Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sinking of the USS Indianapolis

On today’s date in 1945, a Japanese submarine, the I-58, sank the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis. The tragic loss of 881 crewmen was America’s greatest single loss of life at sea.

Indianapolis had been ordered from San Francisco on a secret mission to Tinian in the Marianas, near where my dad was stationed at Saipan, to deliver components for the “Little Boy” atomic bomb, which would be dropped on Hiroshima. Her mission successful, she was making her way to Leyte when she was torpedoed.

The doomed ship sank in only 12 minutes, before a radio message could be sent out. Of the 1,196 crewmen aboard, approximately 300 went down with the ship. The remaining 900 or so survivors were left adrift without lifeboats. One by one the men perished through exposure, dehydration, and horrific shark attacks. Only 317 survived to be rescued four days later.

In 1942, Dad was temporarily assigned to the Indianapolis, one of many ships he repaired at Pearl Harbor in 1941-1942.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The first atomic bomb test, 1945

On today’s date in 1945, the world’s first atomic bomb, codenamed "Trinity," was successfully detonated on the Alamogordo Test Range Ground in the New Mexico desert. From 2 miles away, scientists and other observers watched as the Manhattan Project culminated in a mushroom cloud of blazing light rising 40,000 feet into the air. The blast generated the destructive power of 15,000 to 20,000 tons of TNT. From this moment, nuclear fission was no longer a theoretical possibility. Here was now a fearsome new force for either good or evil.

With Germany’s earlier surrender in May, the only remaining unvanquished enemy was Japan. America now had in her hands the means for bringing the war with Imperial Japan to a rapid close.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The beginning of the naval bombardment of Japan, 1945

In 1945, while Japan’s home islands had been subjected to U.S. Army B-29 Superfortresses heavy bombers, so far they had not seen the U.S Navy in force along their shores. However, on this date in 1945, ships from Task Force 38 of the Navy’s Third Fleet began their bombardment of the islands of Kamaishi and Muroran. Then on the 17th and 18th, both U.S. and British ships bombarded the city of Hitachi. Allied battleships, cruisers, and destroyers continued to shell cities and industrial targets on the Japanese islands through August. With Allied warships attacking off their coast, the Japanese now clearly realized their vulnerability.

One of the battleships that comprised the force that fired on the iron works at Kamaishi was the USS South Dakota. Dad did major repair work on the South Dakota in the fall of 1942 while serving on the USS Vestal.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Philippines officially liberated

In October 1944, the Allies began their Invasion of Leyte to liberate the Philippine Islands from Japan’s dominance. Next, came Mindoro in December. In January 1945, was the invasion of Luzon, the main Philippine island. It took until March 3 for Manila to be liberated from the Japanese. But still there was fierce fighting to finish into mid-April. The last of the major islands, Mindanao, wasn’t finally taken until August 15.

Nevertheless, Gen. Douglas MacArthur announced on this date that the forces under his command had succeeded in liberating the Philippines from Japanese rule. Of course, less than a month later, MacArthur unequivocally settled the issue when he accepted the formal surrender of Japan on the deck of the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945.