A Facebook chat will be held today (August 23) at 11:30 a.m. U.S. Eastern time to discuss the discovery of the World War 2 cruiser USS Indianapolis.
U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Historian Dr. Richard Hulver and NHHC Underwater Archaeology Branch Head Dr. Robert Neyland will take questions on Facebook about the U.S. Navy’s role in finding the lost World War II cruiser and its importance to the Navy today.
After 72 years laying hidden at the bottom of the ocean, the Indianapolis was found by a team funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
According to the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command, the team found the wreckage of the warship in the Philippine Sea at a depth of 5,500m/18,000ft. The wreck was found by the research vessel Petrel, which has a crew of 16.
Paul Allen said:
“To be able to honor the brave men of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and their families through the discovery of a ship that played such a significant role in ending World War II is truly humbling.”
“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.”
The key to the discovery was twofold: the state-of-the-art MV Petrel, with the capability of exploring down to 6,000m/19,685ft, and new evidence uncovered by Dr. Richard Hulver from the Naval History and Heritage Command.
The new evidence identified a new search area and possible location of the ship. This did not make the task of locating the ship any easier since the new search area was still a massive 600Sqm/1,550SqKm.
Over the next few weeks, the 13-man expedition aboard the MV Petrel will complete a survey of the wreck and conduct a live tour of the wreck.
The find is the latest achievement for the Allen-led team, which previously located the Japanese battle ship the Musashi in 2015, the Italian destroyer Artigliere earlier this year, and the team was also responsible for retrieving the bell of HMS Hood, before presenting it to the Royal Navy.
The Indianapolis is famous for the role it played in bringing the Second World War to an end, and in the subsequent tragedy that befell it. She set sail on July 16, 1945 from San Francisco on one of the most secret missions of the war, carrying components for Little Boy, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. She delivered them to Tinian Island on July 26. She then continued on her secret mission and headed to Okinawa to join Task Force 95 under Vice Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf when tragedy struck.
The Indianapolis was torpedoed on July 30, 1945, by the Japanese submarine I-58. The two torpedoes that struck the ship caused massive damage and explosions and the ship rolled over and sank in barely 12 minutes. Due to the speed of the sinking very few lifeboats were launched, and of a crew of 1,196 an estimated 300 perished in the explosions and sinking, while 900 went in the water.
Over the next four days the 900 men in the water had to endure horrific conditions, including exposure, dehydration, and almost continuous shark attacks. When rescue finally arrived after four days in the water only 317 men made it out alive.
Today, only 22 men who survived the disaster are still alive. A spokesperson for the group commented that the group members have “longed for the day when their ship would be found.”
To this day the USS Indianapolis remains one of the greatest disasters and loss of life in the history of the US Navy.
To take part in Wednesday’s Facebook chat, click here.
You can read the original Naval History and Heritage Command announcement here, or check out the video below about the USS Indianapolis.