In 2012 I wrote a story about the U.S.S. Indianapolis delivering the components of the first atomic bomb to be used in warfare to the U.S. Army airbase in the Marshall Islands. The voyage from San Francisco to the islands was a success. The voyage home was a monumental disaster.
Since my original post—inserted below—filmmaker, Sarah Vladic, has documented the events of July, 1945 and released her film, USS Indianapolis: The Legacy. It can be found on DVD, or streamed from a number of providers.
The original post:
The U.S.S. Indianapolis: A Date With History
At 08:00 on Monday, July 16, 1945, the USS Indianapolis pulled away from the dock at Hunter’s Point in San Francisco and headed for the Golden Gate Strait, bound for a brief stop at Pearl Harbor, then on to Tinian in the Marshall Islands.
Even Captain Charles B. McVay III, in command since November 1944, did not know the contents of his mysterious shipment. He had been assured, however, that every hour he cut from travel time would shorten the war. Captain McVay took this admonition seriously, and the vessel made the five-thousand-mile voyage in only ten days.
The Mission: Deliver a top-secret cargo that was placed aboard the ship the day before. A 1920 US Naval Academy graduate and former Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee of the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C. prior to taking command of the Indianapolis, Captain Charles Butler McVay, III was under orders that if something happened to the ship that would keep it from reaching its destination he was to protect the cargo at all cost even if it meant placing it in a lifeboat at the expense of drowning sailors.
Capt. Lewis L. Haynes, senior medical officer on board the Indianapolis, recalls: “On July 15th we were ordered to go to San Francisco to take on some cargo. I was amazed to notice that there was a quiet, almost dead Navy yard. We tied up at the dock there and two big trucks came alongside. The big crate on one truck was put in the port hanger. The other truck had a bunch of men aboard including two army officers, Captain James Nolan and Major Robert Furman. I found out later that Nolan was a medical officer. I don’t know what his job was – probably to monitor radiation. The two men carried a canister about 3 feet by 4 feet tall up to Admiral Spruance’s cabin, where they welded it to the deck. Later on, I found out that this held the nuclear ingredients for the bomb and the large box in the hanger contained the device for firing the bomb. And I had that thing welded to the deck above me for ten days.”