USS Indianapolis (CA-35) off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 10 July 1945. US Navy photo 19-N-86911.
The USS Indianapolis was a U.S. Navy cruiser that was torpedoed and sunk on July 30, 1945, shortly after delivering components of the atomic bomb. The sinking and aftermath led to the deaths of 880 men.
The Indianapolis was a Portland-class cruiser constructed in 1931 and commissioned by the U.S. Navy the following year. Prior to World War II, the ship operated in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
World War II
The Indianapolis operated in the Pacific Theater during World War II as an aircraft carrier, and in 1943 it became the flagship of the U.S. Fifth Fleet under Vice Admiral Raymond Spruance. In 1945 it participated in the bombardment of Iwo Jima.
In July, 1945, the Indianapolis was sent with a crew of 1,196 men to a U.S. airbase located on Tinian Island. Unbeknownst to the crew, their highly classified cargo included components of the atomic bombs that would later be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After delivery, the Indianapolis continued its journey toward Leyte Gulf.
Shortly after midnight on July 30, the Indianapolis was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-58. The ship sank within 12 minutes. Approximately 900 men survived the sinking and were stranded with few supplies in shark-infested waters.
Four days passed before help arrived. In that time, nearly 600 survivors died from injuries, drowning, dehydration, salt poisoning, and shark attack. Only 316 men were rescued. Reports of the sinking were delayed until August 15, when they could be shared alongside headlines announcing the end of the war.
Indianapolis captain Charles B. McVay III was among the survivors. Though initially court-martialed for the loss of the ship, a congressional resolution passed in 2000 posthumously exonerated McVay of all wrongdoing.
Discovery of the Wreckage
Numerous attempts to find the Indianapolis over the years failed due to the depth and uncertain location of the sinking. The wreckage was finally located in 2017 by a research team led by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen.
Learn more about the USS Indianapolis through historical newspapers from our archives. Explore newspaper articles, headlines, images, and other primary sources below.
Articles and Clippings about the USS Indianapolis
USS Indianapolis construction nears completion in November of 1931 Sat, Nov 21, 1931 – 8 · News-Pilot (San Pedro, California) · Newspapers.comNew U.S. Navy battle cruiser USS Indianapolis performs trial run off Rockland, ME, in Nov 1932 Sun, Nov 20, 1932 – 31 · The Honolulu Advertiser (Honolulu, Hawaii) · Newspapers.comPhoto of USS Indianapolis heavy cruiser entering Honolulu harbor, September 1933 Sat, Sep 30, 1933 – 1 · Honolulu Star-Bulletin (Honolulu, Hawaii) · Newspapers.comUSS Indianapolis commissioned by U.S. Navy in Nov 1932, noted for its speed in trial run Wed, Nov 16, 1932 – Page 1 · The San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, California) · Newspapers.comPhoto and description of USS Indianapolis Portland class heavy cruiser and its assets Sun, Oct 26, 1941 – Page 73 · The Tennessean (Nashville, Tennessee) · Newspapers.comAdmiral Raymond A. Spruance of the U.S. Navy, 1944 Fri, Apr 14, 1944 – Page 5 · The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Florida) · Newspapers.comAugust 15, 1945, front page with headline about surrender and report of USS Indianapolis sinking Wed, Aug 15, 1945 – Page 1 · The Evening Sun (Hanover, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.comGraphic description of Indianapolis tragedy includes first-hand accounts from McVay and Haynes Wed, Aug 15, 1945 – 10 · The Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tennessee) · Newspapers.comNews of USS Indianapolis sinking, reported August 16, 1945, details incident, aftermath and rescue Thu, Aug 16, 1945 – Page 10 · The Daily Courier (Connellsville, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.comUSS Indianapolis survivor recounts attack, sinking, survival in shark-infested waters Fri, Nov 2, 1945 – 7 · Lincoln Journal Star (Lincoln, Nebraska) · Newspapers.comCaptain Charles B. McVay III court-martialed by U.S. Navy for loss of USS Indianapolis Wed, Nov 28, 1945 – Page 1 · The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.comLt. Cmdr. Hashimoto of Japanese sub I-58 that sunk Indianapolis testifies at Captain McVay trial Mon, Dec 10, 1945 – 1 · Petoskey News-Review (Petoskey, Michigan) · Newspapers.comCapt. Charles B. McVay III acquitted of inefficiency charge, awaits review on charges of negligence Thu, Dec 20, 1945 – 6 · The Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tennessee) · Newspapers.comUSS Indianapolis survivor recounts challenges with sharks, starvation on raft with Captain McVay Thu, Dec 27, 1945 – 14 · The Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tennessee) · Newspapers.comCaptain McVay's court-martial reopened after efforts by family and friends to clear his name, 1999 Wed, Jul 21, 1999 – Page 16 · Hood County News (Granbury, Texas) · Newspapers.comUSS Indianapolis sinking retrospective with first-hand accounts, survivors looking to clear McVay Mon, May 29, 2000 – 25 · The Miami Herald (Miami, Florida) · Newspapers.comUSS Indianapolis Captain Charles B. McVay and wife Louise McVay during court-martial Thu, Jul 12, 2001 – 3 · Honolulu Star-Bulletin (Honolulu, Hawaii) · Newspapers.comUSS Indianapolis captain Charles B. McVay exonerated by Congress 55 years after sinking Sat, Jul 14, 2001 – 13 · The Ottawa Citizen (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) · Newspapers.comUSS Indianapolis wreckage discovered in 2017 by 13-person research team led by Paul Allen Sun, Aug 20, 2017 – A7 · Palladium-Item (Richmond, Indiana) · Newspapers.com