What do the discovery of the sunken remains of the heavy cruiser Indianapolis and the famous flag raising on Mount Suribachi have in common? The otherwise unremarkable LST-779.
On 19 August 2017, news broke that entrepreneur-philanthropist Paul Allen’s search team in the research vessel Petrel had located the final resting place of the ill-fated USS Indianapolis (CA-35), torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-58 just after midnight on 30 July 1945. Almost 900 of the heavy cruiser’s officers and men went down with their ship or died during a horrific 70-hour wait for rescue.
One of the key pieces of evidence used to locate the Indianapolis’ wreckage was the identification of a U.S. Navy vessel believed to have been the last encountered by the cruiser before her sinking—LST-779. And that discovery would lead to the resolution of another mystery from the last year of the Pacific war. This concerned the flag used in the second flag raising on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi, the event documented by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal and Marine Staff Sergeant William H. Genaust on 23 February 1945.