THE WORST DISASTER IN U.S. NAVY HISTORY – SINKING OF THE USS INDIANAPOLIS DURING WORLD WAR II.
The Foxborough Historical Society at its January meeting will feature popular lecturer Dr. Gary Hylander discussing the tragic sinking of the Navy cruiser, USS INDIANAPOLIS, which led to the greatest single loss of life at sea in the history of the U.S. Navy.
The U.S. Navy heavy cruiser USS INDIANAPOLIS (CA-35) underway in 1939. Her sinking in the Pacific in 1945, as World War II approached its end, led to the greatest naval disaster in U.S. history. (Source: Wikipedia and the National Archives and Records Administration; U.S. Navy photo)
At 12:14 am, in July 1945, after delivering parts for the first atomic bomb to the United States air base at Tinian, the INDIANAPOLIS was torpedoed by the Imperial Japanese Navy, sinking in twelve minutes. Of the 1,196 crewmen aboard, approximately 300 went down with the ship. The remaining 900 men faced exposure, dehydration, saltwater poisoning, and shark attacks while floating with few lifeboats and almost no food or water. Since this was a secret mission, the Navy learned of the sinking when survivors were spotted four days later. Only 317 survived.
The ship’s captain, Charles Butler McVay III, survived and was court-martialled 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 U.S. Navy ships were lost in combat in World War II, McVay was the only captain to be court-martialled. 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 USS INDIANAPOLIS and for the death of her crew members who were lost.
In July of 2001 the Navy Department announced that Captain McVay’s record had 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 survivors are thankful that after so many years, the good name of their captain has been cleared, and the dead have been honored.
The Foxborough historical society will meet Tuesday evening, Jan. 26 at 7:30 pm at the Boyden Library in Foxboro center, first floor meeting room. Use the Baker Street entrance.
Parking is available at the library, on nearby streets and around the Common. Do not park in the Aubuchon lot. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.
Those interested in joining the Foxboro Historical Society should ask for an application form at the meeting. The annual fee is $8 for individuals, $10 for families.
For further information, call Patrick Lyons at 508-543-3728