Civilian research team locates wreck of USS Indianapolis

In this July 10, 1945, photo provided by U.S. Navy media content operations, USS Indianapolis (CA 35) is shown off the Mare Island Navy Yard, in Northern California, after her final overhaul and repair of combat damage. Civilian researchers say they have located the wreck of the USS Indianapolis, the World War II heavy cruiser that played a critical role in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima before being struck by Japanese torpedoes. The Indianapolis, with 1,196 sailors and Marines on board, was sailing the Philippine Sea between Guam and Leyte Gulf when two torpedoes from a Japanese submarine struck just after midnight on July 30, 1945. (U.S. Navy via AP)

(WPRI) – A team of civilian researchers has located the wreck of the USS Indianapolis, a Navy heavy cruiser that was sunk in the closing days of World War II with heavy loss of life.

The Navy announced Saturday that the 13-person team, led by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, found the Indianapolis in more than 18,000 feet of water in the North Pacific Ocean.

This undated image from a remotely operated underwater vehicle courtesy of Paul G. Allen, shows what appears to be the painted hull number “35” on the USS Indianapolis. Based on the curvature of the hull section, this seems to be the port side of the ship. Civilian researchers say they have located the wreck of the USS Indianapolis, the World War II heavy cruiser that played a critical role in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima before being struck by Japanese torpedoes. The expedition crew of Research Vessel Petrel, which is owned by Microsoft co-founder Allen, says it located the wreckage of the Indianapolis on the floor of the North Pacific Ocean, more than 18,000 feet (5,500 meters) below the surface, the U.S. Navy said in a news release Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. (Courtesy of Paul G. Allen via AP)

The ship was lost on July 30, 1945, having recently completed a secret mission to deliver parts for the first atomic bomb to the island of Tinian. She left Guam on July 28th and was headed to Leyte on her own – with no escorts – when she was caught and torpedoed by a Japanese submarine.

Several days passed before the Navy realized that the ship had been sunk. Of the 1,196 men aboard, about 800 survived the sinking and went into the water. They spent four to five days afloat, and a combination of shark attacks, drowning, exposure and dehydration claimed about 500 of them. Only 316 men were rescued.

Prior to the discovery, several unsuccessful attempts had been made to find the ship. Navy officials said that information discovered last year helped revise the estimated location of the wreck; logs from another Navy ship that had seen the Indianapolis just hours before it was attacked led researchers to shift their efforts further west than had previously been searched.

In accordance with federal law, the team will not disturb the wreck and will not publicly release its exact location.

Allen has mounted several previous expeditions to find World War II shipwrecks, including that of the Japanese battleship Musashi in 2015, and one of his teams also recovered the ship’s bell from the wreck of the British battlecruiser Hood, which was famously sunk by the German battleship Bismarck in 1941.