About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History"

Good afternoon, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased you could join us, whether you are here in the theater or joining us through YouTube.

Before we hear from Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic about their new book, Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History, I’d like to tell you about two other programs coming up next month here in the McGowan Theater.

On Tuesday, September 11, at noon, political historian Sean Wilentz will be here to tell us about his new book, No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation’s Founding. He will discuss the political and legal struggles over slavery that began during the Revolution and concluded with the Civil War.

Then on Tuesday, September 18, at noon, Kyle Longley, the new director of the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library, will examine the tumultuous year of 1968 and how President Johnson perceived that year’s most significant events. His book is LBJ’s 1968: Power, Politics, and the Presidency in America’s Year of Upheaval.

Check our website, Archives.gov, or sign up at the table outside the theater to get email updates. You’ll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

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I often refer to the stories that are in the National Archives. We’re not just a storehouse—the billions of pages and miles of film in our care hold countless stories of our past. In these records we can discover human lives and how the great and small events of history changed them.

Today we’ll hear the stories of the men who sailed on the USS Indianapolis during World War II. The cruiser’s sinking in July 1945—just weeks before Japan’s surrender ended the war—was the worst sea disaster in U.S. naval history.

Historical records can also help answer questions and unravel mysteries—even decades after the events took place. Last summer’s identification of the location of the wreck of the Indianapolis was aided by a historian’s discovery in a deck logs that a landing craft had seen the Indianapolis the night before she sank.

And just this month, the Navy was able to settle a question about the number of survivors because of research done in records housed at our facility in College Park and at our National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.

Some stories are easily told; others take 73 years to come to light. By preserving the records of our past, we ensure that the building blocks of our stories will be available now and far into the future.

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Lynn Vincent, a U.S. Navy veteran, is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and coauthor of 11 nonfiction books. Her best-known titles are Same of Kind of Different as Me and Heaven Is for Real. A veteran journalist and author of more than a thousand articles, her investigative pieces have been cited before Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sara Vladic, an acclaimed documentary filmmaker, is one of the world’s leading experts on the USS Indianapolis, having become obsessed with the story at the age of 13. Over the next two decades, Vladic met and interviewed 108 of the ship’s survivors, and in 2016 she released an award-winning documentary film on the disaster, USS Indianapolis: The Legacy. She has published new research on Indianapolis in Proceedings, the official journal of the U.S. Navy, and appeared as an expert commentator on PBS’s USS Indianapolis: Live from the Deep, which explored the ship’s wreckage.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic.