By Stacy Lee
San Gabriel resident Lyle Umenhoffer was one of 317 men who survived the World War II torpedo attack and subsequent sinking of the USS Indianapolis in the South Pacific.
Umenhoffer, a gunner’s mate in the U.S. Navy, told his riveting story to a large crowd of young and old on Monday, May 18 in Crowell Public Library’s Barth Community Room. His heroic tale was part of the San Marino Historical Society’s series “Before the Colors Fade,” which invites veterans and those who supported veterans during the war living in and around San Marino to speak.
Before the Japanese submarine attack on the USS Indianapolis in July 1945, Umenhoffer said the ship had just delivered a large crate from San Francisco to Tinian. He said that crate contained parts for the atomic bomb that would later be dropped on Hiroshima.
Umenhoffer recounted the day when two torpedoes – out of six launched – hit the USS Indianapolis. He said he just got off watch duty and was going to lie down when the first torpedo struck.
“When the second torpedo hit, it blew out all our communications,” he said. “We had no communication whatsoever. It hit our high-octane gas. That caused a fire all through the front of the ship. Guys were coming back burned and hurt.”
For the full story, see the print edition of the San Marino Tribune, or download the e-edition.