The USS Indianapolis (CA-35) was commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 15 November 1932. The ship served with honor from Pearl Harbor through the last campaign of World War II, sinking in action two weeks before the end of the war. On 30 July 1945, while sailing from Guam to Leyte, Indianapolis was torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-58. The ship capsized and sank in twelve minutes. Survivors were spotted by a patrol aircraft on 2 August. All air and surface units capable of rescue operations were dispatched to the scene at once, and the surrounding waters were thoroughly searched for survivors. Upon completion of the day and night search on 8 August, 316 men were rescued out of the crew of 1,199.
We believe we were hit by two torpedoes, one around frame 8 or 10, because the bow was blown off forward around ten. Another one torpedo around frame fifty. We believe that they were large torpedoes, that they were running close to the surface, because none of us believe the magazines blew up, that is the only way we can account for the flashes of flame through the ship.
He was able to aft on the starboard side, although badly injured, he didn’t get to the main engine room, No. 2 engine room, where he found No. 2 engine had lost vacuum and that was shut down. He did talk to somebody in No. 1 engine room. They told him that apparently the main steamline going through the port side of the forward engine room had been knocked loose. They had no steam and asked for instructions.
All power all lights were lost forward. The fact that the torpedo hits were there, at least we think they were up forward, are borne out by the fact we have almost no Marines who were reported in that section of the ship. We have not a single steward’s mate and their compartment was up there and we have very few officers that were in their rooms at the time of the explosion. So we believe all of those people were killed almost instantly.
It’s inconceivable that you can’t get a message off or that we didn’t get a message off. However, we do know that we were in the water about 107 hours, therefore, next time we think that we would like to have a positive means, in case we went down, of somebody saying, “They’re gone”, somebody with us and tell the outside world about it.
There was one group of survivors that had been picked up the previous night by the high-speed transport USS Bassett APD-73, 155 sailors, which were taken to Samar Philippine Islands. They did not get the message to come to Palau and the skipper knew there was a hospital in Samar so he headed for there rather than Palau or Ulithi, even though Samar was a little further away.
The groups which were picked up by the Ringness and the Register were taken to Palau. There were 166 in that group. In Palau when they reached there, two of the enlisted men died. In Samar when that group reached there, two of those enlisted men died. So that the total number of survivors originally picked up was 320. We had left, finally 316, 15 officers and 301 men.
All the people who did survive were apparently in quite good physical condition. They had some people with fractured arms or fractured ankles, but on the whole those who survived the four days in the water were in very good shape.
I think I’ve said before, everybody was suffering from exhaustion, most people had quite bad sinus problems from the salt water and oil that had been washed up their noses. A lot of people had burns, everybody had those salt water ulcers which are very painful and take quite a while to heal up, and my personal feeling is that had we not been sighted when we were , within another 24 hours, we would probably have had only 50% and 24 hours after that we might not have had hardly any in that life preserver group, because eve we, on the rafts, were getting very uncomfortable.
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