USS Indianapolis survivor describes what it was like to be on the ship that day

Coxswain Louis Harold Erwin, a World War II Navy veteran, spent four days and five nights at sea after the USS Indianapolis sank. Here, he discusses what it was like to slowly lose his shipmates to madness, drowning and sharks.
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Coxswain Louis Harold Erwin, a World War II Navy veteran, spent four days and five nights at sea after the USS Indianapolis sank. Here, he discusses what it was like to slowly lose his shipmates to madness, drowning and sharks.
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Wreck of USS Indianapolis, lost for 72 years, found by civilian expedition

By Don Sweeney

dsweeney@sacbee.com

August 19, 2017 05:57 PM

The wreckage of the USS Indianapolis, missing for 72 years after the ship was sunk late in World War II, has reportedly been found.

Billionaire Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft, tweeted Saturday morning that an expedition he financed had uncovered wreckage from the U.S. Navy vessel.

We've located wreckage of USS Indianapolis in Philippine Sea at 5500m below the sea. '35' on hull 1st confirmation: https://t.co/V29TLj1Ba4 pic.twitter.com/y5S7AU6OEl

— Paul Allen (@PaulGAllen) August 19, 2017

Important chapter of WWII history concludes--I hope survivors/families gain some closure. Anchor and ship's bell seen here. #USSIndianapolis pic.twitter.com/Kk1YrcaeN1

— Paul Allen (@PaulGAllen) August 19, 2017

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The USS Indianapolis sank July 30, 1945, after being hit by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine. The heavy cruiser had just finished a secret mission to deliver parts of the atomic bomb later dropped on Hiroshima to Tinian.

The ship sank in just 12 minutes. About 900 men from its 1,200-person crew escaped the sinking ship, but another 600 died over the next several days awaiting rescue in the water. Men, most without lifeboats and some without even lifejackets, died of exposure, dehydration, drowning, saltwater poisoning and – as famously described in a classic scene from the 1975 film “Jaws” – shark attacks.

The sinking of the USS Indianapolis remained unknown to the Navy for several days. If any distress signals were sent before the ship sank, they were not picked up, and Navy officials failed to follow up after the ship did not arrive at its next port as scheduled.

A Navy seaplane on routine patrol spotted the 321 remaining survivors three and a half days after the sinking. The plane landed to take aboard survivors, while its radio reports brought nearby ships to the rescue. In the end 317 men survived the sinking and aftermath.

The exact location of the sunken ship remained a mystery despite several searches for the wreckage over the years. Allen’s expedition reportedly found part of the ship in 18,000 feet of water in the Philippine Sea.