ShareThis Page

Researchers find wreckage of WWII-era USS Indianapolis

| Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017, 8:54 a.m.
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)
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)
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 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)
In this July 10, 1945, photo provided by U.S. Navy media content operations, USS Indianapolis (CA 35) is shown off the Mare Island Navy Yard, in Northern California, after her final overhaul and repair of combat damage. 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 Indianapolis, with 1,196 sailors and Marines on board, was sailing the Philippine Sea between Guam and Leyte Gulf when two torpedoes from a Japanese submarine struck just after midnight on July 30, 1945. (U.S. Navy via AP)
In this July 10, 1945, photo provided by U.S. Navy media content operations, USS Indianapolis (CA 35) is shown off the Mare Island Navy Yard, in Northern California, after her final overhaul and repair of combat damage. 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 Indianapolis, with 1,196 sailors and Marines on board, was sailing the Philippine Sea between Guam and Leyte Gulf when two torpedoes from a Japanese submarine struck just after midnight on July 30, 1945. (U.S. Navy 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)
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)
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 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 wreckage of the USS Indianapolis, including the ship's bell 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)
This undated image from a remotely operated underwater vehicle courtesy of Paul G. Allen, shows wreckage of the USS Indianapolis, including the ship's bell 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)
FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2016 file photo, Popular Mobilization Units fighters ride on the back of a truck on their way to fight against Islamic State militants in the airport of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, Iraq. The operation to retake the town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, from the Islamic State group began Sunday morning, Aug. 20, 2017,  Iraq's prime minister said. Tal Afar and the surrounding area is one of the last pockets of IS-held territory in Iraq after victory was declared in July in Mosul, the country's second-largest city. The town, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) east of the Syrian border, sits along a major road that was once a key IS supply route.(AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2016 file photo, Popular Mobilization Units fighters ride on the back of a truck on their way to fight against Islamic State militants in the airport of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, Iraq. The operation to retake the town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, from the Islamic State group began Sunday morning, Aug. 20, 2017, Iraq's prime minister said. Tal Afar and the surrounding area is one of the last pockets of IS-held territory in Iraq after victory was declared in July in Mosul, the country's second-largest city. The town, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) east of the Syrian border, sits along a major road that was once a key IS supply route.(AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)

WASHINGTON — 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 sinking of the Indianapolis remains the Navy's single worst loss at sea. The fate of its crew — nearly 900 were killed, many by sharks, and just 316 survived — was one of the Pacific war's more horrible and fascinating tales.

The expedition crew of Research Vessel Petrel, which is owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul 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.

“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,” Allen said in the news release.

The Indianapolis, with 1,196 sailors and Marines on board, was sailing the Philippine Sea between Guam and Leyte Gulf when two torpedoes from a Japanese submarine struck just after midnight on July 30, 1945. It sank in 12 minutes, killing about 300. Survivors were left in the water, most of them with only life jackets.

There was no time to send a distress signal, and four days passed before a bomber on routine patrol happened to spot the survivors in the water. By the time rescuers arrived, a combination of exposure, dehydration, drowning and constant shark attacks had left only one-fourth of the ship's original number alive.

Over the years numerous books recounted the ship's disaster and its role in delivering key components of what would become the atomic bomb “Little Boy” to the island of Tinian, the take-off point for the bomber Enola Gay's mission to Hiroshima in August 1945. Documentaries and movies, most recently “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage” (2016) starring Nicolas Cage, have recounted the crew's horror-filled days at sea. The Indianapolis sinking also was a plot point in the Steven Spielberg blockbuster “Jaws” (1975), with the fictitious survivor Capt. Quint recounting the terror he felt waiting to be rescued.

The Navy news release issued Saturday said a key to finding the Indianapolis came in 2016 when Richard Hulver, a historian with the Naval History and Heritage Command, determined a new search area. Hulver's research identified a naval landing craft that had recorded a sighting of the Indianapolis the day before it sank. The research team developed a new search area, although it was still 600 square miles of open ocean.

The Navy said the 13-person expedition team on the R/V Petrel was surveying the Indianapolis site. The team's work has been compliant with U.S. law regarding a sunken warship as a military grave not to be disturbed, according to the Navy. The wrecked ship remains the property of the Navy and its location is both confidential and restricted, it said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.