In July, 1945, the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis was getting patched back together in California after receiving damage from a Japanese kamikaze. Once her repairs were complete the War Department had a special mission for her that involved racing 141-pounds of enriched uranium (about half of the world’s supply at the time) for the Little Man atomic bomb, which would later be dropped on Hiroshima, across the Pacific to Tinian Island in just ten days.
She arrived unescorted and delivered her payload on 26 July, which would go on to a history of its own just 11 days later and save thousands of lives.
However, Indy would no longer be afloat by the time Hiroshima’s mushroom cloud peaked.
At 12:14 a.m. on July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by I-58, a Japanese B3 type submarine in the Philippine Sea and sank in 12 minutes after sending off a distress call.
Of 1,196 men on board the stricken cruiser, approximately 300 went down with the ship. The remainder, about 880 men, were left floating in shark-infested waters sans lifeboats and supplies for the most part. By the time the dwindling survivors were spotted (by accident) four days later only 317 men were still alive.
The above video sits down with some of the 31 remaining Indianapolis survivors who recount their harrowing tale first hand after 70 years.