Skip to comments.69 years after USS Indianapolis tragedy, survivor tells his tale
Posted on 07/26/2014 1:06:43 AM PDT by Rabin
July 30, 1945, two torpedoes struck the USS Indianapolis with almost 1,200 men aboard. The xplosions obliterated the ships front, water rushed in. Bulkheads crumpled. It only took 12 minutes for the cruiser to sink.
(Excerpt) Read more at stripes.com ...
Alex Last BBC World Service US Navy placed responsibility for the disaster on Captain McVay, who was among the few who managed to survive. For years he received hate mail, and in 1968 he took his own life. The surviving crew, including Cox, campaigned for decades to have their captain exonerated - which he was, more than 50 years after the sinking.
I finally realize that I have heard this story before, wasn’t this the ship where the crew had to pass the notice that the ship was sinking by word of mouth? Very sad indeed.
If I remember correctly the ship had just delivered the A bomb to Tinian Island and was on its way home. What a horrible story. Hard to believe people send hate mail over these tragedies. Kimmel and Short got the same after they were pinned with responsibility for Pearl Harbor.
Obligatory photo of “Quint” in 5,4,3,2...
“Farewell and adieu, you fair spanish ladies; farewell and adieu to you ladies of spaiin...”
A great movie, and probably does contribute a fair amount even today to keeping the memory of the Indianapolis alive.
His monologue educated thousands of baby boomers on the Indianapolis story. RIP the great Robert Shaw and Quint.
Couple years ago I was in a supermarket in Stuart Florida.
Came upon a rather dignified gent with his wife.
He had on his head a cap with “USS Indianapolis “ on it.
as per usual I walked up and thanked the Vet for his service.
He looked at me, teared up , shook his head and walked away.
He taught me how to tie a bowline.
Hooper: You were on the Indianapolis?
Brody: What happened?
Quint: Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin’ back from the island of Tinian to Leyte... just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in twelve minutes. Didn’t see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. Thirteen footer. You know, you know that when you’re in the water, chief? You tell by lookin’ from the dorsal to the tail. Well, we didn’t know. ‘Cause our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent, huh. They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, chief. The sharks come cruisin’. So we formed ourselves into tight groups. You know it’s... kinda like ‘ol squares in battle like uh, you see on a calendar, like the battle of Waterloo. And the idea was, the shark goes to the nearest man and then he’d start poundin’ and hollerin’ and screamin’ and sometimes the shark would go away. Sometimes he wouldn’t go away. Sometimes that shark, he looks right into you. Right into your eyes. You know the thing about a shark, he’s got... lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eye. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be livin’. Until he bites ya and those black eyes roll over white. And then, ah then you hear that terrible high pitch screamin’ and the ocean turns red and spite of all the poundin’ and the hollerin’ they all come in and rip you to pieces. Y’know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men! I don’t know how many sharks, maybe a thousand! I don’t know how many men, they averaged six an hour. On Thursday mornin’ chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player, Bosun’s Mate. I thought he was asleep, reached over to wake him up. Bobbed up and down in the water, just like a kinda top. Up ended. Well... he’d been bitten in half below the waist. Noon the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us, he swung in low and he saw us. He’s a young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper, anyway he saw us and come in low. And three hours later a big fat PBY comes down and start to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened? Waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went in the water, three hundred and sixteen men come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.
The biggest shame of that horrific tragedy is that three navy radio stations heard the Indianapolis' distress call; one's commander was drunk, one refused to wake the duty officer, and one thought it was a "Jap trick" and didn't report it.
Discipline saves battles, lives.
For your Viewing Pleasure
I still don't see how the Navy Loses a Heavy Cruiser and shrugs it off like they misplaced a watch.
“If I remember correctly the ship had just delivered the A bomb to Tinian Island and was on its way home. What a horrible story. Hard to believe people send hate mail over these tragedies. Kimmel and Short got the same after they were pinned with responsibility for Pearl Harbor.”
USS Indianapolis delivered parts of the atomic bombs to 509th Composite Group (USAAF) on the island of Tinian; other parts were sent separately because the few people who knew about the Manhattan Project judged judged it too risky to send everything in the same shipment.
Then she steamed south to Guam where she awaited further orders. After a short delay she was ordered to the Philippines. Cruising at the sedate speed of some 17 knots, she crossed from one naval administrative region to the next. Rules governing ship’s-position reporting differed from one region to the next, and handoff of tracking her movement fell through the cracks in the bureaucratic muddle.
Not until survivors were found and rescued did USN begin to learn what happened. The cruiser’s loss had indeed been concealed from the general public under wartime censorship rules; only a couple days later, news of Japan’s imminent surrender was announced and censorship was lifted across the board. Together with a huge flood of other newsworthy items, the loss was immediately disclosed, and the armed forces quickly lost control of the story, which could not make them look anything except sneaky.
CAPT C B McVay III became the only USN officer to be convicted for “hazarding his vessel in wartime” (or some similar wording). The trial court took testimony from a wide range of individuals, including Mochitsura Hashimoto, captain of I-58, the Imperial Japanese submarine that torpedoed the Indianapolis.
Some indications exist in print, that FADM Ernest J King - CNO in WWII, widely acknowledged to be the grouchiest man ever to hold a US Naval commission - pursued the action against CAPT McVay in revenge against McVay’s father C B McVay II, who had reprimanded King circa 1930, when King had been a junior officer and McVay II was a USN admiral.
USN and Britain’s Royal Navy have a very long history of stepping quite hard on ship’s commanders (and higher rankers) who are perceived to have messed up, or merely accomplished their duty with insufficient verve. Results are spotty.
A couple books can provide more detail and context:
In Harm’s Way, Doug Stanton
Enola Gay, Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts
At Dawn we Slept, Gordon Prange, Donald Goldstein, and Katherine Dillon
The Indy crossed paths with the Japanese submarine I-58, LCDR Hashimoto commanding, on 29 July 1945. Three torpedoes hit the ship and it went down in under an hour. Of 1,196 men aboard, about 900 abandoned ship; 321 survivors were rescued beginning 2 August 1945. Sharks got the rest.
Indianapolis was a victim of the Navy's ship's movement reporting system at the time. Indy's position was plotted and noted when the ship transitioned from the Headquarters of Commander Marianas on Guam to the Commander Philippine Sea Frontier on Leyte. For capital ships like Indianapolis, it was ASSUMED that they reached their destinations on time, unless reported otherwise. Actual ship positions were based on predictions, and not reports. There was no feedback loop where Commander Philippine Sea Frontier, Leyte, notified Commander Marianas on Guam that Indy had actually arrived.
The Indianapolis sent distress calls before sinking. Three stations received the signals; however, none acted upon the calls. One commander was drunk, another had ordered his men not to disturb him and a third thought it was a Japanese trap. For a long time the Navy denied that a distress call had been sent. The receipt of the call came to light only after the release of declassified records.
When the ship did not reach Leyte on the 31 july 1845 as scheduled, no report was sent that she was overdue. This omission was due to a fault in the Movement Report System.
The Navy never addressed why a large capital ship, such as the Indianapolis, was steaming from Guam to the Philippines without an escort.
In November 1945, CAPT Charles McVay III was court martialed and convicted of “hazarding his ship by failing to zigzag.”
Several things about the court martial were controversial. There was evidence that the Navy itself had placed the ship in harm's way, in that McVay’s orders were to “zigzag at his discretion, weather permitting.” Further, LCDR 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. 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. The guilt placed on McVay’s shoulders mounted until he committed suicide in 1968.
In October 2000, the United States Congress passed a resolution that Captain McVay’s official 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 U.S. Navy were lost in combat in World War II, McVay was the only captain to be court-martialed for the sinking of his ship. In July 2001, the Secretary of the Navy ordered McVay’s record cleared of all wrongdoing.
“Capt. McVay’s court martial was also the first in our history where an enemy commander - Capt. Hashimoto, commander of the I-58 - testified.”
“Ah, so, this ‘Melican captain, he numba ten skipper! He make ship go allsame straight rine, me have no probrem aim torpedos light down he throat, they go boom, boom! Numba one shoot! You got me more queshuns? No? OK, we go now!”
I had a USNA appointment but turned it down. Even then heard rumors about the Navy scapegoating officers. For those in command, `zero defects’ was strictly enforced.
Captain McVay did his duty to the best of his ability and paid a terrible price. He should not be forgotten.
“Ya know the thing about the shark Chief? He’s got big eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes ... Doesn’t seem to be alive ... Til he bites ya ...”
I read a book about the sinking of the INDIANAPOLIS back in 1968.
When Quint points to the scar and says it was the Indianapolis I knew what he was about to say.
Horrible tragedy, but it was war.
I read in another account that many of those sailors who perished in the water might have been save had the Chief of the Boat carried out his duty of ensuring that all the lifeboats had sufficient water and rations. Most of the drinking water had evaporated. (( I’m a landlubber BTW ))
"That night [of the 19 February 1945] was the most horrible that any member of the M.L. [motor launch] crews ever experienced. The scattered rifle shots in the pitch black swamp punctured by the screams of wounded men crushed in the jaws of huge reptiles, and the blurred worrying sound of spinning crocodiles made a cacophony of hell that has rarely been duplicated on earth. At dawn the vultures arrived to clean up what the crocodiles had left. . . . Of about one thousand Japanese soldiers that entered the swamps of Ramree, only about twenty were found."
And how to crush a beer can?
Naa. John Belushi taught me that.
Phew! What a monologue! And I can hear every inflection in Shaw’s voice as I read through the words. No other actor could have done it better. I still think it’s Spielberg’s best movie.
Richad Dreyfuss taught me how to crush a paper cup.
His monologue educated thousands of baby boomers on the Indianapolis story. RIP the great Robert Shaw and Quint.
Shaw was also a writer, and I read that he came up with that monologue himself.
The reason why the Navy went after McVay and convicted him even after the Japanese sub commander testified that McVay had in fact zig zagged as regulations called for, was the Admiral Earnest King a piece of crap if there ever was one pushed the issue.
Why would he do such a low and underhanded thing? Because in 1905 in China he and another young Naval Officer got in trouble and got chewed out by their C.O. who was McVay’s father.
King being the scumbag he was carried that grudge for 40 years and wouldn’t let a chance to get even go by. Look up some quotes about King and you’ll see
Captain McVay had two grown sons (Charles IV and Kimo) who recall their grandfather, Admiral McVay (Captain McVay’s father) say that Admiral King, the person who had ordered their father’s court-martial, never forgot a grudge. King had been a junior officer under Admiral McVay’s command when he and other officers sneaked some women aboard a ship.
Admiral McVay had a letter of reprimand placed in King’s record. King used the court-martialing of Captain McVay to get back at Admiral McVay, or so the story goes
November 24, 2010 at 2:08 PM
I tend to doubt those kind of stories - usually producers, director & scriptwriters are pretty good in Hollywood and this is a classic movie. I doubt know if the mono is in the original novel.
Shaw, was indeed, a good writer. I have one of his plays on my shelf “Cato Street” about an English rebellion.
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