Relive the Search and Meet the Heroes in 'USS Indianapolis: The Final Chapter'

Under the Radar
Retired US Navy Captain John Woolston and Vulcan Inc. expedition director look at Indy wreck footage. (Courtesy of Vulcan Productions/A Paul G. Allen Expedition)

In 2017, the late tech billionaire Paul Allen funded an expedition to locate the final resting place of the USS Indianapolis, an American cruiser sunk by Japanese torpedoes on July 30, 1945. 900 men survived the blast and spent 4 ½ days trying to withstand the shark-infested waters until a passing plane noticed them and called for rescue. Only 316 members of the original 1,200-man crew survived.

The research vessel Petrel located the ship on Aug. 19, 2017, and the Indianapolis' final resting place was revealed 72 years after the attack. Allen's Vulcan Productions filmed the search, and the resulting documentary "USS Indianapolis: The Final Chapter" is scheduled to air on PBS stations Jan. 8 at 10 p.m. ET.

The USS Indianapolis was sailing without escort because it was on the most secret of missions: The ship had just delivered the atomic bomb "Little Boy" for the upcoming attack on Hiroshima. Capt. Charles McVay was leading an inexperienced crew, and the Navy failed to deliver intelligence that might have helped him evade the coming attacks. McVay was court-martialed after the war and committed suicide in 1968. His death inspired his crew to mount a successful campaign to clear McVay's name.

The program features conversations with the last remaining USS Indianapolis survivors interwoven with high-definition underwater footage filmed 18,000 feet below the surface. Allen's team used state-of-the-art technology in the search, including an autonomous underwater vehicle used to scan the crushing depths of the sea floor.

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Allen co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, cashed out relatively early and spent the rest of his life pursuing his interests in scientific research, popular culture and sports. He owned the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers and the MLS Seattle Sounders. The hunt for the USS Indianapolis was one of his last major projects before his death in October 2018.

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