US Indianapolis Operational History

1929
December
. Navy Department formally named cruiser #35 as USS Indianapolis.

1930
March 31
. Keel laid as light cruiser at Camden, New Jersey by The New York Shipbuilding Company.

1931
November 7
. Cruiser launched. Christened by Miss Lucy Taggart, daughter of Senator Thomas Taggart, a former Mayor of Indianapolis.

1932
November 15
. Commissioned at Philadelphia Navy Yard

1933
January 10
. Sailed for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and shakedown cruise.

Spring. President Franklin D. Roosevelt chose the USS Indianapolis as his “Ship of State” using her as his personal transport for trans-Atlantic and South American travel on numerous occasions. Many of the World’s leaders and royalty toured her deck as guests of the United States. USS Indianapolis became a symbol of a dynamic, young America wherever she went in the world.

July 1. After a shakedown cruise, Indianapolis steamed to Provincetown, Massachusetts to Eastport and Bar Harbor, Maine to pick up President Franklin D. Roosevelt from his Campobello Island summer home. She took the President to Annapolis, Maryland, the home of the US Naval Academy. After entertaining dignitaries, she departed for Philadelphia.

September 6. Carried C.A. Swansom, Secretary of the Navy on inspection tour of Pacific bases arriving at San Diego, California on October 27

November 1. Became flagship of Scouting Force, US Fleet.

1934
May 31
. Arrived in New York and picked for President Roosevelt and numerous dignitaries for the Presidential Review of US Fleet in the Hudson River.

1935
Indianapolis participated in fleet war games in the Pacific.

1936
November 18
. Picked up President Roosevelt at Charleston, South Carolina for the “Good Neighbor” tour of South America including the Pan American Conference in Buenos Aires. This was the first time in history that a serving President of the United States had visited outside North America. Returned to Charleston, South Carolina December 15.

1937 – 1938
Indianapolis participated in wartime training exercises.

1939
November
. Entered Mare Island, California Naval Yard after having traveled over 215,000 miles since her commissioning.

1940
April
. US Fleet moved to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii as a deterrent to tensions between the United States and Japan.

1941
December 7.
On bombarding exercises off Johnson Island, west of Hawaii. After Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, joined Task Force 12 in a futile search to find the attacking Japanese carrier force.

1942
battle star January – March
. Indianapolis experiences first wartime action. Operated in South Pacific including Rabaul and Port Moresby. On February 20, the American force was attacked by two waves of Japanese bombers with 16 of 18 of the bombers shot down by US aircraft. In March, she returned to United States for refitting.

June. Escorted a convoy to Australia then returned to the North Pacific.

July. Joined Aleutians Fleet Force in defending Aleutians Islands after Japanese invasion. Shelled Kiska Island.

September – December. Returned to United States for refitting and overhaul.

1943
January
. Returned to Aleutian Islands to support Allied landings against Japanese held islands.

February 19. Intercepted Japanese cargo ship Akagane Maru. Enemy ship blew up with massive force after hits from USS Indianapolis.

battle star February – March. Returned to Mare Island for major overhaul. Indianapolis is selected as the Flagship for Admiral Raymond Spruance, Commander, Fifth Fleet. Admiral Spruance was the victorious in the Battle of Midway.

November 10. Left Pearl Harbor for the opening of the Central Pacific Campaign and Operation Galvanic, the invasion of the Gilbert Islands.

battle star November 19. December Bombarded Island of Tarawa and Makin prior to Allied Landing. Confirmed enemy plane shot down.

December 7. Departed for Pearl Harbor with Fifth Fleet Staff to plan the Marshall Island invasion.

1944
battle star January 31
. Bombarded Kawajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands.

battle star March – April. Indianapolis carried the Flag in company with Task Force 58 which raided the Western Carolines to support General MacArthur’s operations in New Guinea. Participated in raid on Palau Islands. Confirmed second enemy planed downed, a torpedo bomber.

battle star June 9 -13. Became part of bombarding force against Tinian, Saipan and Guam. Capture of these islands brought Japan within range of B-29 bombers. Indianapolis hit by enemy 120mm shell which failed to explode.

June 19. Participated in Battle of Philippine Sea (Marianas Turkey Shoot). Confirmed enemy torpedo bomber downed. Indianapolis rescues many naval aviators whose aircraft ran out of fuel late in the night.

battle star July 24. Contributed fire support for the Allied landing on Tinian Island.

July 29. Indianapolis became the first US Navy ship to enter Apra Harbor, Guam since the start of the war. She took Admiral Spruance there to meet with the Marine and Army generals for the flag raising ceremony.

battle star September. Shelled Peleliu Island in Palau to support landings and Manus in the Admiralty Islands.

October. Returned to Mare Island for overhaul and refitting.

1945
January 14
. With Admiral Spruance aboard, joined Task Force 58 off Japan and in February participated in Allied carrier strikes against the Japanese homeland.

battle star February 20. Arrived off Iwo Jima to again provide fire support for invasion.

February 25. Rejoined Task Force 58 and was stationed south of the Japanese mainland to furnish cover for carrier strikes against Tokyo.

March 14. Joined fast carrier force to strike at southern Japanese islands of Kyushu and Honshu.

battle star March 24. Took part in seven day pre-invasion bombardment of Okinawa. Confirmed six enemy planes downed and assisted with two other.

March 31. During the morning, Indianapolis is hit by Japanese kamikaze plane on the port side of the after-deck of the ship and fell into the sea causing little damage. The kamikaze released its bomb and it penetrated the ship’s deck on the port quarter and exploded under causing severe damage. The bomb killed nine men and injured 26. Two holes were blown in the ship’s bottom and several compartments were flooded. Indianapolis had a list to port but steamed under her own power to Mare Island and arrived in late April.

May – June. Underwent repairs and refitted with the latest radar and twin 20mm guns with electronic sights. One aircraft catapult was removed. While in dry dock at Mare Island, the War Department chose the ship to transport components of the atomic bomb to Tinian Island.

July 15. Indianapolis reported Hunter’s Point Navy Yard in San Francisco to pick up atomic bomb components.

July 16. Early in the morning and under security and secrecy, the atom bomb components were loaded. The components included the firing mechanism and the major part of the uranium-235 nuclear material to be used in assembly of the atomic bomb, “Little Boy.” Operation Bronx Shipment was the code name for the transfer of the components from the United States to Tinian Island. The firing mechanism was in a 15 foot long crate and the uranium-235 weighing 132 pounds was in two lead lined containers weighing 200 pounds each and measured 18 inches in diameter and 18 inches long. The crate was bolted down to the hanger deck and the uranium containers were secured to the deck in the admiral’s cabin. The uranium containers were accompanied by two scientists posing as Army artillery officers.

Indianapolis sailed for Pearl Harbor at an average speed of 29 knots in the record 74.5 hour trip. After replenishing, it sailed for the island of Tinian and arrived July 26 to unload the secret cargo and personnel. Indianapolis then headed South and made a brief stop at Guam to receive new orders.

July 28. Left Guam unescorted for the Leyte Gulf to join the USS Idaho for gunnery practice. From Leyte, she was to rejoin the fleet off Okinawa for the expected invasion of Japan. A single coded message was sent from Guam to Idaho advising her of the Indianapolis’ orders. The radio message was “garbled” and the Idaho did ask for a repeat of the message. The Idaho did not know Indianapolis was on her way.

July 30. At 12:14 AM, take two torpedo hits from Japanese Submarine I-58; one blowing away the Indianapolis’ bow and striking the starboard side in the machinery spaces near a powder magazine and one of her fuel oil bunkers. The electrical power was knocked out and a SOS was not sent. In 12 minutes, the USS Indianapolis sinks by the bow. It is believed that almost 300 men may have been killed immediately or went down with the ship. Of the 1,196 men on board it is estimated 900 hundred men made it into the water with 317 surviving to be rescued.

August 2. A Navy Lockheed PV-1 Ventura spotted debris and survivors over a 200 mile area and radioed his base at Palau. A Catalina PB-Y Flying Boat was dispatched and against Navy regulations landed the aircraft near some survivors and took as many men as possible on board and on the wings. 56 men were rescued.

August 3. Responding to the radio rescue calls, the destroyers, Cecil Doyle, Talbot, Dufilho arrived at the scene. Auxiliary ships the Ringness, Bassett and Register came to the rescue. 317 survivors were rescued. The survivors were taken to the Peleliu and Samar in the Philippines and later all transferred to Guam for rehabilitation.

August 4. Destroy escort Alvin C. Cockrill and the destroyer Aylwin arrived but found no survivors.

August 5. The destroyer Helm and destroyer escort arrived. The Helm found and buried at sea 28 bodies. Both ships cleaned up the area leaving just the thinning oil slick. At the end of the search, a radius of 100 miles of ocean or more than 31,400 square miles had been combed.

August 6. The atom bomb with components delivered by the Indianapolis was dropped by B-29 “Enola Gay” on Japanese city of Hiroshima.

August 13. Inquiry on the Indianapolis disaster begins on Guam.

August 14, 8:00 PM, EST. President Harry Truman makes radio announcement the Japanese have accepted the Allies’ surrender terms.

August 14, 9:00 PM, EST. The sinking of the USS Indianapolis was announced on the radio. Newspaper reports were to follow.

September 2. Japan signed surrender documents on board USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay ending the World War II.

2000
October.
Captain Charles McVay is exonerated for the loss of the USS Indianapolis and so many of her crew. This resolution was the result of a Bill introduced to Congress and a five year effort spearheaded by student, Hunter Scott of Florida.