Home » Military Personnel » New Lead Uncovered in Search for USS Indianapolis

New Lead Uncovered in Search for USS Indianapolis

USS Indianapolis in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 1937. US Navy Photo

USS Indianapolis in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 1937. US Navy Photo

More than 70 years after the cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35) was sunk, a new clue discovered by a Navy researcher could give expeditions hunting for the missing ship a better location to look, the service said this week.

Searchers have looked for Indianapolis since the ship was sunk by Japanese submarine I-58 on July 30, 1945 shortly after delivering components for the atomic bomb Little Boy to the island Tinian. Of more than thousand men aboard, almost 800 survived the initial sinking but only about 320 survived days of exposure and shark attacks on the open ocean.

Since the sinking many have tried to find the ship and none have succeeded.

Now, Naval History and Heritage Command researcher Richard Hulver unearthed a log entry from the amphibious landing ship USS LST-779 which helped pinpoint time and location of Indianapolis only 11 hours before the ship was sunk by Japanese submarine I-58 on July 30, 1945.

According to the command, the information from LST-779’s log – which past the ship before a pair torpedoes at the close of the war sank it — can provide searchers with a more specific location to look for the missing cruiser.

NHHC Image

NHHC Image

“LST779 traversed the same waters at the same time, recording specific information about weather and sea conditions. The deck logs make it possible to better understand exactly what natural circumstances Indianapolis encountered— new data that can help researchers better determine where Indianapolis would have been when torpedoed and how survivors in the water would have been at the mercy of the movement of the sea, wrote Hulver in an analysis of the new information published by NHHC.

The new revelation comes as a new expedition is mounting to find the ship, led by National Geographic.

Sarah Vladic, director of the documentary USS Indianapolis: The Legacy who is assisting with the National Geographic project, told USNI News the expedition to find the wreck of the ship will take place in the spring of 2017 but didn’t provide more details.

Expeditions have attempted to locate the ship most recently in 2001 and 2005.

“Teams have tried to find Indianapolis in the past, but failed, partly because she is over two miles down, but also because they were looking in the wrong place,” wrote Hulver in an analysis of the new information published by NHHC.
“Historical records specifying the sinking location do not exist, as no distress signal providing the location of Indianapolis was received. Allied intelligence recovered I-58’s message to Tokyo confirming the kill, but failed to identify a specific ship or recover the position given by the Japanese.”

Interest in the story of Indianapolis has risen in the last few years. In addition to the National Geographic search, a new film on the story of the crew – USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage – is set to release in September.


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Categories: Military Personnel, News & Analysis, Surface Forces, U.S. Navy
Sam LaGrone

About Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He was formerly the U.S. Maritime Correspondent for the Washington D.C. bureau of Jane’s Defence Weekly and Jane’s Navy International. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.

  • James Bowen

    I know the captain of I-58 survived the war. Didn’t Japanese submarines keep deck logs and navigational logs?

    • Pat Patterson

      They did but at the end of the war many records were destroyed by the Japanese. We have the coordinates of when the Indy supposedly was hit but how accurate are they? How far did she drift?

      • Steve Waclo

        Pat, Indianapolis went down in 12 minutes and would not have drifted far. Without records, however, doesn’t really matter does it?

        • Pat Patterson

          The survivors did though. Actually there was an LST that passed on an opposite track of the Indy that spotted her hours before she sank so that may help find her though the Indy deviated from that track at some point before the torpedo attack.

  • PappyStu

    The hardship these men suffered is almost beyond contemplation. Last summer 32 still remained with us, but this is not likely for much longer. The new film on the story of the crew, USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage may very well be our last chance to hear their story first hand…

  • John B. Morgen

    We all know the wreck is down there—somewhere—on the sea bed. It will take time to find her, maybe the Navy could step in and use radar imaging technology to find her……

    • OldSailor

      The Navy HAS been looking for her, but in water over 10k feet deep it’s very difficult to find anything. IIRC I read that the sea bottom out there is somewhat mountainous with large rock formations that on sonar look very like a ship hull.

      Dr. Bob Ballard went looking for the 5 aircraft carriers and a cruiser sunk off Midway, finding only 1 (Yorktown CV-5) despite the fact that the Navy had a much better position record of where those ships sank than we have of the Indy. The waters off Midway are just as rugged and deep as the area where Indy is supposed to be.

      • John B. Morgen

        I wonder if magnetic detectors would work for finding a large steel heavy cruiser.

  • Newt201x

    Are you sure the movie is going to premiere in September? I thought it’s going to be Veteran’s Day?

  • Howard Martin

    Bob Ballard found almost every ship he went looking for Titanic Scorpion Thrasher Lt Jack Kennedy P.T.109 etc. He will find the Indy Too if he goes out again.

  • J. Gibson

    My uncle was a survivor, passing away in 2008. He told us he went into the water weighing 175 and when he was taken aboard a rescue ship he was weighed at 125. He was sent to the Philippines and then eventually to a Houston hospital. He was not discharged until December, 1946 due to a lengthy recovery.

  • Centaurus

    And I thought it was just a plot-tool in the movie “Jaws”.