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/T – History.com)
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.