World War II Ship USS Indianapolis Has Been Found in the Philippine Sea

Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen’s team located the USS Indianapolis on August 18, 2017. Its sinking is considered one of the worst disasters in US Navy history.
IMAGE Photo courtesy of Paul G. Allen

Last month, on August 18, 2017, Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen’s team found the wreckage of the USS Indianapolis 5,500 meters below the surface of the Philippine Sea, using Allen’s Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel.

According to a press release from Allen’s website, the ship played a crucial role in World War II history, as it delivered one of the crucial components of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It was on its way from Guam to Leyte when it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine.

The vessel sank in just 12 minutes, and about 800 out of 1,196 men managed to abandon ship. But after 4-5 days of being stranded in shark-infested waters, only 316 survived. The accounts of the sailors’ ordeal are absolutely horrifying. Not only did they suffer from dehydration and hallucinations, but they had to contend with shark attacks as well.

In this BBC article, survivor Loel Dean Cox recalls, “We were losing three or four each night and day. You were constantly in fear because you’d see ’em all the time . . . a dozen to two dozen fins in the water . . . Then every now and then, like lightning, one would come straight up and take a sailor and take him straight down. One came up and took the sailor next to me. It was just somebody screaming, yelling, or getting bit.” It’s no surprise that the sinking of the USS Indianapolis is considered one of the worst disasters in US Navy history.


After decades of searching for the wreck, Allen’s press release explains that new information from Dr. Richard Hulver—historian at US Naval History and Heritage Command— pointed the team to a new location to the west of the original search area. Hulver was able to uncover the ship’s approximate location from the voyage logs of another vessel that had come into contact with the Indianapolis. After combing through 600 square miles of ocean, the team was finally able to locate the vessel.

The discovery of the USS Indianapolis is not only of great historical significance—it provides some closure to the survivors and the families of those who were lost as well. Because the wreck is a war grave and property of the US Navy, it will remain undisturbed, and its location is restricted information. Paul Allen’s team is currently working with the US Navy to find the best way to honor the Indianapolis’s fallen heroes.

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