US Coins

USS Indianapolis bronze medals now available

The United States Mint has begun sales of bronze duplicates of the congressional gold medal honoring the World War II crew of the USS “Indianapolis,” which was sunk in 1945.

Medal images courtesy of the United States Mint.

Bronze duplicates of the congressional gold medal authorized to honor the World War II crew of the USS Indianapolis are now for sale from the United States Mint.

The Indianapolis was sunk July 30, 1945, by Japanese torpedoes after it had delivered components for the atomic bomb used in the attack on Hiroshima.

After the July 30 formal presentation of the 3-inch gold medal, authorized under Public Law 115-338, it was to be delivered to the Indiana War Memorial Museum in Indianapolis for display and research.

The virtual ceremony, presided over by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, was conducted 75 years, to the day, after the sinking of the cruiser.

The bronze duplicate medals are offered in two diameters — a 3-inch version, offered for $39.95 each, and a 1.5-inch version, priced at $6.95 each.

The favored designs recommended by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee and Commission of Fine Arts depict on the obverse the USS Indianapolis with its 10 battlestars. Interspersed among a border of rivets are the inscriptions USS INDIANAPOLIS CA-35 and its dates of service, 1932–1945.

The obverse design was rendered by U.S. Mint Artistic Infusion Program artist Matt M. Swaim and sculpted by U.S. Mint Medallic Artist Jay Kushwara.

The adopted reverse was executed by AIP artist Lucas A. Durham and sculpted by U.S. Mint Medallic Artist Phebe Hemphill. Durham’s design depicts a group of survivors clinging to a raft. They have spotted potential rescuers, a pair of aircraft and the USS Cecil J. Doyle, giving them renewed hope. A PV-1 Ventura, a PBY-5A Catalina and the Cecil J. Doyle were all critical to the rescue.

Critical mission

The Indianapolis had successfully delivered components  to the Pacific island of Tinian for the atomic bomb known as “Little Boy.” That was the codename for the atomic bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on Aug. 6 , 1945.

It was the first nuclear weapon used in warfare and was dropped by the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay piloted by Col. Paul W. Tibbets Jr., commander of the 509th Composite Group of the United States Army Air Forces, and Capt. Robert A. Lewis.

The unescorted heavy cruiser Indianapolis was traveling to rejoin other naval forces when it was attacked.

Of 1,195 crewmembers, roughly 900 made it into the water, but only 316 ultimately survived the ordeal. The others perished from injuries incurred during the torpedo attack, four days in the open sea, and the relentless onslaught of sharks.

The survivors were located accidentally by Lt. Wilbur Gwinn who was piloting a PV-1 Ventura bomber and spotted the sailors in the water.

Many of the survivors suffered burns, severe dehydration and exposure to the elements.

One of the survivors was Ensign Harlan Twible of Massachusetts. Twible passed away April 8, 2018, at the age of 96. His personal account is part of the archives of the National World War II Museum and can be found here.

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