Commemorating the USS Indianapolis Tragedy

Monday, August 08, 2005
By Journalist Seaman Jennifer Rumbach, Naval Air Station Sigonella Public Affairs

SIGONELLA, Sicily (NNS) -- In remembrance of the trials and tribulations of the crew of USS Indianapolis (CA 35), a group of 10 Naval Air Station (NAS) Sigonella Sailors plunged into the NAS II pool for 12 hours of treading water July 28.

Beginning at 6 a.m. and concluding at 6 p.m., the Sailors participated in the USS Indianapolis Endurance Challenge, held in honor of the 317 survivors of Indianapolis who tread water for four days after their ship was sunk before finally being rescued.

“This experience,” said Master-at-Arms 1st Class James Hansen, as he tread water, “is part of holding up that part of the Sailor’s Creed that says, ‘I represent the fighting spirit of the Navy and those who have gone before me to defend freedom and democracy around the world.’”

Indianapolis was commissioned in 1932. She became the flagship for U.S. 5th Fleet during World War II. The heavy cruiser received 10 battle stars for her numerous engagements.

July 26, 1945, she delivered the world’s first operational atomic bomb to the island of Tinian. Days later, during a routine mission in the South Pacific, Indianapolis met her demise.

“It’s a reality check of how hard it is to do this,” commented Hansen on the endurance challenge. “Knowing that we’re only in here for 12 hours and they were in there for what they thought was the rest of their lives, it’s kind of interesting to see how long you can actually do this.”

During the endurance challenge, the swimmers discovered new ways of keeping themselves afloat by filling a white dixie cover, the Sailors' traditional head covering, with air and holding it upside down as a floatation device. Conventional methods, such as filling pant legs up with air and tying off the ends, were also utilized.

They passed the time conversing and sharing naval history related to the event.

“Honestly, this is something I have been wanting to do for a few years now,” said Hansen. “It was just one of those things that a few of us started talking about the history of the USS Indianapolis and said, ‘Hey, we should try to do this on the anniversary, get people in the pool, see how many we can get out to take on the challenge.’”

“This is something that I would like to see continue as a tradition and eventually become Navywide,” he continued.

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