Shoddily made and badly scripted, it is a great disservice to the gripping testimony of the survivors, 23 of whom are still alive and who meet annually to reflect on their role in the greatest sea disaster in American naval history.
For nearly five days, they remained in shark-infested waters with no one else even realising that they were missing. It wasn’t until after the war that the crew of the Indy learned the hidden story of their voyage. The men joked that it probably contained nothing more than a consignment of luxury toilet paper for the Navy top brass.
Suddenly, as if an explosion had taken place, they would fall into a coma and go limp.
Sometimes this would happen in the middle of a ring of sharks.’To keep up morale, the men sang the naval hymn For Those In Peril On The Sea, and tried to convince themselves that help was on the way.
The shipwrecked men also learned that there was safety in numbers, the sharks preferring to pick off only those who drifted to the perimeter of their groups.
The fact that the sharks tended to attack live victims close to the surface is consistent with them being oceanic whitetips (known as the Dark Knights of the Ocean).
The Indy’s fuel tanks had ruptured and, as the men plummeted into the sea, many accidentally swallowed the oil surrounding them in great slicks.
After hours of vomiting, which left them horribly thirsty, they then faced the sun’s relentless glare, which blistered their previously chilled flesh.
At first, the stricken sailors were unaware of the sharks who had already started devouring their dead comrades and were now encircling them.
It had been shortly after midnight when their ship, the USS Indianapolis, was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine in the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean, some 500 miles east of the Philippines.