This Wednesday evening is the opening night of the GI Film Festival San Diego and the film that will be featured is the “USS Indianapolis: The Legacy.”
The history of this ship is vaguely known accept perhaps for the infamous speech given by Robert Shaw playing the character Quinn in the 1975 Steven Spielberg film “Jaws.” The local sheriff Brody and Hooper along with Quinn are comparing scars. Brody asks what the scar is on the man’s arm and is told it is where he had a tattoo removed that said USS Indianapolis. Brody is blithely unaware of that means but Quinn’s answer stuns Hooper into momentary silence. Then Quinn tells the tale of the sinking and the aftermath in the water.
Now, the real story from those who were there is told in director Vladic’s documentary “USS Indianapolis: The Legacy.”
During World War II, the military ship USS Indianapolis was considered a flagship with Capt. Charles B. McVay, III. Sent on a mission to the island of Tinian, the ship delivered parts including enriched uranium for the atomic bomb known as Little Boy. After successfully delivering to the U.S. air base, the crew began their return home.
Then, a ship from the Imperial Japanese Navy let loose a torpedo that would sink the ship. On board were 1,196 crewmen and as the ship sinks, 300 men drowned leaving more than 900 to the ocean. These men were exposed to five nights of dehydration, burns, delirium, hallucinations, the sun and sharks.
The men were eventually rescued by a PV-1 Ventura piloted by Lt. Wilbur Gwinn and Lt. Warren Colwell. It would be Lt. R. Adrian Marks who would go against orders to land his plane in the water to save as many men from shark attacks as possible. Covered in rescued men, the wait began for other vessels to come.
Finally, the survivors are taken from the ocean, but that is not where the story ends as the investigation into what happened before the torpedo. From a court marshal to the memories of those who survived, this is an intense look one moment that changed their lives forever.
This documentary speaks with the last survivors of the USS Indianapolis as well as the family of Mochitsura Hashimoto, the commander of the Japanese submarine I-58. Through his family it is explained what the Japanese captain thought would happen by firing the torpedo.
The “USS Indianapolis: The Legacy” tells of their heroism and miraculous rescue from the survivors who still remember every little detail of their experience. From 1960 on, there is a reunion of survivors that come together to remember their fellow military men.
Director Sara Vladic is a member of the Producer’s Guild of America and has worked in film production before directing her feature film. She has taken the camera to those who can finally tell the story of the pride of the ship, the sinking, losing friends and defending ever action after.
Putting the photographs and survivors in this documentary offers such a visual timeline that is moving to the heart. This is a perfect film to be shared in all history classrooms as an example of the courageous acts and the choices made during war.
The “USS Indianapolis” can be seen at the Museum of Photographic Arts Opening Night Feature at the GI Film Festival San Diego. The festival begins Wednesday, Sept. 14 and runs through Sunday, Sept. 18. For more information please visit go to http://gifilmfestivalsd.org/2016/.
This documentary is a humbling visual experience and at the same time perfection to opening the film festival.