U.S. Navy Commemorates USS Indianapolis on 75th Anniversary of America’s Worst At-Sea Naval Disaster

Mike Schuler
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July 29, 2020

VALLEJO, Calif. (July 10, 1945) USS Indianapolis (CA 35) is shown off the Mare Island Navy Yard, in Northern California, July 10, 1945, after her final overhaul and repair of combat damage. The photo was taken before the ship delivered atomic bomb components to Tinian and just 20 days before she was sunk by a Japanese submarine. U.S. Navy Photo

The U.S. Navy today is calling for a moment of silence to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, the worst sea disaster in U.S. Navy history.

The moment of silence was requested by Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday in a message to the fleet.

“On July 30, 1945, just three minutes after midnight, the heavy cruiser USS INDIANAPOLIS (CA 35) was struck by two Japanese torpedoes in the dark of night while conducting a solo transit of the Philippine Sea. Despite their best efforts, the ship went down in 12 short minutes. While around 900 of the 1,195-member crew escaped the ship that night, tragically only 316 were rescued,” said Gilday.

Known by some as the history’s greatest shark attack, the sinking of the USS Indianapolis is one of the Navy’s most infamous shipwreck stories. Her story is forever immortalized in the movie Jaws in the famous scene where ‘Quint’ describes the sinking and how 1,100 men went into the water and only 316 came out. “The sharks took the rest”, he says.

The 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, sinking in just 12 minutes. In reality, around 800 of the ship’s 1,196 Sailors and Marines survived the sinking, but after five days in the water they were suffering from exposure, dehydration, drowning and, yes, shark attacks. There were only 316 survivors.

Prior to the torpedo attack, the Indianapolis had just completed a secret mission delivering components of the atomic bomb used in Hiroshima that would ultimately help end the war in the Pacific.

The wreck of the USS Indianapolis was located in 2017 at a depth of 5,500 meters by civilian researchers led by the late billionaire Paul Allen.

“While much is written about the crews four harrowing days in the waters of the Pacific waiting to be found with few lifeboats, over-exposure to the elements, and almost no food or water, one thing is certain: those brave Sailors and Marines endured impossible hardships by banding together. And we must do the same today,” said Gilday in his message.

“So, I ask you to pause and take a moment on July 29, between 11:03 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. EDT, to remember the brave Sailors and Marines of INDIANAPOLIS. Remember their courage and devotion to each other in the face of the most severe adversity. Remember their valor in combat and the role they played in ending the most devastating war in history. Honor their memory and draw strength from their legacy.

“America. Has. A. Great. Navy. Our nation counts on you and so do I. Never more proud to be your CNO,” Gilday’s message said.

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