Skip nav to main content.

Microsoft Co-founder Paul Allen Leads Team that Finds USS Indianapolis

A team led by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen has found the WWI…

  • September 17, 2017

A team led by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen has found the WWI heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis lying at 5,500 meters below the surface, resting on the floor of the North Pacific Ocean.

The USS Indianapolis was a proud ship that met a tragic end. During the height of WWII she served as the flagship for the U.S. Fifth Fleet.

Later, in 1945, she was given the mission of delivering the atomic bomb “Little Boy” to Tinian, where it was loaded onto a B-29 and dropped on Hiroshima. On her way back from that mission, she was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine.

She sank in just 12 minutes. Of the 1,196 crewmen aboard, around 300 went down with the ship.

The survivors of the shipwreck had had no time to prepare. Few lifeboats had been launched; men clung to debris, and most were exposed to sun, and sea and shark attack.

Tragically, the Navy only learned of the sinking when survivors were spotted four long days later, by a PV-1 Ventura aircraft on routine patrol.

Only 317 of the Indianapolis’ crew survived.

For decades after the war ended, historians wondered about the exact location of the wreck.

Expeditions were mounted in 2001, and 2006, but neither were successful in finding the USS Indianapolis.

Found at Last

Wreckage from the USS Indianapolis was finally discovered on August 18 by the expedition crew of Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel, which is owned by Paul G. Allen.

The Indianapolis was found 5,500 meters below the surface, resting on the floor of the North Pacific Ocean.

“To be able to honor the brave men of the USS Indianapolis and their families through the discovery of a ship that played such a significant role during World War II is truly humbling,” Mr. Allen said. “As Americans, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the crew for their courage, persistence and sacrifice in the face of horrendous circumstances.  While our search for the rest of the wreckage will continue, I hope everyone connected to this historic ship will feel some measure of closure at this discovery so long in coming.”

Finding the wreck will bring some closure to the remaining surviving member of the Indianapolis crew, and their families.

“For more than two decades I’ve been working with the survivors. To a man, they have longed for the day when their ship would be found, solving their final mystery,” said Capt. William Toti (Ret), spokesperson for the survivors of the USS Indianapolis. “They all know this is now a war memorial, and are grateful for the respect and dignity that Paul Allen and his team have paid to one of the most tangible manifestations of the pain and sacrifice of our World War II veterans.”

One key factor in the discovery was information that surfaced in 2016 by Dr. Richard Hulver, historian with the Naval History and Heritage Command, which led to a new search area to the west of the original presumed position.

By finally identifying a naval landing craft that had recorded a sighting of the USS Indianapolis the night that it was torpedoed, the research team developed a new position and estimated search, which was still a daunting 600 square miles of open ocean.

Allen-led expeditions have also resulted in the discovery of the Japanese battleship Musashi (March 2015) and the Italian WWII destroyer Artigliere (March 2017).

His team was also responsible for retrieving and restoring the ship’s bell from the HMS Hood for presentation to the British Navy in honor of its heroic service. Mr. Allen’s expedition team was recently transferred to the newly acquired and retrofitted R/V Petrel specifically for continuing exploration and research efforts.

The 16-person expedition team on the R/V Petrel will continue the process of surveying the full site as weather permits and will be conducting a live tour of the wreckage in the next few weeks.

The USS Indianapolis remains the property of the U.S. Navy and its location will remain confidential and restricted by the Navy. Find out more at

Leave a Comment