WASHINGTON • Naval researchers announced last Saturday that they have found the wreckage of lost World War II cruiser USS Indianapolis on the floor of the Pacific Ocean, 72 years after the vessel sank in minutes after it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine.
The ship was found more than 5km below the surface of the Philippine Sea, said a tweet from Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen, who led a team of civilian researchers that made the discovery.
Historians and architects from the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington had joined forces with Mr Allen last year to revisit the tragedy.
The ship sank within 15 minutes on July 30, 1945, in the war's final days, and it took the navy four days to realise that the vessel was missing. About 800 of the crew's 1,200 sailors and marines made it off the cruiser before it sank. But almost 600 of them died over the next four to five days from exposure, dehydration, drowning and shark attacks. Nineteen crew members are alive today, the navy command said in a news release.
The Indianapolis had just completed a top-secret mission to deliver components of the atomic bomb Little Boy to the island of Tinian. The bomb was later dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
In a statement on its website, the command called the shipwreck a "significant discovery", considering the depth of the water.
CLOSING A CHAPTER
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.
MR PAUL ALLEN, Microsoft co-founder, who led the research team.
Mr Allen said: "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."
The cruiser's Captain Charles Butler McVay III was among those who survived, but he was eventually court-martialled and convicted of losing control of the vessel. About 350 navy ships were lost in combat during the war, but he was the only captain to be court-martialled.
Years later, under pressure from survivors to clear his name, the United States Congress and then President Bill Clinton posthumously exonerated Capt McVay.
The shipwreck's location had eluded researchers for decades.
The coordinates keyed out in an SOS signal were forgotten by surviving radio operators and were not received by navy ships or shore stations, the navy command said. The ship's mission records and logs were lost in the wreck.
Researchers got a break last year, however, when Dr Richard Hulver, a historian with the Naval History and Heritage Command, identified a naval landing craft that had recorded a sighting of the Indianapolis hours before it was sunk.
The position was west of where it was presumed to be lying. The team was able to develop a new estimated position, although it still covered 1,554 sq km of open ocean.
The ship is an official war grave, which means it is protected by law from disturbances. Naval archaeologists will see what data they can retrieve. No recovery efforts are planned.