How a WWII Japanese Sub Commander Helped Exonerate a U.S. Navy CaptainBreaking News
tags: naval history, USS Indianapolis, World War 2
Just 34 days before the end of World War II, a U.S. Navy cruiser was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and sunk in the Philippine Sea.
The USS Indianapolis had been the ship of state of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and had just delivered core components of the Hiroshima-bound atomic bomb “Little Boy” off the coast of Japan four days earlier.
After unloading her top-secret cargo at Tinian and then making a quick stop in Guam to await further orders, the crew of the Indy were soon bound for the Philippine island of Leyte, unaware that their location had just been discovered by an enemy submarine.
A Japanese sonar man had picked up on the sound of rattling dishes in her kitchen from some six miles away. The submarine began stalking her through the water until it was close enough to engage.
The sub’s commanding officer, Mochitsura Hashimoto, gave the order to fire six torpedoes into her side at 12:04 a.m. on July 30, 1945. Two of the torpedoes hit their mark, and it took the Indy just 12 minutes to capsize and sink, forever entombing some 300 of her 1,195-man crew 18,044 feet beneath the surface of the moonlit water.
For the next five days, the nearly 900 sailors who had survived the sinking found their numbers whittled down as crew member after crew member fell victim to saltwater poisoning, drowning, delirium and shark attacks. Only 316 survived the horrific ordeal.
Survivor Harlan Twible later recounted his time in the water: “I saw some great heroism, and I saw some great fright, and I saw some things I wouldn’t ever want to talk about.”
When the survivors were first spotted on the fourth morning by 24-year-old U.S. search and reconnaissance air pilot Chuck Gwinn while he was looking for enemy vessels in the area, they had drifted apart from each other and were found in several groups across nearly 200 miles of ocean.
Their collective rescue took about 24 hours to complete — leaving some survivors in the water for five harrowing days. One of the discovered clusters of men included the Indy’s captain, Charles McVay.
Despite the nightmare he’d just experienced and survived at sea, McVay soon found himself in a different kind of fight — this one with the United States Navy.
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