Naval researchers announced Saturday that they have found the wreckage of the lost World War II cruiser USS Indianapolis on the floor of the Pacific Ocean, 72 years after the vessel sank in minutes after it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. The ship was found almost 3 1/2 miles below the surface of the Philippine Sea, said a tweet from Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen, who led a team of civilian researchers that made the discovery. Historians and architects from the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington, District of Columbia, had joined forces with Allen last year to revisit the tragedy. The ship sank in 15 minutes on July 30, 1945, in the war’s final days, and it took the Navy four days to realize that the vessel was missing. About 800 of the crew’s 1,200 sailors and Marines made it off the cruiser before it sank. But almost 600 of them died over the next four to five days from exposure, dehydration, drowning and shark attacks. Nineteen crew members are alive today, the Navy command said in a news release. The Indianapolis had just completed a top secret mission to deliver components of the atomic bomb “Little Boy” to the island of Tinian. The bomb was later dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. In a statement on its website, the command call the shipwreck a “significant discovery,” considering the depth of the water. “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 said in a statement. His research vessel, Petrel, has state-of-the-art subsea equipment that can descend to depths like those at which the ship was found. The cruiser’s captain, Charles Butler McVay III, was among those who survived, but he was eventually court-martialed and convicted of losing control of the vessel. About 350 Navy ships were lost in combat during the war, but he was the only captain to be court-martialed. Years later, under pressure from survivors to clear his name, McVay was posthumously exonerated by Congress and President Bill Clinton.
I had the distinct privilege of meeting one of the survivors of the USS Indianapolis about 16 years ago. He gave a presentation to the Army unit I was assigned to at the time. To read the rest of this article, and see some photos, click on the text above. 🙂