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USS Indianapolis July 30, 2007

Posted by daveintexas in Heroes, History.


This is the anniversary of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, the Navy cruiser that delivered the operative components of the first atomic bomb to Tinian. She was on her way back when she was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine.

Her mission was so secret, that she was not reported late for days. In that awful interim, the men of the Indianapolis suffered the worst shark attack on record. She had a crew of almost 1200, and yet there were just over 300 survivors.

I’ll let Quint tell the story…

“Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin’ back from the island of Tinian to Leyte… just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes. Didn’t see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that when you’re in the water, Chief? You tell by looking from the dorsal to the tail. What we didn’t know, was our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin’, so we formed ourselves into tight groups. You know, it was kinda like old squares in the battle like you see in the calendar named “The Battle of Waterloo” and the idea was: shark comes to the nearest man, that man he starts poundin’ and hollerin’ and screamin’ and sometimes the shark go away… but sometimes he wouldn’t go away. Sometimes that shark he looks right into ya. Right into your eyes. And, you know, the thing about a shark… he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be living… until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then… ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin’. The ocean turns red, and despite all the poundin’ and the hollerin’, they all come in and they… rip you to pieces. You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don’t know how many sharks, maybe a thousand. I know how many men, they averaged six an hour. On Thursday morning, Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Boatswain’s mate. I thought he was asleep. I reached over to wake him up. Bobbed up, down in the water just like a kinda top. Upended. Well, he’d been bitten in half below the waist. Noon, the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us. He swung in low and he saw us… he was a young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper. Anyway, he saw us and he come in low and three hours later a big fat PBY comes down and starts to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened… waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went in the water; 316 men come out and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb”.

I saw the movie Jaws in the theater when I was 16 or so… and we had all been pumped up about it. It was promoted well and it looked exciting, and the action and drama from the beginning was riveting.

For some dumb reason, I knew the story of the Indianapolis when I saw this film as a teenager. But I didn’t really comprehend it, nothing more than “so many men were lost at sea”. So when I heard these words, saw it on screen, I was stunned. Speechless. It became real, and horrible to me. And so terribly sad. I had tears in my eyes.

As best I can remember, it’s the first time I ever cried at a movie.

update: I did not see Old Yeller at the theater.


1. Retired Geezer - July 30, 2007

Mrs. Geezer and I watched that whole re-enactment on Discovery Channel – Shark Week, last night.
Pretty gripping.

2. Wickedpinto - July 31, 2007

That is how it is.

You don’t know until you know.

Like me and my “I was a Marine” stuff.

Yeah, I was a Marine, but, everyone who wasn’t doesn’t really get it, they just think it is ego speaking.

And I served in peace. As a Pogue ass Marine, I can tell you, that you don’t know, and I knew that I didn’t know about the grunts, and I knew I didn’t know a lot of stuff, like this story.

You don’t know until you know.

3. Wickedpinto - July 31, 2007

“You had to be there,” isn’t a cop-out sometimes.

Sometimes, it’s a fact that is beyond comprehension.

4. Wickedpinto - July 31, 2007

Criminey, that was almost poetic!

I’m proud of myself, If I don’t mind saying so.

5. Dave in Texas - July 31, 2007

yeah, that was pretty good WP

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