Sunday, August 3, 2008

The USS Indianapolis and the Bomb

The USS Indianapolis was a cruiser in the US Naval fleet during World War II. It played a pivotal role in ending the war in the Pacific.

After the war in Europe had come to a close, the US war against Japan continued. A speedy end to the war was needed, but all estimates said it would be long and costly in lives. Millions on each side. The Manhattan Project was a secret that would end the war quickly and save lives in the long run. It was such a secret project that when Vice President Harry S. Truman became president after FDR's death, even he didn't know about it. Upon hearing of its existence, he immediately approved of the bombs use to end the war.

On July 16th 1945, the USS Indianapolis left San Fransisco with a secret cargo. Most members of the crew didn't know what it was. Rumors said that it was MacArthur's special scented toilet paper. They were actually delivering the atomic bomb, "Little Boy", to the Phillipinian island of Tinian. It was the island of Tinian that the Enola Gay, a B-29, left with "Little Boy" to drop on Hiroshima. This would change the world forever.

After delivering their cargo on July 28th, the USS Indianapolis headed toward Okinawa and never arrived. They was sunk by a Japanese submarine. Of the 1196 crew members, approximately 300 died in the initial attack. Distress signals were sent. Declassified records show that three SOS messages were received separately, but none were acted upon because one commander was drunk, another had ordered his men not to disturb him and a third thought it was a Japanese prank. Over 800 men were left afloat in shark infested waters either in life rafts or jackets. It wasn't until 4 days later when the ship didn't show up in Leyte that search parties were sent for them. 321 men were pulled out of the water, 317 ultimately survived. Most causes of death were exposure, starvation, severe desquamation, and shark attack.

In March of 1945, my father quit high school and joined the US Navy. The horrors of the atomic bomb is a difficult subject for me to wrap my head around for it is quite possible that if not for the dropping of "Little Boy" and the bomb that followed in Nagosaki, I may not exist.

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