Researchers find wreckage of the USS Indianapolis

Tom Hinde

Civilian researchers believe they have located the wreck of the USS Indianapolis. The Portland-class heavy cruiser, launched on Nov. 7 1931, saw extensive action in World War II and played a critical role in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. On July 30, 1945 the Indianapolis was struck by two Japanese torpedoes and sunk.

The Indianapolis, with 1,196 sailors and Marines on board, was sailing the Philippine Sea between Guam and Leyte Gulf, when the ship met its fate shortly after midnight. It sank in 12 minutes, killing about 300. Survivors were left in the water, most with only life jackets. There was no time to send a distress signal, and four days passed before a bomber happened to spot survivors in the water. By the time rescuers arrived, a combination of exposure, dehydration, drowning and constant shark attacks had left only one-fourth of the ship's original number alive.

The sinking remains the Navy's single worst loss at sea. The wreck was found more than 18,000 feet below the North Pacific Ocean.