At 0400 hours, as Sunday, July 29 was just rolling into Monday, July 30 and as the Boston and the cruisers of CruDiv 10 along with battleships and destroyers from the Task Groups were pounding Hamamatsu, the commander of the Japanese submarine I-58 ordered his men to fire all six torpedoes at the enemy ship in the crosshairs of his periscope. One minute later, the Indianapolis, steaming unescorted to Leyte after delivering to scientists on Tinian the uranium and other components of the atom bomb earmarked for Hiroshima, was rocked by two massive explosions at 12°02’N, 134°48’E.
In less than twelve minutes she sank, taking about 300 of her crew of 1,196 with her to the bottom. About 900 men, including the Captain, after making all possible efforts to secure the ship, ended up in the water. Many were already dead, many seriously injured, and the rest were in shock and unprepared for the ordeal that was to unfold.
A number of tragic communications snarl-ups rendered the survivors “invisible.” Except for a handful of people, the Navy was totally unaware that one of her heavy warships was missing, let alone sunk.
A rag-tag flotilla of survivors, some in large groups, others alone, drifted apart, carried by currents and winds. As each hour passed the horrors mounted – shock, dehydration, hypothermia, delirium, death from drowning and death and dismemberment by circling sharks whittled the ranks. When a passing patrol plane on a routine mission accidentally spotted men in the water, it was 1045 hours on August 2, three and a half days after the cruiser went down. It was nightfall before the first of the rescue ships began reaching the men. The massive search and rescue mission lasted until August 8, combing a hundred mile radius day and night. Three hundred seventeen men were rescued. About six hundred men died in the water.
A Bird’s Eye View of the Heavy Cruiser USS Boston and Task Force 58 in Combat Operations Against the Empire of Japan (Steve Kelly)