Source: History Detectives: "U.S.S. Indianapolis"
Funding for the VITAL/Ready to Teach collection was secured through the United States Department of Education under the Ready to Teach Program.
During World War II, the South Pacific Philippine Sea was not only the site of many battles but also where the United States had many ships stationed. One of the ships was the U.S.S. Indianapolis, which sank after being torpedoed by an enemy submarine. This History Detectives video segment chronicles that attack from the perspective of one survivor, L.D. Cox. While being interviewed about his memories of a fellow sailor, Cox describes the sinking from the instant the boat was hit to the moment he heard the engines of the rescue planes. He illustrates his furious swim away from the sinking vessel, surviving extreme dehydration and floating for days in shark-infested waters.
U.S. History, World War II, social studies, geography
The following Frame, Focus and Follow-up suggestions are best suited for middle school students using this video in an English language arts or social studies lesson. Be sure to modify the questions to meet your students' instructional needs.
What is Frame, Focus and Follow-up?
Frame (ELA) What is a flashback? How can it be used to tell a story?
Focus (ELA) As you watch the video, think of various settings where a flashback could be used to tell L.D. Cox’s story of survival.
Follow Up (ELA) What types of details could be added to L.D. Cox’s story to make it more vivid? Could he incorporate more imagery? What senses could be represented in his story?
Frame (SS) What do you know about World War II? Why was the United States fighting a war in the South Pacific? Why did the United States have ships stationed there?
Focus (SS) As you watch the video, think of the other areas of the world where battles were being fought during World War II. What effect could these other battles have had on sending out a rescue party for the U.S.S. Indianapolis?
Follow Up (SS) World War II ended at different times in Europe and in the Pacific. Why did the war have different end points, and what caused the war to end in each place?
WES: I’m heading to Fredericksburg, Texas, to meet with U.S.S. Indianapolis survivor L.D. Cox. He was just 19 years old when the ship sank, and he personally witnessed the kamikaze attack.
WES: Wes Cowan.
L.D. COX: Oh, hello, Wes!
WES: He suggested we meet at the National Museum of the Pacific War. L.D., the investigation that I’m working on involves a second-class seaman. His name was Arthur Mitchneau. You recognize him?
L.D.: You know, believe it or not, I do. I recognize the man. I wasn’t a close friend, but I remember seeing him aboard ship.
WES: That’s amazing. L.D. tells me about the terrifying night the submarine attacked.
L.D.: I was on the bridge just going on watch. And, whoom, an explosion hit. [Explosion] We didn’t know what it was. It was just out of the darkness of the night, these explosions. With the Indy ablaze and taking on water, the captain gives the order to abandon ship.
WES: How in the world did you get off the ship?
L.D.: I went over the main deck, and I swam as fast as I could away from the ship, because the suction will take you down, and turned and looked back. And the ship had already rolled on the starboard side and men were still jumping.
WES: Within 12 minutes, the great ship sinks. In the darkness of night, hundreds of sailors plunge into the Philippine Sea. L.D. tells me that hours later, many began to hallucinate and suffer from dehydration. Not long afterwards, they noticed the sharks.
L.D.: You could see dozens of them. You could see the fins in the water circling, and every now and then, one would just, like lightning, come up and take a sailor.
WES: And you were in the water for how long?
L.D.: We bobbed up and down in that life preserver for four and a half days and five nights. Finally, one afternoon, I heard a motor in the distance. That’s when every one of my hairs stood straight up. Tears came in my eyes, and chills came over me. That was the happiest day of my life.
WES: Only 317 of nearly 1,200 men survived. Sadly, Arthur Mitchneau, just 19 years old, is not among them. That’s one of the most amazing stories that I’ve ever heard.
Academic standards correlations on Teachers' Domain use the Achievement Standards Network (ASN) database of state and national standards, provided to NSDL projects courtesy of JES & Co.
We assign reference terms to each statement within a standards document and to each media resource, and correlations are based upon matches of these terms for a given grade band. If a particular standards document of interest to you is not displayed yet, it most likely has not yet been processed by ASN or by Teachers' Domain. We will be adding social studies and arts correlations over the coming year, and also will be increasing the specificity of alignment.