Discovery of the U.S.S. Indianapolis — a U.S. Navy heavy cruiser sunk by a Japanese submarine in 1945 during WWII — brings up long-buried memories for one local man whose brother was on the ship when it went down.
Seventy-six-year-old Cleland Thorpe, a resident of Fifth Street in Corbin and a lifelong resident of the town, said his brother Everett Nathan Thorpe was one of the 1,196 crewman on the vessel when it was hit by a torpedo on July 30, 1945 in the Philippine Sea. It took only 12 minutes to sink.
“I talked to this one fellow some years back who was a baker on the ship … he baked all the bread on the ship,” Thorpe said. “He said he gave my brother a loaf of bread. ‘I really don’t mean to cause any hard feelings or any grief,’ he told me, ‘but he was right about where that torpedo hit and he didn’t have a chance of getting off the ship.’”
Everett Thorpe was a Watertender Second Class on the U.S.S. Indianapolis.
Cleland Thorpe said he was very young when his brother died, but has memories of him coming home on shore leave and playing with him and his brothers from time to time.
“He was a good looking boy. Handsome as he could be,” Thorpe said. “He had a girlfriend in western Kentucky when that happened.”
The sunken wreckage of the ship was discovered by billionaire entrepreneur Paul Allen this past Saturday in about 18,000-feet of water in the Philippine Sea.
The attack led the largest loss of life at sea, from a single ship, in U.S. Navy history.
Thorpe had two other brothers who served in WWII — Junior Thorpe, with the U.S. Army 88th Signal Battalion, killed in France by German soldiers, and Lewis Thorpe, a
U.S. Navy veteran who survived the war and also served in the Korean war, who currently lives in California.
Cleland Thorpe said there has been discussion over the years about whether or not to raise the U.S.S. Indianapolis if it is ever found. He thinks it should stay where it was found.
“I think they ought to just leave it,” Thorpe said. “My brother was buried at sea, and I don’t think you ought to disturb a grave.”