The Sinking of the Uss Indianapolis

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The world’s first atomic bomb was transported to Guam by the former flagship of the American Pacific Fifth Fleet, the USS Indianapolis. The bomb was brought aboard the ship on July 15th 1945, while she was anchored in San Francisco Bay. At 8:00 a.m. The following morning the USS Indianapolis left San Francisco bound for Tinian with the atomic bomb, something that would cause so much devastation and go down in history. Of the crew aboard that morning 883 of 1,199 will have perished in two weeks. The ship was captained by Charles Butler McVay III, known for running a tight ship, had been appointed captain by President Wilson. On that same day Lieutenant Commander Mochitsura led his 2,600 ton submarine, which was newer and better equipped than the Indianapolis, into the ocean and would soon annihilate the huge cruiser.

From day one of the trip McVay pushed every crew member to their limit, as he was ordered to get to Guam as fast as possible. On her first day at sea the Indianapolis averaged 28 knots due to rough weather, however on Tuesday and Wednesday she averaged 29 knots. The first stop of the trip was at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii, McVay and his crew reached there in 75.4 hours from San Francisco, a new record. Six hours after reaching Pearl Harbour having restocked on supplies she set off on her final journey across the Pacific.

The Indianapolis travelled to Tinian at a consistent speed of 24 knots for 3,300 miles, and on July 26th she dropped her anchor roughly half a mile of the coast of Tinian. While in this region of the Pacific McVay took orders from the Commander In Chief of the Pacific Fleet, Chester Nimitz, stationed in Guam. From here the cruiser was going to be routed westwards across the Philippine Sea which would lead McVay to the final destination, Leyte. However, before that could happen the crew were required to stay in Guam for ten days in order to train 25% of the inexperienced crew. While in Tinian McVay received his instructions for the remainder of the trip, these were issued to everybody concerned; the Port Directors in Tinian and Guam, Commander of the Marianas George Murray, and Rear Admiral McCormick, Commander of Task Group 95.7. When the Indianapolis had finished unloading in Tinian she prepared for the night sail south to Guam. The instruction mentioned above were sent to the USS Idaho, McCormick’s ship, this message was thought to be of any concern to the Idaho and was not deciphered. Later, in the Court of Inquiry it was said to its security status, the message was deemed insignificant by staff members aboard the Idaho.

Lieutenant Commander Hashimoto’s ten month old I-58 submarine was sent south after leaving Kure to Japans naval base at Hirao. Here the submarine was loaded with a state-of-the-art Kaiten torpedo, which was contained 3,200 pounds of explosives, had an underwater speed of 30 knots, and most uniquely carried a man, its was essentially a suicide bomb. When Hashimoto left Hirao he and crew roamed the Philippine Sea for a week searching for an allied target without luck. However, their luck changed on the evening of Friday July 27th when the Indianapolis sailed into Apra Harbour. Earlier Hashimoto had moved into the shipping lane between Guam and Leyte, he and his crew patiently waited for their target.

The Indianapolis safely reached Guam after her voyage from Tinian. At 10 a.m. on July 27th dropped her anchor in Apra Harbour, Guam. While the ship was taking on fuel, food and other necessities Captain McVay went to speak to operations officer in the Pacific Commodore James Carter, McVay expressed his wish that the updated training be issued to his crew as soon as possible, as it was his top priority. However Carter is quoted in saying in The Tragic Fate of the USS Indianapolis by Raymond B. Lech that “we no longer give such training here in Guam.” This meant that McVay was forced to sail to Leyte across the Philippine Sea with a number of inexperienced crew members. The...
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