the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors (2003)
Of the original 317 men who survived, 38 are still alive (as of the last reunion in 2014). These survivors of the U.S.S. Indianapolis have met every two years to revisit the sinking, and to remember Captain McVay. To a man, they insist that McVay wasn't responsible for the Japanese submarine torpedo attack and the subsequent nightmare of sharks killing hundreds of survivors in the Pacific.
The Indianapolis was FDR's favorite ship (remember, he was a former Ass't SecNav), but by 1945 she was considered past her prime; the newer heavy cruisers were bigger, faster, and better-armored. The Indianapolis was a replacement ship for a top-priority, top-secret mission in the Pacific. The USS Pensacola was the initial choice for the mission, but she failed her trial run (the engines failed in rough seas), and the Indianapolis, in for repairs in San Francisco, became the ship tasked with the secret run in the Pacific.
(pictured: the first atomic bomb that was tested at Alamogordo, NM on 16 July, 1945) McVay received orders that originated from President Truman (had the Trinity Test failed, the Indianapolis would have stayed in port to fully complete repairs). Truman ordered the Indianapolis to deliver its cargo at any cost. The secret cargo was in a crate, secured on deck . . . it was the atomic bomb that would be dropped on Hiroshima ("Little Boy").
Secured elsewhere in the ship was a big black canister that contained U-235. That uranium represented half of America's supply, and it had a "street value" that would be $4B adjusted for inflation. Once the Indianapolis delivered the cargo to Tinian Island, the first atomic bomb would be dropped on Hiroshima inside of three weeks . . . McVay was ordered to head to Leyte Gulf in The Philippines.
(Pictured below: The USS Indianapolis, officially classified as a heavy cruiser,
departing San Francisco on its mission to the Tinian Islands)
The I-58 hadn't sunk a US ship yet in the war, and the captain and his crew were beyond-anxious to do so.
The Indianapolis was three miles away, and Captain Hashimoto wanted to know the identity of the US warship that he was going to sink. He had a classified reference book of silhouettes of US ships; he wanted to know the ID of the ship in order to know its capabilities, but the reference book was little help. At last, he was able to see the signature battleship class outline of the Indianapolis (again, the ship was a heavy cruiser that looked like a battleship) - he lined up to fire on the broadside of the US warship (he had forgotten about his kaitens). At 12:04 am on 29 July, 1945, Captain Hashimoto gave the order to fire a regular torpedo.
The ocean itself seemed to be burning, due to a ruptured fuel tank near the bow. In just one minute after the second torpedo hit, the Indianapolis was effectively cut in half. Captain McVay had little time to asses the situation, because the massive warship was going to quickly sink. The ship was listing at 15 degrees, and still moving forward at 14 knots.
Complicating the nightmare was that no emergency radio messages had been sent (it was common practice for the Navy to order radio silence for its ships in WW II, especially in the Pacific . . . no one in the Navy from San Francisco to The Philippines knew the location of the Indianapolis). Before both radio rooms became inoperable, short, cryptic messages were sent; McVay knew it was crucial to transmit their location to Naval Command in Leyte in The Philippines.
For those that entered the ocean on the starboard side, lifesaving equipment existed . . . but for those on the port, there was no such luck. And all those that entered the Pacific had to deal with the massive amount of black oil that surrounded the ship, much of which was on
fire . . .
Below: First, an incredible account from one of the 300+ survivors of the Indianapolis.
After that is famous scene from "Jaws" where Quint recounts his experience after the
USS Indianapolis was hit by the two torpedoes from the Japanese submarine.