A search team led by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen has discovered the storied wreck of the 610-foot heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis, which was torpedoed and sunk in the closing days of World War II after delivering to the Pacific island of Tinian a top-secret cargo of components for the Little Boy atomic bomb. Indianapolis rests more than 18,000 feet below the surface of the Philippine Sea.
Indianapolis was en route to the Philippines when torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-58 just after midnight on July 30, 1945. The ship sank in 12 minutes, leaving its crew little time to deploy lifeboats, don life jackets or secure provisions. Radio operators sent distress signals, but they were dismissed, and more than three days passed before a patrolling U.S. bomber spotted men adrift. Some 900 of the 1,196 sailors and Marines aboard had survived the sinking. Of those only 316 were rescued, the rest having succumbed to exposure, dehydration, saltwater poisoning and horrific shark attacks. Fewer than two dozen remain to carry on the memory of their crewmates [ussindianapolis.org].
In 2016 the Naval History and Heritage Command [history.navy.mil] announced a breakthrough discovery in the decades-long search for Indianapolis—a log entry from the tank landing ship LST-779 indicating it had passed the cruiser 11 hours before it sank. The report—which corroborated the account of Indianapolis Captain Charles McVay III and included coordinates—narrowed the hunt to a still daunting 600 square miles of ocean. With that information Allen deployed his 250-foot research ship, R/V Petrel, which pinpointed the wreck on Aug. 19, 2017. To view a PBS documentary about the sinking and discovery of Indianapolis, including a tour of the wreckage, visit Allen’s website [paulallen.com].