4 Days Of Agony


There is no time to rest in war, and it is never easy to live through. This is no more easily shown than what happened to the USS Indianapolis and its crew. The Indianapolis was a Portland class heavy cruiser that was laid down on the 7th of November, 1931. She was a magnificent ship that took part in many operations such as the New Guinea Campaign, the Aleutian Islands Campaign, as well as D-Day where she would eat a total of 10 battle stars at the end of her life, making her one of the most impactful naval ships during the Second World War, and later on, the entire world. Her design, while not ahead of its time compared to the others in the Second World War, was made to be heavily armored, to the point of looking like a battleship. This made her tough looking, meaning she was able to hold her own ground even though her armaments are nowhere as top notch as the newer naval ships. However, even this heavily armored aspect of the ship was not able to defend her and the crew against the reaper that was coming closer to take a hold of them- and drag them down to the afterlife.

During the end of the Second World War, especially against the empire of Japan, the Indianapolis was given a special mission. This mission was to carry parts of atomic bomb “Little Boy” that would be dropped on Hiroshima some time later in the war- to finally end it. After she finished delivering the parts to Guam for assembly, she headed towards Leyte, an island in the Philippines to further train the ship’s crew. However, halfway during this trip to Leyte, the captain decided that the ship had no need to travel in a zigzag pattern (a movement used to dodge torpedoes heading towards the ship) anymore. He believed that it was highly unlikely that any enemy submarines would be in the water attacking them, as the war in basically over and the Japanese have lost 80% of it’s fleet during its fight against the allies. This action that the captain took would lead to one of the worst maritime disasters ever recorded in the history of the world, as the accounts of what happened after this is more terrifying than bad. As the ships changed form the zigzag movement to a straight line, she is spotted by a Japanese submarine, the I-58 which was captained by Commander Mochitsura Hashimoto, who thought he spotted a battleship type ship due to the Indianapolis’s highly bulky profile. This in turn caused the captain to fire two type 95 torpedoes, which were infamous for being the most advanced torpedo during the war. It’s warhead size, and its speed being unmated by any other during its time, as well as the ability to not leave a wake, made it essentially stealth and not detectable by regular means. It was a menacing opponent to go against.

As the torpedoes were released, the crew of the Indianapolis had their guards lowered, enjoying time just having fun aboard the ship, unsuspecting for what was going to happen to them in the next minutes. The first torpedo slammed into the bow of the ship causing the magazine on the frontal part of the ship to ignite and detonate, sending a flaming explosion through the whole ship. The second torpedo rammed into the middle of the ship almost causing the ship to tear in half with its sheer force. These impacts made it absolutely impossible to refloat the ship, because the ship started heavily listening to her side causing the crew to abandon ship due to its critical state. After the span of 12 minutes, the ship had completely rolled over and went down, 300 out of 1,195 crew perished in the event. The remaining, most without life jackets, few lifeboats, and with oil on their face and eyes, were left stranded and adrift. With a scarcity in food and water, as well as freezing in the cold waters, many people died. Some who were originally atheist became religious, praying for god to save them. Believing that if they survived this crisis, they would convert and become religious for the rest of their lives.

Those who became thirsty began to drink salt water which made them grow close to their demise. Those that were cold would use dead bodies as warmth or try to light the floating oil around on them on fire to stay warm, some even going as to light themselves on fire if they had oil on them to stay warm. Those who still had sanity left would try to keep the group sane and the moral high, but even this would not last long. However, this would only be the least of the problems as the worst of the problems would happen at night where the bodies and blood of the crew would attract creatures roaming in the Pacific, especially sharks. It became a massive feast for the animals able to come over to the event. These sharks would come to snack on anyone that it deemed delish, that being a body or a still breathing human. They would come up from under the water and drag any unsuspecting victim into the depths of the underwater abyss. Some tried to fight them by punching the noses, so they could not sense the blood of the crew, but this could only stop them for so long. The only thing the crew could hope for is that the sharks took down the already dead crewmates. This and the other problems would occur and repeat, dwindling down the men as time passed. Lucky for the crew this encounter would soon end, as they will get rescued from the hell that they are experiencing by a couple pilots and ships nearby aiding in their recovery.

After the sinking, 3 days and a half later, during a routine patrol flight, the pilots of a PBY and PV-1 Ventura bomber spotted the crew floating in the water. This caused the pilots to call for support to help out the survivors of the incident, with the first of the help arriving with the pilot of a PBY 5 Catalina piloted, by Robert Adrian Marks, a commander in the US navy. He would flew over the group and dropped life rafts as closely as possible. Breaking orders, he would land his craft and support the men floating below to try and give them some shelter. Later a destroyer escort, the USS Cecil J. Doyle, would arrive at the scene and help out the remainder of the crew. Along with six other ships, they would be able to safely treat and transport the malnourished, dehydrated, and traumatized sailors onto shore for stabilization and rehabilitation. Out of the 900 left still floating after the Indianapolis sunk, only 316 were left alive after the ordeal causing a massive loss of life. The captain which survived the ordeal would be court marshalled and given several charges for failing to protect the ship’s crew and enforce the zigzag maneuver. However, later research on the case would prove that zigzagging would not stop one of the torpedoes from hitting the ship, so his penalties were lifted.

Overall, every remaining sailor, including the captain, would be traumatized and the incident would live on, engraved into their minds forever till the day they died. This disaster would spark designation as one of the worst maritime disasters to ever occur. It would give the rise to popular movies like “Jaws” where one of the main characters was a survivor of the sinking, and there was even a movie depicting what happened called, “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage.” The survivors of the incident would go to a memorial of the sinking, every year, to honor their lost comrades, friends, and fellow sailors during the days of complete misery.