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July 30, 2013

July 30, 1945: The USS Indianapolis, CA-35

On secret mission the USS Indianapolis was returning from Tinian to Leyte Gulf after having delivered the world's first operational atomic bomb.

ca_uss_indianapolis_ca35 (440x310).jpg

Just a little after midnight Indianapolis was attacked by Japanese submarine I-58. They fired six torpedoes, two landed on target. One blew the bow from the ship, the second struck almost midship next to a fuel tank and powder magazine. Indianapolis sank in twelve minutes.

Twelve minutes.

Of the 1,196 aboard, about 900 made it into the water in the twelve minutes before she sank. Few life rafts were released. Most survivors wore the standard kapok life jacket. Shark attacks began with sunrise of the first day and continued until the men were physically removed from the water, almost five days later.

Rescue began on the 4th day when PBY commander Lt. Adrian Marks observed men in the waters being attacked by sharks. Disregarding a standing order not to land at sea, he put his aircraft down and rescued 56 men, putting them in the fuselage and then tying them to the wings. On the 5th day the destroyer USS Cecil Doyle (DD-368) arrived on scene at night and risking further attack used their searchlights to aid and rescue.

Of the 900 who made it into the water, almost 600 perished.

The commander, Captain Charles Butler McVay III was court-martialed and convicted for negligence. On November 6, 1968 he committed suicide with his service revolver. There were many controversies surrounding the affair, the Navy said he should have zig-zagged, others said command should have granted his request for destroyer escort. Nobody wanted to talk much about the delay in rescue operations. Officially McVay was exonerated in 2001 by Secretary of the Navy Gordon England.

Even though it's a bit inaccurate, this epic scene from Jaws is where many of us first heard the story of the Indianapolis.


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posted by Dave In Texas at 11:45 PM

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