The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and its Survivors’ Stories

When the blockbuster “Jaws” first terrified audiences in 1975, not all of the fear was due to the effects or haunting soundtrack. One of the most chilling scenes was fisherman Quint’s telling of how he was bobbing in the Pacific’s waters for days while sharks were circling him and his fellow sailors. That grim story isn’t just a scene written for the big screen.


President Franklin Roosevelt reviewing the Argentine fleet. Nov. 17, 1936. He is on the deck of the USS Indianapolis during his trip to South America. Photo By Everett Collection/Shutterstock

It was based on the real-life events after the sinking of the USS Indianapolis near the end of World War II. A Japanese submarine torpedo sent the ship and its 1,200 men into the ocean’s open waters. Of about 800 sailors who went into the water, 316 survived the nearly five-day event. The rest succumbed to dehydration, shark attacks, exhaustion, and I’ll let your imagination fill in the rest. That alone is a story to be told, but there are lots of layers to this story, involving a 12-year-old boy whose school paper helped exonerate the ship’s captain after all these years.

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