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Tue Jul 30, 2019, 04:42 AM

74 Years Ago Today; USS Indianapolis is sunk by IJN Submarine I-58; 883 killed

https://tinyurl.com/yxhsoe33 Wikipedia


USS Indianapolis (CA-35), 27 September 1939

USS Indianapolis (CL/CA-35) was a Portland-class heavy cruiser of the United States Navy, named for the city of Indianapolis, Indiana. Launched in 1931, the vessel served as the flagship for the commander of Scouting Force 1 for eight years, then as flagship for Admiral Raymond Spruance in 1943 and 1944 while he commanded the Fifth Fleet in battles across the Central Pacific during World War II.

In July 1945, Indianapolis completed a top-secret high-speed trip to deliver parts of Little Boy, the first nuclear weapon ever used in combat, to the United States Army Air Force Base on the island of Tinian, and subsequently departed for the Philippines on training duty. At 0015 on 30 July, the ship was torpedoed by the Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-58, and sank in 12 minutes. Of 1,195 crewmen aboard, approximately 300 went down with the ship. The remaining 890 faced exposure, dehydration, saltwater poisoning, and shark attacks while stranded in the open ocean with few lifeboats and almost no food or water. The Navy only learned of the sinking four days later, when survivors were spotted by the crew of a PV-1 Ventura on routine patrol. Only 316 survived. The sinking of Indianapolis resulted in the greatest single loss of life at sea, from a single ship, in the history of the US Navy.

On 19 August 2017, a search team financed by Paul Allen located the wreckage of the sunken cruiser in the Philippine Sea lying at a depth of approximately 18,000 ft (5,500 m). On 20 December 2018, the crew of the Indianapolis was collectively awarded a Congressional Gold Medal.

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1945
Overhauled, Indianapolis joined Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher's fast carrier task force on 14 February 1945. Two days later, the task force launched an attack on Tokyo to cover the landings on Iwo Jima, scheduled for 19 February. This was the first carrier attack on mainland Japan since the Doolittle Raid. The mission was to destroy Japanese air facilities and other installations in the Home Islands. The fleet achieved complete tactical surprise by approaching the Japanese coast under cover of bad weather. The attacks were pressed home for two days. The US Navy lost 49 carrier planes while claiming 499 enemy planes, a 10-to-1 kill/loss ratio. The task force also sank a carrier, nine coastal ships, a destroyer, two destroyer escorts, and a cargo ship. They destroyed hangars, shops, aircraft installations, factories, and other industrial targets.


Indianapolis off Mare Island on 10 July 1945

Immediately after the strikes, the task force raced to the Bonin Islands to support the landings on Iwo Jima. The ship remained there until 1 March, protecting the invasion ships and bombarding targets in support of the landings. Indianapolis returned to VADM Mitscher's task force in time to strike Tokyo, again on 25 February, and Hachijō, off the southern coast of Honshū, the following day. Although weather was extremely bad, the American force destroyed 158 planes and sank five small ships while pounding ground installations and destroying trains.

The next target for the US forces was Okinawa, in the Ryukyu Islands, which were in range of aircraft from the Japanese mainland. The fast carrier force was tasked with attacking airfields in southern Japan until they were incapable of launching effective airborne opposition to the impending invasion. The fast carrier force departed for Japan from Ulithi on 14 March. On 18 March, she launched an attack from a position 100 mi (160 km) southeast of the island of Kyūshū. The attack targeted airfields on Kyūshū, as well as ships of the Japanese fleet in the harbors of Kobe and Kure, on southern Honshū. The Japanese located the American task force on 21 March, sending 48 planes to attack the ships. Twenty-four fighters from the task force intercepted and shot down all the Japanese aircraft.

Pre-invasion bombardment of Okinawa began on 24 March. Indianapolis spent 7 days pouring 8-inch shells into the beach defenses. During this time, enemy aircraft repeatedly attacked the American ships. Indianapolis shot down six planes and damaged two others. On 31 March, the ship's lookouts spotted a Japanese Nakajima Ki-43 "Oscar" fighter as it emerged from the morning twilight and roared at the bridge in a vertical dive. The ship's 20 mm guns opened fire, but within 15 seconds, the plane was over the ship. Tracers converged on it, causing it to swerve, but the enemy pilot managed to release his bomb from a height of 25 ft (7.6 m), crashing his plane into the sea near the port stern. The bomb plummeted through the deck, into the crew's mess hall, down through the berthing compartment, and through the fuel tanks before crashing through the keel and exploding in the water underneath. The concussion blew two gaping holes in the keel which flooded nearby compartments, killing nine crewmen. The ship's bulkheads prevented any progressive flooding. Indianapolis, settling slightly by the stern and listing to port, steamed to a salvage ship for emergency repairs. Here, inspection revealed that her propeller shafts were damaged, her fuel tanks ruptured, and her water-distilling equipment ruined. But Indianapolis commenced the long trip across the Pacific, under her own power, to the Mare Island Navy Yard for repairs.

Secret mission
After major repairs and an overhaul, Indianapolis received orders to undertake a top-secret mission of the utmost significance to national security: to proceed to Tinian island carrying the enriched uranium (about half of the world's supply of uranium-235 at the time) and other parts required for the assembly of the atomic bomb codenamed "Little Boy", which would be dropped on Hiroshima just a few weeks later.

Indianapolis departed San Francisco's Hunters Point Naval Shipyard with its valuable cargo on 16 July 1945, within hours of the Trinity test. She set a speed record of ​74 1⁄2 hours from San Francisco to Pearl Harbor, an average speed of 29 kn (54 km/h; 33 mph), which still stands today. Arriving at Pearl Harbor on 19 July, she raced on unaccompanied, delivering the atomic bomb components to Tinian on 26 July.

Indianapolis was then sent to Guam, where a number of the crew who had completed their tours of duty were replaced by other sailors. Leaving Guam on 28 July, she began sailing toward Leyte, where her crew was to receive training before continuing on to Okinawa to join Vice Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf's Task Force 95.

Sinking
At 00:15 on 30 July, Indianapolis was struck on her starboard side by two Type 95 torpedoes, one in the bow and one amidships, from the Japanese submarine I-58, captained by Commander Mochitsura Hashimoto, who initially thought he had spotted the New Mexico-class battleship Idaho. The explosions caused massive damage. Indianapolis took on a heavy list (the ship had had a great deal of armament and gun-firing directors added as the war went on, and was therefore top-heavy) and settled by the bow. Twelve minutes later, she rolled completely over, then her stern rose into the air, and she plunged down. Some 300 of the 1,195 crewmen aboard went down with the ship. With few lifeboats and many without life jackets, the remainder of the crew was set adrift.

Rescue
Navy command did not know of the ship's sinking until survivors were spotted in the open ocean three and a half days later. At 10:25 on 2 August, a PV-1 Ventura flown by Lieutenant Wilbur "Chuck" Gwinn and his copilot, Lieutenant Warren Colwell, as well as a PBY 2 piloted by Bill Kitchen, spotted the men adrift while on a routine patrol flight. Gwinn immediately dropped a life raft and radio transmitter. All air and surface units capable of rescue operations were dispatched to the scene at once.

First to arrive was an amphibious PBY-5A Catalina patrol plane flown by Lieutenant Commander (USN) Robert Adrian Marks. Marks and his flight crew spotted the survivors and dropped life rafts; one raft was destroyed by the drop while others were too far away from the exhausted crew. Against standing orders not to land in open ocean, Marks took a vote of his crew and decided to land the aircraft in twelve-foot (3.7 m) swells. He was able to maneuver his craft to pick up 56 survivors. Space in the plane was limited, so Marks had men lashed to the wing with parachute cord. His actions rendered the aircraft unflyable. After nightfall, the destroyer escort USS Cecil J. Doyle (DE-368), the first of seven rescue ships, used its search light as a beacon and instilled hope in those still in the water. Cecil J. Doyle and six other ships picked up the remaining survivors. After the rescue, Marks' plane was sunk by Cecil J. Doyle as it was not able to be recovered.

Many of the survivors were injured and all suffered from lack of food and water (leading to dehydration and hypernatremia; some found rations, such as Spam and crackers, among the debris of the Indianapolis), exposure to the elements (dehydration from the hot sun during the day and hypothermia at night, as well as severe desquamation due to continued exposure to salt water and bunker oil), and shark attacks, while some killed themselves or other survivors in various states of delirium and hallucinations. Only 316 of the nearly 900 men set adrift after the sinking survived. Two of the rescued survivors, Robert Lee Shipman and Frederick Harrison, died in August 1945.

"Ocean of Fear", a 2007 episode of the Discovery Channel TV documentary series Shark Week, states that the sinking of Indianapolis resulted in the most shark attacks on humans in history, and attributes the attacks to the oceanic whitetip shark species. Tiger sharks may also have killed some sailors. The same show attributed most of the deaths on Indianapolis to exposure, salt poisoning, and thirst, with the dead being dragged off by sharks.

Navy failure to learn of the sinking
The Headquarters of Commander Marianas on Guam and of the Commander Philippine Sea Frontier on Leyte kept Operations plotting boards on which were plotted the positions of all vessels with which the headquarters were concerned. However, it was assumed that ships as large as Indianapolis would reach their destinations on time, unless reported otherwise. Therefore, their positions were based on predictions and not on reports. On 31 July, when she should have arrived at Leyte, Indianapolis was removed from the board in the headquarters of Commander Marianas. She was also recorded as having arrived at Leyte by the headquarters of Commander Philippine Sea Frontier. Lieutenant Stuart B. Gibson, the operations officer under the Port Director, Tacloban, was the officer responsible for tracking the movements of Indianapolis. The vessel's failure to arrive on schedule was known at once to Gibson, who failed to investigate the matter and made no immediate report of the fact to his superiors. Gibson received a letter of reprimand in connection with the incident. The acting commander and operations officer of the Philippine Sea Frontier also received reprimands, while Gibson's immediate superior received a letter of admonition.


Survivors of Indianapolis on Guam in August 1945

In the first official statement, the Navy said that distress calls "were keyed by radio operators and possibly were actually transmitted" but that "no evidence has been developed that any distress message from the ship was received by any ship, aircraft or shore station". Declassified records later showed that three stations received the signals but none acted upon the call. One commander was drunk, another had ordered his men not to disturb him, and a third thought it was a Japanese trap.

Immediately prior to the attack, the seas had been moderate, the visibility fluctuating but poor in general, and Indianapolis had been steaming at 17 kn (20 mph; 31 km/h). When the ship failed to reach Leyte on 31 July, as scheduled, no report was made that she was overdue. This omission was due to a misunderstanding of the Movement Report System.

Court-martial of Captain McVay
Captain Charles B. McVay III, who had commanded Indianapolis since November 1944 through several battles, survived the sinking, though he was one of the last to abandon ship, and was among those rescued days later. In November 1945, he was court-martialed on two charges: failing to order his men to abandon ship and hazarding the ship. Cleared of the charge of failing to order abandon ship, McVay was convicted of "hazarding his ship by failing to zigzag". Several aspects of the court-martial were controversial. There was evidence that the Navy itself had placed the ship in harm's way. McVay's orders were to "zigzag at his discretion, weather permitting"; however, McVay was not informed that a Japanese submarine was operating in the vicinity of his route from Guam to Leyte. Further, Mochitsura Hashimoto, commander of I-58, testified that zigzagging would have made no difference. Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz remitted McVay's sentence and restored him to active duty. McVay retired in 1949 as a rear admiral.

While many of Indianapolis's survivors said McVay was not to blame for the sinking, the families of some of the men who died thought otherwise: "Merry Christmas! Our family's holiday would be a lot merrier if you hadn't killed my son", read one piece of mail. The guilt that was placed on his shoulders mounted until he committed suicide in 1968, using his Navy-issued revolver. McVay was discovered on his front lawn by his gardener with a toy sailor in one hand, revolver in the other. He was 70 years old.

McVay's record cleared
In 1996, sixth-grade student Hunter Scott began his research on the sinking of Indianapolis for a class history project, an assignment which eventually led to a United States Congressional investigation. In October 2000, the United States Congress passed a resolution that Captain McVay's record should state that "he is exonerated for the loss of Indianapolis"; President Bill Clinton signed the resolution. The resolution noted that, although several hundred ships of the US Navy were lost in combat during World War II, McVay was the only captain to be court-martialed for the sinking of his ship. In July 2001, the United States Secretary of the Navy ordered McVay's official Navy record cleared of all wrongdoing.

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Reply 74 Years Ago Today; USS Indianapolis is sunk by IJN Submarine I-58; 883 killed (Original post)
Dennis Donovan Jul 2019 OP
lapfog_1 Jul 2019 #1
TheCowsCameHome Jul 2019 #2

Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Tue Jul 30, 2019, 04:55 AM

1. story did make it to the movies

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Tue Jul 30, 2019, 08:08 AM

2. I worked with a man who was aboard the DE-368

I will never forget him, or his accounts of the rescue.

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