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Tragedy of USS Indianapolis

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It's been a few months since the wreckage has been found. However, recently our History Professor who works as an American Historian as well explained the tragedy in more detail than I've heard before. Was dark, interesting, had lots of twist, and coincidence of ties of characters in the story. This isn't going to focus on the secret mission, but on the tragedy that occurred.


On the 6th of November 1968, the former commander of the USS Indianapolis, Charles B. McVay III, would be outside on the porch with a news paper, once alone a single shot was heard. The commander had killed himself. What would lead a high ranking officer to kill himself years after WW2? While PTSD isn't a surprise, this officer had been retired for years after the sinking of his ship.

July 26: Indianapolis delivers parts of the Little Boy bomb to Tinian. 

July 28: Indianapolis departs from Guam, sets sail for Leyte. Before departing from Guam, McVay had asked for a destroyer escort. He was denied this, due to no submarines being sighted in a long time. However, 6 days prior a submarine had sunk an American ship. She carriers about 1,197 sailors and officers -sources vary but only by little.

July 29: 23:35 I-58 spots Indianapolis, believes her to be an American battleship.

Mochitsura Hashimoto was in command of the I-58 submarine. Hashimoto's submarine had some manned-torpedoes, used for suicide attacks. Hasimoto was not an amazing battlefield commander, and had failed to sink allied ships on multiple attempts in the past. However, he was not going to sail back home without firing some of his torpedoes off, to try and have a success.

July 30: 00:02 Hashimoto orders 6 regular torpedoes to be fired at Indianapolis, hoping at least one would hit.

00:14 Fourteen minutes after midnight, two torpedoes hit the Indianapolis. One on the bow, one midship. The torpedo that hit midship blew up the Indianapolis's magazine and fuel. In the sinking wounded me on stretchers slipped into the water as the ship sunk. The wounded were to be moved onto life boats, but the listing caused them to fall into the water and drown. 12 minutes after being hit the ship had sunk, her survivors trapped in the water. SOS messages were sent out before the ship had sunk.

Day 1:

It is estimated about 880 survivors had jumped into the water, many maimed and wounded. Some would be separated from miles apart as well. Some survivors had Kapok life jackets, others clung to rafts in groups, and others clung onto debris. The oil from the ship coated the seas and some of the sailors. On day 1 the survivors would start to be attacked by sharks. Sailors would be stuck in the water, with sharks picking them off one by one. Screams filling the night of sailors who were snatched up without warning. One of the sailors would act as a coroner, swimming to those who had died and taking their life jackets off to give to other sailors whose jackets had failed, or who had none.  

Day 2:

Without food or water, sailors would start to drink the salt water. Sailors began to hallucinate, and fights broke out. During this day 50 of the sailors had died due to fighting from the hallucinations.

Shark attacks continued, throughout this some sailors lost hope and let themselves drown. Some

Day 3:

The life jackets were only meant to keep sailors afloat for 48 hours. With 72 hours past many had failed. Sailors abandoned their life jackets and instead found more debris, or tread water.

Shark attacks still continued.

72 hours of their skin being exposed to salt water.

-Sailors would also die of salt water poisoning throughout this

Survivors estimate only 400 still alive


August 2nd:

A PV-1 bomber flown by Lt. Chuck Gwinn flew overhead. Gwinn was having issues with his antenna. Leaning out of the plane to fix the antenna he had been looking down, and noticed oil in the water. No ship was suppose to be here, and he flew his plane lower noticing survivors in the water. Radioing it back and giving his coordinates, those who received the message thought it was a prank and ignored him. A PBY flying boat, flown by Adrian Marks, would be dispatched to look, and the pilot of the flying boat knew the skipper of the USS Doyle. He informed the skipper of his mission, and the skipper took the Doyle towards the reported area of the survivors. Marks flew about 100 feet above the survivors, dropping rafts and supplies out to them as he was forbidden to land by code. However, the survivors yelled "Sharks", and Marks crew on the flying boat decided to land in the water themselves with the float plane. When the PBY was filled with survivors, the planes crew carried survivors to the wings, tying them to the wings. 56 survivors would be saved by Marks, as they waited throughout the night for ships to arrive. The last survivor is rescued about 110 hours after the disaster-keep in mind this would be  about 110 hours in salt water. Only 317 would survive.


August 6th: Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima

August 9th: Atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki

August 15th: Japan Surrenders

1 hour after reporting the war was over, the navy reports the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. This was probably due to the navy knowing people would be celebrating, and wouldn't pay attention to war news. The news of Indianapolis was overshadowed by the end of the war.


November 29th: McVay is informed he is being court marshaled for: Failing to Zig-Zag, and failing to give order to abandon ship. The date would be set on December 3rd, only 4 days to prepare for the trial. Even the prosecution explained that it was not enough time to gather data to form a case.


December 9th: Hashimoto is brought from Japan to testify in trial- first time in US history that an enemy officer would testify against an American officer. The public and media saw this as controversial.


Throughout the trial Hashimoto was given a translator, who would interpret what the court said differently to Hashimoto. Hashimoto who spoke some English was aware of this, and some sources point to him knowing McVay was a scapegoat. Hashimoto would testify about his actions on the day, but also stated even if the ship had Zig-Zagged, torpedoes would still have hit the Indianapolis. Several submarine experts had also stated this in trial.


December 19th: McVay is found guilty on failing to zig zag. He is dropped by 100 points.


However, Nimitz and others had helped him regain some rank, and McVay would gain the rank of Rear Admiral. Between this time and the date of his suicide, families of the survivors, and even some of the survivors would send hate mail and hate phone calls to McVay.


1996:  11 year old Hunter Scott meets with an actor who played in Jaws. In the movie the sinking of the Indianapolis is referenced, and Scott asks the actor if it was true. Doing some research for a school paper, he learns of the cover ups and what wasn't told. He had sent a questionnaire to many of the survivors, and asked what they thought on the court martial of McVay.


September 15 1999: Scott testifies before the Senate Armed Forces Committee. He began a crusade to clear McVay's name, and attracted media attention. Due to media attention, his local congressman met with him, and worked on the case.

Hashimoto would support clearing McVay's name as well.

October 2000: Congress passes resolution that McVay should be exonerated, and is worded carefully to appease the navy that had opposed this. President Bill Clinton would sign the resolution. However, five days before this Hashimoto would die.


Info on things that could've changed things/provided insight as evidence to back up McVay"

SOS signals from Indianapolis would be heard, but ignored thinking it was a Japanese trick to spring a trap.

Indianapolis never arriving at port goes unnoticed, as it wasn't uncommon for warships to do other things. However, cargo ships would go noticed and looking for the ship would've be done if a cargo ship had not arrived at port.

The fact McVay asked for a destroyer escort, and it being denied.

I-58 message to Japan that it had sunk a ship was intercepted by the US, but ignored thinking it was a trick.



The secret mission of the Indianapolis carried parts for the bomb Little boy. This bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima. In the bombing Hashimoto's entire family had been killed in the bombing.

Hunter Scott is currently a naval pilot of an anti-submarine aircraft.

The exoneration of McVay did not clean his record, but this would later be done by the Navy in 2001.

In September of 2017 the wreck of Indianapolis was found.


Survivors in Guam:


Survivors on Auxiliary ship Bassett:




  • Cool 3

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Ultimately, this is a classic case of throwing the subordinate under the bus to cover for the incompetence and negligence of upper command.


McVay did nothing wrong, under even a jaundice view.


Several regional commanders made mistakes, ones which, while not particularly malicious, were certainly serious enough to warrant career-ending administrative punishment.  Mistakes identical to ones which had receive similar administrative punishment for others in the Pacific theater in the prior 2 years.  Upper navy brass, however, including several folks we now consider stellar officers, cannot be cut such slack. No, while they weren't particularly guilty of actions which caused the Indianapolis' sinking, acted in a way post-sinking which can only be described as a vicious conspiracy and cover-up equal in corruption to that of Watergate.


The Navy, to this day, refuses to acknowledge, let alone apologize, for the fact that at least 4 admiral-ranked officers, up through both King and Leahy, not only covered up the mistakes and incompetence of the local commanders, but sought to actively scapegoat McVay through false testimony, suppression of evidence, and actively colluding to influence the court martial.   There can be no excuse for their actions, no forgiveness, and a large black mark should be placed on their historical record:  Here is an Officer who so valued his own skin that he kicked a wounded subordinate to save himself from some embarrassment.  For that is exactly what they did:  for no reason other than to avoid some bad press (AFTER the war was over), the Navy sacrificed one of its own wounded members for political gain. I can think of nothing more despicable.


It's a nasty, disgusting stain on the Navy.  And one that needs to be continually thrown in their face until the institution admits its own guilt.  The clearing of McVay's record has come only through Civilians forcing the Navy to do so - first Congress, then the SecNav.  The Navy as an institution has refused to accept any responsibility for the entire farce. 



Edited by EAnybody

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It's the same Navy that came up with that bogus story of sabotage on the Iowa when Turret 2 blew up.  It was simple human error that caused it.  The Navy didn't want to admit it and came up with the ridiculous story, and never really has admitted it was bogus.  

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McVay was the only WW2 Captain who lost his ship and was Court-Marshaled for it.


Think about that, all those ships we lost during the course of the war, around 400, even those at Pearl Harbor, and not one commanding officer was Court-Marshaled over the loss.

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