On July 30th, 1945, a Japanese submarine launched a pair of torpedoes at the USS Indianapolis, sinking it in minutes and resulting in the greatest loss of life in the history of the US Navy. Since then, the final resting place of the ship has been a mystery, until Friday. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen announced that a team onboard his research vessel Petrel located the ship over 18,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.
Allen made the announcement late on Saturday, saying that discovering the ship was “truly humbling,” The expedition has been coordinating with the US Navy, which has restricted the exact location of the ship’s resting place.
In the days before it was attacked, the Indianapolis carried out a secret mission: it delivered the first atomic bomb to an airfield on Tinian Island, which was dropped on Hiroshima just days later. The Japanese torpedoes struck the ship amidships and its bow, capsizing the heavy cruiser and sinking it. 300 of its sailors went down with the ship, while the rest of the 1,196 member crew found themselves adrift in shark-infested water.
The ship’s disappearance went unnoticed by the Navy, and it wasn’t until a plane happened to fly over that the survivors were located. By the time rescue arrived, only 317 remained, victims of drowning, shark attacks, and dehydration. 22 of those survivors are still alive today. The plight of the crew helped cement a terrifying perception of sharks into the mindset of US audiences, aided by a chilling reference in Steven Spielberg’s film Jaws.
There have been numerous unsuccessful efforts to try and locate the Indianapolis over the years. Research conducted by historians from the Naval History and Heritage Command last year steered searchers to a new location, where the wreckage was finally discovered. Allen says that his crew will continue to survey the site and conduct a more extensive look of the wreckage in the next “few weeks,” and will work with the families of the survivors to honor their memory.