July 26, 1945: USS Indianapolis Delivers Hiroshima Bomb to Tinian

Wednesday, July 26, AD 2017

 

The delivery of the Hiroshima bomb by the crew of the USS Indianapolis to Tinian on July 26, 1945 received screen immortality in Quint’s (Robert Shaw) speech in the movie Jaws (1975).  Although historically inaccurate on several points, the scene has an understated power that makes it a gem of the filmmaker’s art:

 

“Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into her side, Chief. We was comin’ back from the island of Tinian to Leyte. We’d just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes.

Didn’t see the first shark for about a half-hour. Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that in the water, Chief? You can tell by lookin’ from the dorsal to the tail. What we didn’t know, was that our bomb mission was so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin’ by, so we formed ourselves into tight groups. It was sorta like you see in the calendars, you know the infantry squares in the old calendars like the Battle of Waterloo and the idea was the shark come to the nearest man, that man he starts poundin’ and hollerin’ and sometimes that shark he go away… but sometimes he wouldn’t go away.

Sometimes that shark looks right at ya. Right into your eyes. And the thing about a shark is he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, he doesn’t even seem to be livin’… ’til he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then… ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin’. The ocean turns red, and despite all your poundin’ and your hollerin’ those sharks come in and… they rip you to pieces.

You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don’t know how many sharks there were, maybe a thousand. I do know how many men, they averaged six an hour. Thursday mornin’, Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Boson’s mate. I thought he was asleep. I reached over to wake him up. He bobbed up, down in the water, he was like a kinda top. Upended. Well, he’d been bitten in half below the waist.

At noon on the fifth day, a Lockheed Ventura swung in low and he spotted us, a young pilot, lot younger than Mr. Hooper here, anyway he spotted us and a few hours later a big ol’ fat PBY come down and started to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened. Waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went into the water. 316 men come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945.

Anyway, we delivered the bomb.”

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5 Responses to July 26, 1945: USS Indianapolis Delivers Hiroshima Bomb to Tinian

  • Shaw helped write the monologue. IIRC, he was also one of the reasons they added it in the first place. He, like Carl Gottlieb, was bothered that Quint had no real motive in the book (in the novel, Quint is just a mean SOB who charters fishing excursions). At least Hooper had some reason to be interested in Sharks. So they came up with this. Several drafts were considered, but it was Shaw’s final version that ended up being used. Also Dreyfuss, who didn’t get along with Shaw, admitted that when they filmed this, he was legitimately captivated. He said in an interview that he wasn’t acting – each time Shaw delivered that it was as spellbinding as the last.

  • It is absolutely terrifying how well the late Robert Shaw could act, when one recalls that he was usually doing it in the midst of a severe hangover, Shaw being a serious alcoholic.

  • Yes, Dreyfuss said that Shaw was deathly sick one morning that they were shooting. He didn’t speculate why, but I had a feeling. It’s the scene where Shaw is first trying to hook the shark, and Hooper is at the helm. Shaw looks over his shoulder and yells ‘Hooper ya idiot. Starboard. Ain’t you watchin’ it?’. Dreyfuss said the camera literally rolled for that one line. Shaw was barely able to sit up, then Spielberg said action, Shaw belted out the line, Spielberg said cut, and Shaw all but keeled over from his sickness.

  • May God bless and keep them.

  • The part about the PBY “Catalina” landing in the water is accurate—Lt. Adrian Marks, certainly defying protocol (because the big fat Flying Boat would never have been able to take off in the 12′ swells) and orders, did so because he saw the survivors were at the end of their rope, and if he circled and left, many would have just let go and slipped under the waves. They pulled in over 50 men in the worst condition, but the few survivors later said that his plane and his crew just being there gave them emotional support that helped them until nightfall of that 4th day when the destroyer USS Cecil J. Doyle, the first rescue ship , arrived at the site.

    Damaged beyond capacity to take off, the PBY-5 “Dumbo” was scuttled and sunk by the Doyle’s gunfire the next morning. Marx had to be wondering if he was going to be court-martialed. (Fortunately, he was not court-martialed, and in fact received the air medal for distinguished service pinned on him by Commander Nimitz himself he died in 1998.)