Navy warship found 72 years after sinking

August 20, 2017
| Report Focus News
170819-N-N0101-003 VALLEJO, Calif. (July 12, 1945) The Portland-class heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA 35) in port at the Mare Island Navy Yard, in Northern California following its final overhaul. The ship was sunk on July 30, 1945 by an Imperial Japanese submarine in the Philippine Sea following delivery of parts for Little Boy, the first atomic bomb used in combat, to the United States air base at Tinian. Of 1,196 crewmen aboard, approximately 300 went down with the ship. The remaining 900 faced exposure, dehydration, saltwater poisoning, and shark attacks while floating with few lifeboats and almost no food or water. The Navy learned of the sinking when survivors were spotted four days later by the crew of a PV-1 Ventura on routine patrol. Only 317 survived. The release status of this photograph has changed to released since the stamp indicating that this photo is not released was applied. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

More than seven decades after it was lost in the closing days of World War Two, a US Navy warship has been rediscovered in the North Pacific.

The USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the early hours of 30 July, 1945.

It sank in just 12 minutes, before the crew could send a distress signal or deploy life-saving equipment.

Around 800 of its 1,196 sailors survived the sinking but most of them fell victim to sharks or dehydration.

Only 316 sailors were alive four days later when a passing bomber spotted them and a rescue began.

Just 22 of them are still living today, the US Navy said.

The ship’s loss came just after it completed what turned out to be its final mission: delivering parts of the atomic bomb that would be used to devastate the Japanese city of Hiroshima and ultimately force Japan out of the war.

Its story became the theme of many books and films, including USS Indianapolis: Men Of Courage, starring Nicolas Cage.

It was also mentioned in Stephen Spielberg’s Jaws of 1975, with fictional survivor Captain Quint remembering his wait to be rescued after the disaster.

But 72 years after it sank, the wreckage of the USS Indianapolis has been found in the Philippine Sea by 13 civilian researchers on the Research Vessel Petrel.

The ship lies 3.5 miles below the surface, according to philanthropist Paul Allen, who headed the team.

Mr Allen, also co-founder of Microsoft, said in a statement released by the US Navy that the discovery was “humbling”.

He said: “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.

“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.”

It was later presented to the Royal Navy.

Mr Allen’s team is not the first to search for the USS Indianapolis but his success has been put down to his re-fitting of the Research Vessel Petrel with state of the art equipment capable of diving to 3.5 miles, or 6,000 metres.

The expedition will survey the site and do a live tour in the next few weeks.

The ship remains US property and its exact location will not be revealed, the Navy said.

US law also says that the wreck is to be respected as a war grave and must not be disturbed, a law that the Navy said had been followed by the researchers.

Sam Cox, director of the Naval History and Heritage Command, said: “Even in the worst defeats and disasters there is valour and sacrifice that deserves to never be forgotten.”