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
Secret Cargo to Tinian
Life aboard a United States Navy ship when it is underway soon 
falls into a customary routine for all aboard and, surprisingly, despite 
days at sea without sight of land, it is not a boring experience. The 
operation of a vessel underway is an around- the-clock effort for all 
aboard, usually divided into four hours on watch, (duty station), and 
eight hours off  with the result that one is on watch eight hours in a 
twenty-four hour day. The most critical time for those aboard a warship 
is when the alarm for General Quarters is sounded calling all 
immediately to their battle stations. It is at this time that all 
weapons are manned and ready for action; a time when all aboard are at 
maximum alert and ready to perform the only tasks for which the vessel 
was designed and that is to fight. During the long days at sea, training 
for that moment is a constant task. When not at General Quarters, the 
crew  finds the food good. There is a ship’s library, nightly movies 
below deck and much work to be done -- either training to wage war or to 
keep the vessel clean and painted as protection from the rusting effects 
of the sea’s salt spray.  The captain alone bears full responsibility for 
the ship, its discipline and well being. His is the undisputed and only 
authority. The vessel represents the United States at all times and is a 
manifestation of America’s national sovereignty. Any attack on an 
American warship is deemed an attack on America. 
On July 16, 1945  a U. S. Navy vessel left San Francisco for the 
island of Tinian with a cargo so secret that  Harry S Truman, President 
of the United States and Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces, had 
learned about it only some three months earlier and, only then, after 
assuming the Presidency upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 
12th.  The Heavy Cruiser Indianapolis   was ordered to proceed to the 
Mariana Islands at all possible speed and in doing so would break all 
records for crossing 5,000 miles of the Pacific in ten days. The captain 
had not been informed of the nature of his cargo but was told to keep it 
under guard at all times. If something happened to the ship that would 
keep it from reaching its destination he was cautioned to protect the 
cargo at all cost even if it meant placing it in a lifeboat at the 
expense of drowning sailors. The vessel arrived at Tinian on July 26th 
and its cargo was discharged for what was to be an unknown and unheard 
of use. The mysterious shipment was the material manifestation of one of 
the greatest minds in the world and a product of  thoughts that had 
first conceived the power of the sun on a university blackboard. For 
those who could understand, it was Albert Einstein's mathematical 
expression that proves that small particles of matter correspond to 
unimaginable quantities of energy. The formula  E = MC2, when applied, 
means  that the energy released from a  particular mass of material is 
equal to the weight of the material multiplied by the square of the 
speed of light expressed in centimeters per second, (the square of 
186,000 miles per second).  For example, one gram of matter  is 
equivalent to 25 million kilowatt hours or the energy of three thousand 
tons of coal. At the time, very few people on Tinian, if any, knew this. 
The sea and sky had dominated the visual world of the ship’s crew 
since their departure from Pearl Harbor. Then the island appeared on the 
horizon, a dark brooding mass in the mist of the early morning hours, 
looming out of the sea like a mirage. Off in the distance, one aircraft 
after the other glided through the morning sky, each slowly declining in 
altitude. At first sight, one wondered what they could be; then, it 
quickly became apparent. In a line stretching as far north as the eye 
could see, hundreds of B-29 Superfortresses were returning to the 
landing fields on Tinian after a fire bombing raid on Japan. As the 
Indianapolis  passed the southern end of the island, its destination was 
now off the starboard side when the order was given to the helmsman, 
“Come right to 010 degrees”. Then as all such orders are, it was 
repeated by the sailor already turning the large, gray wheel on the 
bridge, “Aye, Aye, Sir, Right 010 degrees” and the vessel, with its 
secret cargo,  started its swing to the north to steam up the 
southwestern side of the island which now accommodated the busiest 
airfields in the world. With several more course changes the ship made 
its way into the small harbor.  “All engines stop” was signaled on the 
engine order telegraph  as the anchor was dropped in the harbor. 
Two days before the Indianapolis  arrived at Tinian, General Carl 
Spaatz,  the new commander of Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific, was 
issued his orders.  "The 20th Air Force will deliver its first special 
bomb as soon as weather permits visual bombing after 3 August, 1945 on 
one of the following targets: Kokura, Hiroshima, Nigata or Nagasaki”. 
These cities were selected since up to this time they had been spared 
American incendiary attacks so that the full force and impact of the 
“special” bomb could be observed by the Japanese. 
The Indianapolis  discharged its cargo of lead containers and the 
bomb’s firing device at Tinian, placing the bomb components in a small 
boat which carried the material to the dock. It then hoisted anchor and 
steamed west,  then turned south where it would make a brief call at 
Guam, an American island recaptured a year earlier from the Japanese and 
located 120 miles south of Tinian.  The ship would then proceed to Leyte 
in the Philippines for redeployment. Its estimated time of arrival was 
scheduled for sunrise, August 1st. On July 28th the vessel departed Guam 
and steamed westward at 16 knots toward Asia. The Indianapolis delivered 
only the material for the first bomb. Fearing that something might 
happen to the ship before it reached the island, and unknown to any 
aboard the vessel, material for a second bomb of Plutonium had been 
flown to Tinian by  transports from the United States thus insuring that 
at least one of the two atomic bombs in the American arsenal would reach 
the assembly  and launch area. 
In breaking the speed record for distance covered between San 
Francisco and Tinian it is almost certain that this achievement could 
not have been accomplished if the vessel had engaged in zigzagging 
maneuvers. The ship was now in waters frequented by enemy submarines. 
Zigzagging is a common maneuver employed during wartime and particularly 
when the possibility that enemy submarines could be in the vicinity. It 
involves steaming on a particular course at one speed for a period of 
time and then changing to another course, and sometimes a different 
speed, and then repeating these changes, all the while moving in a 
forward -- although angular movement --  from a straight base line 
connecting the point of the vessel’s origin with its destination. This 
technique of seamanship reduces the possibility that an enemy submarine 
captain will locate the vessel and project its course and speed to a 
point on the ocean surface for purposes of launching an attack. 
Zigzagging can be an effective defense against a submarine attack on a 
surface vessel. The vessel was steaming on a  Great Circle Route which, 
either  on or below  the surface of the ocean, is the shortest distance 
between two points on the globe. It was along one such  route code 
named, "Peddie", that the Indianapolis  headed westward  on its course 
between Guam and Leyte. This route  intersects with a north-south route 
between Palau and Okinawa and it was in this vicinity that Captain Iko 
Machitsura Hashimoto's sleek sea knife lurked in wait for an enemy to 
devour. The I-58 carried six human driven, suicide torpedoes which could 
be launched while under water. They were known as Kaitens, or "changing 
sky." 
The submarine was also armed with six torpedo tubes.

Top