On July 30, 1945, two Japanese torpedoes tore apart the USS Indianapolis. The sailors who didn't sink with the ship, about 900 of the 1,197-man crew, faced a living hell in the water as sharks circles the helpless survivors.
Fifteen of today's 38 remaining survivors, which include Allen County men, will gather in downtown Indianapolis Aug. 1-4 to commemorate the 68th anniversary of the sinking of the ship and honor their lost shipmates.
Their tales of survival are among the most excruciating of World War II. The heavy cruiser left San Francisco Bay just after dawn July 16, 1945, on a secret mission, so when it failed to arrive on time no help was sent in search of it. The ship was returning from its mission of delivering components for the atomic bomb that three weeks later would be dropped on Hiroshima.
Just after midnight July 30, enemy torpedoes tore the ship in two and it reportedly sank in 12 minutes. Clinging to whatever they could hang onto, the survivors treaded water for four days amid shark attacks, the intense sun and oil from the explosion. Hungry and thirsty, each day passed as more men died.
A crew on routine patrol spotted the survivors and help was summoned. Only 317 – about a third of those who went into the water – were rescued.
Scheduled to attend the reunion this year will be several VIPs including Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, Col. Alan Pratt (USMC) base commander NSWC Crane Division, Brig. Gen. J. Stewart Goodwin, USAF (Ret.), as well as former crew, rescue crew, widows of shipmates, and families of Lost at Sea members of the Indianapolis.
Weekend events include a guided tour of the USS Indianapolis Museum Gallery and Radio Room on Aug. 2. Gen. Stewart Goodwin will give the welcoming comments.
Aug. 3 events include a book signing by the USS Indianapolis survivors at 9 a.m. in the Hyatt Regency Hotel, One South Capitol Ave., Indianapolis. Survivors will be introduced at 1 p.m. Survivor Edgar Harrell (USMC) will present “Out of the Depths, a Survivor's Story” at 1:30 p.m. the book signing will be followed by educational presentations by Kim Nielsen Roller and Earl Henry Jr. These events are open to the public.
There will be a banquet Aug. 3 in the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
The reunion will conclude Aug. 4 with a memorial service. The public is invited to attend the memorial service, which will begin at 9 a.m. in the Hyatt Regency Hotel.