USS INDIANAPOLIS Sunk 77 Years Ago: July 30, 1945; 316 Survived

by HB Auld, Jr.

Two Navy ship disasters’ anniversaries in two days: Yesterday it was the USS FORRESTAL (CV 59) and today it is the heavy cruiser USS INDIANAPOLIS (CA 35). I knew this one was coming; it’s been on my calendar all year.

On this day 77 years ago, July 30, 1945, USS INDIANAPOLIS is sunk by Japanese torpedoes. The few survivors would float in the ocean for days before they were found.

Of the nearly 1,200 men on board the ship, about 900 men survived the initial explosion and went overboard into the water. The ship sank 12 minutes later, taking 300 to their watery graves. Almost 600 Sailors died in the water of dehydration, saltwater poisoning, and the worst of all: shark attacks while stranded in the open ocean with few lifeboats and almost no food or water. Those surviving in the water would not be rescued for days. The Navy only learned of the sinking four days later, when survivors were spotted by the crew of a PV-1 Ventura on routine patrol. Of the 1200 original crew, only 316 Sailors survived the tragedy.

There was just one silver lining, if there was one, to the tragedy. INDIANAPOLIS had already performed the most critical part of its mission: It had successfully carried parts for the “Little Boy” atomic bomb across the Pacific before it was sunk. American bombers would soon carry “Little Boy” toward Hiroshima. Along with the bomb “Fat Man” dropped on Nagasaki, “Little Boy” would ultimately force an end to World War II.

My landlord was one of those 316….

Several years ago, my landlord was one of those 316 INDIANAPOLIS survivors. During World War II, Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Charles McKissick served in INDIANAPOLIS and survived the sinking. We used to sit and talk in McKinney, TX, about our times in the Navy and he would talk about the hellish days and nights he spent in the water after the sinking before being rescued. Every year, Charles would travel to Indianapolis, IN, each July 30 for the ship’s reunion. When he returned, he would tell me that many more of his shipmates were missing that year. The numbers continued to dwindle down at each annual reunion after that. This was in the early 1990s. LTJG Charles McKissick is also gone now. Rest In Peace, Sir. You and your Shipmates earned your reward. “Rest your oars, Lieutenant. We have the Watch, now.” God bless these brave men and God bless America.

After 77 years, only two confirmed survivors of the sinking of the USS INDIANAPOLIS now remain: Cleatus Lebow, who at 98 is the oldest survivor, and Harold Bray, Jr., who is 95 years old.

Billy the Kid Dies at the Hands of Sheriff Pat Garrett 141 Years Ago

From The History Channel

Sheriff Pat Garrett shoots Henry McCarty, also known as William H. Bonney and popularly known as Billy the Kid, to death at the Maxwell Ranch in New Mexico 141 years ago today on July 14, 1881. Garrett, who had been tracking the Kid for three months after the gunslinger had escaped from prison only days before his scheduled execution, got a tip that Billy was holed up with friends. While Billy was gone, Garrett waited in the dark in his bedroom. When Billy entered, Garrett shot him to death.

Back on April 1, 1878, Billy the Kid ambushed Sheriff William Brady and one deputy in Lincoln, New Mexico, after ranch owner John Tunstall had been murdered. Billy had worked at Tunstall’s ranch and was outraged by his employer’s slaying-vowing to hunt down every man responsible. Sheriff Brady and his men, who had been affiliated with rival ranchers, were involved with the gang that killed Tunstall on February 18. Billy’s retaliatory attack left Brady and Deputy George Hindman dead. Although only 18 years old at the time, Billy had now committed as many as 17 murders.

“…most wanted man in the West.”


Following his indictment for the murder of Sheriff Brady, Billy the Kid was the most wanted man in the West. Evading posses sent to capture him, he eventually struck a deal with the new governor of New Mexico: In return for his testimony against the perpetrators of the ongoing ranch wars in the state, Billy would be set free. Although he kept his word about the testimony, he began to distrust the promise that he would be released and so he escaped.

Once a fugitive, Billy killed a few more men, including the gunslinger Joe Grant, who had challenged him to a showdown. Legend has it that Billy managed to get a hold of Grant’s gun prior to the fight and made sure that an empty chamber was up first in the man’s revolver. When it came time to fire, only Billy’s gun went off and Grant was left dead.

Legendary Sheriff Pat Garrett finally brought Billy the Kid in to stand trial. The judge sentenced Billy the Kid to hang until “you are dead, dead, dead.” Billy reportedly responded, “And you can go to hell, hell, hell.” Two weeks before his scheduled execution, Billy escaped, killing two guards in the process.

Garrett mounted yet another posse to bring in the Kid. After tracing him to the Maxwell Ranch, Garrett shot him to death. No legal charges were brought against him since the killing was ruled a justifiable homicide.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rumors of Billy the Kid escaping death that night in New Mexico abound. One of the most notable comes from Texas where “Brushy Bill Roberts” claimed to be Billy the Kid until his death, December 27, 1950, in Hico, Texas. For more info on this claim, see this article on Wikipedia.

Famed Aviators Flew into History 85 Years Ago Today on July 2, 1937

by HB Auld, Jr.

Today is a significant anniversary in American flight history.  “Eighty-five years ago today on July 2, 1937, the Lockheed aircraft carrying American aviatrix Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan left Lae, New Guinea. The pair were attempting to fly around the world when they lost their bearings during the most challenging leg of the global journey: Lae, New Guinea, to Howland Island, a tiny island 2,227 nautical miles away, in the center of the Pacific Ocean.

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Itasca was in sporadic radio contact with Earhart as she approached Howland Island and received messages that she was lost and running low on fuel.” (The History Channel)

Throughout the almost one century since Amelia and Fred were declared lost, various hypotheses have been offered, most of them eventually proven as either false or unlikely.

The most likely answer to the flight is offered up by Mike Campbell, a world-renowned Earhart researcher and expert.  His three books on her last flight all detail her ditching her Lockheed Electra 10E airplane in the Marshall Islands near the Mili Atoll, where she was captured by the Japanese and taken to the island of Saipan. 

More than 100 eyewitnesses….

More than 100 eyewitnesses, including US Army and Marine Corps military members and many Saipan natives, have detailed Amelia and Fred’s imprisonment in Garapan Jail on Saipan and their subsequent execution by beheading by Japanese soldiers.  Her aircraft, which was seen by Soldiers and Marines on Saipan, some of whom eventually rose in the ranks to General, was eventually burned and it and Amelia and Fred were buried under what is now a large airport tarmac there. 

The conclusion to their flight was even revealed to a world-famous CBS reporter, Fred Goerner, by no less than US Navy Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz.  The cover-up of her final flight by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the US Government is greatly detailed in Mike’s blog and books.

For much more on the final flight of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan that began eighty-five years ago today, see Mike Campbell’s web blog: and his excellent most recent book, Amelia Earhart: The Truth at Last.  That book is more than 400-pages long with hundreds of footnotes, photographs, and eyewitness accounts to the end of this daring pair of aviators.