The Indianapolis was first commissioned in November of 1932, and operated in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans during peaceful years. It was built at Camden, New Jersey ship yards as a 9,800-ton Portland class heavy cruiser. The Indianapolis was host to President Franklin D. Roosevelt during a voyage to South America in November and December of 1936, and throughout the 1930’s on other occasions.
Action in World War II
The Indianapolis operated as part of the carrier task forces in the southwestern Pacific up until the spring of 1942. At that time, it began to serve in the Alaska area, where it sank a Japanese transport during February of 1943. Its service lasted there for more than a year, at which time it became the flagship for the Fifth Fleet. During mid 1944, it participated in operations which captured the Gilbert, Marshall and Mariana Islands, and other Japanese strongholds in the central Pacific, and was also part of the invasion of Peleiu in September of 1944.
The Indianapolis, again acting as the flagship of the Fifth Fleet, took part in the Iwo Jima attacks in February and March of 1945. During operations on March 31, 1945, it sustained damage from a Kamikaze plane. Following repairs, the Indianapolis, in late July of the same year, delivered atomic bomb components in a high speed transport from California to Tinian, and then sailed on to the Philippines.
The Indianapolis sustained fatal damage from torpedoes launched from the Japanese submarine I-58 and sank rapidly just after midnight on July 30, 1945. Only about one quarter of its crew of 1,200 men were saved due to communications errors, as well as other errors that occurred at the time. Without proper communications, its sinking went unreported until aircraft flying over noticed survivors in the waters 3 days later, on August 2.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, even today, naval cruisers also pose a lasting health risk to soldiers serving on them. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were common, especially on older ships, because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with these ships should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.