USS Indianapolis

The USS Indianapolis left Pearl Harbor on 6 December 1941. My father, whom I barely knew, was a junior gunnery officer aboard the Indy and had they not left Pearl on the 6th, I may not have been born. After serving in the campaign to drive the Japanese off the two Aleutian Islands (Attu and Kiska) they had occupied, the USS Indianapolis returned to the Pacific. The ship was built under the restrictions of the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 which limited heavy cruisers to no more than 10,000 tons. Hence you will see references to the ship as a “treaty cruiser.”

Although only a heavy cruiser and not a battleship, Admiral Raymond Spruance often used the Indianapolis as his flagship when commanding the main US Fleet in the Pacific. To the confusion of historians ever to come, Admiral Spruance and Admiral Halsey commanded the main US Navy Pacific fleet turn in turn for a series of sea battles. When Spruance commanded the main Pacific Fleet, it was designated the Fifth Fleet and Task Force 58. When he turned it over to Halsey, it was designated the Third Fleet and Task Force 38 although it was the same fleet. Halsey usually employed the battleship USS Iowa as his flagship.

My father left the Indianapolis after the campaign in the Aleutians and went onto other assignments in the Navy so he was not aboard when the ship was sunk in the greatest loss of life in US Naval history. From the website

At 12:14 am on July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the Philippine Sea and sank in 12 minutes. Of 1,196 men on board, approximately 300 went down with the ship. The remainder, about 900 men, were left floating in shark-infested waters with no lifeboats and most with no food or water. The ship was never missed, and by the time the survivors were spotted by accident four days later only 316 men were still alive.”

Here are a few pictures of the USS Indianapolis and I will be posting many more over the next few weeks.

USS Indianapolis (CA-35) on 23 October 1936 at the anniversary of the Statue of Liberty.

USS Indianapolis (CA-35)

USS Indianapolis (CA-35) on 1 Jan 1943

[Images courtesy of Life.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website:

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