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.


Free and Independent States

It was on June 7 in 1776 that the idea of independence was first officially proposed in the Continental Congress. Richard Henry Lee of Virginia introduced and John Adams seconded the following:

Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures for forming foreign Alliances.

That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.

The vote on the resolution was set aside until July 1st — it actually occurred on July 2nd. On June 11th Congress appointed the Committee of Five to draft a formal declaration of independence — John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut.

June 7: Resolution introduced
July 2: Resolution approved (12 colonies for; New York abstained, later voted for)
July 4: Declaration of Independence approved

On the Fourth of July we celebrate the birth announcement, not the birth.

Lee Resolution


Daniel Boone

… first looked west from Cumberland Gap into what is now Kentucky on this date in 1769. The Kentucky Historical Society celebrates June 7 as “Boone Day.”

Cumberland Gap

Boone was not the first person through Cumberland Gap; he wasn’t even the first European-American. He was, however, instrumental in blazing a trail, which became known as the Wilderness Road.

Cumberland Gap Trail

According to the National Park Service:

Immigration through the Gap began immediately, and by the end of the Revolutionary War some 12,000 persons had crossed into the new territory. By 1792 the population was over 100,000 and Kentucky was admitted to the Union.

During the 1790s traffic on the Wilderness Road increased. By 1800 almost 300,000 people had crossed the Gap going west. And each year as many head of livestock were driven east. As it had always been, the Gap was an important route of commerce and transportation.

NewMexiKen photos 2006.

First Wave at Omaha Beach

Unlike what happens to other great battles, the passing of the years and the retelling of the story have softened the horror of Omaha Beach on D Day.

. . .

In everything that has been written about Omaha until now, there is less blood and iron than in the original field notes covering any battalion landing in the first wave. Doubt it? Then let’s follow along with Able and Baker companies, 116th Infantry, 29th Division. Their story is lifted from my fading Normandy notebook, which covers the landing of every Omaha company.

“First Wave at Omaha Beach” by S.L.A. Marshall


We will accept nothing less than full victory.

Eisenhower Message

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Forces:

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944. Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned. The free men of the world are marching together to victory.

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory.

Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

Dwight D. Eisenhower


Tiananmen

The Chinese army crackdown on the protests in and around Tiananmen Square was 25 years ago today. According to estimates by the Chinese Red Cross (accepted at the time by the U.S. State Department) some 2,600 protesters and military were killed and another 7,000 wounded.

This declassified State Department cable (June 22, 1989) provides the account of a witness to the violence on the night of June 3-4. The students believed that the military would be firing rubber bullets. The witness tells that “he had a sickening feeling when he noticed the bullets striking sparks off the pavement near his feet.”

This second declassified cable provides an hour-by-hour chronology of the events of the night of June 3-4, 1989.

While difficult to read, these documents tell the story as American diplomats reported it.

Tiananmen

NewMexiKen took this photo in Tiananmen Square just three years after the events there. The building in the background is the Great Hall of the People. At left is the Monument of the People’s Heroes.