USS Indianapolis wreck location a great discovery

  • An image from a remotely operated underwater vehicle shows wreckage of the USS Indianapolis, including the ship’s bell, at the bottom of the North Pacific Ocean. Civilian researchers said they have located the wreck of the USS Indianapolis, the World War II heavy cruiser that played a critical role in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima before being struck by Japanese torpedoes. Courtesy of Paul G. Allen

  • This undated image from a remotely operated vehicle courtesy of Paul G. Allen, shows wreckage of the USS Indianapolis, which appears to be one of the two anchor windlass mechanisms from the forecastle of the ship. Civilian researchers say they have located the wreck of the USS Indianapolis, the World War II heavy cruiser that played a critical role in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima before being struck by Japanese torpedoes. The expedition crew of Research Vessel Petrel, which is owned by Microsoft co-founder Allen, says it located the wreckage of the Indianapolis on the floor of the North Pacific Ocean, more than 18,000 feet (5,500 meters) below the surface, the U.S. Navy said in a news release Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. (Courtesy of Paul G. Allen via AP)

  • This undated image from a remotely operated underwater vehicle courtesy of Paul G. Allen, shows what appears to be the painted hull number "35" on the USS Indianapolis. Based on the curvature of the hull section, this seems to be the port side of the ship. Civilian researchers say they have located the wreck of the USS Indianapolis, the World War II heavy cruiser that played a critical role in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima before being struck by Japanese torpedoes. The expedition crew of Research Vessel Petrel, which is owned by Microsoft co-founder Allen, says it located the wreckage of the Indianapolis on the floor of the North Pacific Ocean, more than 18,000 feet (5,500 meters) below the surface, the U.S. Navy said in a news release Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. (Courtesy of Paul G. Allen via AP)

  • In this July 10, 1945, photo the USS Indianapolis is shown off the Mare Island Navy Yard in Northern California after her final overhaul and repair of combat damage. U.S. Navy via AP

  • This undated image from a remotely operated underwater vehicle courtesy of Paul G. Allen, shows a spare parts box from the USS Indianapolis on the floor of the North Pacific Ocean. Civilian researchers say they have located the wreck of the USS Indianapolis, the World War II heavy cruiser that played a critical role in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima before being struck by Japanese torpedoes. The expedition crew of Research Vessel Petrel, which is owned by Microsoft co-founder Allen, says it located the wreckage of the Indianapolis on the floor of the North Pacific Ocean, more than 18,000 feet (5,500 meters) below the surface, the U.S. Navy said in a news release Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. (Courtesy of Paul G. Allen via AP)

  • This undated image from a remotely operated vehicle courtesy of Paul G. Allen, shows the bottom of an anchor, marked "U.S. Navy" and "Norfolk Navy Yard," belonging to the USS Indianapolis, at the bottom of the North Pacific Ocean. Civilian researchers say they have located the wreck of the USS Indianapolis, the World War II heavy cruiser that played a critical role in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima before being struck by Japanese torpedoes. The expedition crew of Research Vessel Petrel, which is owned by Microsoft co-founder Allen, says it located the wreckage of the Indianapolis on the floor of the North Pacific Ocean, more than 18,000 feet (5,500 meters) below the surface, the U.S. Navy said in a news release Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. (Courtesy of Paul G. Allen via AP)

  • ----Manila Hagatna North Pacific Pacific Celebes Sea Ocean PHILIPPINES GUAM PALAU 200 km 200 mi SOURCES: Maps4News/ HERE; U. S. Navy AP Detail Japanese submarine sinks the USS Indianapolis. ----

Monitor staff
Published: 8/22/2017 12:14:59 AM

A story about the sun and the moon eclipsed other news that deserved more attention this weekend.

Here on Earth, the USS Indianapolis was discovered in the wee hours of Saturday morning, after lying at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean for 72 years. That’s a headliner, far more significant than what most people were talking about – the moon passing in front of the sun – the past few days.

“This weekend was a tough time,” said Paul Taylor, spokesman for the Naval History and Heritage Command on Monday from Washington, D.C. “I’m glad we found the ship, of course, but from a news perspective, the timing was less than optimal.”

From the view here, nothing could compare to this discovery. The Indianapolis was sunk by a Japanese submarine near the end of World War II. Nearly 900 men died, while 316 survived, after bobbing like tops in the choppy Philippine Sea for more than four days.

The event received a spot in pop culture during a scene from Jaws, when a crusty seaman named Quint, played by Robert Shaw, recalled his experience on the Indianapolis.

The Navy cruiser’s watery grave had not been found, despite numerous attempts. Then came the photos Saturday, taken 18,000 feet below the surface, grainy shots of a No. 35 that clearly and absolutely identified the ship.

We also saw a picture of a tool box that said, “USS Indianapolis spare parts,” and another showing an anchor. The sun and the moon, in my mind, should have been bumped to secondary status by the media.

Even today, three days later, the buzz here should be deafening. As Taylor told me, “One of the things we consider in our charter of Naval History and Heritage Command is to honor and remember the service and sacrifice of our sailors. For us, this is a big deal. This is a very big deal.”

Where do you begin? The Indianapolis had already earned 10 battle stars by the time of her final mission. Plus, this time, the Indianapolis carried components of the atomic bombs to Tinian Island, where they were built and later dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, helping to end the war.

Then, the unthinkable: Two torpedoes slammed into the Indianapolis shortly after midnight on July 30, 1945, killing about 400 sailors, all of whom went down with the ship. About 800 men survived.

They swallowed oil and sea water. They suffered from hypothermia and exposure. Stuck in the ocean for days, they began hallucinating. Some were eaten by sharks.

“We formed ourselves into tight groups, kinda like old squares in a battle,” Quint says in Jaws. “Sometimes the shark’d go away. Sometimes he wouldn’t go away. ... The ocean turns red, in spite of the pounding and hollering.”

The Indianapolis sank in 12 minutes, too quick to allow for a distress signal. It remains a tragic maritime disaster in U.S. Naval history.

The Indianapolis remained silent, the exact area in which it went down unknown, since all log books went down with her. Expeditions tried and failed to locate her.

“All the paperwork was lost,” said Dr. Richard Hulver, a historian for the NHHC, in a video sent to me by a firm hired to inform the press about the discovery. “There was no distress signal. Basically we had nothing but the recollections of the crew, the survivors. It was an imprecise location at the beginning.”

It stayed that way until about a year ago, when members of the NHHC began preparations for the 75th anniversary of the war’s end. Historians started researching different areas of the war, and Culver looked into the sinking of the Indianapolis.

He found a blog post on the website of a fudge business in Michigan. There, the son of a sailor who had served on a tank landing ship, which had crossed paths with the Indianapolis about 11 hours before she sank, was honoring his father.

“We knew this passing had occurred, and it’s mentioned in some of the things that went on after the ship was sunk,” Taylor said. “So Dr. Hulver pulled that log to get a better fix on where that encounter happened to see if that changed our understanding of where the ship was when it sank.”

The NHHC announced it had potentially found where the Indianapolis had gone down, and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen was listening. He had the money and the equipment and the passion to look for the ship.

“They started asking questions and we started answering them as best we could,” Taylor said. “People have gone after the Indianapolis in the past, and I was not too terribly optimistic that they were going to find it. I mean, we’re talking about more than 3 miles deep in a mountain range, but Mr. Allen’s team was confident from the get-go.”

Taylor got the call about 2:30 Saturday morning. The Indianapolis had been found. Finally.

“In the history business, it’s pretty rare my phone rings on a weekend,” Taylor said. “And it’s exceedingly rare that it rings at 2:30 in the morning.”

The photos are startling, shots of a horn and an anchor and a number and a tool box, all clearly visible, all well-preserved, all reminders that something terrible happened during a terrible point in human history.

“Even in a great tragedy like this one, there is valor, there is bravery,” retired Rear Admiral Samuel Cox said on the released video. “What they did needs to be remembered, and not just for getting torpedoed and sunk. They were heroes.”

A U.S. law passed in 2004, says the site cannot be touched. It was lost, now it’s been found, after 72 years.

“We don’t want to disturb the wreck,” Taylor said. “It’s the final resting place of several hundred American sailors. To us, it’s hallowed ground, as much as Arlington National Cemetery is.”

And that’s news, more than the moon passing in front of the sun.




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