The World War II cruiser USS Indianapolis has been found, 72 years after its sinking in shark-infested waters.

The sinking of the Indianapolis led to one of the greatest losses of life from a single ship in U.S. naval history. Of the 1,200-person crew, only one in four survived, reports CBS News' Vladimir Duthiers.  

A research vessel owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen found the ship last week in the Philippine Sea at 18,000 feet – or three and a half miles – under the ocean's surface. It sunk in 1945 after being hit by Japanese torpedoes.

With the hull identification No. 35 visible, researchers discovered the ship and its distinct World War II-era weapons.
 
"The depth of water out here and the remote location makes it extremely difficult to mount a search and be persistent enough to be successful," said Robert Kraft, who led the expedition.

She had just completed a secret mission delivering components for one of the two atomic bombs to be dropped on Japan. While en route to the Philippines, two Japanese torpedoes hit and sunk the ship.

The sunken USS Indianapolis (Courtesy Paul Allen)

 



Edgar Harrell is one of the estimated 800 men that escaped. An S.O.S. was never received and no one knew they were missing.

"We are thirsty, we are hungry, we are just completely exhausted but we dare not give up," Harrell said.

For four and a half days, the survivors awaited rescue.

"A shark would be coming through the group and he would take someone fairly close to you," Harrell said.

Only 316 men were saved. 

Harrell, now 92, says he was afraid he would never see the discovery of the USS Indianapolis.

"It still leaves open the trauma of that experience but the fact that we found the ship now, that brings closure to the story of the Indianapolis," Harrell said.

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