Wreckage from the USS Indianapolis located in the Philippine Sea

Photo: Paul G Allen
Photo: Paul G Allen An image shot from a remotely operated vehicle shows wreckage which appears to be one of the two anchor windlass mechanisms from the forecastle of the ship.  Note the star-emblazoned capstans in this photo dated July 12, 1945 just weeks before the ship was lost

Wreckage from the USS Indianapolis was discovered on August 18 by the expedition crew of research vessel Petrel, which is owned by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G Allen. The Indianapolis was found 5,500 meters below the surface, resting on the floor of the North Pacific Ocean.

“To be able to honor the brave men of the USS Indianapolis and their families through the discovery of a ship that played such a significant role during World War II is truly humbling,” Mr. Allen said. “As Americans, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the crew for their courage, persistence and sacrifice in the face of horrendous circumstances. While our search for the rest of the wreckage will continue, I hope everyone connected to this historic ship will feel some measure of closure at this discovery so long in coming.”

The Indianapolis was lost in the final days of World War II when it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the early morning hours of July 30, 1945. The Indianapolis sank in 12 minutes, making it impossible to deploy much of its life-saving equipment. Prior to the attack, the Indianapolis had just completed its secret mission of delivering components of one of the two nuclear weapons that were dropped on Japan. Of the 1,196 sailors and marines onboard, only 317 survived.

An image shot from a remotely operated vehicle shows what appears to be the painted hull number “35”. Based on the curvature of the hull section, this seems to be the port side of the ship. Photo: Paul G Allen

As the naval flagship of the Fifth Fleet, the sunken Indianapolis was the object of many previous search efforts. Mr. Allen had recently acquired and retrofitted Petrel with state-of-the-art subsea equipment capable of diving to 6,000 metres.

“The Petrel and its capabilities, the technology it has and the research we’ve done, are the culmination of years of dedication and hard work,” said Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Mr Allen. “We’ve assembled and integrated this technology, assets and unique capability into an operating platform which is now one among very few on the planet.”

The other key factor in the discovery was information that surfaced in 2016 by Dr Richard Hulver, historian with the Naval History and Heritage Command, which led to a new search area to the west of the original presumed position.

By finally identifying a naval landing craft that had recorded a sighting of the USS Indianapolis the night that it was torpedoed, the research team developed a new position and estimated search, which was still a daunting 600 square miles of open ocean.

The 16-person expedition team on Petrel will continue the process of surveying the full site as weather permits and will be conducting a live tour of the wreckage in the next few weeks. The USS Indianapolis remains the property of the US Navy and its location will remain confidential and restricted by the navy.

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