The Worst Shark Attack in U.S. History

USS Indianapolis in New York Harbor, 31 May, 1931

USS Indianapolis in New York Harbor, N.Y., May 31, 1931. (U.S. Navy Archives photo/Released)

“Shark Week” seems to be dominating social media discussions right now. In light of this, we’ve decided to contribute in our own small way to this fishy phenomenon. You might wonder, “what could the Defense Department possibly have to do with sharks?”

The answer comes by way of the U.S. Navy and the story of one of the most historic shark attacks ever. Do you remember Quint, the character from “Jaws,” and his story of the USS Indianapolis (CA-35)? If you don’t, then stop reading right now and go watch his speech now (it’s pretty epic). As with most Hollywood movies, his speech is “based” on true events.

Photo: Due to copyright, we can't use the actual "Jaws" artwork. So, we'll have to settle for this awesome illustration by DoDLive blogger William Selby. (Defense Department illustration by William Selby/Released)

Due to copyright, we can’t use the actual “Jaws” artwork. So, we’ll have to settle for this awesome illustration by DoDLive blogger William Selby. (Defense Department illustration by William Selby/Released)

In any case, the story of the Indianapolis is a chilling one to say the least.

The USS Indianapolis was a 9,800-ton Portland-class heavy cruiser, commissioned in November 1932. During the 1930s, she hosted President Franklin D. Roosevelt on several occasions, among them a voyage to South America in November and December 1936.

On July 26, 1945, the Indianapolis delivered the first atomic bomb to the island of Tinian, one of three islands in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island group. From there, she was sent to join up with the USS Idaho (BB-42). On July 30, 1945, she was struck by two Japanese torpedoes, splitting the keel and sinking the ship within minutes.

Of the 1,196 men onboard, approximately 900 made it into the water. For the next five days, the men in the water were attacked by sharks as they bobbed up and down in their life vests.

Nine-hundred men went into the water and only 317 survived. After almost five days of constant shark attacks, starvation, terrible thirst, suffering from exposure and their wounds, the men of the Indianapolis were at last rescued from the sea.


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    biggest fear would be being lost, drifting out the ocean with only a life-vest. As Quint say’s ”Waiting for my turn”. You pretty much know your going to die yet have no idea how or most importantly when.

    • Troy

      Because the attack on Pearl Harbor was done out of altruistic charity? What about the defiance in surrendering from Japan? The bomb saved thousands of Americans who didn’t start the war but finished it as quickly as possible. STFU.

      • DANIEL S

        aye aye captain!

  • Gandhi Warhol

    Thank God there are now shark repellent wetsuits !!!!

  • Gandhi Warhol

    I really enjoyed this week’s “Good Morning America” episode highlighting a shark repellent wetsuit