- Associated Press - Sunday, September 3, 2017

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - The finding of the USS Indianapolis 72 years after its sinking came as a shock to the family of a local crew member - one of the few sailors to survive the World War II naval disaster.

The USS Indianapolis was sunk by a Japanese submarine July 30, 1945, after delivering atomic bomb components to the island of Tinian. Of the 1,200-member crew, 300 men went down with the ship and 900 were stranded in shark-infested waters for four days prior to rescue.

The Jonesboro Sun reports that Frank H. Orsburn, of Monette, was one of 316 survivors of the sinking of the ship. Orsburn died in 1990, but his daughter, Frankie Orsburn Grisham, said she was shocked and grateful upon seeing the news the ship was found Aug. 18 by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s research vessel.

“First I was shocked,” Grisham said. “But then, I was so glad someone had finally taken an interest in finding the remains of this ship. I had no clue anybody was even looking. We are very grateful. Whatever reason he has for an interest in finding this ship, I am so grateful knowing somebody after 72 years still remembers these guys.”

Allen said in a news release the exact location of the ship is classified, but that it was found by his research vessel the Petrel about 5,500 meters below the surface between Guam and Palau in the Philippine Sea. He said crews in coming weeks will gather and release video footage and other findings from the site.

“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,” 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.”

The story of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis is one of heroism and tenacity, but also controversy.

Grisham said her father told her very little about the war and the incident over the years. Orsburn was interviewed by The Sun in 1975, but even then said it was something he “would like to forget.”

Orsburn worked in the laundry located near the bottom of the ship, bunked nearby and was sleeping when the torpedoes struck, according to the 1975 interview.

“Some say we got hit by two torpedoes, I can only remember one,” Orsburn said. “It had that concussion to it. It raised me up, off the bunk. Nobody knew what it was. I jumped up, put on a shirt, pants and a pair of slippers - with no socks.”

Orsburn said it was his job to close hatches and valves on the floor he was on, which he did. After he was done he knew something was wrong with the ship, and he looked for a life jacket.

“They were all gone,” he said. “Some guy got excited and got mine. Everyone had gone by then. I heard the hatch doors falling. I knew something had to be bad wrong.”

About 12 minutes after the torpedoes struck, the USS Indianapolis sank. The crew was not spotted until four days later. Without lifeboats and very little food or water, most of the survivors of the submarine attack subsequently died from shark attacks or drowning. Grisham said her father once told her husband a little about the ordeal.

“He said they tried to stay clustered together,” Grisham said. “Some of them made it out with their Navy hats and some didn’t, but it rained on maybe the first day, and they were able to turn those upside down and catch fresh water. They knew not to drink the salt water, although some of them from being in the sun for so long began drinking it.

“He said it was nothing to be in your group and all of the sudden the one next to you would be pulled under by a shark,” she added.

Clifford Hensley of Monette was also on the USS Indianapolis, but is believed to have gone down with the ship. The U.S. Navy reports him as missing in action.

Following the rescue of the remaining sailors, ship commander Charles Butler McVay III was court martialed for failing to “zig-zag” despite evidence the Navy itself placed the vessel in harm’s way. He was exonerated by an act of Congress in 1990, much to the applause of the remaining survivors.

“I am not here to put down the Navy, but they lost these men,” Grisham said. “They literally lost them from the time they delivered the components for the atomic bomb to Tinian. The captain tried to find some sailing information, and he never got anything about being aware of Japanese submarines. Apparently, he was just told to sail on out.”

Grisham said she hopes the recent discovery of the USS Indianapolis will bring some recognition to the crew, who she feels has been not been remembered in the way they should have been considering their important mission and sacrifice.

“This is a little pebble in that big ocean as far as the military and the government is concerned,” Grisham said. “I am not going to say nobody really cares, but it is not what’s current. It is those of us who had loved ones on there or were living when the war was going on and realize what this ship carried to end that war.

“I just think because of what was done 72 years ago, they still need to be recognized,” she added. “They still need to be remembered.”

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Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, https://www.jonesborosun.com

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