Actor Robert Shaw’s speech that he delivered in the movie Jaws in his legendary performance as shark-hunter Quint may be the first time that generations who didn’t grow up during WWII learned about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the horrific days that followed.
As Quint says in his spell-binding scene with Richard Dreyfuss:
“Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into her side, Chief. We was comin’ back from the island of Tinian to Leyte. We’d just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes.”
On the anniversary of the bombing of the USS Indianapolis, Mark revisits his interview with best-selling author, Lynn Vincent, and National Geographic Historian, Sara Vladic, about their book, Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man.
Just after midnight on July 30, 1945, days after delivering the components of the atomic bomb from California to the Pacific Islands in the most highly classified naval mission of the war, USS Indianapolis was sailing alone in the center of the Philippine Sea when she was struck by two Japanese torpedoes. The ship instantly transformed into a fiery cauldron and sunk within minutes. Some 300 men went down with the ship. Nearly 900 made it into the water alive. For the next five nights and four days, almost three hundred miles from the nearest land, the men battled injuries, sharks, dehydration, insanity, and eventually each other. Only 316 survived.
For the better part of a century, the story of USS Indianapolis has been understood as a sinking tale. The reality, however, is far more complicated—and compelling. Now, for the first time, thanks to a decade of original research and interviews with 107 survivors and eyewitnesses, Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic tell the complete story of the ship, her crew, and their final mission to save one of their own.
Vincent and Vladic provide a visceral, moment-by-moment account of the disaster that unfolded days later after the Japanese torpedo attack, from the chaos on board the sinking ship to the first moments of shock as the crew plunge into the remote waters of the Philippine Sea, to the long days and nights during which terror and hunger morph into delusion and desperation, the men banding together to survive.
Then, for the first time, the authors go beyond the men’s rescue to chronicle Indianapolis’s extraordinary final mission: the survivors’ fifty-year fight for justice on behalf of their skipper, Captain Charles McVay III, who was wrongly court-martialed for the sinking. What follows is a captivating courtroom drama that weaves through generations of American presidents, from Harry Truman to George W. Bush, and forever entwines the lives of three captains—McVay, whose life and career were never the same after the scandal; Mochitsura Hashimoto, the Japanese sub commander who sunk Indianapolis but later joined the battle to exonerate McVay; and William Toti, the captain of the modern-day submarine Indianapolis, who helped the survivors fight to vindicate their captain.
Indianapolis stands as both groundbreaking naval history and spellbinding narrative—and brings the ship and her heroic crew back to full, vivid, unforgettable life. It is the definitive account of one of the most remarkable episodes in American history.
Published by Simon & Schuster, Indianapolis relates individual stories of the sailors, their ordeal in shark-infested Pacific waters awaiting rescue, the aftermath and media coverage, as well as the families of the lost and efforts to exonerate the captain after his court martial.