The Indianapolis

If you saw Jaws or read it, you will remember the harrowing story Quint (Robert Shaw) tells of surviving the sinking of the cruiser Indianapolis.

It was on this date in 1945 that the ship, which had carried the Hiroshima atomic bomb and was out of communication, was torpedoed by the Japanese. According to the USS Indianapolis CA-35 web site:

At 12:14 a.m. on July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the Philippine Sea and sank in 12 minutes. Of 1,196 men on board, approximately 300 went down with the ship. The remainder, about 900 men, were left floating in shark-infested waters with no lifeboats and most with no food or water. The ship was never missed, and by the time the survivors were spotted by accident four days later only 316 men were still alive.

The ship’s captain, the late Charles Butler McVay III, survived and was court-martialed and convicted of “hazarding his ship by failing to zigzag” despite overwhelming evidence that the Navy itself had placed the ship in harm’s way, despite testimony from the Japanese submarine commander that zigzagging would have made no difference, and despite that fact that, although over 350 navy ships were lost in combat in WWII, McVay was the only captain to be court-martialed. Materials declassified years later adds to the evidence that McVay was a scapegoat for the mistakes of others.

Shark attacks began with sunrise of the first day (July 30) and continued until the survivors were removed from the water almost five days later.

The Navy web site includes oral histories with Indianapolis Captain McVay and Japanese submarine Captain Hashimoto.

The site dedicated to the Indianapolis is perhaps the best source.

In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors (2001) by Doug Stanton is a book on the voyage, the sinking, the survivors and McVay’s court martial.