On August 19th 2017, it was announced that the wreckage of USS Indianapolis had been located in the Philippine Sea. The vessel was a U.S. Navy cruiser which was used in WWII and was destroyed by a Japanese submarine on July 30th 1945. Partly due to the speed at which the vessel sunk, sadly, only 316 of the 1,196 sailors on board survived.
72 years later, the wreckage of the vessel has been discovered by philanthropist Paul Allen and his team of researchers. They discovered the vessel 18,000 feet beneath the surface where it has lain since its destruction all those years ago.
The location of the final resting place of the ship had remained a mystery as there was no distress call when the ship was hit by the torpedo, and the vessel sunk within just 12 minutes. Although roughly 800-900 sailors escaped the fast-sinking warship, by the time the survivors were discovered (which only happened by chance), only 316 were alive.
The break in the discovery of the ship’s location came in 2016 when a new search area was determined by Richard Hulver, a historian with the Naval History and Heritage Command. This came from a naval landing craft that had recorded a sighting of the vessel the day before it sank, helping to narrow down the search area greatly. However, the search area still covered 600 square miles of open ocean.
The man who led the team who discovered the vessel said,
“To be able to honour the brave men of the USS Indianapolis and their families through the discovery of a ship that played such a significant role during World War Two is truly humbling.”
He went on to say,
“As Americans, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the crew for their courage, persistence and sacrifice in the face of horrendous circumstances.”
There are 22 survivors who are still alive today, so the news is likely to come as a comfort, allowing for some closure to a tragic event which remains the greatest single loss of life at sea, from a single ship, in the history of the U.S. Navy.
Despite having been on the seabed for the past 72 years, the wreckage of the USS Indianapolis remains the property of the U.S. Navy, so it will now become a protected war memorial and the exact location will not be released to the general public. This means that it will be considered an official war grave and it is protected by law from disturbances. However, the research team are planning to continue to survey the site, searching for the rest of the wreckage, and they may even give a live tour of the wreckage.
The tragedy has become something of a legend and has even inspired a number of films such as the story of one character in Jaws. Now the mystery of the final resting place has been solved and the USS Indianapolis can finally be put to rest.