Courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command
A team of civilian researchers led by entrepreneur and philanthropist Paul Allen announced on Aug. 19 that they discovered the wreckage of the World War II cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA 35) which was lost July 30, 1945.
This is a significant discovery considering the depth of the water in which the ship was lost – more than 18,000 feet. Around 800 of the ship’s 1,196 sailors and Marines survived the sinking, but after four to five days in the water – suffering exposure, dehydration, drowning, and shark attacks – only 316 survived.
The wreck was located by the expedition crew of Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel, which is owned by Allen, 5,500 meters below the surface, resting on the floor of the North Pacific Ocean.
“To be able to honor the brave men of the USS Indianapolis and their families through the discovery of a ship that played such a significant role in ending World War II is truly humbling,” said Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft. “As Americans, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the crew for their courage, persistence and sacrifice in the face of horrendous circumstances. While our search for the rest of the wreckage will continue, I hope everyone connected to this historic ship will feel some measure of closure at this discovery so long in coming.”
Indianapolis was lost in the final days of World War II when it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the early morning hours of July 30, 1945. The Indianapolis sank in 12 minutes, making it impossible to send a distress signal or deploy much of its life-saving equipment. Prior to the attack, the Indianapolis completed a secret mission delivering components of the atomic bomb used in Hiroshima that would ultimately help end the war in the Pacific.
“Even in the worst defeats and disasters there is valor and sacrifice that deserves to never be forgotten,” said Sam Cox, director of the Naval History and Heritage Command. “They can serve as inspiration to current and future sailors enduring situations of mortal peril. There are also lessons learned, and in the case of the Indianapolis, lessons re-learned, that need to be preserved and passed on, so the same mistakes can be prevented, and lives saved.”
Allen-led expeditions have also resulted in the discovery of the Japanese battleship Musashi in March 2015 and the Italian WWII destroyer Artigliere in March 2017. His team was also responsible for retrieving and restoring the ship’s bell from the HMS Hood for presentation to the British Navy in honor of its heroic service. Allen’s expedition team was recently transferred to the newly acquired and retrofitted R/V Petrel specifically for continuing exploration and research efforts.
The 13-person expedition team on the R/V Petrel is in the process of surveying the full site and will conduct a live tour of the wreckage in the next few weeks.
Their work is compliant with U.S. law, respecting the sunken ship as a war grave and not disturbing the site. The USS Indianapolis remains the property of the U.S. Navy and its location will remain confidential and restricted by the Navy. The crew of the R/V Petrel has collaborated with Navy authorities throughout its search operations and will continue to work on plans to honor the 22 crew members still alive today, as well as the families of all those who served on the highly decorated cruiser.
You can send a message of support and thanks directly to service members via the USO’s Campaign to Connect. Your messages will appear on screens at USO locations around the world.