On July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by the Imperial Japanese Navy, sinking in 12 minutes halfway between Guam and the Philippines in shark-filled waters. Of the 1196 crewmen aboard, 880 survived the sinking, but only 321 came out of the water alive; only 317 ultimately survived the 4 days in the water facing exposure, dehydration, saltwater poisoning and shark attacks.
The USS Indianapolis left San Francisco on July 16, 1945. She had been at Mare Island Navy Yard to get heavy underwater damage repaired from a Kamikaze attack in the Battle of Okinawa in March. Next, she was ordered to the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, on a secret mission to carry parts and enriched uranium for the atomic bomb Little Boy (the gun-type fission weapon which would later be dropped on Hiroshima). She arrived at Pearl Harbor on July 19, then continued on to Tinian, arriving on July 26 to deliver her cargo. After returning to Guam, she was to meet up with the USS Idaho in the Leyte Gulf. Unfortunately, she never made it.
The USS Indianapolis National Memorial commemorates those who served as well as lost their lives on her. The memorial is on the east bank of the Central Canal and can be easily visited, open to the public 24 hours a day. The north side of the monument (above) tells the story of the USS Indianapolis and the disaster that the crewmen suffered. On the south side are the names of the ship’s company who made up her final crew.
The fate of the USS Indianapolis wasn’t known to the country until V-J Day, when it was reported in American newspapers along with the Japanese surrender.
For further reading:
- USS Indianapolis Leaves in Mystery Cloak. The Daily Chronicles of World War II. (ww2days.com)
- The Sinking of USS Indianapolis (Recollections of Captain charles B. McVay, III, USN, Commanding Officer of USS Indianapolis [CA-35] which was sunk by Japanese submarine I-58 on 30 July 1945 near the Philippines). ehistory. The Ohio State University
- Finneran, P.J. (1994). The Tragedy of the USS Indianapolis (CA-35). ussindianapolis.org.
- USS Indianapolis Museum. ussindianapolis.us
- LaGrone, S. (2016, July 27). New Lead Uncovered in Search for USS Indianapolis. USNI News, a publication of the U.S. Naval Insitute.
- Cruiser Sunk, 1,196 Casualties; Took Atom Bomb Cargo to Guam. (1945, August 14). New York Times.