"We've located the wreckage of the USS Indianapolis in Philippine Sea at 5500m below the sea."
That tweet from entrepreneur and billionaire Paul Allen around 12:20 p.m. Saturday confirmed what many have been searching for since the ship was sunk on July 30, 1945.
Allen, who is leading a 13-person team on his 250-foot research ship, the R/V Petrel, said the wreckage was found at a depth of more than 18,000 feet.
The heavy cruiser, carrying 1,197 sailors and Marines, was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine while sailing back to the Philippines after delivering components for "Little Boy," the atomic bomb that helped end World War II. It took only 12 minutes to sink.
While 900 crewmen made it through the initial sinking, only 316 survived to be rescued when help arrived five days later on Aug. 2. Many had died of exposure or thirst, drowned or were attacked by sharks.
Families of those aboard the ship found out about the deaths of their loved ones just as the rest of the country was celebrating the conclusion of World War II.
The story entered pop consciousness when the character of Capt. Quint told the story while hunting a great white shark in 1975's "Jaws."
The latest break in the search for the wreckage came in July 2016, when the Naval History and Heritage Command Communication and Outreach Division reported that a sailor had confirmed that a tank landing ship, LST-779, had passed the Indianapolis 11 hours before the torpedo struck. That backed up the testimony of Captain Charles McVay III and was confirmed by deck logs.
That finding narrowed the search — to a 600 square miles of open 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 in ending World War II is truly humbling,” Allen said in a statement. “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.”
Allen’s team is still surveying the site of the wreckage and plans to conduct a live tour of the wreckage in the next few weeks. The crew is working with the Navy and plans to honor the remaining 22 USS Indianapolis crew members and families of crew members.
"Even in the worst defeats and disasters there is valor and sacrifice that deserves to never be forgotten," said Sam Cox, director of the Naval History and Heritage Command, in a statement. "They can serve as inspiration to current and future Sailors enduring situations of mortal peril. There are also lessons learned, and in the case of the Indianapolis, lessons re-learned, that need to be preserved and passed on, so the same mistakes can be prevented, and lives saved."
In March 2015, an Allen expedition team discovered the remains of the Japanese battleship Musashi, and this past March his team found the Artigliere, a World War II destroyer.