Skip to comments.This Day In History - World War II July 29, 1945 Japanese sink the USS Indianapolis
Posted on 07/29/2007 4:56:24 AM PDT by mainepatsfan
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.
As a prelude to a proposed invasion of the Japanese mainland, scheduled for November 1, U.S. forces bombed the Japanese home islands from sea and air, as well as blowing Japanese warships out of the water. The end was near for Imperial Japan, but it was determined to go down fighting. 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. Interestingly, the sub was commanded by a lieutenant who had also participated in the Pearl Harbor invasion.
There were 1,196 crewmen onboard 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. The Indianapolis's commander, Captain Charles McVay, was the only officer ever to be court-martialed for the loss of a ship during wartime in the history of the U.S. Navy.
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.
Quint from Steven Spielberg’s 1975 film Jaws
The Discovery Channel kicks off it’s 20th anniversary of Shark Week with an episode dealing with this event. It’s not going to be a pleasant viewing experience.
To allow a heavy cruiser to leave port without destroyers to escort it was criminal.
Wasn’t the Indianapolis running straight, no zig zagging, when she was torpedoed? IIRC the Captain wasn’t even taking normal anti submarine precautions at the time because he believed the area was free of Japanese subs.
I think you’re right about the no evasive zig-zagging,assuming no subs turned out to be a costly mistake.If only there had been one destroyer with her-they could have saved a whole lot of lives.
62 years later, still a tragic loss for America!
to this day, I cannot fathom how some people still question the morality of our dropping the Bomb on Japan.
You won’t find many veterans of the Pacific war who do.
One of my favorite scenes from a favorite movie.
It was also disgraceful how the navy used McVay as a scapegoat. Amazingly it took 55 years for that to be corrected, many many years too late.
He ended up committing suicide.
And unfortunately, the court-martial is still on his record even though Congress and the Navy admit he was not at fault. Would have been nice on this anniversary if Bush took that off his record.
The sub captain testified it would not have mattered.
Some surface ships, like this cruiser, had such speed that it was felt that zig zagging was unnecessary under certain conditions. IIRC, the cruiser was running in & out of storm fronts & so ceased zig zagging for safety reasons -- I could be wrong on that point.
Submerged submarines were generally too slow to get into firing position once detecting such a ship unless they got lucky. OTOH, if the sub was running surfaced, where it would be faster, the firing solution would be easier.
All that being said, Japanese I-boats were some of the fastest subs around in WW2. They were designed to keep pace with our battleline and attrite it prior to a big gun battle.
WW-II submarines intercepted ships, like the Indianapolis, which have a speed advantage by steering an intercept course, the prey ship has to have a component of its velocity in the direction of the submarine. Submarines often pursued victims for hours, on the surface, maneuvering to a position in the path of the ship and submerging (or often times not) and waiting for the victim to come into a favorable firing position.
If the prey suddenly turned away, the submarine would lose any chance of inception. However, randomly making course changes made it just as likely that a ship would encounter a submarine that she would otherwise have avoided.
BTW, the QE-I routinely crossed the Atlantic carrying thousands of troops without escort because her speed far exceeded that of destroyers and it was felt she was safer just steaming fast without escorts. (Yes, she “zig-zagged”.) Submarines trying to catch a fast surface ship is like Randy Moss being covered by a dozen grandmothers. I think destroyer escorts for the Indy would have been pretty useless, she was better off relying on her speed.
In the event, the Indy was silhouetted by a full moon and had the bad luck to run into a submarine directly in her course.
Many people (including the vast majority of the Indianapolis' survivors) felt Capt. McVeigh was scapegoated. A passing plane reported seeing survivors in the water shortly after the sinking and it was couple of days after she was overdue before a rescue was mounted. Incompetence and inertia on the part of the Navy brass lead to unnecessary causalities and someone had to pay. Logically enough, after visiting punishment on the innocent there was praise and rewards for the nonparticipants.
“While this training was taking place, the disassembled components of the first two atomic bombs were transshipped to Tinian by various means. For the uranium bomb code-named Little Boy, the U-235 projectile and bomb pre-assemblies left Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, California, on July 16 aboard the cruiser USS Indianapolis, arriving July 26. That same day three C-54s of the 320th TCS left Kirtland Army Air Field each with one of the U-235 target rings and landed at North Field on July 28.
“The components for the bomb code-named Fat Man all arrived by air. On July 26 the bomb’s plutonium core (encased in its insertion capsule) and the beryllium-polonium initiator were transported from Kirtland by C-54 in the custody of Project Alberta couriers, also arriving July 28. The pre-assemblies of Fat Man F-31 were picked up by B-29 at Kirtland on July 28 and reached North Field on August 2.
“The final item of preparation for the operation came on July 29, 1945. General Carl Spaatz, commanding all strategic bombers in the Pacific, arrived at Tinian with the order for the attack. Drafted by Brig.Gen. Leslie Groves and sent by Gen. George C. Marshall from Potsdam on July 25, the order designated four targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, and Nagasaki, and ordered the attack to be made “as soon as weather will permit after about 3 August.”
Thanks. Good post. I’ll be interested to see the History Channel take on it if they even bother to cover the aftermath.
LOL! Great analogy!
Nice post. While we are at it lets remember the USS Juneau (CL-52).
Similar to the USS Indianapolis, but only 10 survived.
Indeed. The ship the Fighting Sullivans were aboard.
Did you know America WARNED the Japanese civilians they were going to ATTACK the major cities that included HIROSHIMA and NAGASAKI for over 1 week BEFORE the attack?
" LeMay bombing leaflet, which was delivered to Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and 33 other Japanese cities on 1 August 1945. By 9 August, more than 5 million leaflets about the atom bomb had been released over major Japanese cities. "
I had NO idea that the U.S. provided ample warning to the Japanese civilian population to evacuate a list of cities, and that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were marked for destruction.
This was no sneak attack, and hardly the heartless act the leftists would have you believe!
Remember this proudly when you confront a leftist weasel about America's first use of the nuclear bomb - we gave the Japanese enemy notice by leaflet and radio station for days beforehand to evacuate!
None of our would-be enemies would be so charitable, but you will NEVER hear this from the treasonous dinosaur media.
Here's more on the leaflet warning the Japanese citizenry:
Front side of OWI notice #2106, dubbed the LeMay bombing leaflet, which was delivered to Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and 33 other Japanese cities on 1 August 1945.
Office of War Information [OWI] presses were turning out leaflets that revealed the special nature of Hiroshimas destruction and predicted similar fates for more Japanese cities in the absence of immediate acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam agreement.
The Japanese text on the reverse side of the leaflet carried the following warning:
Read this carefully as it may save your life or the life of a relative or friend.
In the next few days, some or all of the cities named on the reverse side will be destroyed by American bombs. These cities contain military installations and workshops or factories which produce military goods.
We are determined to destroy all of the tools of the military clique which they are using to prolong this useless war. But, unfortunately, bombs have no eyes.
So, in accordance with America's humanitarian policies, the American Air Force, which does not wish to injure innocent people, now gives you warning to evacuate the cities named and save your lives.
America is not fighting the Japanese people but is fighting the military clique which has enslaved the Japanese people. The peace which America will bring will free the people from the oppression of the military clique and mean the emergence of a new and better Japan. You can restore peace by demanding new and good leaders who will end the war.
We cannot promise that only these cities will be among those attacked but some or all of them will be, so heed this warning and evacuate these cities immediately.
(See Richard S. R. Hubert, The OWI Saipan Operation, Official Report to US Information Service, Washington, DC 1946.)
By 9 August, more than 5 million leaflets about the atom bomb had been released over major Japanese cities.
The OWI radio station beamed a similar message to Japan every 15 minutes.
Tip of the hat to Freeper oh8eleven for bringing this to my attention.
Unfortunately, you wont find many veterans of the Pacific war left any more at all. Most of the anti-nuke crowd weren't there.
Yes, and it was also easily visible by moonlight.
A lot of the confusion had to do with the ship crossing fleet boundaries. Indianapolis was flagship of the Fifth Fleet, but she was moving into waters controlled by the Seventh Fleet. Nobody at the Seventh Fleet really did anything about it for days after she was 'overdue'. I don't think the nature of her mission had anything to do with it since the Bomb was already delivered to Tinian.
Whoever said war is hell, perpetrates a salient truth.There was no pure side to the war between Japan and America, and if you think either was, you are a dreamer.
I happen to admire modern Japan and her people, who were largely hoodwinked by a military movement of spiritist, banzai, A-holes, prior to WWII.That's why the Japanese people are so anti-military today. Now they need to have an offensive capacity in their military to help the USA contain China. Lets hope they get over it. And we need to as well.
Remainder of the movie quote:
“Very first light, chief, sharks came cruising, so we formed ourselves into tight groups
you know, kind of like old squares in a battle like you see in a calendar, like the battle of Waterloo, and the idea was, shark comes to the nearest man and then you start pounding and hollering and screaming. Sometimes the shark goes, sometimes he wouldnt go away
I dont know how many sharks. Maybe a thousand, I dont know how many men, they averaged six an hour
Noon the fifth day, Mr Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us, he swung in low and three hours later a big fat PBY comes down, starts to pick us up
So, eleven hundred men went into the water, three hundred and sixteen men come out and the sharks took the rest, June 29th 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.”
On this day in 1941 I was born!
“to this day, I cannot fathom how some people still question the morality of our dropping the Bomb on Japan”
This has been explained many times over the years: They enjoy all the benefits of the dropping of the bomb (existance, Democracy, those sorts of things) while at the same enjoying the sense that they are morally superior to you and I.
Sorry pal, I was on Okinawa for the attack on Japan that never came. Love that bomb.
Whoever said war is hell, perpetrates a salient truth.There was no pure side to the war between Japan and America, and if you think either was, you are a dreamer.
If ever there was a just war fought, the war with Japan was. The Japanese had killed thousands in China by the time of Pearl Harbor. Their intent was to own the western Pacific, including Australia. They gave no quarter, and they received none from us.
Say it loudly - “America warned Japanese Civililans to evacuate Hiroshima and Nagasaki days before the bombs were dropped.”
Nothing else is required.
No guilt, no excuses. NONE.
And tell the Libs who would condemn America and try to shame her on this anniversary, to shove it.
May God continue to bless the souls of these brave Americans.
JAWS - U.S.S. Indianapolis Speech
Note : The only error Robert Shaw made in this scene was saying the date June 29, 1945. The actual date of the Indianapolis disaster was July 29-30, 1945.
Two good books about the USS Indianapolis...
I’ve read them both and they are great reads. I did like Stanton’s book better though...
Displacement hull ships are bow wave limited, the rule of thumb is that maximum speed is 1.34 kt x sqrt(hull length( ft));
U-Boots could make about 14 kts on the surface only 3-4 submerged. Until the wide spread introduction of marine radar towards the middle of the war, U-Boot captains generally attacked (even convoys) on the surface because “gun laying” was more accurate. They would only submerge to escape destroyer attacks.
Another interesting sidelight: Truman drafted a letter to Churchill (though Atlee succeeded Churchill by the time of the Hiroshima attack) explaining that the United States had decided to use atomic weapons against Tokyo despite British objections. The Japs, excuse me, Nips, saved themselves a world of hurt by surrendering when they did.
Thank God for Fat Man and Little Boy.
In the end, they probably saved even more Japanese lives than American lives.
I encourage every American man, woman, and child to read Doug Stanton’s In Harm’s Way. It is a riveting account of sacrifice that you will not be able to put down.
God bless those men.
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.Navy lost 2,008 on December 7, 1941, but not on just one ship.
Aircraft carriers are probably the fastest surface ships (in our Navy) because of their hull length. When the aircraft carrier is launching/recovering they want as much air over the deck as possible. A friend of mine served on Knox-class frigates as a boiler tech. When they were pulling “lifeguard duty” they would trail behind the aircraft carrier by a mile or 2 to recover any pilots who went into the drink during launch or recovery. My buddy said that his frigate would have to ‘tag-team’ with another frigate because they couldn’t keep station for more than a short period (they had it firewalled). Very rough ride except in the smoothest seas.
From: Recollections of the sinking of USS Indianapolis (CA-35) by CAPT Lewis L. Haynes, MC (Medical Corps) (Ret.), the senior medical officer on board the ship.
“There were also mass hallucinations. It was amazing how everyone would see the same thing. One would see something, then someone else would see it. One day everyone got in a long line. I said, “What are you doing?” Someone answered, “Doctor, there’s an island up here just ahead of us. One of us can go ashore at a time and you can get 15 minutes sleep.” They all saw the island. You couldn’t convince them otherwise. Even I fought hallucinations off and on, but something always brought me back.
I saw only one shark. I remember reaching out trying to grab hold of him. I thought maybe it would be food. However, when night came, things would bump against you in the dark or brush against your leg and you would wonder what it was. But honestly, in the entire 110 hours I was in the water I did not see a man attacked by a shark. However, the destroyers that picked up the bodies afterwards found a large number of those bodies.”