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Five Surprising Facts About The U.S.S. Indianapolis

1) The USS Indianapolis was a Portland Class heavy cruiser. When it was first commissioned in 1932, it was referred to as the ‘jewel of the fleet.’ It was the ship President Franklin Roosevelt sailed on during his goodwill trip to South America. During World War II, Admiral Raymond Spruance often used it as his flagship, while he commanded the 5th fleet.

2) The Indy won ten battle stars in service during World War II. In March 1945, a Kamikaze attacked the ship. Anti-aircraft guns managed to shoot down the plane, but not before it managed to drop its 500-pound bomb. The bomb went through the ships superstructure before detonating below decks. The explosion cost massive damage, but did not sink the ship. It was able to make it to a repair facility under it’s own power.

3) The Indianapolis then sailed to San Francisco for a major repair and refit. Once finished, the components of the first atomic bomb were loaded on board and the ship was given orders to deliver their cargo to Tinian. The USS Indianapolis departed San Francisco July 19, 1945 and stopped for refueling in Hawaii on the way. Arriving at Tinian July 26, their voyage established a speed record for that distance that still stands today.

4) On July 28, 1945 the Indy was sent to the Leyte Gulf where it was to join a fleet for the panned invasion of the Japanese homeland. On July 30, 1945, shortly after midnight, it was struck amidships by two Japanese torpedoes. The ship was so badly damaged it sank in under twelve minutes. Nearly 900 of the 1200 crewmembers managed to abandoned ship. Three and half days later only slightly over 300 men survived.

5) Charles Butler McVay, the Captain of the USS Indianapolis, survived the shipwreck. He was later court martialed and found guilty for hazarding his ship by failing to zigzag (a technique ships used to avoid submarines). Even though the Navy made the unprecedented decision to bring the commander of the I-58 submarine that sank the ship as witness for the prosecution. The commander stated in his testimony that the zigzag maneuver would not have prevented his sinking of the Indianapolis. Captain McVay was found guilty, the only Naval officer in World War II to be court martialed for losing his ship in combat.

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