THE DEATH OF U.S.S. INDIANOPOLIS
Dateline 29 July 1945
2400 hours Philippine Sea
If there is such a thing as a "proper end" then herein is such an end. For the real glory of a great warrior is to die in the battle with boots on. So my great ship, the ole "Indy Maru" (as we affectionately dubbed CA 35) was such an one: -- more shells through her guns on enemy positions than any other ship in the U.S. Navy in World War II; the only U.S. vessel to sink an enemy ship unassisted; flagship of the 5th Fleet; our boss (Admiral Raymond Spruance) vistor at the battle of Coral Sea and Midway, a living legend in his own life time. "Indy Maru" was 24 months at sea out of San Francisco, eighteen months out of Pearl Harbor. We were hit with shore fire at Guam, took a suicide plane at Okinawa on "D" day.
Our fighting ship was in ten major battles of the Pacific War; set a speed record from San Francisco to Guam to deliver the atomic bombs which were dropped on Japan that stands to this day. Our gun crew was unequaled, a proud ship at 14,000 tons with a crew of 1200 officers and men. The majority of us booze-drinking, hell-for-leather rowdies who "cussed like sailors".
SUDDENLY it was all gone: gun, guts, glory. In a matter of moments the tough guys who were so vain, were either dead or shark food. 'WHAM-BOOM' in the middle of the night. A Japanese submarine sent us to the waiting jaws of the sharks. Roughly 800 of us made it into the life jackets to float and bob for five days and nights - roasting in the day time, freezing at nights with no water or food, over 200 miles from land. Men became like animals, would have murdered whoever might have had the water. After 24 hours the wounded died - sharks were everywhere at once - men screaming, groaning, with death all around us for five days and nights without rest. One estimate is that the sharks killed about four an hour. Some drank salt water and died in terrible pain. Others imply cracked up and went mad.
But thank God, the Lord had a man in the midst of us who knew how to pray. Each dawning he would lead us in the Lord's prayer. He was a country boy from Kentucky. I prayed will all my heart and, of course, the Lord heard my prayer and knew my heart. However, some of the men only said the prayer just repeating it like it was some kind of good-luck charm.
When we would hear a plane, Seaman Underwood led in prayer. As the plane came over and passed on, some men would begin to curse and blaspheme in almost the same breath in which they had been praying. Chills wen down my spine in this display of vulgar callousness and irreverence.
When we were finally found and picked up there were only 315 of us left out of 1,198 men. I was only a 20 year old youngster, dazed, shocked and dented in mind and spirit. Never, ever was I to be the same again. When I was returned home and discharged I was as lost as I had been at sea. Society had no place for me. I could only mourn all my dead buddies and grieve over the unthankful nation which wasn't worthy of their lives. Being despondent, I fell to heavy drinking until finally I decided to kill myself and join my comrades in death.
It was a July night in 1950. I palnned to drive my car out on the pier and take a bottle of pills, enough to kill five men. I would drive the car off into 40-foot water and be out of this cess-pool world!
However, as I walked to the car a voice brought to my mind the 23rd Psalm and so I decided to call upon God just in case He was real.
I found a spot and cried out to Him like this: "Lord, if you live, save me. If I'm not worth it, then let me die tonight." Heaven came down on me and I wept and wept as I saw God's light and His Son's cross. He saved me, filled me with His Spirit and I've been preaching His love to this day. So my shipmates (though you sleep in the deep of the sea), it was not in vain, for your buddy who made it, is telling the world of the only reason and hope in life: Believe on God's Son and in this way find reason and comfort forevermore. Allow me to say: "JESUS SAVES"!
Tommy Reid died in the mid 70s and is buried at Maurertown, Virginia.