The Real Reason It Took 72 Years To Discover The USS Indianapolis’ Remains
Paul G. Allen Foundation
In the murky depths of the Philippine Sea, the wreckage of the USS Indianapolis was recently discovered by a research team led by Microsoft Co-founder Paul Allen. Often regarded as the worst disaster in US naval history, the 800 survivors of the ship fought for their lives over the course of four days against dehydration, starvation and brutal shark attacks. The stories of USS Indianapolis have been heard for decades but traces of the ship were elusive. You would think that such a ship would have been found sooner, so why did it take so long to discover the sunken wreck?
The USS Indianapolis had just completed a mission shrouded in secrecy delivering essential parts for the atomic bomb. So they weren’t exactly too open about their mission to bring a secret weapon to its destination to transmissions were kept to a minimum. Aside from keeping a low profile, the sneak attack from the Japanese submarine occurred so suddenly that there was no time to send out distress signals.
“All the paperwork is lost. There was no signal that went out. So, basically, we had nothing but the recollections of the crew, the survivors. So, it was really an imprecise location at the beginning.”
– Richard Hulver (Naval Historian)
However, a naval landing craft LST-779 actually did pass the USS Indianapolis 11 hours before it was attacked and documented it in its records. This was the only source of information they had to pinpoint the ship’s location but it was better than nothing. Fortunately, that single source of information was enough to track direction it traveled and yielded results.
In the end, the location USS Indianapolis remained elusive because of the lack of information but a single piece of data was enough to track it down. Additional information on the search for the shipwreck is provided in this clip from PBS.