This week on the History with Mark Bielski podcast, on the 75th anniversary of the bombing of the USS Indianapolis, Mark revisits his interview with best-selling author, Lynn Vincent, and National Geographic Historian, Sara Vladic, about their book, Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man.
Just after midnight on July 30, 1945, days after delivering the components of the atomic bomb from California to the Pacific Islands in the most highly classified naval mission of the war, USS Indianapolis was sailing alone in the center of the Philippine Sea when she was struck by two Japanese torpedoes. The ship instantly transformed into a fiery cauldron and sunk within minutes. Some 300 men went down with the ship. Nearly 900 made it into the water alive. For the next five nights and four days, almost three hundred miles from the nearest land, the men battled injuries, sharks, dehydration, insanity, and eventually each other. Only 316 survived.
For the better part of a century, the story of USS Indianapolis has been understood as a sinking tale. The reality, however, is far more complicated—and compelling. Now, for the first time, thanks to a decade of original research and interviews with 107 survivors and eyewitnesses, Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic tell the complete story of the ship, her crew, and their final mission to save one of their own.
Vincent and Vladic provide a visceral, moment-by-moment account of the disaster that unfolded days later after the Japanese torpedo attack, from the chaos on board the sinking ship to the first moments of shock as the crew plunge into the remote waters of the Philippine Sea, to the long days and nights during which terror and hunger morph into delusion and desperation, the men banding together to survive.