Fund Spotlight: Submarine Veterans of the U.S.S. Indianapolis

One of the Foundation’s many designated funds is established to provide financial support for a memorial honoring the United States submarine veterans who served on the USS Indianapolis (SSN 697). The memorial is currently under construction in Vincennes, IN. Dr. Bob Smiley, chairman of the SSN 697 Memorial Committee, has offered to tell us more about the Indianapolis and its history, as well as plans for the memorial:

U.S.S. Indianapolis (SSN 697)

There have been two major ships in our Navy which were named for the great city of Indianapolis: the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA 35), which was important to the effort in WW II, and the submarine USS Indianapolis (SSN 697) which was important to the Cold War effort during the period 1980 through 1998. With the signing of the START agreement with the Russian Federation, SSN 697 was decommissioned and moored alongside the pier in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington. The nuclear reactor was removed and destroyed. Many of the instruments from this ship were removed and are currently on display in the Indianapolis War Memorial Building. Captain William Toti and Senator Richard Lugar were instrumental in getting these components removed and delivered to Indianapolis.

The USS Indianapolis (SSN 697) was one of our nation’s Cold War ships which were used to keep our nation free. It was an attack submarine, which could patrol the seas and hunt for, and if necessary, destroy enemy submarines which might be attempting to do our country harm. In our opinion, the submarine fleet was a major deterrent to attack from our enemies.

The part of SSN 697 returned to Vincennes for the construction of the memorial is the sail, with associated components. The sail is the main part of the monument. It is 27 feet long and 17 feet high. The diving planes on the sail are approximately 25 feet from tip to tip. The sail weighs 120,000 pounds. This sail, with the planes, will be mounted on a ‘hull’ made of concrete to simulate the hull of the submarine. The submarine is a total of 360 feet long, 32 feet wide, and displaced 6900 tons when submerged. We will not have this total length for the monument. We have shortened the hull to fit the size of the space we are provided.

For those who visit the monument, it will appear that they are seeing a submarine in the water, with the blue concrete surface being the water. Further, they will be able to approach the monument to feel the sail and the planes. It will be as though they are members of the crew on the boat as they do so.

In addition, we will provide, in the future, benches for the visitors to use as they view and consider the ship they are viewing. We will also provide story boards for the visitors to read and see which will tell the story of both the Cold War deterrence and the role the Indianapolis had in that effort. (This information may be limited due to security rules.) In the future, it is our hope to add electronic storyboards, which will provide updated information. (Perhaps an Indianapolis crew member who has passed or other major event.) Also, we plan to have recorded information about the Cold War and the ships which were protecting our country to be transmitted to headphone receivers so that the folks may have a walking guided tour of the monument and perhaps the CA 35 as well. In this effort, we hope to enlist actual crewmembers of the USS Indianapolis, such as Captain Toti, to do these recordings. We are in regular contact with the captain.

We are working very closely with them to ensure that the monument both fits in with the current monuments in the area and that it will be one they can maintain and secure in the future. It is being done right!

Our organization, the Hoosier Base, United States Submarine Veterans, Inc. is currently in the process of raising the needed funds to construct the monument. There will be no funds required from the City of Vincennes or other government entity. We have currently raised, in cash and pledges, from our submarine veterans, approximately $60,000 from this group. Another $50,000 is needed to complete the project. When completed, this memorial to the Indianapolis will serve as a reminder of the effort and sacrifice of the many men who manned these ships. Also, it will provide a ‘living history’ event for the citizens of Vincennes, Indiana and the nation who visit this monument, of the effort required to keep our many freedoms.

Thank you very much for this opportunity to tell the Indianapolis story.

Bob E. Smiley, ET1 (SS), PhD
SSN 697 Memorial Committee Chairman

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