World War II narrative commemorates naval cruiser USS Indianapolis
Indianapolis, written by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic, details “the true story of the worst sea disaster in US naval history and the fifty-year fight to exonerate an innocent man.” The USS Indianapolis, a surviving vessel of the attack on Pearl Harbor, was conducting a mock bombardment during the 1941 attack, saving the ship from destruction.
After notching victory after victory in the Pacific Theatre, the ship is sent on a highly classified mission to deliver parts fundamental to the building of the atomic bombs.
Amidst the sea battles of the Pacific Theatre, the USS Indianapolis fends off a new form of warfare adopted by the Japanese: kamikaze attacks. The enemy fighters lade themselves with bombs and fuel, flying a suicide mission and crashing into US ships to cause maximum amounts of damage.
A kamikaze fighter bursts through the AA (anti-aircraft fire) and crashes into the ship, March 31, 1945. Bursting onto the main deck with a concussive blow, the ship shudders and takes the full force of the crash. Crippled, the USS Indianapolis hobbles back to a port twenty miles away, taking a strenuous two and a half hours.
After repairing the naval vessel, officials train new recruits to replace the nine dead and 22 wounded. However, just short of being ready for their next deployment, the USS Indianapolis receives an urgent mission to send a classified cargo (enriched uranium) unaccompanied to Tinian Island.
The mission to Tinian Island is recorded as uneventful with little to no complications. The sailors are even reported to have placed bets on the contents of the secret cargo. Commander of the USS Indianapolis Captain Charles McVay III claimed afterwards that he correctly guessed the contents of the cargo.
After successfully completing the mission, the USS Indianapolis takes a two-day leave, then heads back to a base in Leyte. On the way back, unaided and unescorted, the USS Indianapolis is attacked and sinks in a mere 12 minutes. 900 men go down with the ship. After five strenuous days of fending off sharks, insanity, dehydration and each other, a US plane spots the 316 survivors.
Upon his return, Captain McVay is court-martialed and demoted for failure to zig-zag and save his ship at all costs. This ruling comes even after the opposing submarine captain that sunk the ship reports it was hopeless to evade the torpedoes. The Japanese captain showed he fired six torpedoes fan shape to ensure maximum hits.
Almost 50 years later, sixth grade student Hunter Scott put together his class project on the USS Indianapolis, 1998. Scott conducted extensive research and interviewed many of the survivors. In the end, Scott had his research reviewed and helped overturn the fifty-year-old decision, posthumously exonerating Captain Charles McVay III in the year 2000.
Authors Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic will be visiting Fresno to share about Indianapolis and the process that went into writing the book. The event will be held at Sunnyside High School Theatre located on 1019 S. Peach Fresno 93727, Nov. 1. The authors will be speaking from 1-2:15 p.m. A Q&A session will be held afterwards for those with more questions.
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