Fourteen minutes after midnight on 30 July 1945, two torpedoes from a Japanese submarine hit the USS Indianapolis (CA-35). Fires blazed, the ship took on water as she steamed ahead, men leaped overboard. The heavy cruiser capsized and sank quickly, in about 12 minutes.
Thus began the epic story of the survivors who battled the ocean, sharks, and finally their own faltering minds—and each other—before a miraculous at-sea rescue. The last men were pulled from the water nearly five days after the ship went down. This is a story of ordinary men doing extraordinary things at the least likely, and at the most difficult, moment. It’s also the story of humble acts of heroism. And heroism, as I came to learn while talking with these men, is really a matter of doing the right thing even when no one is looking. Especially when no one is looking.