Friday, July 27, 2007

USS Indianapolis


It is SHARK WEEK on the Discovery Channel and the first show was a documentary of the worst encounter between humans and sharks in history, the sinking of the USS INDIANAPOLIS.

I first heard of the INDY when I read JAWS and All The Drowned Sailors.

If you remember Jaws you know that Captain Quint, played by Robert Shaw in the movie, was on that US Cruiser and his chilling rendition of the four days and five nights that 896 sailors spent in the Phillipine Sea after being torpedoed was one of the most dramatic parts of both the novel and the film.

Do you remember when Quint said,

" I'll never put another lifejacket on agin'."

He was talking about surviving the INDY.

The INDY had just delivered key components for the Atomic Bomb that was to be dropped on Hiroshima a few days later when she was torpedoed by a Japanese Submarine just after Midnight on July 30, 1945.

1196 Men on board
300 went down with the ship
896 went into the sea

There are so many interesting things about this vessel and her crew:

FDR used it as his Presidential ship,

the INDY along with others was myseriously whisked out of Pearl Harbor 2 days before the surprise attack,

the captain was court marshalled for her sinking and the US Navy, in one of it's most shameful moments in history, brought in the Japanese Sub Commander to testify against him!

Captain McVeigh was later exonerrated but he committed suicide in 1968.

Back in '45 when this happened the US NAVY knew nothing about sharks and this dreadful incident actually started the serious study of sharks. Sailors were informed that blowing bubbles would scare them off.

For years this story was told like a classic Horror story where the villains were frenzied maneating creatures from hell who mercilessly attacked and devoured nearly three quarters of the 896 men who were floating helplessly for 4 days and 5 nights.

Now in 2007 we learn from the survivor accounts that dehydration, exposure and drowning claimed the majority of the poor bastards who didn't live long enough to be rescued.

Many of the survivors spoke of men who made the mistake of drinking the salty sea water and going berserk before succumbing to the shutdown of their kidneys and internal organs within a four hours.

The kidneys try to flush out the salts in the urine and wastes precious water doing so.

(Seawater is 35 parts per thousand Salt and Freshwater is .5)

The mere thought of dying of thirst in an Ocean surrounded by water and being fried by the sun during the 100 degree days led many to simply slip off their kapok lifejackets and drown themselves.

Many delerious men believed that freshwater could be had just below the surface and that Japanese soldiers had infiltrated their group.

Now over 50 years later we know that most of the men were more afraid of the delerious, violent, men floating beside them than the sharks bumping their legs beneath the surface. That is scary.

Of course there are also remarkable acts of courage and compassion. This is THE most incredible tale that every shark-nut in the world has read.

The sharks certainly consumed all of the most injured and dead sailors and a few that were still alive but exposure killed far more of them.

Statistically sharks behaved as they would be expected to and not like bloodthirsty creatures from hell according the director of the International Shark Attack File.

(About 5 people a year are killed by sharks far fewer than those who die from falling coconuts and about 50 million sharks are killed annually by Asian men to make soup.)

So in the end 896 men went into the sea
321 on the brink of death were rescued
4 succumbed to their ordeal
leaving 317 out of a crew of 1196

The thing that really stuck with me is that the 4 sailors who died after being rescued from this nightmare, were apparently buried at sea!


  1. My Tiomas has been reading his book that Santa gave him 2years ago called "Shark Man". It is a true story aout a man attacked whilst sports diving in the 1970's and how he survived the attack. Now he educated people on these fine beasts.

  2. I know that you're more than likely to die from a car accident than a shark attack but they still scare the heck out of me.

    I'm scared of flying and I'm scared of being in a shipwreck. But I'm a very aggressive driver. Weird, I know.

  3. Anonymous11:07 a.m.

    well a coupla days ago Jaws was on Channel 4 which was followed by a reported sighting on the news of a great white swimming off the Cornish coast. looked like a dolphin to me...

    ...and now this post...doodoodooooooooo - the sharks are taking over.

    I've always thought sharks have clever little eyes.

    Titanic scares me more than Jaws.

  4. I hate sharks! but I don't eat them. and its boring whenever they show shark stories in discovery. I switch of the channel during shark week.

    But this is indeed interesting to read about the Indy!

  5. Is the Shark Man Rodney Fox? All of those shark guys from Australia and South Africa are famous. The story of the Indy is my absolute worst nightmare because some of the other men were more dangerous than the hundreds of sharks circling beneath the waves.
    I can't imagine staying sane after that. I would prolly WIG RIGHT OUT..especially in the dark when a shark bumps your leg to see if you're dead. AAARRGGHH!

    Mrs Road Ragette eh? I have read a few studies on the psychology of aggressive driving and it makes sense that we act out in our vehicles because we feel powerful and protected. How dare anyone else transgress against us. This is our portable bubble and the others had better respect it or else.

    I hater flying over the ocean because of the Indy. Luckily you wouldn't survive the fiery plummet and impact anyway.
    That's a relief.

    This story is the perect combination of TITANIC and JAWS!!!
    That is why I am baffled that Hollywood has never made a BIG summer blockbuster out of this.
    It has
    uber drama in the Heroism and Horror departments
    villanous military injustice
    true story
    throw in a few flashbacks to the wives and kids waiting back home in Pleasantville and you have the ultimate story!!
    OK I'm going to write it.

    I look at those adrenalin junkies who go freediving with Great Whites and I think..hmmm..the Grizzly Man walked around those Giant Bears for over a decade until he met the wrong bear at the right time...
    when, not if, one of these researchers gets munched it will only increase the the guy who stood around Bull Sharks a couple of years ago with Nigel. When one of the Bulls finally removed his calf it was a ratings bonanza.

    Now that these fish aren't promoted as creatures from hell there is a new window opening for programming but America likes those shows like when good pets go bad so it is only a matter of time.

    Nearly all of the people (surfers) who survive attacks realise that they should not have been where they were at a certain time of the day..and most get an exploratory chomp that reveals their inadequate amount of blubber.

    I don't know. I would never surf in certain parts of the world without a full chainmail suit would be a bugger to tread water in that!

  6. There are a lot on potent points made in the Movie Jaws.

    I remember the story Quint spoke of well. He told as if he had been there.
    Then there is

    "For 13 years she kept her virginity, reckon that's a record in this here vicinity"

    The film also shows the ignorance of people.

  7. Fascinating stuff!

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. how many years of evolution?If we showed mitochondrial eve the above comment do you think she would have bothered....

    Anyway morons aside. What a amazing story, being an aussie we are more than acustomed to sharing our water with the lovable man eaters.

    27% of shark attacks happen on our shores, but with beaches like ours it is definately worth it:)

    You cant blame a shark for being a shark, sharks have to eat. A tragedy yes, but that is life.

    Anyhoo back to life.


  10. What amazes me is that the INDY didn't have at least ONE destroyer escort. What amazes me is that the INDY must have had a radio......huh?

    It doesn't amaze me in the least what the Navy did afterwards.

  11. steve!
    I loved that little ditty too!
    Of course Speilberg & Benchley made the incident out to be a four day feeding frenzy with thousands of sharks..if that were true NOBODY would have ever been rescued after the first hour.

    It is an unbelievable story of survival and the will to live in the face of insurmountable odds. I can't imagine how most of those 19 year old kids managed to stay sane.

    I deleted the monday morning club comment because it was obviously not meant for this post..I do know who knudson is though so I have some crackers to follow.

    Anyway yes you Australians are as world famous for your sharks as you are for skin cancer and beer.
    I have seen documentaries on the nets at the beaches...they seem to work and offer some sense of was surprising to discover how many sharks are actually caught heading back out to sea from the beach side!!!

    You know what the brass knew that the Japanese sub I 58 was in the vicinity and didn't tell the captain who had also requested an escort. It was a fluke that a sub chaser accidently noticed the survivors even though the ship was 4 days late.
    The drama behind the aftermath is as twisted as it gets. Nimitz actually believed in Captain McVeigh and the notion that he jeopardized the mission because he didn't zigzag at night seems preposterous...which the Japanese sub commander even backed up.
    It is an unbelievable story.
    Great to see you.

  12. The MICHAEL,
    I still can't access your comments or I blacklisted?!

  13. Aus is full of sharks Im terrified of even swimming in the shallow waters.


  14. I watched the show about the Indy. I was shocked when they talked of how the navy never went looking for them. They just assumed they were late. No matter the reason, those men most likely would have lived if someone did their job!

    Didn't the Navy also blame the captain at first and it was not until many years later he was found not guilty and giving his proper rights?

    Ugh, the Navy should feel ashamed.

  15. keshiroo,
    Timing and common sense are everything in Life.
    Avoid swimming alone, while menstruating, or at dusk and dawn.
    Eschew swimming near seal rookeries (Great Whites) DUH! why do I need to tell you that, and the murky water near estuaries, home of the most dangerous, Bull Sharks.
    Don't wear shiny jewelry or bright light contrasting colors like yum yum yellow.

    I have a picture file of young Australian girls who have died from Shark Attacks in recent years.
    I stare at their faces, mainly high school photos, and I try to imagine the juxtaposition between the death of a young life full of promise and a meal for a 400 million year old fish that has no knowledge of the consequences of it's routine nor the eternal impact on the family.

    inside our hands,
    You know I have been tossing this story around in my head for years.
    There was a lot of hush hush stuff going on with the delivery of the Atomic Bomb and there is a surprising amount of evidence that they knew about Pearl Harbor. Either way the top brass operated much like it does today only now there are millions of eyes and ears out there.

    If you had survived that and remained mentally stable you probably would have been able to conquer the world and appreciated every single day of your Life.
    What terror could hell offer that was worse than that?
    For me, nothing.

  16. That is truly shameful about the Captain - I hope that his family feel he has been exonerated.

  17. my dad was a navy man. he had two ships shot out from under him, fought in the battle of midway, missed pearl harbor by three hours. stories like the one you cite happened a lot more than they ever let on. add in burning fuel on top of the water and japanese planes right at the wavetops making target practice out of the floaters...yeah. official history is only part of the story.

    my thought on dangerous animals is, if they're in a place, then i will avoid that place. so far this strategy has worked for me.
    people who pay to go down in shark cages remind me of that bait container they put in lobster pots. just wait, fool.

  18. ziggi,
    Speaking of 'Exxon'-erated did I mention that many of the men were spared from the sun because they were covered in oil from the sinking ship.
    Some guy named President Bill Clinton finally cleared the captain's name.

    first nations,
    Wow. Do you think that they knew about Pearl Harbor beforehand?

    Political correctness is a bugger when you discuss the inhumanity of the humans during the Second World War. The Japanese were more like the Terrorists of today than we care to admit. The robotic societal proclivity towards a social structure that resembled an ant colony placed an emperor 'god' at the apex and a sense of manifest destiny into the rank and file.

    This crazyass way of thinking produced the infamous, original, modern era suicide bombers, the kamikaze. This type of insanity/warfare mystified the logic of the 'US farmboys'.

    That kind of fanatical, robotic, dedication to a reilgious/military cause still mystifies most of us Westerners and I hope that it always will.

    I agree about large predators but I intend to see a Great White up close before I exit.

    In the movie Goin' South with Jack Nicholson one of the characters says, "The closer you get to Canada, the more things there are that'll eat yer horse"

  19. Excellent post once again, Homey. I was riveted to this one. Sharks fascinate me, and I know about the Indy. It could be that I spent years as a Discovery Channel addict, but I do also admit to being a Wikipedia junkie.

    We'll never know whether the gub'mint knew about the attack on Pearl Harbor, but if it's anything like what they knew about "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S.," then I'm not surprised those ships mysteriously left prior to the attack.

  20. **Avoid swimming alone, while menstruating, or at dusk and dawn.

    I'd avoid swimming while menstruating for other reasons. such as to avoid drowning another swimmer close by etc etc.


  21. To be honest, I haven't followed Shark Week since Mythbusters did that special episode on sharks. That one was cool.

  22. a fascinatingly scary story (i saw a movie & i clearly remember that scene in jaws), and the movies made and stories told contribute to the poor shark species' overall bad rep...
    my son adores sharks, he wants to be a marine biologist specialising in, studying and making documentaries about them so people won't be so afraid of them anymore.

  23. Amazing article... Thank you for sharing..

    My best wishes


  24. Anonymous12:52 p.m.

    I can't wait to see the movie HE!


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