The Last Mission of The Indianapolis

By: Blanche Bishop

Seventy-five years ago, this week and next, are two of the most influential and important weeks of the 20th century. The events occurring were so secretive, very few people including Vice President Harry Truman, knew anything about it. After the death of Franklin Roosevelt, the new President Truman was finally alerted to the secret the country had been working on for years; how can we swiftly, bring an end to the horrific and deadly, four year war with Japan and Germany?

It had to be one of the most heart pounding, mind boggling, despicable, world changing decisions any leader, of any nation, would ever make. It remains so to this day. He was told that thousands of Japanese men, women, and children would instantly turn to dust as would the entire cities they were dropped on.

However, thousands of American and Allied warriors and civilians would die if he didn’t stop the murderous rampage of the socialists, communists, and fascists leaders attempting to take over the world. I wonder how many millions of people living on this earth would be alive today, if President Harry S. Truman, had failed in doing his job, to protect this nation. President Truman had to personally sign off on the use of the most powerful, destructive weapon ever invented by man.

Thus, began a tale for the history books. The USS Indianapolis sailed from San Francisco, California on July 16, 1945 on a special high-speed run to Guam, carrying essential atomic bomb material. She delivered her unusual cargo of the “LITTLE BOY” and “FAT MAN” and the world changed forever.

What would turn out to be the last mission of this gallant cruiser was to bring Pacific bases, which are within bombing range of Japan, materials for atomic bomb attacks on the enemy. The Indianapolis arrived, unloaded her cargo and slipped away without a single sailor leaving the ship.

Shortly after midnight on July 31, 1945, a Japanese sub blasted the Indianapolis, and she was gone in twelve minutes.  About 300 sailors were trapped and went down with the ship and another approximately 900 men went into the water.  Because the mission of the Indianapolis was so secretive, nobody began looking for the ship. Four days later, on August 2, an anti-submarine plane on routine patrol spotted the crew and radioed for help. By then, there were only 316 men left to save.

Wounds, and burns, had to be dealt with, but the absolute worst were vicious, hungry sharks that brought fear and death, during those 4 days afloat in the ocean. They were barely out of the water when their “cargo” left Tinian for Hiroshima. What these young men did and what they endured saved the lives of countless numbers of Americans who did not have to invade Japan. Only 316 men were saved and that mission would go down as the worst sea disaster in naval history.

On August 6, 1945 a B-29 Super-fortress “THE ENOLA GAY”, (Named for pilot Paul Tibbets mother) left Tinian bound for the Japanese city of Hiroshima where “LITTLE BOY” caused 130,000 causalities and destroyed 60% of the city. The Emperor of Japan would not surrender, so “FAT MAN” did it for him on August 9, 1945. This time, it was the city of Nagasaki where causalities were over 60,000.

On August 15, 1945, President Harry S. Truman announced “Japan has surrendered and the WAR IS OVER.” What a glorious day for the WORLD. Since we’re in that time frame right now think about what was happening 75 years ago and say a prayer of THANK YOU, to all who served.

Here is some information of four from Jackson Parish that served on the island of Tinian.

S 1/c JACK MORROW , son of Mrs. Cora Morrow, Jonesboro, attended Jonesboro Hodge High. He entered the Navy in 1943 and trained in San Diego and Shoemaker, Cal. Served in Gilberts, Saipan, Tinian, Guam, Palau, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Philippines. He was awarded APO Ribbon, 9 Battle Stars, Navy Unit Citation, GC and ATO Ribbons. He was discharged in 1945

S 1/c CHARLES G. PHILLIPS, son of Mr. and Mrs. E. G. Phillips of Eros, a graduate of Eros High School and entered the Navy in 1945. He trained in San Diego Cal. Served in Guam and Tinian.

MM 1/c JAMES HARVEY RHYMES, son of Mrs. Minnie Rhymes, Jonesboro, husband of Eunice Williams. Entered the Navy in 1943. Trained at Norfolk, VA and Rhode Island and served in the Pacific Theater at Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan and Tinian. Awarded APO Ribbon, GC Medal and Victory Ribbons. Was discharged in 1945. Mrs. Minnie had three other sons who served during this war. One didn’t make it back home, Cpl. HUGH H. ‘BUG’ RHYMES, of Army Air Corp. was taken prisoner during the Death March on Luzon in the Philippines and died as POW.

Pfc. ALLEN MURRAY McCLAIN, son of Mrs. Lizzie Rushing Houston. He attended Jonesboro High and entered the Army in 1943. He trained in Lincoln, Neb., Bowen Field, Idaho and McDill Field, Fla. Served in Guam, Saipan and Tinian. He was awarded GC Medal, American Theater, Victory and Pacific. Was discharged in 1946.



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