USS Indianapolis – Pacific Combat Duty

I’ve spoken previously about the USS Indianapolis and my father’s time on it. Commissioned in November 1932, the Indy spent most of the 1930’s on goodwill missions. She spent the first few months of World War Two in the South Pacific before heading to Alaska to participate in the campaign there against the Japanese in the Aleutians. In late 1943, she became the flagship of Admiral Spruance and during 1944 and 1945 participated in operations in the Gilbert Islands, Marshall Islands, Marianas Islands, Peleliu Island, Iwo Jima, the Japanese home islands, and the Ryukyus. Her final mission was to transport atomic bomb components from California to Tinian Island in the Marianas. She sailed for the Philippines after and was sank on 30 July 1945 by the Japanese submarine I-58 resulting in the largest single loss of life at sea in the history of the US Navy.

The following pictures are of the USS Indianapolis throughout her various Pacific Combat Operations spanning 1942 through 1945.

USS Indianapolis (CA-35). African-American Mess Attendants in battle dress, July 1942. These men had volunteered for additional duty as gunners. The ship’s Commanding Officer, Captain E.W. Hanson, is the second officer from the right. Standing beside him is Steward William Henry. A few of these men are wearing old World War I style helmets, while most have the then-new M-1 type helmets. Identity of ship and men was provided by Mr. William Henry in October 1996.

USS Indianapolis (CA-35) at Cold Bay, Alaska, October 1942.

USS Indianapolis (CA-35). “Mail Bouy Watch” in the Bering Sea, 10 March 1943. This photo represents a learning experience sometimes visited upon “green” recruits by older and wiser crew members.

USS Indianapolis (CA-35). Under fire by Japanese shore batteries, during the invasion of Saipan, June 1944.

USS Indianapolis (CA-35) during the Invasion of Saipan, June 1944. LVTs move toward the beach, past bombarding cruisers, on “D-Day”, 15 June 1944. The cruiser firing in the background is the USS Indianapolis (CA-35), flagship of Fifth Fleet commander Admiral Raymond A. Spruance. Photographed from USS Birmingham (CL-62).

USS Indianapolis (CA-35). Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Fleet, (center), with Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas (left) and Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, Commander, Fifth Fleet, (right), on board the Fifth Fleet Flagship, 18 July 1944. Admiral King was then visiting US forces in the newly-captured Marianas.

USS Indianapolis (CA-35). In a Pacific harbor, circa May-October 1944.

USS Indianapolis (CA-35). Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, USN, Commander, Fifth Fleet with his staff, circa 1944-1945.

USS Indianapolis (CA-35). Members of the ship’s crew pose in the well deck, during World War II. Photograph was taken prior to her final overhaul (completed in July 1945), as life rafts are of a different pattern than carried after that overhaul.

[Images courtesy of the Department of the Navy – Naval History & Heritage Command.]

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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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