Navy knew there were submarines in the area but never told
McVay and sent the ship to sea unescorted ... Worse, the Navy
failed to notice that the cruiser had never arrived at port,
while hundreds died at sea."
from May 3, 1998, article entitled "A Boy's School Project
Aims to Revise History" in The New York Times
|The Worst Naval Disaster in US History
12:14 a.m. on July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed
by a Japanese submarine in the Philippine Sea and sank in
12 minutes. Of 1,196 men on board, approximately 300 went
down with the ship. The remainder, about 900 men,
were left floating in shark-infested waters with no lifeboats
and most with no food or water. The ship was never missed,
and by the time the survivors were spotted by accident four
days later only 316 men were still alive.
ship's captain, the late Charles Butler McVay III, survived
and was court-martialed and convicted of "hazarding his ship
by failing to zigzag" despite overwhelming evidence that the
Navy itself had placed the ship in harm's way, despite testimony
from the Japanese submarine commander that zigzagging would
have made no difference, and despite that fact that, although
over 350 navy ships were lost in combat in WWII, McVay was
the only captain to be court-martialed. Materials declassified
years later add to the evidence that McVay was a scapegoat
for the mistakes of others.
In October of
2000, following years of effort by the survivors and their
supporters, legislation was passed in Washington and signed
by President Clinton expressing the sense of Congress, among
other things, that Captain McVay's record should now reflect
that he is exonerated for the loss of the Indianapolis and
for the death of her crew who were lost.
In July of 2001
the Navy Department announced that Captain McVay's record
has been amended to exonerate him for the loss of the Indianapolis
and the lives of those who perished as a result of her sinking.
The action was taken by Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England
who was persuaded to do so by New Hampshire Senator Bob Smith,
a strong advocate of McVay's innocence. The survivors are
deeply grateful to Secretary England and Senator Smith and
also to young Hunter Scott of Pensacola, Florida, without
whom the injustice to Captain McVay would never have been
brought to the attention of the media and the Congress.
the conviction for hazarding his ship by failing to zigzag
remains on Captain McVay's record. Never in the history of
the U.S. military has the verdict of a court-martial been
overturned, and there is no known process for doing so.
It can be stated
unequivocally, however, that, if the Indianapolis had arrived
safely at Leyte without incident, Captain McVay would never
have been court-martialed. Thus, by exonerating him for the
loss of the ship and the death of 880 of her crew members,
the Navy Department has at last conceded that he was innocent
of any wrong-doing. His exoneration is tantamount to an admission
that he should never have been court-martialed in the first
are thankful that after 56 years the good name of their captain
has been cleared. Please browse our site for more in-depth