Civilian researchers led by entrepreneur and philanthropist Paul Allen have announced they have found the wreck of the U.S. World War II warship, cruiser USS Indianapolis, which was lost on July 30, 1945.
The U.S. Department of Defence in a statement on Sunday, described the discovery as “significant”.
“This is a significant discovery considering the depth of the water in the area in which the ship was lost: more than 18,000 feet.
“About 800 of the ship’s 1,196 sailors and Marines survived the sinking, but after four to five days in the water – suffering exposure, dehydration, drowning and shark attacks – only 316 survived,” the department said.
The wreck was located by the expedition crew of Research Vessel Petrel, which is owned by Allen, 2,000 feet below the surface, resting on the floor of the North Pacific Ocean, it said.
Allen was quoted as saying: “To be able to honour the brave men of the USS Indianapolis and their families through the discovery of a ship that played such a significant role in ending World War II is truly humbling.
“As Americans, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the crew for their courage, persistence and sacrifice in the face of horrendous circumstances.
“While our search for the rest of the wreckage will continue, I hope everyone connected to this historic ship will feel some measure of closure at this discovery so long in coming.”
According to the department, the ship was lost in the final days of World War II when it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the early morning hours of July 30, 1945.
It explained that the war ship sank in 12 minutes, making it impossible to send a distress signal or deploy much of its life-saving equipment.
Prior to the attack, the Indianapolis had just completed a secret mission delivering components of the atomic bomb used in Hiroshima that ultimately would help to end the war in the Pacific, it said.
The department quoted Sam Cox, Director of the Naval History and Heritage Command as saying: “Even in the worst defeats and disasters, there is valour and sacrifice that deserves to never be forgotten,”
“They can serve as inspiration to current and future sailors enduring situations of mortal peril.
“There are also lessons learned – and in the case of the Indianapolis, lessons re-learned – that need to be preserved and passed on, so the same mistakes can be prevented and lives saved.”
According to the department, other researchers have searched for Indianapolis in the past.
“Among the elements that made this effort different was Allen’s recent acquisition and retrofit of the 250-foot R/V Petrel with state-of-the-art subsea equipment capable of diving 3 and a half miles,” it said.