After resting at the bottom of the ocean for 72 years, the wreck of the ill-fated World War II heavy cruiser, the USS Indianapolis, has finally been discovered some 5,500 meters (18,000 feet) below the waves. The ship was located by a search team led by the Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and has finally put to rest the fate of the ship that resulted in the largest ever loss of life at sea for the US Navy.
The final resting place of the USS Indianapolis has been one of the longest standing US Naval mysteries following World War II. As the boat that carried the parts to construct the “Little Boy” atomic bomb that was eventually dropped on Hiroshima, it was sunk less than a week before the event actually took place.
The ship was pinpointed by the crew of Paul Allen’s research vessel, Petrel, 5,500 meters below the surface in the North Pacific Ocean. “As Americans, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the crew for their courage, persistence, and sacrifice in the face of horrendous circumstances,” Allen said in a statement. “I hope everyone connected to this historic ship will feel some measure of closure at this discovery so long in coming.”
The ship was destroyed in the early hours of July 30, 1945, after it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, leading to the tragic death of 1,196 of the sailors and Marines who were onboard. So extensive was the damage inflicted on the vessel, that it sank within just 12 minutes of being hit, meaning that there simply was not enough time to scramble a rescue mission.
Due to the rapidity of the sinking no distress call was ever made, meaning that despite some 800 to 900 sailors surviving the initial hit, only 316 were still alive when the crew was found by chance some four days later, after most succumbed to dehydration, drowning, and shark attacks. Because there was no distress call sent, it has also meant that the location of the ship has remained a mystery for all this time.
It was only after new information was uncovered in 2016 that the final resting place of the vessel, and all those who died along with it, was finally discovered. A historian with the Naval History and Heritage Command managed to identify another Naval craft that spotted the USS Indianapolis, and more importantly, recorded where. This led to a revised search area some 1,500 square kilometers (600 square miles) in size, and eventually led to the discovery of the ship.
The crew will now continue to survey the wreck, working closely with the Naval authorities, as well as the 22 USS Indianapolis crew members still alive today.
Visualization of how the USS Indianapolis sunk on July 30, 1945.