‘I know I’m not alone’: Granite Bay naval officer remembers great-grandfather who died on USS Indianapolis

Veterans Voices

July 30, 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, commonly referred to as the worst maritime disaster in U.S. history.

GRANITE BAY, Calif. (KTXL) — A naval officer from Granite Bay has a special connection to his great-grandfather, a man who died in the sinking of the USS Indianapolis during WWII, even though they’ve never met.

“He was a red-headed guy, about my height, about my size, fiery personality… kind of like me.” U.S. Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade PJ Everts described. “Or I’m kind of like him in that way.”

The similarities between Everts and his great-grandfather don’t stop there.

“I eventually started doing the exact same thing he was doing about 75, 80 years ago… driving warships for the Navy. That’s what I do,” Everts said. 

Everts said growing up hearing stories about his great-grandfather Captain Joseph Flynn inspired him to join the Navy.

But, the story Everts heard most often was also the reason he never got to meet him.

“[He] became the XO [Executive Officer] of the USS Indianapolis, and he fought in a lot of the major battles in Iwo Jima. Things like that,” Everts said. 

In 1945, Flynn was asked to go on one more mission aboard the USS Indianapolis — its final mission.

“Turned out that was going to be the mission that had the atomic bomb delivered to Tinian,” Everts explained. 

It was the atomic bomb that would end WWII.

But, on their way to meet the USS Idaho and prepare for Japanese invasion: 

“There was a Japanese submarine in that area that fired two torpedoes that successfully struck the Indianapolis, and she began to rapidly take on water,” Everts explained. “And then he went to a flooding out compartment in the ship and started to pull his sailors out.”

Everts said when Flynn realized he couldn’t get everyone out, “he ordered the doctor to seal the compartment, and he went down with the ship.”

Of the nearly 1,200 sailors aboard the USS Indianapolis, about a quarter went down with the ship.

Stranded in the waters of the Philippine Sea for five days, many drowned or were attacked by sharks.

Only 316 made it out of the water alive.

But to this day, their story lives on through people like Everts.

“My great-grandfather… how he led his sailors, how his sailors looked at him, that’s my example,” Everts said. “When it’s 2 in the morning, and I’m on the bridge, and it’s pitch black … I know I’m not alone. He’s there.”

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