Shipwreck expert had high marks for these 2 military movies

Shipwreck expert James Delgado rated movie and TV scenes and had high marks for USS Indianapolis and The Finest Hours.
Logan Nye Avatar
USS Indianapolis shipwreck Memorial
USS Indianapolis Memorial.

Insider’s video series of experts breaking down scenes from movies is often fun if you’ve never seen it. But we were excited to see that a shipwreck expert and underwater archaeologist weigh in. He rated two great military movies rated as 9s out of 10, but he rated a few other movies as well if you want to watch the full video.

Watch this Shipwreck expert rate 11 wrecks in movies and TV

From Titanic to Uncharted to Finding Dory, his analyses are interesting. But it really got fun for us when he talked about Navy and Coast Guard movies.

The Finest Hours

The Finest Hours depicts one of the U.S. Coast Guard’s most amazing rescues when a horrendous winter storm broke two tankers in half off the coast of Massachusetts. Coast Guard crews launched death-defying rescue attempts to each shipwrecked tanker and successfully saved 70 men from almost certain and painful death by hypothermia or drowning.

The tankers, the Pendleton and the Fort Mercer, each came apart from the rough seas. The Pendleton lost power as it broke, preventing an SOS call. The Fort Mercer broke soon after. The Coast Guard sent a large response to the Fort Mercer and successfully retrieved 38 men from the bow section. As an aircraft patrolled over the shipwreck, it spotted a floating section of the ship that didn’t fit with the Mercer. The crew realized that a second tanker must be out in the water somewhere, and a volunteer crew from the shore went out in a small rescue craft.

It’s this rescue of 32 Pendleton crew members that the movie focuses on. A small crew of four went out, found the floating section despite a broken compass and missing windshield, and made repeated passes to allow all 33 survivors to jump from the shop to the rescue boat. Unfortunately, one survivor mistimed the jump and was crushed between his shipwreck and the boat. But the other 32 made it back alive. James Delgado rates it a 9/10, mostly for how well it depicts crews working together in rough and dangerous seas during life-threatening conditions.

USS Indianapolis

bodies from uss indianapolis shipwreck
Survivors of Indianapolis on Guam in August 1945

The sinking of the USS Indianapolis was one of the most harrowing moments in Navy history. And it is the Navy’s worst loss of life in a single ship incident. WATM has written about the shipwreck and its legacy before.

Almost 1,200 sailors suffered attacks by the Japanese submarine I-58. About 300 went down with the ship, over 800 made it into the water, but only 816 survived. The rest succumbed to the initial attacks, the elements, or shark attacks as they floated for days before rescue. Because of the secrecy of their mission–the Indianapolis delivered the Little Boy atomic weapon to Tinian Island–no one knew that the heavy cruiser was in the area or missing.

During the initial attack, I-58 hit the Indianapolis with at least two torpedoes. The first blew the bow off the ship and the second opened a massive hole amidships, blew fuel oil across the water and ignited it, and cut power to the ship. According to James Delgado, the movie got both torpedo strikes correct and shows a realistic crew response and ship sinking as a result.

If you don’t know much about the Indianapolis and the shipwrecked crew’s struggles, it’s worth a watch.