The USS Indianapolis was one of two Portland-class cruisers built during the early 1930s. During World War II, the ship saw action in New Guinea, the Aleutian Islands, and the Battle of the Philippine Sea. In the summer of 1945, the Indianapolis was selected for a top-secret mission: delivering components of the "Little Boy" atomic bomb.
The Indianapolis set off for Tinian on July 16, 1945, shortly after receiving confirmation of the success of the Trinity Test. It traveled quickly, arriving safely on July 26. The bomb components were unloaded and reassembled on the island. The Indianapolis was subsequently sent to the Philippines, but was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine.
The ship was almost ripped in half; it sank in just 12 minutes. Of the 1,196 men, around 900 made it into the water. But their ordeal was just beginning. The men grouped together, clung to debris, and sought out rations or life rafts. But no rescue came for four days. Only 317 men survived; 879 crew members perished, including four who died despite being rescued from the water. It was the worst naval disaster in US history.
On August 19, 2017, a team led by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen announced that it had found the wreckage of the Indianapolis, 3½ miles below the surface of the Philippine Sea. "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 in ending World War II is truly humbling," Allen said.
Today, nineteen survivors of the Indianapolis are still alive, and gather together every year. Edgar Harrell, who served on the Indianapolis as a corporal, commented on the discovery of the wreckage: "It brings closure to the story," Harrell said. "But the experience that we survived, the trauma that we felt, that still exists. I can still see and feel ... the trauma of swimming those 4½ days. I can still remember today as if it were just yesterday."