The tragedy of The USS "Indianapolis", is also a tale of heroism during War. Fault was debated and denied for years. Next to The "Arizona", "Indianapolis" bears the title for most loss of life on a US Naval vessel during World War II. "Indianapolis" was a "Portland"-Class of Heavy Cruiser, launched in 1939. She displaced over 9,000-tons and was 584-feet long. She was named for The American City of Indianapolis (State of Indiana). She served as US President Franklin Roosevelt's Ship during a US Cruise of The East Coast on 1940 (before being assigned to The Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii).
Armed with (9) 8-inch Main Guns, (8) 5-inch Anti-Aircraft Guns and (20) Anti-Submarine Explosive Devices, "Indianapolis" was also armored with 3-inch plate. She could carry (4) Float/Observation Planes as well. "Indianapolis" served as Flagship of The US 5th Pacific Fleet. She was on Patrol during The Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor. She was also one of the first American ships to try and locate the Strike Fleet (December 8th).
She fought in several key battles in The Pacific. However, The "Indianapolis" earned her "fame" through tragedy, not glory. In August of 1945, she was detailed to a Top Secret mission of transporting the primary arming components of America's first Atomic Bomb (to Tinian Atoll). So secret, that The "Indianapolis" had to maintain "radio silence" for 4 days. On her way back from completing her mission, she was hit by a Japanese Torpedo. Striking her amidships, the hit ignited her powder magazine. The resulting explosion instantly killed 200 Sailors. The remain 900-odd if her over 1,900 crew went into the Pacific. Due to the speed of the attack, mist could not retrieve Life vests or deploy Boats. The men clung together or used bits and pieces of wreckage. Next came the sharks.
Most of the survivors were badly wounded or burned. The "feeding frenzy" (brought about by the blood in the water), caused hundreds of sharks to converge on the location . One by one, the survivors were pulled down. Luckily, a passing Catalina PBY saw the survivors and radioed their position. The brave Pilot landed in the water and picked up 56 men. He was too heavy to fly, instead "driving" his Plane as a Boat all the way to Base. All told, only 317 were saved.
The Navy blamed surviving Captain Charles McVay. Citing his failure to deploy his ship in a "zigzag" pattern, McVay was dishonored. He committed suicide in 1968. However, records later found, indicate that had the "radio silence" and rule regarding a ship having to be unheard from for 4 days, before a search and rescue - may have saved many more. In addition, it wad determined that the "zigzag" tactic is at Captain's "discretion" and not a requirement. "Indianapolis" paid the ultimate price for a mission that would help end World War II several weeks later.