Somewhat lost amid coverage within the last week of stories involving protest, race, terrorism, war and immigration was a tale of needle-in-the-haystack discovery.

A team of civilian researchers led by Paul Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, on Saturday announced it found wreckage of the USS Indianapolis in the Pacific Ocean at a depth of 18,000 feet, 72 years after the Navy cruiser was sunk by Japanese torpedoes near the end of World War II.

In addition to providing closure, discovery of the Indianapolis should revive interest in what is a compelling, often harrowing story of tragedy, bravery and survival in the face of unimaginable odds.

In his outstanding 1990 book, "Fatal Voyage," author Dan Kurzman recounts how the Indianapolis was sunk on the night of July 30, 1945, on its way to the Philippines after a secret mission to deliver to the island of Tinian parts for the atomic bomb later dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

The crew didn't have time to send a distress signal because the ship sank so quickly, in minutes. Three-hundred members of the nearly 1,200-man crew went down with the ship, hundreds more died in the water of causes like injuries, exposure, dehydration, drowning and shark attacks over several days while waiting for rescue. By the time they were located, only 316 crew members remained alive.

Twenty-two crew members survive today.

"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 in ending World War II is truly humbling," 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. ... I hope everyone connected to this historic ship will feel some measure of closure at this discovery so long in coming."

The exact location of the wreckage was provided only to the U.S. Navy because it remains Navy property. As required by U.S. law, the sunken ship will be left undisturbed as a military gravesite.

Passionate about WWII history, Allen deserves the appreciation of Americans for his willingness to invest money, time and effort into telling, preserving and honoring the narratives of a momentous time when the fate of the globe hung in the balance.


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