They were all drinking a lot of apricot brandy that night, so maybe Quint can be forgiven, but the Captain of the Orca claimed to have been on the doomed U.S.S. Indianapolis when it was attacked by a Japanese sub, sending nearly 1200 men into the water to be menaced by sharks. The date he gave was June 29, 1945.
He was off by a month. Today, July 30, marks the anniversary of the wreck of the Indianapolis, steaming to the Philippines from Guam after delivering Little Boy, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The bomb delivery mission was so secret, Quint says (and he’s right), that “no distress signal had been sent.” So after dropping off Little Boy on the 40 sq. mi. Marianas island of Tinian, the Indianapolis and her crew of 1196 turned right around, stopped at Guam, and on its way to join the U.S.S. Idaho in the Leyte Gulf to mount the planned invasion of Japan, it was torpedoed. About 900 men were eaten by sharks in a literal bloodbath that lasted four days.
There is no such “Indianapolis Speech” in Peter Benchley’s novel, but a team of writers and rewriters, not the least of whom was Robert Shaw himself—a produced playwright— gave the movie’s Quint a reason to hate sharks, and to “never put on a lifejacket again.”
The true and tragic story of the U.S.S. Indianapolis is told in the book “In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors,” which proves that the sad story of the ship did not end that summer of 1945. I highly recommend it as a piece of WWII history and a sad tale of adventure and politics.
Not only that, but you can now share this informative and toe-tapping video of “Show Me the Way To Indianapolis” from “All That Jaws.”