Last voyage of USS Indianapolis

USS Indianapolis (CA-35) off Mare Island, July 10, 1945

The USS Indianapolis left Hunters Point Naval Shipyard on July 16, 1945, setting a speed record of 74-1/2 hours from San Francisco to Pearl Harbor, arriving on July 19. She was on a top-secret mission carrying the enriched uranium from Oak Ridge and other assembly parts for the “Little Boy” atomic bomb.

Indianapolis continued on to Tinian, arriving on July 26, and delivered the atomic bomb components. Continuing on to Guam for crew changes, she left on July 28 to begin sailing toward Leyte to join Task Force 95.

USS Indianapolis intended route from Guam to Philippines showing location of sinking.

On July 30, 1945, Indianapolis was truck by two torpedoes from a Japanese submarine, causing massive damage. Twelve minutes later, she sunk, taking 300 crew down with her and setting adrift over 900 crewmen.

On August 2, the survivors were spotted by Navy airplanes on a routine patrol flight. Only 316 of the remaining men survived.

USS Indianapolis memorial in Indianapolis, IN

You can visit the memorial for the USS Indianapolis located at the north end of the Canal Walk between Senate Avenue and Walnut Street. The gray and black granite memorial is outdoors and open to the public.

Vallecitos Nuclear Center

While visiting friends in Livermore, California, we drove along Highway 84 in the Sunol area to see the Vallecitos Nuclear Center nestled among the rolling hills of Alameda County.

The Vallecitos boiling water reactor (VBWR) was the first privately owned and operated nuclear power plant to deliver electricity to a public utility grid. Inaugurated in 1957 with the US Atomic Energy Commission’s “Power Reactor License No. 1,” the main power generating facilities operated until 1963.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company and General Electric (now GE Hitachi) built the facility, which generated about 5 megawatts of electricity, and was mainly used for testing in anticipation of larger commercial plants. The remaining reactor at Vallecitos generates just 100 kilowatts and performs neutron radiography imaging.

The Center is now used for testing, training, and research. Below is a newsreel story from November 25, 1957, of the opening of the plant.

Arco, Idaho

Arco, Idaho. First city in the world to be lit by atomic power. Elevation 5320.

As you drive through Arco on US 26, before the junction of West Grand Avenue and South Front Street, you’ll find a grand building faced with lava rock from the area with the lighted sign claiming to be the first city in the world to be lit by atomic power (elevation 5320).

On July 17, 1955, electricity generated by Boiling Water Reactor No. 3 (BORAX-III) was fed over the lines serving Arco, producing approximately 2,000 kilowatts of electrical power for about two hours.

Charles Pieper, along with Zeke Stewart (directing from his hospital bed after suffering a heart attack), and John Yeates (Philips Electrical Engineer), devised the method for putting the atomic power generated by BORAX-III into the lines which Utah Power used to serve Arco.

The building has served many purposes in the past from visitor center to civic offices, and is currently a community center. The anniversary of the event is celebrated each year with Atomic Days, the weekend closest to July 17.

For more information:
Arco — First Atomic City. (2022). Butte County IDGenWeb.
Troyer, D. (2004, July 4). Arco’s nuclear claim to fame. American Profile.