts of the Apostles.”

Bill Harris, Portsmouth, Vermont, reported:

"I was stationed with Ken Cantrell on the USS Lake Champlain, and was one of many witnesses who saw how Cantrell went through the fire, picking up the dead bodies on which the flesh was so burnt that it fell from the bones. All 15 crewmen died in the fire.

“I had watch duty from 8:00pm until midnight in the part of the ship where Cantrell was living. It was approximately 11:00pm on the 6th of August, 1953 - the night before the explosion. Cantrell didn't take part in any meals. I went over to him to say that it was high time to switch off the light. He said to me that he didn't have a light on. I just could not believe it. I went closer to the cabin in which he slept, and could hardly believe what I saw. I saw how light came out of Cantrell's body. I had read about light shining from a man in the Bible, a prophet that had fasted for 40 days. I know that it was this supernatural preserving fire of God that saved Cantrell from being burnt or injured when the flames came over him."

Translated from the German and Norwegian articles on Ken Cantrell, as well as a tract called ‘Miracle of the Century’.