July 1945 – World War 2 is coming to a close. Germany had already surrendered and although Japanese forces were desperately holding onto their few remaining strongholds the writing was on the wall. Allied leaders had decided it was time to end the conflict once and for all – they had decided it was time to use the atomic bombs developed by the Manhattan Project.
The U.S.S. Indianapolis was selected to deliver parts for one of those bombs, Little Boy, to an airbase in Tinian. But while some may have considered this a reward for years of honorable service those who knew what the mission entailed also knew how dangerous it was to be. There was to be no escort- too many ships would draw too much Japanese attention. The transit area was also suspected to be patrolled by the few remaining Japanese submarines who were always on the lookout for one more American flag for the conning tower. Plus, the secrecy of the mission meant almost no one knew the exact route or time frame. In the end, each of the factors would add to the horror and loss the crew would experience.
By July 30th the U.S.S. Indianapolis had successfully dropped its deadly cargo in Tinian, picked up new crew members in Guam before heading to Leyte. Shortly after midnight, she was struck by two torpedoes which cause heavy damage and explosions throughout the ship. Twelve minutes later she rolled, her stern rose and she sank to the bottom with approximately 300 of her crew still aboard. The remainder of her 1,196 crew members were left floating in the dark Pacific, many without life jackets and far few lifeboats available for even the wounded.
Of course, crew members believed they would be rescued before long. But through a serious of mistakes, miscommunication and even outright dereliction of duty the U.S.S. Indianapolis’ sinking would go unreported and no search planes or rescue crews were sent. But this is not why the sinking was so tragic. It was the sharks that made the Indianapolis so famous, or more correctly the damage those sharks inflicted.
Over the next four days, more crew would be lost to dehydration, heat related injuries and shark attacks than during the Japanese attack. By the time the survivors were discovered by a passing aircraft only 317 remained.
For 72 years survivors and families would remember those fateful days and their lost crew members & loved ones without knowing exactly where they had met their end. But on August 19, 2017, an expedition led by millionaire explorer Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, located the remains in the Philippine Sea at a depth of approximately 18,000 ft.
The initial discovery included the tell-tale bow piece bearing hull number 35 and additional exploration is scheduled, including a full mapping of the debris field. But Mr. Allen hopes that this find will finally allow the 22 remaining survivors to find some peace.
“While our search for the rest of the wreckage will continue, I hope everyone connected to this historic ship will feel some measure of closure at this discovery so long in coming” ( Allen statement from his website).
To the crew of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, both those lost and the survivors who spent the rest of their lives haunted by the events they endured, I say “Fair winds and following seas”. You have not been forgotten and know you have been found.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.