|Ship Class||Portland-class Heavy Cruiser|
|Builder||New York Shipbuilding Corp., Camden, NJ|
|Laid Down||31 Mar 1930|
|Launched||7 Nov 1931|
|Commissioned||15 Nov 1932|
|Sunk||30 Jul 1945|
|Displacement||9950 tons standard|
|Machinery||Geared turbines with four screws|
|Power Output||107000 SHP|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Indianapolis was commissioned during the peaceful interwar years, patrolling the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. She was Franklin Roosevelt's personal transport on several occasions, including a trip to South America in Nov-Dec 1936. She enjoyed various flagship status for the bulk of her peacetime career. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, she was conducting a bombardment training off Johnston Island. She was sent on a hunt for the withdrawing Japanese carrier force, but failed to locate it.
Indianapolis operated with carrier task forces in the Pacific during WW2 until 1942, then she was transferred to Alaska. In Jan 1943 she participated in the operation to occupy Amchitka and establish a forward base in the north Pacific; in this operation, on 19 Feb 1943, she came in contact with the Japanese transport Akagane Maru, and sank the ship. She later assisted in the operations to reclaim Attu and Kiska.
After a refitting at Mare Island, Indianapolis was transferred to Hawaii where she was boarded by Vice Admiral Raymond Spruance, becoming the flagship of the Fifth Fleet. In this role, she was a part of the main assault force during the Gilberts operations. She also participated in virtually every operation across the Pacific toward Japan, including the credit of downing Japanese planes during the "Great Turkey Shoot" off the Marianas and being the first ship to enter the Apra Harbor at Guam since being conquered by the Japanese in Dec 1941. Her 8" guns were also vital in preparation for the famed landing operations at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
She was in port in San Francisco in mid-1945 for repairs from a 31 Mar 1945 kamikaze attack. It was because of this coincidental availability, she was chosen as the transport to deliver the first atomic bomb to Tinian, stepping up her repairs. Her hurried trip from San Francisco to Tinian broke the record for the shortest travel time between the two points (taking only ten days for the trip). After delivering the components to the atomic bomb on 26 Jul 1945, which included its radioactive core, she was sent toward Leyte for training missions (many of the Indianapolis' crew were inexperienced). About halfway between Tinian (Mariana Islands) and Leyte (Philippine Islands), she was spotted by Japanese submarine I-58 and sunk with two torpedo hits at the night of 30 Jul 1945. Survivors floated for days before it was realized that the ship was lost. Out of the crew of nine hundred who survived the sinking, only 316 survived the following days floating in the shark-infested Pacific waters with negligible food and no water. It was the worse loss of life in the history of the United States Navy. The destroyer Helm, one of the ships that tasked with retrieving the bodies of those who did not survive the ocean, logged the following notes on the rescue operation:
Indianapolis' commander, Captain Charles Butler McVay III, was the only man in American naval history to be court martialed for losing a ship during wartime. He was convicted of "hazarding his ship by failing to zigzag", a practice that was detailed in American naval doctrine as a guard against submarine attacks (though known to be ineffective by both Japanese and American submarine commanders). McVay was exonerated in Oct 2000.
Sources: In Harm's Way, Naval Historical Center, Wikipedia.
USS Indianapolis Operational Timeline
|15 Nov 1932||Indianapolis was commissioned into service.|
|18 Dec 1941||American cruiser Indianapolis returned to Pearl Harbor after failing to find the Japanese carrier fleet.|
|16 Jul 1945||The cruiser USS Indianapolis sailed from San Francisco, California, United States with a top secret cargo - components of the atomic bomb to be dropped on Hiroshima unless the Japanese surrendered. The Indianapolis would take 10 days to sail to the island of Tinian, Mariana Islands where US B-29 bombers were waiting.|
|26 Jul 1945||USS Indianapolis delivered components of the atomic bomb "Little Boy" to Tinian, Mariana Islands.|
|29 Jul 1945||Japanese submarine I-58 sank cruiser USS Indianapolis; USS Indianapolis' prior order to maintain radio silence resulted in a 2-day delay in realization of her loss.|
|2 Aug 1945||A number of survivors of cruiser USS Indianapolis, which was sunk 4 days prior, were found.|
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939