The USS Indianapolis was a heavy cruiser built by New York Shipyard and commissioned in 1932. It had nine 8-inch guns that made it a “treaty” cruiser in accordance with the Washington Naval Conference. Propulsion was from eight steam boilers, four geared steam turbines and four propellers. 610-foot-long, beam of 66 feet, draft of 17 feet and capable of 32 knots speed.
The USS Indianapolis (CL/CA-35) (1932)
Most of its World War II career was in the south Pacific as part of several aircraft carrier task force. Highlights of its activity during WWII are:
1941 – It was in the south Pacific during the attack on Pearl Harbor. It returned to Pearl, joined up with a task force looking for the Japanese carrier that launched the attack but the task force was unsuccessful.
1942 – The Japanese occupied Rabaul, New Britain (about 900 miles north east of Australia) early in 1942. Indianapolis with its task force south of Rabaul was attacked by Japanese aircraft but did not sustain damage. In August, Indianapolis supported operations in the Aleutian Islands (north Pacific) leading to US forces occupying Adak Island.
1943 – Still in the Aleutian Islands, Indianapolis sunk a freighter trying to transport supplies to Japanese occupying forces. Later its guns supported retaking islands in the Gilbert and Marshal Island (about halfway between Australia and Hawaii Islands, or 1500 miles south west of Hawaii).
1944 – The Gilbert, Marshall and Caroline Islands were key to the United States island-hopping strategy on the way to mainland Japan. Indianapolis participated in several key battles.
1945 – Air Craft from a task force that included Indianapolis, bombed Japanese home island military facilities in February. On 31 March, while supporting the invasion of Okinawa a Japanese plane bombed the ship causing flooding and extensive damage. The ship made in back to Mare Island Naval Shipyard in California under its own power for repairs.
Secret Mission 1945 (July 1945) – After completion of repairs, Indianapolis received top secret orders to deliver enriched uranium for the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. The uranium was about half the world supply at the time. Indianapolis raced on, unescorted, delivering the bomb components to Tinian, Mariana Islands in record time. Tinian is 1500 miles from the Japanese mainland, within range of American bombers.
The USS USS Indianapolis (CL/CA-35) (1932)
Sinking and Rescue (30 July 1945) - After delivery of material the ship was sent to Guam for crew change. After leaving Guam, she was torpedoed and sank in 12 minutes. About three hundred of the crew went down with the ship. The Navy did not realize that the ship had sunk until survivors were spotted in the water almost four days later. An amphibious aircraft dropped life rafts and one landed on the water with 12 foot swells to pick up additional survivors. Of the initial crew of about 1190, about 890 were in the water after the sinking, only 316 were ultimately rescued. Many survivors were injured and all suffered from lack of food and water, exposure to hot sun (day) and hypothermia (night) and shark attacks. Several books and a movie were made about the sinking and ordeal of the initial survivors.
Left: USS Indianapolis Men of Courage movie poster starring Nicolas Cage. Right: New York Times Best Selling book Indianapolis.