This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by professional essay writers.

In Harm's Way: The Indianapolis Disaster

downloadDownload printPrint

Remember! This is just a sample.

You can get your custom paper by one of our expert writers.

Get custom essay

121 writers online

Download PDF

The Indianapolis began it’s story in July, 1945. At that time the heavy cruiser was having intense repairs in San Francisco Bay. Under the command of Captain McVay the ship had sustained damage from a Japanese Kamikaze near Okinawa in March 31st the suicide bomber had killed 9 people in the stern of the ship.

Before limping home. Unexpectedly, McVay received orders in July to assemble his crew and prepare to sail to a island near the Japanese mainland. On board the Indianapolis was a highly classified cargo: the parts for the atomic bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki later that summer. Neither McVay nor his crew knew the importance of the cargo they carried; they only knew that their mission was top secret the freight had its own guards in the marine core that only job was to protect the secret cargo and that there were some unlikely seaman on board, two Army officers who were in reality specialists in top-secret weapons.

On July 26, the ship delivered its mysterious cargo to Tinian, a small island in the Pacific. Within six hours, the Indianapolis was on its way to Guam, and then off to the Philippines. The ship was to travel unescorted without a destroyer escort that specialized in seeking out enemy submarines. McVay accepted without question after being told that the Navy considered his route safe. However, only a few days earlier, a Navy vessel had been sunk in nearby waters by a manned suicide torpedo called a kaiten launched by a submarine. Navy intelligence indicated that there was a group of submarines operating in an area the ship would cross. Neither of these important bits of information was given to McVay was ordered to zigzag the reason for this was, that a moving target is much harder to hit. Due to bad weather McVay ceased to zigzag until better weather.

The enemy sub that later sunk the Indianapolis was called the I-58 under the command of Lt.Cdr. Hashimoto had never sank a enemy ship in the entire war which was bad luck. An imperial navy sonar operator had heard something dishes clanking. Lt.Cdr. Hashimoto then got on the periscope, but could not see anything but a dot so the enemy sub began to track the ship. Some of the fog began to clear up Hashimoto could now see a triangle enough to make a target Hashimoto fired.

The Indianapolis was only at sea for a few days when two torpedoes slammed into its sides the first torpedo made a 60 foot hole and the 2nd torpedo made a 40 foot hole water began filling in the ship by the tons.

Within twelve minutes the cruiser had sunk, tossing some nine hundred young crewmen into the open ocean. The remaining three hundred members of the crew were killed by the torpedo or trapped and unable to escape the sinking ship. Stanton (the author) describes the sinking from the perspective of the survivors: “The boys watched with horrified fascination as the ship finally stood straight on end and paused, trembling—the stern pointed directly at the sky—then began to sink, slowly at first, then picking up speed, drawn suddenly into the deep by the nose.”For the boys as Stanton refers to them, who made it to the water the ordeal had scarcely begun. Many of the boys had been sleeping at the time of the attack and were either naked or clothed only in underwear. In addition, the speed with which the ship sank made it impossible to gather provisions or to properly launch lifeboats and rafts. Indeed, many boys found themselves in the water without even a life vest.

They had been able to get off a quick SOS before sinking and all believed, including McVay, that the ship would be quickly missed when it failed to arrive in Leyte. They firmly believed that a rescue mission would be launched swiftly. Navy command did not know about the ship’s sinking until survivors were spotted three and a half days later. At 10:25 on 2 August, a PV-1 Ventura (a medium bomber) flown by Lieutenant Wilbur Gwinn and copilot LT Warren Colwell spotted the men adrift while on a routine patrol flight. All air and surface units capable of rescue operations were dispatched to the scene at once. The crew survivors suffered from lack of food and water leading to dehydration and hypernatremia some found rations, such as Spam and crackers, amongst the debris exposure to the elements leading to hypothermia and severe desquamation and shark attacks, while some killed themselves or other survivors in various states of delirium and hallucinations. Of the 1,196 crew only 317 had survived. This had been the biggest tragedy of the navy in WWII. Captain Charles B. McVay III who had commanded Indianapolis since November 1944 survived the sinking and was among those rescued days later.

In November 1945 he was court-martialed and convicted of “”hazarding his ship by failing to zigzag””. Several things about the court-martial were controversial. Mochitsura Hashimoto, commander of I-58, testified that zigzagging would have made no difference. McVay was the only captain to be court martialed in WW2. Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz remitted McVay’s sentence and restored him to active duty. McVay retired in 1949 as a rear admiral. In 1968 with the guilt of having so many deaths on the Captains shoulders he could not bare it. At 70 years old McVay had committed suicide with his navy issued revolver in one hand and a toy sailor given to him by his father. In 1996 McVay’s record had been cleared for exoneration of the loss of the Indy. In 2001 McVay had been cleared of all wrong doings.

Remember: This is just a sample from a fellow student.

Your time is important. Let us write you an essay from scratch

experts 450+ experts on 30 subjects ready to help you just now

delivery Starting from 3 hours delivery

Find Free Essays

We provide you with original essay samples, perfect formatting and styling

Cite this Essay

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

In Harm’s Way: the Indianapolis Disaster. (2018, November 19). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 6, 2022, from
“In Harm’s Way: the Indianapolis Disaster.” GradesFixer, 19 Nov. 2018,
In Harm’s Way: the Indianapolis Disaster. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 6 Aug. 2022].
In Harm’s Way: the Indianapolis Disaster [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Nov 19 [cited 2022 Aug 6]. Available from:
copy to clipboard

Where do you want us to send this sample?

    By clicking “Continue”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy.


    Be careful. This essay is not unique

    This essay was donated by a student and is likely to have been used and submitted before

    Download this Sample

    Free samples may contain mistakes and not unique parts


    Sorry, we could not paraphrase this essay. Our professional writers can rewrite it and get you a unique paper.



    Please check your inbox.

    We can write you a custom essay that will follow your exact instructions and meet the deadlines. Let's fix your grades together!


    Hi there!

    Are you interested in getting a customized paper?

    Check it out!
    Don't use plagiarized sources. Get your custom essay. Get custom paper

    Haven't found the right essay?

    Get an expert to write you the one you need!


    Professional writers and researchers


    Sources and citation are provided


    3 hour delivery