US Coins

USS Indianapolis crew recognition with congressional gold medal

The crew of the USS Indianapolis, many of whom perished when the vessel was torpedoed and sunk by Japanese naval forces on July 30, 1945, are being recognized with a congressional gold medal. 

Proposed obverse and reverse designs for that medal were reviewed and recommended Sept. 18 by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee. The Commission of Fine Arts was scheduled to review the same designs Sept. 19 and make its own recommendations.

Design recommendations

The CCAC recommended two pairs of proposed designs after their review and deliberations.

The first obverse depicts 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 favored reverse depicts a group of survivors clinging to a raft. They have spotted a potential rescuer, either a plane or 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.

Alternate paired designs feature an obverse representing the USS Indianapolis with a close-up of its hull with traditional rivets and hull number 35. The ship’s 10 battle stars are arced across the top border. Inscriptions are USS INDIANAPOLIS CA-35 and 1195 SAILED, 316 SURVIVED.

The alternate reverse features the searchlight from the USS Cecil J. Doyle shining into the sky, providing hope for the survivors in the water and a beacon to other ships headed to the rescue site. Inscriptions are the date of the cruiser’s sinking, JULY 30, 1945 and 879 STILL AT SEA.

History made

The Indianapolis had successfully delivered components  to the Pacific island of Tinian for the atomic bomb known as “Little Boy.”

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

Of 1,195 crew members, 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.

Both 1.5-inch and 3-inch bronze duplicates of the .999 fine gold medal to be jointly awarded to the entire crew of the USS Indianapolis are to be offered for sale to the public by the U.S. Mint.

After the formal presentation of the gold medal, the medal is to be delivered to the Indiana War Memorial Museum in Indianapolis for display and research. 

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