The Indianapolis has a story to tell
How her Captain and crew sailed straight into hell.
Though some would prefer that this story not be;
It screams to be told, for that ship’s still at sea.
We thought she was lucky she survived that attack
The kamikaze hit her right square in her back.
Learning our girl had one more big run to make
Superstition told us, “One more strike she can’t take!”
As luck would have it, we weren’t s’posed to go,
But the secret we carried would strike the last blow
To an enemy hated for the death that they spewed,
But we weren’t coming back. This we already knew.
As the lanyards were dropped and we got underway,
We could never have known what had happened that day.
Without knowing why, we stopped dead in our course
As our homeland gave birth to a new deadly force.
Then the Cap’n gave orders and the propellers churned
And we set a new speed record, later we’d learn.
We delivered our secret, still to us unknown,
Concluded out mission and steamed for our home.
We sailed for some distance when a terrible blast
Was echoed as another tore our lady in half.
Unbelief and pure terror ran rampant that night
With twelve minutes to prepare for the fight of our life.
With no time to launch the lifeboats or rafts
We leapt for the sea but just had to look back.
With propellers still churning, only raised to the sky
We had aught to do then but watch our girl die.
Through the fire and the oil and the turbulent sea
We screamed out for contact. Were there others ‘sides me?
All alone in the dark, unaware of our plight
We were certain of rescue come the end of this night.
Not that day or the next did our rescue appear
And hope soon gave way to despair and dry tears.
The water was gone and we drifted about,
Signaled numberless planes with a wave and a shout.
Not a one gave us hope that our party’d been found
As the shouting gave way to a soft crying sound.
The injured and dying, with most worse than me,
Had not yet been missed by our brothers at sea.
Un-deciphered codes and messages lost
Spiraled the number of human lives cost.
How many men would have lived through that week
If the Navy’s own rules, she did strictly keep.
The misery suffered as the sea tossed us ‘bout
Soon bred a new fear they write nightmares about.
Up from the deep, unforeseen, unforetold,
Came a death with sharp teeth from the fathomless cold.
As though they’d been sent as the devil’s own spawn
Those beast’s preyed on us from the dusk to the dawn.
Not arrival of sunlight or God’s own sweet grace
Spared nary a man destined for that ill-fate.
The shipmate beside you that you held through the night
With no further warning was pulled from your sight.
The ocean would froth and slowly be stilled
As the crimson informed you a friend had been killed.
Our tongues parched and swollen from our terrible thirst,
With a sip of saltwater, to new horror gave birth.
No longer sure of the man at our side
Drew our knives and fought ‘til o’er fifty had died.
Scattered ‘cross miles, drifting further apart
The worst of us started to give out in heart.
“It was easy,” said some, “to slip into the sea.”
As we tried to prevent it, they screamed, “Let us be.”
They looked so at peace as they slipped ‘neath the waves
The question was pondered “Should they really be saved?”
We did what we could with the ones that remained.
No un-daunting task, we were all near the same.
When the end seemed as though it were imminently near,
Came a sound through the quiet we were happy to hear.
A bomber with problems, returning to base
Just happened to stumble across our sad fate.
He dropped what he could and he stayed with us there
As he radioed our plight ‘cross the still ocean air.
In hours the rescue in earnest had begun
As a Catalina landed in the afternoon sun.
Taking on water, she was destined to die
But not before saving fifty five men and I.
Blown then to pieces she sank into the deep
Unhappy company for the Indy to keep.
None too soon it was over as we sped back to shore
To be reunited with our loved ones once more.
Near twelve hundred men had sailed out that week.
Just over three hundred were left now to weep.
Now the Indy be lying in waters so deep,
So many young souls her torn bowels still keep.
The thought often haunts me and taunts me to tears
It tore at my soul for so many hard years;
That I have survived with this memory to guard;
It’s reason escapes me, tho’ I try so hard
To grasp why my friend standing here at my side
And I, were not chosen in that place to die.
Were we better than those, more righteous in ways?
What were the reasons God gave us more days?
It matters not now what the why or the for,
I try to haven the question no more.
‘Tis more important, as I relearn to sleep
To remember my shipmates back there in the deep.
As I cherish their memories, the thought comes to me
I’ll return to my brothers, someday, still at sea.
David E. Dunham, July 2008
Historically accurate account of the USS Indianapolis. After carrying the first atomic bomb to Midway, she became the last heavy ship sunk by torpedo in WWII. The navy ignored her absence while sharks fed on her crew for five days.