Japan as a Pacific Power
Japanese Strategy
American Strategy
Invasion of Saipan
The Last Surrender of World War II
Tinian - The Final Offensive
Seize, Occupy and Defend Tinian
The Effort at Tinian
Secret Cargo to Tinian
A Steel Shark
Death of a Warship
The Final Offensive
A Japanese Destroyer recieves a direct hit
Japanese survivors in the water
A Steel Shark
In the early minutes of the mid-watch within the Combat Information 
Center aboard the Indianapolis  the crewman peering over the ship's 
radar had not picked up any object as the  sweeping line on the green 
radar scope circled the seas in a 360 degree scan every few seconds.
Nor had the starboard lookout observed the white tell-tale track of
incoming torpedoes or the white water “froth” or “feather” trailing a
submarine’s periscope as it sliced through the water. There was no
indication of the mortal danger that would, in a matter of moments,
erupt around the Indianapolis  and turn the vessel into a flaming inferno. 
Below the ship’s main decks in the crew’s sleeping quarters, those 
personnel off watch were in bunks stacked along the bulkhead four deep 
extending from the deck to the overhead. At the end of the passageway 
the glow of a blue lamp was the only illumination; the smoking lamp was 
out. The tropical night made the compartments below deck uncomfortably 
hot and humid. The churning sound of the ship’s engines and their 
vibrations went unnoticed as an accustomed rhythm of a vessel underway. 
So usual and familiar had the throb of the powerful motors become that 
it was only when they stopped that it was immediately noticed. The 
sudden silence would awaken even the deepest sleeper. 
It had been ten days since the submarine I-58 had cast off all 
lines and slipped out of the harbor of Hirao, Japan. It had traveled 
south to a point in the western Pacific where it lingered on station 
astride an imaginary line connecting the island of Guam and Leyte Gulf 
in the Philippines, a route which was the shortest distance between 
these two American naval bases. The large, three hundred foot long, 
cruise-type submarine, fitted and designed for trans-Pacific patrols, 
moved silently through the dark waters like a hungry steel shark 
stalking its prey. Its teeth were six bow torpedo tubes. Inside the 
submarine was a crew of 119 men and 11 officers, among them the 
thirty-six-year-old captain, a graduate of Eta Jima  Naval Academy, 
Commander  Iko Machitsura Hashimoto.  He was captain of a vessel that 
was powered by two, 1,800 horse power electric motors and, when fully 
loaded with eight hundred tons of fuel, the under-sea vessel also had on 
deck a compartment large enough for a float plane which could be 
catapulted along a fifty foot slanting runway although the I-58  did not 
carry any aircraft on this mission. When surfaced, the monster was 
capable of cruising 15,130 nautical miles at a speed of fourteen knots 
and could remain submerged for eighteen hours at four knots. Its safe 
diving depth was three hundred twenty eight feet and when threatened,
it could dive to periscope depth in seventy seconds. 
The air was foul in the great black, steel beast when the captain gave
the order to come to periscope depth. As the water was blown from
its tanks the vessel began its rise upward from the depths.  "Up 
periscope" came the command and the shaft that provided its only view 
of the world above water moved upward in the conning tower of the 
command center of the submarine. Captain Hashimoto pulled down the 
handles and placed his hands on the focusing instrument and slowly 
began  turning a full 360 degrees to view the world of water above the 
ship. He  saw no sign of an intruding vessel or aircraft. "Down scope -- 
surface", he  ordered. Once again the ballast tanks were blown of the 
excess sea water it had aboard to maintain depth.   The bow of the 
I-58   broke the surface and as the sea rolled over its deck in white 
swirls of froth, the stern became parallel with the surface and water 
left the deck. The captain climbed the ladder, spun the wheel on the 
water tight hatch above him and climbed out into the fresh air of the 
dark night, inhaling deeply the ocean air free of diesel fumes. He stood 
with  binoculars to his eyes and made a visual sweep of the sea around 
him. In less than fifty seconds, with a half moon darting in and out of 
intermittent cloud cover which occasionally  illuminated the surface, he 
spotted a dark object on the surface. Peering into the night, he saw the 
silhouette of a ship at a distance of thirty thousand yards. Calculating 
his position and the target's bearing, he Immediately  ordered, "Crash 
Dive." Back down the hatch he dropped, turning the wheel on the hatch 
that would seal the interior from the on-rush of water that was sweeping 
over the bow. He jumped to the deck of the conning tower.Outside, water 
rushed over the ship as it sank beneath the waves. When reaching 
periscope depth he ordered, "Up Periscope." The order rang through the 
ship, "Prepare to fire torpedoes and launch Kaitens" .  Those members of 
the crew that were to serve as human torpedoes prepared their equipment. 
It took about ten minutes to swing the submarine around and steady on a 
course heading toward the target. After roughly estimating the surface 
vessel's course and speed he then barked, "Speed twelve knots", and the 
I-58 continued to approach the unsuspecting Indianapolis. During this 
period he called for the Target Identification Book and mistakenly 
thought he recognized the vessel as a battleship. All the while sub 
sounding gear was being used to determine any change in the target's 
course and speed. As his heart pounded with anticipation, Captain 
Hashimoto then set up the problem on his director, placing in the 
estimates and waiting to give the order to fire. The target was 
approaching off his starboard bow and he waited until the target, which 
was now an indistinct blur in the periscope, approached within a 
distance of fifteen thousand yards. He was still unable to determine if 
the target was zigzagging or if it was a battleship. He only knew that 
it was a large vessel. Then  he gave the order that all aboard waited for.
"Fire", Hashimoto barked , and at that moment the first of six 
torpedoes were pushed through the submarine's bow tubes. Quickly, five 
more oxygen propelled, Type 95 torpedoes with their magnetic warheads 
left the submarine at a spread of three degrees, all speeding toward the 
black silhouette Hashimoto had seen through the periscope. The metal 
fish raced at a speed of forty eight knots at a depth of twelve feet all 
directed  at the ship which was well within range of the 880-pound 
warheads of the torpedoes. As the torpedoes left the submarine the 
vessel "bounced up" as it was relieved of the weight. "Down scope", 
came the order. Then he waited as the seconds ticked by, waiting, 
waiting, tick, tick, tick, tick, as he watched the second hand sweep 
around the time-piece -- counting off everyone's measured life span  -- 
a measured cadence of the universe leading all men on their individual 
journey to eternity. "Up Scope" he ordered and the steel cylinder which 
was his eyes revealed a flash of fire and in its light he also saw  two 
plumes of water forward of the ship's bridge rising from the water like 
giant, white geysers. Then he heard the sound he was waiting for, "Boom" 
- followed by - "Boom"  and again in the instant of a breath another, 
"Boom", "Boom." "No vessel could possibly survive this devastating 
attack", he thought. It was 12:15 a. m., Monday, 30 July, 1945 and so 
recorded in the submarine's log.

Photos courtesy of: U.S. National Archive

Top