Home » Military Personnel » Billionaire Paul Allen Finds Lost World War II Cruiser USS Indianapolis in the Philippine Sea


Billionaire Paul Allen Finds Lost World War II Cruiser USS Indianapolis in the Philippine Sea

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

Seventy-two years after two torpedoes fired from a Japanese submarine sank cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35), the ship’s wreckage was found resting on the seafloor on Saturday – more than 18,000 feet below the Pacific Ocean’s surface.

Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist, led a search team, assisted by historians from the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) in Washington, D.C., to accomplish what past searches had failed to do – find Indianapolis, considered the last great naval tragedy of World War II.

“To be able to honor the brave men of the USS Indianapolis and their families through the discovery of a ship that played such a significant role in ending World War II is truly humbling,” said Allen in a statement provided to USNI News on Saturday.
“As Americans, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the crew for their courage, persistence and sacrifice in the face of horrendous circumstances. While our search for the rest of the wreckage will continue, I hope everyone connected to this historic ship will feel some measure of closure at this discovery so long in coming.”

On July 30, 1945, what turned out to be the final days of World War II, Indianapolis had just completed a secret mission to the island Tinian, delivering components of the atomic bomb “Little Boy” dropped on Hiroshima which would ultimately help end the war. The ship sunk in 12 minutes, before a distress signal could be sent or much of the life-saving equipment was deployed, according to a statement from the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington, D.C. Because of the secrecy surrounding the mission, the ship wasn’t listed as overdue

Around 800 of the ship’s 1,196 sailors and Marines survived the sinking, but after four to five days in the water, suffering exposure, dehydration, drowning, and shark attacks, only 316 survived.

“I’m very happy that they found it. It’s been a long 72 years coming,” said a statement released by Indianapolis survivor Arthur Leenerman, 93 years-old from Mahomet, Ill. “I have wished for years that they would find it. The lost at sea families will feel pretty sad but I think finding the ship will also give them some closure. I’m glad that the search was successful. It will be interesting to see where it was found and how deep it was resting. ”

The ship’s story has become part folklore, thanks in large part to the chilling monologue in the 1975 film “Jaws” when fisherman Quint tells about being aboard Indianapolis when it was sunk.

Allen’s break came a year ago when Richard Hulver, a NHHC historian, discovered records from amphibious landing ship USS LST-779 that recorded a sighting of Indianapolis hours before it was torpedoed, according to a statement from NHHC. Hulver’s research led to a new search area west of the original presumed position. Still, the new search area was in 600 square-miles of open North Pacific Ocean water.

“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 last summer. “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.”

Allen’s 13-person expedition team, on the R/V Petrel is in the process of surveying the full site and will conduct a live tour of the wreckage in the next few weeks. They are complying with U.S. law and respecting the sunken ship as a war grave, taking care not to disturb the site. The Indianapolis remains the property of the U.S. Navy and its location will remain confidential and restricted by the Navy.

The crew of the R/V Petrel has collaborated with Navy authorities throughout its search operations and will continue to work on plans to honor the 19 crew members still alive today, as well as the families of all those who served on the highly decorated cruiser.

  • Ed L

    May They Rest In Peace

  • tzayad

    Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You. The story and tragedy of what happened needs to be remembered, and their grave is now be found. That means a lot to both their families, and to us sailors who remember and honor them.

  • EB

    Not 75 years. 1945. That’s 72 years.

  • banartist

    My dad’s ship, the USS Underhill DE 682, was torpedoed By one man “Kaiten” suicide sub’s two weeks prior in the same area. Information that wasn’t officially declassified until 1978.

    • Ctrot

      Also information that was not conveyed to Captain McVay prior to his setting sail to Leyte from Guam.

      • Duane

        Yup. There was quite a scandal that erupted over the officlal Naval courts martial of the CO, Capt. MacVay. The judgment was that the CO was liable for the sinking because he failed to zig zag, but the Navy explicitly ordered him to zig zag at his own discretion weather permitting, while failing to warn him of the submarine activity in the area. There was also a great deal of hard feelings over the Navy bringing in the CO of the sub that sank the Indy to testify against MacVay at the courts martial – even so, the Japanese sub skipper stated that he would have sunk the Indy regardless of whether it was zig zagging or not.
        Adm Nimitz eventually set aside the judgment, and MacVay continued in the Navy but eventually committed suicide. After a campaign by a young child who researched the sinking was publicized, Congress in 2000 officially exonerated MacVay for any responsibility for the sinking. SecNav followed up a year later ordered MacVay’s record cleared.

        • Rocco

          Kudos

        • Ctrot

          Admiral King pushed for McVay’s court martial, coincidentally King had been reprimanded many years prior by Captain Mcvay’s father, Admiral Charles McVay Jr.

          • pismopal

            King was the genius who would not admit or allow a convoy and escort plan for US shipping allowing U boats to have their way and hundreds of merchant sailors died needlessly. The courts Martial should have been for the admiral who was responsible for keeping track of Indy and othe ships.

          • Stijn Van Damn

            There were no escort ships available at that time(first half of ’42), US had just joined the war and was busy ramping up production, and busy getting in to the fight of the Pacific.
            Bunching up transport ships in undefended convoys would have made them even bigger targets. So the root cause of those shipping losses were not the lack of convoys but the lack of escort ships to form convoys with.
            No escort ships would have resulted in less shipping getting through and more losses.
            You can hardly blame King for that, in fact anybody had payed attention to King, the Attack on Pearly Harbour would not have happened like it did and the Pacific fleet would not have been such a bad shape in early 42.
            Because King had done it in 1938, showing the weakenes from Air attack in PH during War Games.
            Every ship lost in Pearl meant production taken away from producing escort ships for the Atlantic. Ships needed in order to form protected convoys.

          • Duane

            Admiral King refused to implement the explicit tactics the Brits told him directly he should employ, namely:

            1) Use convoys .. a limited number of escorts can protect a great many ships if convoyed, but King refused to order that.

            2) Black out the coastal cities, which the Brits had been doing for years … most of the carnage created by the German U-boats was within sight of land, at night, when the brightly lit cities backlighted merchant ships transiting in and out of port. King didn’t want to upset the local chambers of commerce.

            The attitude of King was that he wasn’t going to let the Brits tell him what to do. He had a long running argument with the Brits, opposed the Europe-first strategy agreed to by Roosevelt.

            When King finally got serious and did what the Brits suggested six months earlier, the carnage quickly ended, along with “Operation Drumbeat”, which nearly knocked the US out of World War Two in the first few months of 1942. We lost hundreds of ships and over 5,000 dead merchant sailors because of his stubbornness.

          • Unearthly Dust

            There were no escort ships avalible because it was a top secret mission… The war was almost over and we had just delivered the items for the A Bomb… Now that the mission was over, the captain wanted an escort home. He was told they could not because technically, he was never there… Unless I posted this in the wrong area. Lol

          • Stijn Van Damn

            It was about Uboats & convoys so that’s not the Pacific and Indianapolis.

          • The Royal Navy proposed to send some escorts. Also we still had some old four-stackers in mothballs. Remember the 50 we lent to the RN? King, for some reason, had an intense dislike for the Royal Navy and the British. Why is the question I have not found an answer for. The happy time as the German U-Boat commanders that cruised off the US East coast early in the war could have been somewhat mitigated by convoys and escorts.

          • pismopal

            You don’t need an escort to convoy and convoy is effective against sub losses.

          • The 300

            King was also the guy that prevented information about a possible naval attack on Pearl Harbor to be passed on to Husband Kimmel, leading Kimmel to expect sabotuers rather than a full blown raid and planning accordingly.

          • Tom Freitag

            It sounds like admiral King was on the wrong side of the war. Every decision he made cost many many sailors their lives.

          • The 300

            The more I read about King, the less I like him.

          • EB

            Eisenhower was right when when he said “one way to help win the war is to get someone to shoot King”
            He was an a-hole.

            McVay was posthumously cleared. Zig-zagging would have made no difference at all. The Japanese sub commander testified to that at the trial.

          • Lucius_Severus_Pertinax

            He also wanted to Court Martial CMDR Daniel V. Gallery for the capture of the U-505!

        • FoolforHope

          God what a horrible thing to do to Mac Vay –

        • TJ Andersen

          Well said.

        • old guy

          Horrible story, with a, thankfully, bittersweet ending. TAPS.

        • drewcwsj

          Back in 1990 I was an Ensign on the USS Indianapolis (SSN-697) in Pearl Harbor. I me Captain McVay’s son Kimo who was actively working to exonerate his father. My sub had the ship’s bell from the Indy as it was in for refinishing when the cruiser was sunk. I’m not sure where the bell is now.

      • banartist

        Thank you for pointing that out ctrot. To me the Buckley class Destroyer Escort is and one of the best examples of naval architecture ever built; for both it’s mission and appearance.

  • banartist

    Correction: The Underhill was sunk six day’s before the Indianapolis on the July 24, 1945.

  • Michael Smith

    May God bless them and rest their souls!!

    • David Hollenshead

      Exactly, as most had a slow & horrible death.

  • Don Green

    Position is confidential. Yes well their AIS indicates that the R/V Petrel is 12.0222998° / 134.467499°

    • Truman Davis Jr.

      N and E respectively 🙂

    • Steve N Alisha Goodwin

      LOL A lot of time could have have been saved just by looking at Google Earth…thats only about 22 miles from where they say it is

    • Ctrot

      Last reported location for R/V Petrol is dated 08-11, over a week ago.

  • Ctrot

    Final resting spot for my father’s cousin and my namesake Radioman Arthur Cecil Trotter. I wish my father, Cecil’s mother, father and sisters had lived to see this.

    • old guy

      Thank you, Mr. Allen. A true service. I was in the Army at that time, in Alaska; and the info we got (apparently incorrect) was that she had an atomic bomb on board.

      • VA Guy Proudly deplorable

        Little Boy had already been delivered to Tinian Island.

  • Bill Brut

    To Paul Allen, Thank you for ending the suffering of those related to the crew of the USS Indianapolis. There are many things that can not be healed without final closure. Again thanks for your effort and support to the crew of R/V Petrel.

  • PappyStu

    Fair winds and following seas to the souls of the loved and the lost never returned…

    • InsanelyBright

      What is this wetness falling from my eyes? Wow, this story just rips at my heart.

  • Quinton Reed

    don’t tell where it is or the scrappers will come

    • Ctrot

      Not 3 miles down they won’t.

      • burphelsonAFB

        you can bet the Russians would sniff around there, maybe even the Chinese just to say they could.

        • Ctrot

          I don’t think the Russians or Chinese have any interest in a 70+ year old cruiser.

          • FoolforHope

            They certainly do not

      • Dave Smith

        He Can’t Go Down With Three Barrels On Him, Not With Three He Can’t.

  • Fknorm

    It would be nice to get the USS Pueblo back.

    • Rocco

      It would be nice if…….

    • El Kabong

      Might happen sooner that we think. 😉

    • TexasPete65

      The Pueblo Incident is another good example of a ship being sent in harm’s way without proper planning for protection and not listening to CDR Bucher’s requests for additional material.

      • old guy

        CDR Boucher had “stand down” orders

    • Kodos13

      Or put a couple of 2000lb JDAMs into her, so she is properly scuttled.

      Would send quite a message!

      Better than continuing to let the damned Norks gloat over her.

  • Jan Clute

    It sank 3 miles deep? My father was flying PBY’s in this area and (hopefully) sinking Japanese submarines.

    • EB

      5500 feet is a bit over a mile

      • Ctrot

        5500 METERS is roughly 3 miles

        • EB

          It sure is. The other article I read had 5500 feet but has since been corrected

        • EB

          Yep. Original source I read said feet, but corrected it shortly after. Oh well.

  • tony c

    Just spoke to my dad ( Adolfo V. Celaya ) one of the survivors. My Dad celebrated his 90th birthday this year and is excited about the discovery but not too sure about wanting to see any pictures. If you live in the Phoenix area, he might be on the news tonight.

    • FoolforHope

      The best to your Dad-

  • Joe Smith

    I think no distress call was put out because it was a secret mission, not because it sank fast.

    • Ctrot

      I am in possession of copies of two letters written by a Clair B. Young who stated that a distress signal was received at Tacloban, Leyte Island and that he personally delivered it to Commodore Jacob H Jacobson. The Commodore, who reportedly smelled of alcohol, replied “No reply at this time, if any further messages are received report to me immediately”. Of course no further messages were received since Indianapolis sank so fast. There are also similar reports from 2-3 other sources.

      • Joe Smith

        Way cool.

      • Jae Anderson

        My father, Robert Baldwin Hale, Lt., was most likely in the radio room trying to get those messages out. He was a communications officer and went down with the Indianapolis.

        • Ctrot

          My father’s first cousin was a radioman aboard Indianapolis who did not survive, Radioman Second Class Arthur Cecil Trotter.

    • TJ Andersen

      The secret mission was over. The Indianapolis secret mission was to Tinian. The mission was over.and the ship sailed to Guam for further orders and refueling. The ship had power outages and went down fast.

      • old guy

        A blot on the Navy’s history.

  • cowcharge

    My mum was a nurse on Tinian then, and my dad was flying Hellcats out of Saipan.

    • muzzleloader

      During my naval service I got to spend 6 days on Siapan, one of the most historic places I ever visited. My uncle was in the Seabees there. Perhaps your Dad and my uncle crossed paths. Regards.

  • Bruce B. Reynolds

    Just bring up the ship’s bell: and let it toll the deaths from the ship.

  • cudapup

    Antifa, the Democrat party, BLM, NAACP, ADL, SPLC, NYT, ABC, CNN, NBC, CBS, all condemn the efforts to find this ‘racist’ ship…a ship that in their eyes was of ‘white men’ spewing ‘white privledge’ with their sole mission to kill ‘people of color’ (Asians) in WWII…they should be erased from history and the ships remnants dept charged…while basement dwelling violent antifa and Dems with clubs and ball bats cheer wearing masks posing as ‘protestors’ as the MSM will call them

    The history of the founding fathers is being purged, wait till they catch up to WWII….think I’m kidding? read up on the anti-white hate plans the alt-left in academia and MSM have planned…wait and see.

    • Spacetrucker

      The stupidity, hate and ignorance!
      You win the trifecta of evil today. Well done! Seek help for your hate issues and educate yourself while your at it.

      • Wayne Hall

        What do “hate issues” have to do with the discovery of a war grave where sailors and marines paid the ultimate price for their country? Sadly, what cudapup says will be proven right. But for now, who cares? Right now, let’s rejoice for the closure this discovery provides.

      • 1G25

        Why do you defend “antifa” scum?

        • PmanAce

          Because anitfa means anti fascism. The Fascists during WW2 were the Germans, the Nazis, the racists, the ones that exterminated and murdered millions of innocents. What side are you on?

          • 1G25

            Today’s AH “Antifa” idiots don’t know what “fascism” means. To them, Trump is “fascist.”

            If there were 144 of you, I’d call it gross ignorance.

    • FoolforHope

      Everyone was fighting the fascists- we still are- wake up- Antifa is not about white people – many fought- and still are- evil is evil- this has nothing to do with what you say- nothing is being purged by the left- only by the Nazis- still among us- not even Neo- just plain Nazis- your words are offensive and so are you

  • Locoandchooch .

    I hope some of the 316 are alive to see this. Over 3 miles deep. Helped end WWII

    • Ctrot

      Only 19 remain, we lost one last week.

  • JustBecause

    To all sailors on permanent patrol we salute you. No matter the flag you sailed under. For your suty is done and the eternal rest is your.
    This is a billionaire using his wealth to heal old wounds and bring much needed closure to so many. Now that’s a righteous man.

    James R
    DS3 USN 90 -96
    USS Constellation CV-64

  • Ruckus_Tom

    The ship’s story has become part folklore, thanks in large part to the chilling monologue in the 1975 film “Jaws” when fisherman Quint tells about being aboard Indianapolis when it was sunk.

    And that’s why Jaws is one of the best movies ever.

    • TJ Andersen

      I disagree.The monologue by Robert Shaw was nonsense. I also believe Shaw was drunk during the actual filming of the monologue.

      • EB

        No, he tried it drunk and was embarrassed. The one in the movie, he’s sober.

  • Steve Manley

    I was honored to meet and shake hands with a few of the survivors of this as they held a reunion at the hotel I was staying at in Indianapolis a number of years ago. There’s a nice memorial along the canal walk in downtown Indy. Read the book. Saw the movie. What a horrible wonderful survival story.

  • Patty

    So glad it was found and still being honored. My grandfather was one of the many who gave their lives in the tragedy.

  • Rose Earls

    How do you find out the names of the 316 who was found alive?

    • Ctrot

      I posted a link to the list of the crew but the moderators hate links so they deleted it. Google USS Indianapolis crew list.

  • billsv

    Thank you Paul Allen

  • E. T. Bass

    Great find.
    Read several accounts by survivors.
    Terrible ordeal.

  • Paul Reinert

    My uncle, F1C LeRoy Reinert, served onboard the Indianapolis. He did not survive. It is not known if he went down with the ship or was lost in the following 4 1/2 days in the water. But the ship’s resting place is found so maybe it is where my uncle now rests. I am so glad to see the pics. Rest In Peace to all who were lost and to all of their shipmates who have since passed on to join them back onboard the Indianapolis for their eternal watch. “Eternal Father, strong to save, Whose arm hath bound the restless wave. Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep, Its own appointed limits keep. Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, For those in peril on the sea.”

  • RAS743

    Most assuredly the “last great naval tragedy of World War II” includes Charles Butler McVay, the Indianapolis commander who, scapegoated by the institution of the Navy, to its everlasting shame, killed himself on the doorstep of his home 23 years later.

  • IAM_THE_KGB

    Very cool.

  • John Hattabaugh

    I remember sitting in the movie theater as a young kid, watching jaws, both feeling and seeing how robert shaw delivered his lines about the u.s.s. Indianapolis tragedy. definitely an unforgettable moment. the u.s.s. Indianapolis is a proud warrior, and the crew that served on her should be remembered forever for their sacrifices. it’s a pity that people have forgotten their history. but with the discovery of the wreck, some measure of comfort, and healing for the loved ones who lost a part of their soul with the deaths of her crew members can begin. to the crew of the u.s.s. Indianapolis, stand down. your watch is over, we got this. to their families may God grace you all peace and solace. may the Lord grant them all fair winds and following seas…

  • Dan

    Thank God for.people like Paul Allen who do the work the United States Govt. agencies can’t or WON’T do! He & Ballard et al (Titanic founder) are giants who’s shoulders men of lesser men of strength stand on. They get to reach the curb only because others give a damn! 19 survivors would turn to none if those men did not exist! Now, you know why the Nazi’s respected Patton as AMERICA’S greatest general of WW2! Only comparison….they got things.done! Props for General Dolittle as well!

  • Sean

    Heartfelt thanks to all of them, brave Americans.

  • TJ Andersen

    The author needs to get his facts straight. The USS Indianapolis was not listed as overdue because there was a series of communication failures within two Naval commands, . The “secret” mission by the Indianapolis was completed and it had a new mission after it refueled and left Guam. This myth about the men being sacrificed because of secrecy over the bomb is absolute nonsense from Hollywood.. It was combinations of foul ups in Guam and the Philippines plain and simple.

    However, there was a series of cover ups and omissions by the Navy during the Courts Marshal of the Indianapolis Captain, Charles Butler McVay. This Courts Marshal is probably the ugliest travesty in military history. Not only was Captain McVay wrongly accused but for the first time in history, the Navy used a former enemy(Japanese Submarine Commander who sunk the Indianapolis) to testify against McVay,

    May the souls of all the Indianapolis sailors rest peacefully.

  • William J Jeffords

    Wish you guys could go find the USS Luce, struck and sunk by Kamikaze during the battle of Okinawa. My grandfather was on that ship. My father lost him when he was 10 it may be closer for him if he he could visit the site and see the ship one day before he goes.

  • DBW86

    The loss of the USS Indianapolis was a tragedy that need not have occurred and the blame lay with a great many Navy Leaders, all of which were not aboard that ship. There were hero’s who survived the initial who died in the water because of mistakes by those ashore while those who did survive to be rescued were emotionally scared for life from the horrors they endured physically and those emotionally they have carried since, even to their own graves. But sadly, though initially hidden from the public, then a brief sensationalism by the press when the news was finally released in dibbles and dabs and finally in the show boat lynching of court martial of the ship’s captain. Then it was forgotten, never spoken of except amongst those who love history and even today is little known.

    Sadly I suspect this will be a well watched TV show with few who watch truly grasping the horror, mistakes of the loss longer than the following show what it may be shown or flipped to by watchers.

    MAY THAT VALIANT CREW WHO REST AT PEACE NOW AT SEA BE REMEMBERED BY A FEW AND THEIR SERVICE PASSED DOWN THROUGH THE AGES!

  • Meaux Bull

    Outstanding job!!

  • soljerblue

    What a wonderful feat! What a wonderful story! What a debt of thanks all sailors and their families owe to Mr. Warren! At 18,000 feet, she lies deeper even than “Titanic”.

  • Daniel Brown

    A sad coda to the USS Indianapolis story. After the war, its commander Charles McVay was court-martialed for failure to zigzag. The captain of the Japanese submarine that sank the ship was called in to testify for the prosecution. Although his conviction was overturned, McVay never recovered from the hate mail and phone calls he received. He committed suicide in 1968. Many in the service felt he was the fall guy for the Navy’s waiting five horrific days before the remainder of the crew was rescued from shark-infested waters.

  • old guy

    Kudos, A dollar was hardly ever better spent.

  • shackkalashnikov

    Amazing their resting place has been found after all this time. No more wondering, no more searching. We know their resting place.

  • Gary Sellars

    point of correction – the bombs DIDN’T shorten the war. Japan surrendered because the Soviets invaded Manchuria and the Japanese hope that USSR would help deliver a negotiated surrender collapsed.

    Soviet invasion was planned at Yalta, but Truman had second thoughts and wanted japan to surrender before Soviet involvement so that the US could control the handover of the occupied areas, and thereby take command of the Chinese mainland.

    Muricans have been telling this stupid lie (the bomb ending teh war and saving 1,000,000 GIs) for decades… and many insist on still believing it.

    • John Locke

      It was a combination of things …… including the bomb…….but yes, most Americans are not aware of the different variables that contributed to the decision.

    • Duane

      Not true at all.

      The Japanese were not afraid of Soviets because they knew that the Soviets had no ability whatsoever to mount an amphibious invasion, never did, don’t now, never will.

      Read “Downfall” by historian Richard B. Frank who walks the reader through original, first person contemporaneous sources (intercepted Japanese military and diplomatic cables, interviews, trial testimony, and official reports generated by the Japanese). The nuclear weapons were the sole reason for Emperor Hirohito ordering his military commanders to surrender, against their will. Some of his commanders committed suicide rather than surrender, and a group of insurgents led by field grade officers in Tokyo actually attempted a military coup with an (unthinkable, to the Japanese) attack on the Imperial Palace and the Emperor himself, in order to forestall the surrender.

      The Soviets were simply opportunists,declaring war on Japan after the war was already effectively decided. They were aware that the Americans were in the final preparations of an invasion of the home islands of Japan, and they had no means whatsoever to oppose our invasion. The Japanese troops in Asia were there to defend their conquests in Asia, specifically China and Indochina, and the Japanese had already moved large numbers of Asian mainland troops to the home islands to oppose the American invasion.

  • John B. Morgen

    The loss of the heavy cruiser is a good example in how things could go wrong with the Navy. The cruiser should have been given a destroyer escort, and the cruiser’s mission would have still been kept as a secret. Yet someone in Washington really botched things up–very badly. A very good cruiser and her crew were sadly lost.

  • Joel Schilling

    Now if we could just find the USS Runner.

  • Sara Makowski Bowe

    My father’s uncle and name sake died when the Indianapolis sank. It appears the news broke on Aug 19, but does anyone know the date that the wreckage was found?