In the closing days of WWII, torpedoes from a Japanese submarine slammed into the side of U.S.S. Indianapolis, dooming the heavy cruiser. The sailors who did not go down with the ship were left adrift on the open ocean for more than 3 days during which they battled the elements, starvation, and shark attacks. Of the 1,196 crew members who had deployed with the ship, fewer than 320 survived the ordeal.
The captain of the ship was forced to bear the burden of the blame for the loss of ship and life, which drove him to commit suicide. He would be posthumously exonerated fifty years later following a campaign helped by the efforts of a boy working on a school project about the incident.
Many people became familiar with the story of the Indianapolis through the 1975 filmJaws in which actor Robert Shaw delivered one of the greatest monologues in the history of the movies. As “Quint,” he gave a gripping account of his experience as one of the few surviving sailors of the ship. The tragedy was also the subject of the 1991 TV movie Mission of the Shark: The Saga of the U.S.S.Indianapolis.
Among those lost when the Indianapolis sank was Alfred Joseph Sedivi, the ship’s photographer. Sedivi documented the lives of the sailors who served, played, prayed and fought on the ship they affectionately called “the Indy Maru.” Sedivi’s cameras also captured the aftermath of the battles on Tinian, Saipan, Guam, Tarawa and Iwo Jima. His photos survived the war because he secretly sent them home to his family until the days before his ship’s fatal mission.
Sedivi’s cameras also captured the aftermath of the battles on Tinian, Saipan, Guam, Tarawa and Iwo Jima. His photos survived the war because he routinely sent them home until just a few days before his ship’s fatal mission.
The collection consists of 1,650 images, the overwhelming majority of which have never been published. Unfortunately, a portion of the photos were damaged when they were stolen decades ago and improperly stored. The surface of several of these prints stuck together and were partially torn when they were separated. A few hundred other photos have curled and started to crack.
The entire collection has been reunited and donated by Sedivi's family to the U.S. Naval Institute. In July and August 2014, the Institute launched an effort via Kickstarter to raise the funds needed to restore and digitize all 1,650 photos. More than 73 individuals contributed to the Kickstarter campaign with additional gifts coming directly to the Naval Institute in support of this project. Thanks to these generous donations, the Naval Institute has ensured that this important collection of photographs is available for the survivors and their families, as well as historians, the public, and future generations. The digitized photos are available for download and purchase through this online gallery and a traveling exhibit is currently being created. This exhibit will debut in July 2015 at the 70th USS Indianapolis Survivors Reunion in Indianapolis, Indiana.
More information about the photography collection of Alfred Joseph Sedivi in the August 2014 issue of Naval History magazine.
A special thanks to Captain William J. Toti, U.S. Navy (Retired) for his generous support of the USS Indianapolis/Sedivi project and without whom the traveling exhibit would not be possible. Toti is a former commander of the Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine USS Indianapolis (SSN-697). You can read his July 2014 USNI News piece titled The Legacy of the USS Indianapolis.