USS Indianapolis

Sunk July 30, 1945
880 men lost their lives
Two Phi Gamma Delta brothers names are on the Memorial

 

On board the USS Indianapolis were two brothers, Robert T. Thielscher (Lafayette 1942) and Robert A. Haynes (Kansas 1941) as it returned from Tinium delivering its cargo of components of the bomb. The ship was torpedoed at midnight on November 30, 1945. Of 1,196 crewmen aboard, approximately 300 went down with the ship. The remaining 900 faced exposure, dehydration, saltwater poisoning, and shark attacks while floating with few lifeboats and almost no food or water. The ensuing nightmare that followed killed another 600 as they tried to survive for days in the shark infested waters. Only 300 men survived.

Both Roberts died on July 30, 1945. Robert Thielscher served as a Radio Technician, Chief, U.S. Navy during World War II.


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The Phi Gamma Delta Headquarters received a phone call one day in 2011 from a person not associated with the Fraternity, but who was in possession of a Phi Gam badge. This person didn’t know why he had the badge. He mentioned that he was in his 80s and cleaning up his stuff and “putting his things in order.” The assumption was that he was doing this to prevent his family from having to do so after his death. He shared the name which appears on the badge and asked if we at Headquarters wanted the badge? Of course, the answer was "yes."

It arrived, and here is the probable history of the badge. Robert attended Lafayette College and dated or was “pinned” to this unknown person’s spouse. She had Robert’s badge after he went away to war. After Robert died on the USS Indianapolis, she kept the badge for many years, stashed in her jewelry box. She may have kept it as memorial to Robert. She may have loved him dearly, we don’t know.

But, after 66 years the badge returned to Phi Gamma Delta.

Editor’s note: Robert’s memory would have died with him on that fateful day. But as a result of someone finding his badge and his memory and name live on. It is the power of Fraternity.

Below is a photograph of the name of Thielscher as inscribed upon the USS Indianapolis Memorial in Indianapolis, IN.