Defying the odds: Texas USS Indianapolis survivor honored 73 years later

Defying the odds: Texas USS Indianapolis survivor honored 73 years later
Cleatus Lebow is one of only 14 remaining survivors of the 1945 USS Indianapolis tragedy. (Jami Seymore)

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - July 30, 1945 lives on as one of the worst disasters in the U.S. Navy’s history.

Just days after delivering the components for the atomic bomb, the USS Indianapolis was sunk by torpedoes from a Japanese submarine.

“No one knew where the Indianapolis was because it was a classified mission," said Jack Barnes of America - Celebrate, Honor, and Serve. "These men went down with the ship. Five days later, five days and four nights, they were rescued, accidentally found by U.S. Navy patrol aircraft.”

It’s estimated nearly 900 crew members either went down during the sinking or died within the next five days from exposure, drowning, sharks or other causes. More than seven decades later, two women have created a book and film based on that tragedy.

“Sara’s been working on the Indianapolis project for 17 years and I joined the project in 2011," said Lynn Vincent, co-author of Indianapolis.

Throughout the project, pieces of the men’s stories came together over the years.

“I spent about a decade going to survivors' houses and family of men who were lost at sea, going to their homes," said Sara Vladic, co-author of Indianapolis and filmmaker on USS Indianapolis: The Legacy. "These men are my heroes so getting to go and spend that time with them and learn their stories and meet their family was just an incredible experience.”

While the film was finished within the last couple of years, the book on the tragedy was just released this summer.

The book is available at major retailers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, while the film is available on Amazon and iTunes.

Defying the odds: Texas USS Indianapolis survivor honored 73 years later

Based in California, the two women are bringing the stories to Amarillo in an effort to honor the only survivor living in Texas and one of only fourteen remaining survivors in the United States: Cleatus Lebow.

“We’re honored to do this because that’s what we’re supposed to do as citizens," said Barnes. "Embrace those who have defended this flag, our country, saved our country, saved our flag and again, we are very honored to do that.”

It’s a way to not only honor our local hero but also honor all who served our country.

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