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Humpday History Highlight

By Wyatt Earp | July 29, 2009


July 29, 1945 – Japanese Sink The USS Indianapolis

On this day in 1945, Japanese warships sink the American cruiser Indianapolis, killing 883 seamen in the worst loss in the history of the U.S. navy.

Just before midnight of the 29th, the Indianapolis, an American cruiser that was the flagship of the Fifth Fleet, was on its way, unescorted, to Guam, then Okinawa. It never made it. It was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine.

There were 1,196 crewmen on board the Indianapolis; over 350 died upon impact of the torpedo or went down with the ship. More than 800 fell into the Pacific. Of those, approximately 50 died that first night in the water from injuries suffered in the torpedo explosion; the remaining seamen were left to flounder in the Pacific, fend off sharks, drink sea water (which drove some insane), and wait to be rescued. Because there was no time for a distress signal before the Indianapolis went down, it was 84 hours before help arrived. This was despite the fact that American naval headquarters had intercepted a message on July 30 from the Japanese sub commander responsible for sinking the Indianapolis, describing the type of ship sunk and its location. (The Americans assumed it was an exaggerated boast and didn’t bother to follow up.) Only 318 survived; the rest were eaten by sharks or drowned.

Had the attack happened only three days earlier, the Indianapolis would have been sunk carrying special cargo-the atom bomb, which it delivered to Tinian Island, northeast of Guam, for scientists to assemble. (H/

Interestingly enough, the Indianapolis was built just across the river in Camden, New Jersey. Of course, many folks remember the story of the Indianapolis from the movie Jaws:

Some of this scene is not entirely accurate, but most of the monologue is historically correct.

Topics: HHH | 6 Comments »

6 Responses to “Humpday History Highlight”

  1. John D Says:
    July 29th, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Best movie monologue EVER!

  2. Sully Says:
    July 29th, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    It’s in my top 5 worst days in US Naval history…

    Just awful…

  3. Mrs. Crankipants Says:
    July 30th, 2009 at 8:53 am

    I was reading this, and thought of Robert Shaw in Jaws, then I scrolled down and saw you had posted the video. Mr. Crankipants and I watch Jaws every 4th of July to get ourselves ready for beach season.

  4. Wyatt Earp Says:
    July 30th, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    John D – And to think Shaw was drunk for most of the filming.

    Sully – The only way it would have been worse would be if it sunk before dropping off the bomb.

    Mrs. Crankipants – It’s why I hate the ocean. If you can get me in the water, you did something truly amazing.

  5. Alan B Says:
    July 30th, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Interesting, thank you!

    Not an incident generally known over here – we had our own disaster early in the war with the sinking of the Hood, the pride of the Royal Navy, by the Bismark.

    From Hood’s first salvo to her disappearance beneath the waves, only eleven minutes had passed. Hood sank in 3 minutes!

    Out of 1418 crew, only 3 survived.

    The battlecruiser Hood was:

    * the largest warship of any kind in the world at her commissioning and held the title until the German Bismarck entered service in 1940.

    * the largest vessel ever to serve in the Royal Navy until the battleship HMS Vanguard, which was not commissioned until 1946.

    * the longest warship until the commissioning of the Japanese battleship Yamato in 1941.

    The news of the sinking of such a great ship shook the British public and for many it became the most shocking incident in WW2.

  6. Alan B Says:
    July 30th, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Just been reading about operation Ten-Go and the sinking of the Yamato of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

    Total disaster!