We’re closer than ever to finding USS Indianapolis.
Historian Richard Hulver, who works for Naval History and Heritage Command, has discovered a previously unknown data point on USS Indianapolis’ route on its final day, July 30, 1945.
The World War II ship — named after the city in 1929 — was sunk by a Japanese submarine days after delivering components for an atomic bomb that would later be dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945.
When the ship went down, there was no distress signal. No records. No exact location.
Until now, USS Indianapolis’ position in the Pacific Ocean has been based on if it followed its routing instructions exactly.
“Historically, there’s no exact ‘X marks the spot’ for where USS Indianapolis went down,” Hulver said.
Hulver found a new piece to the puzzle after he decided to revisit USS Indianapolis’ records, just to see if he could shed any light on the story — following a recent spike in interest about the ship surrounding an upcoming Nicolas Cage movie, “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage.”
That’s when he found it.
Through a Google search, Hulver ran across a blog post that recounted the story of a World War II sailor who claimed his ship passed the USS Indianapolis less than a day before it went down.
By matching up this sailor’s tank landing ship number to an account from USS Indianapolis’ captain, Hulver was able to confirm tank landing ship LST 799 passed the ship prior to its sinking.
The story was true.
They passed each other 11 hours before USS Indianapolis was hit by a torpedo and sunk down into the sea.
The matching stories put the ship 25 miles further along its route than originally thought—a considerable distance from where USS Indianapolis was thought to have gone down.
“The ship was a little ahead of schedule,” Hulver said.
But even with the new map point, there are currently no plans to scour the sea for USS Indianapolis.
Hulver says it wouldn’t be an easy task to discover the ship, even with a better estimate of where it went down.
The waters where the ship went down are some of the most remote in the world, and USS Indianapolis would be located at least three miles down in the Rocky Mountain ranges of the Pacific Ocean.
Undersea explorer Curt Newport and the Discovery Channel conducted the last search efforts in the early 2000s.
Learn more about the USS Indianapolis and its sinking on the Naval History and Heritage Command website here.
USS Indianapolis Timeline
July 16, 1945: USS Indianapolis leaves San Francisco with a mission to deliver uranium and other components for an atomic bomb that would later be dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
July 26, 1945: The ship delivers the components to the Pacific island of Tinian and goes on its way to join a battleship in the Leyte Gulf for an invasion of Japan.
July 30, 1945: Shortly after midnight, a Japanese submarine hits USS Indianapolis with two torpedoes, causing the ship to sink within 12 minutes. Out of the nearly 1,200 men aboard, 800 make it into the water. Some have only life vests, some have rafts.
Aug. 3, 1945: After days without food and water and fending off sharks, the ship’s 317 survivors are rescued.