The Legacy

Two filmmakers from San Diego will be screening their documentary film USS Indianapolis: The Legacy at the GI Film Festival San Diego to be held from Sept. 14 to 18. Sara Vladic attended Rancho Bernardo High School, graduated from Pepperdine University, and currently lives in San Marcos. Melanie Capacia Johnson attended Mt. Carmel High School, graduated from SDSU, and currently lives in Oceanside.

When Sara was 13, she heard about the tragedy of the USS Indianapolis, a U.S. Navy ship that was struck by two torpedoes in WWII. Of the 1,196 men aboard, about 900 made it into the water, where they faced exposure, dehydration, and shark attacks. By the time help arrived almost five days later, only 317 survived.

After graduating from Pepperdine, Sara contacted a survivor’s group who invited her to their reunions. When Sara began conducting interviews in 2005, there were about 100 survivors. There are now only 23, ranging in age from 89 to 94. Sara and Melanie grew very close to the men over time. Sara decided to use the interview footage they collected over the last 10 years to allow the survivors to tell their story in their own words.

At the 71st Annual USS Indianapolis Survivors Reunion in July, Sara was made an Honorary Survivor, and the finished film was shown to the remaining survivors and their families. “The reception was overwhelmingly fantastic, and there’s nothing like hearing the words from the survivors that ‘we got it right’ and they’re ‘so proud of us for telling their true story,’ ” Sara said. “It was the icing on the cake for this project that we already felt honored just to be part of.”

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