Death at Sea
|I don't know if this shot is genuine or not.|
Oral History -The Sinking of USS Indianapolis (CA-35)Recollections of the sinking of USS Indianapolis (CA-35) by CAPT Lewis L. Haynes, MC (Medical Corps) (Ret.), the senior medical officer on board the ship.
[Original Source: Haynes, Lewis L. "Survivor of the Indianapolis." Navy Medicine 86, no.4 (Jul.-Aug. 1995): 13-17.]
Delivering the [Atomic] BombAfter our repairs were completed, we were supposed to go on our post-repair trial run. But instead, on July 15th, we were ordered to go to San Francisco to take on some cargo. I was amazed to notice that there was a quiet, almost dead Navy Yard. We tied up at the dock there and two big trucks came alongside. The big crate on one truck was put in the port hanger. The other truck had a bunch of men aboard, including two Army officers, CAPT [James F.] Nolan and MAJ [Robert R.] Furman. I found out later that Nolan was a medical officer. I don't know what his job was, probably to monitor radiation. The two men carried a canister, about 3 feet by 4 feet tall, up to ADM Spruance's cabin where they welded it to the deck. Later on, I found out that this held the nuclear ingredients for the bomb and the large box in the hanger contained the device for firing the bomb. And I had that thing welded to the deck above me for 10 days!
|The cargo of the USS Indianapolis.|
|The B-29 base at Tinian.|
|Admirals King, Nimitz, and Spruance aboard USS Indianapolis,18 Jul 1944.|
Torpedo HitOn July 29th I was pretty tired because I had given the whole crew cholera shots all day. I remember walking through the warrant officer's quarters and declining to join a poker game as I was so tired. I then went to bed.
|I-58, which sank the Indianapolis.|
|Japanese Lt. Cdr. Mochitsura Hashimoto at the periscope of his submarine, the 1-58, which was responsible for the sinking of the USS Indianapolis.|
I started out trying to go to the forward ladder to go up on the fo'c'sle deck, There was a lot of fire coming up through the deck right in front of the dentist's room. That's when I realized I couldn't go forward and turned to go aft. As I did, I slipped and fell, landing on my hands. I got third-degree burns on my hands -- my palms and all the tips of my fingers. I still have the scars. I was barefooted and the soles of my feet were burned off.
Then I turned aft to go back through the wardroom. I would have to go through the wardroom and down a long passageway to the quarterdeck, but there was a terrible hazy smoke with a peculiar odor. I couldn't breathe and got lost in the wardroom. I kept bumping into furniture and finally fell into this big easy chair. I felt so comfortable. I knew I was dying but I really didn't care.
Then someone standing over me said, "My God, I'm fainting!" and he fell on me. Evidently, that gave me a shot of adrenalin and I forced my way up and out. Somebody was yelling, "Open a porthole!" All power was out and it was just a red haze.
The ship was beginning to list and I moved to that side of the ship. I found a porthole already open. Two other guys had gone out through it. I stuck my head out the porthole, gulping in some air, and found they had left a rope dangling. I looked down to see the water rushing into the ship beneath me. I thought about going out the porthole into the ocean but I knew I couldn't go in there.
|In memory of Paul T. Marple, Ensign, who lost his life aboard the USS Indianapolis.|
So Shmueck and I went up a ladder to the deck above where there were some life jackets. We got a whole bunch of life jackets and went back down and started to put them on the patients. I remember helping a warrant officer. His skin was hanging in shreds and he was yelling, "Don't touch me, don't touch me." I kept telling him we had to get the jacket on. I was putting the jacket on when the ship tipped right over. He just slid away from me. The patients and the plane on the catapult all went down in a big, tangling crash to the other side. I grabbed the lifeline and climbed through to avoid falling. And by the time I did, the ship was on its side. Those men probably all died as the plane came down on top of them. All the rescue gear and everything we had out went down patients and everything together.
Into the WaterI slowly walked down the side of the ship. Another kid came and said he didn't have a jacket. I had an extra jacket and he put it on. We both jumped into the water which was covered with fuel oil. I wasn't alone in the water. The hull was covered with people climbing down.
I didn't want to get sucked down with the ship so I kicked my feet to get away. And then the ship rose up high. I thought it was going to come down and crush me. The ship kept leaning out away from me, the aft end rising up and leaning over as it stood up on its nose. The ship was still going forward at probably 3 or 4 knots. When it finally sank, it was over a hundred yards from me. Most of the survivors were strung out anywhere from half a mile to a mile behind the ship.
|Garland Rich, lost at sea when the USS Indianapolis (CA-35) sank on July 30, 1945.|
At that time, I could have hidden but somebody yelled, "Is the doctor there?" And I made myself known. From that point on -- and that's probably why I'm here today -- I was kept so busy I had to keep going. But without any equipment, from that point on I became a coroner.
A lot of men were without life jackets. The kapok life jacket is designed with a space in the back. Those who had life jackets that were injured, you could put your arm through that space and pull them up on your hip and keep them out of the water. And the men were very good about doing this, Furthermore, those with jackets supported men without jackets. They held on the back of them, put their arms through there and held on floating in tandem.
|Vincent Fast Horse, Lost at Sea, USS Indianapolis. He attended Red Cloud School which is on the Lakota Sioux Reservation.|
Later, when the sun came up the covering of oil was a help. It kept us from burning. But it also reflected off the fuel oil and was like a searchlight in your eyes that you couldn't get away from. So I had all the men tie strips of their clothing around their eyes to keep the sun out.
|Lt. Thomas Conway says mass on the USS Indianapolis. See the next photo.|
The water in that part of the Pacific was warm and good for swimming. But body temperature is over 98 and when you immerse someone up to their chin in that water for a couple of days, you're going to chill him down. So at night, we would tie everyone close together to stay warm. But they still had severe chills which led to fever and delirium. On Tuesday night some guy began yelling, "There's a Jap here and he's trying to kill me." And then everybody started to fight. They were totally out of their minds. A lot of men were killed that night. A lot of men drowned. Overnight everybody untied themselves and got scattered in all directions. But you couldn't blame the men. It was mass hysteria. You became wary of everyone. Till daylight came, you weren't sure. When we got back together the next day there was a hell of a lot fewer.
|William Gerald Nugent (lost aboard the USS Indianapolis).|
I saw only one shark. I remember reaching out trying to grab hold of him. I thought maybe it would be food. However, when night came, things would bump against you in the dark or brush against your leg and you would wonder what it was. But honestly, in the entire 110 hours I was in the water I did not see a man attacked by a shark. However, the destroyers that picked up the bodies afterward found a large number of those bodies. In the report I read 56 bodies were mutilated, Maybe the sharks were satisfied with the dead; they didn't have to bite the living.
RescueIt was Thursday [2 Aug] when the plane spotted us. By then we were in very bad shape. The kapok life jacket becomes waterlogged. It's good for about 48 hours. We sunk lower down in the water and you had to think about keeping your face out of water. I knew we didn't have very long to go. The men were semi-comatose. We were all on the verge of dying when suddenly this plane flew over. I'm here today because someone on that plane had a sore neck. He went to fix the aerial and got a stiff neck and lay down in the blister underneath. While he was rubbing his neck he saw us.
The plane dropped life jackets with canisters of water but the canisters ruptured. Then a PBY [seaplane] showed up and dropped rubber life rafts. We put the sickest people aboard and the others hung around the side. I found a flask of water with a 1-ounce cup. I doled out the water, passing the cup down hand-to-hand. Not one man cheated and I know how thirsty they were.
|Lt. Adrian Marks, a resident of Frankfort, Ind., was largely responsible for the rescue of 56 survivors of the cruiser USS Indianapolis. Marks is seen here, fourth from right, with the crew of his PBY Catalina.|
|A PBY Catalina picking up men at sea.|
|USS Indianapolis - Survivors on the deck of the USS Bassett, rescue vessel. Shark attacks began with the sunrise of the first day and continued until the men were physically removed from the water, almost five days later.|
|A survivor of the USS Indianapolis.|
The Cecil J. Doyle took us to Peleliu. We were taken ashore and put into hospital bunks. I remember they came in and got our vital statistics -- we had discarded our dogtags because they were heavy. They changed our dressings. Some of the men got IV's [intravenous solution], though I didn't, While there I began to eat a little and get some strength back.
|1963 article in Stag magazine about the USS Indianapolis.|
So I sat down and dictated off and on for 3 days on the way to Guam. When I'd get tired I'd fall asleep and then I'd wake up and he'd come back.
|Known as the worst maritime disaster in U.S, Naval History. Survivors of the USS Indianapolis (Sunk by a Japanese Sub On July 30, 1945) are taken to medical aid on the island of Guam. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.|
Normally, I don't have nightmares. Last night, I didn't sleep well. And I won't sleep well tonight. But eventually, my mind will turn off and I'll be all right. It's like when I try to say The Lord's Prayer or I sit down and try to talk to somebody about it. I'm all right as long as I stay away from talking about individuals -- my friends... I was on that ship over a year and a half and we were all close friends and we'd been through a lot together and I knew their wives and their families. As a doctor, you get more intimate than normal.
|Lyle Ummenhoffer, USS Indianapolis survivor.|
|Memorial to USS Indianapolis Indianapolis, Indiana.|