Below is the cruiser Indianapolis, as she appeared on June 19, 1933, just before President Franklin Roosevelt boarded her and fired a shot heard ’round the world.
After Roosevelt took the dollar off the gold standard on March 6 – apparently temporarily but, as he intended, permanently – the dollar price of gold rose. With this inflation came a rise in commodity prices and for three months the happy image of a recovery from the Great Depression. During this time, Roosevelt talked easily with world leaders about restoring stable exchange rates and with them international trade; in the six weeks from late April through early June he wined, dined, or otherwise conferred with – by one scholarly count – ten prime ministers and other foreign representatives, and with them issued statements regarding the desirability of a world conference for currency stabilization.
The conference met in London on June 12, and Roosevelt’s representatives there had a brief to reach an agreement. With news of the conference’s success, the dollar rose against gold and the hitherto steep rise in commodity prices faltered.
Alarmed, the president of the American Farm Bureau Federation wired George Warren, professor of economics at Cornell, advocate of inflation, and friend to Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Roosevelt’s friend and then governor of the Federal Farm Board, as well as former student at (though not an alumnus of) Cornell. Warren gave the farmers some language to send to the President, who received it aboard the Indianapolis, where he composed his “bombshell message” destroying the London Economic Conference.
I would regard it as a catastrophe amounting to a world tragedy if the great Conference of Nations, called to bring about a more real and permanent financial stability and a greater prosperity to the masses of all Nations, should, in advance of any serious effort to consider these broader problems, allow itself to be diverted by the proposal of a purely artificial and temporary experiment affecting the monetary exchange of a few Nations only.… The sound internal economic system of a Nation is a greater factor in its well-being than the price of its currency in changing terms of the currencies of other Nations.
With Roosevelt, Warren, and Morgenthau’s further work, the dollar would resume its inflation until stabilized in January of 1934.
Twelve years later, having seen many miles and action in the Pacific, the Indianapolis – now looking like this:
conveyed portions of the first atomic bomb to Tinian.
Shortly thereafter she met her demise. But you know about that.
Of the 900 who made it into the water, only 317 remained alive. After almost five days of constant shark attacks, starvation, terrible thirst, suffering from exposure and their wounds, the men of the Indianapolis were at last rescued from the sea.
You know, of course, because of this brilliant performance (which, yes, contains an inaccuracy or two):