Text: H.J.Res.48 — 106th Congress (1999-2000)All Information (Except Text)

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Introduced in House (04/28/1999)

[Congressional Bills 106th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
[H.J. Res. 48 Introduced in House (IH)]

  1st Session
H. J. RES. 48

  Expressing the sense of Congress with respect to the court-martial 
  conviction of the late Rear Admiral Charles Butler McVay, III, and 
calling upon the President to award a Presidential Unit Citation to the 
                 final crew of the U.S.S. INDIANAPOLIS.



                             April 28, 1999

Mr. Scarborough (for himself, Ms. Carson, Mr. Kennedy of Rhode Island, 
Mrs. Johnson of Connecticut, Mr. Maloney of Connecticut, Mrs. Emerson, 
Mr. Bilbray, Mr. Brown of Ohio, Mr. Farr of California, Mr. Frost, Mrs. 
 Mink of Hawaii, Mrs. Thurman, Mr. Pease, Mr. Kleczka, Mr. Snyder, Mr. 
Ney, Mr. Stenholm, Mr. Boyd, Mr. Thompson of Mississippi, Mr. Ackerman, 
 Mr. Burton of Indiana, Mr. Gejdenson, Mr. Towns, Mr. Abercrombie, Mr. 
    Stump, Mr. Gary Miller of California, Mrs. Meek of Florida, Mr. 
   Underwood, Mr. Ehlers, Mr. English, Mr. Sawyer, Mr. McCollum, Mr. 
Metcalf, Mr. Barrett of Nebraska, Mr. Lipinski, Mr. Miller of Florida, 
  Mr. Callahan, Mr. Regula, Mr. Cook, Mr. Fossella, Ms. Eddie Bernice 
 Johnson of Texas, Mr. McInnis, Mr. John, Mr. Udall of New Mexico, and 
   Ms. Rivers) introduced the following joint resolution; which was 
              referred to the Committee on Armed Services


                            JOINT RESOLUTION

  Expressing the sense of Congress with respect to the court-martial 
  conviction of the late Rear Admiral Charles Butler McVay, III, and 
calling upon the President to award a Presidential Unit Citation to the 
                 final crew of the U.S.S. INDIANAPOLIS.

Whereas shortly after midnight on the night of July 30, 1945, during the closing 
        days of World War II, the United States Navy heavy cruiser U.S.S. 
        INDIANAPOLIS (CA-35) was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine;
Whereas of the 1,196 crew members, only 316 survived the attack and subsequent 
        five-day ordeal adrift at sea, the rest dying from battle wounds, 
        drowning, shark attacks, exposure, or lack of food and water, making the 
        sinking of the INDIANAPOLIS the worst sea disaster in United States 
        naval history;
Whereas following the rescue of the surviving crew members, the commanding 
        officer of the INDIANAPOLIS, Captain Charles Butler McVay III, who 
        survived the sinking and the ordeal at sea, was charged with ``suffering 
        a vessel to be hazarded through negligence'' and was convicted by a 
        court-martial of that charge, notwithstanding a great many extenuating 
        circumstances, some of which were not presented at the court-martial 
Whereas Captain McVay had an excellent record throughout his naval career before 
        the sinking of the INDIANAPOLIS, beginning with his graduation from the 
        United States Naval Academy in 1919 and including an excellent combat 
        record that included participation in the landings in North Africa and 
        award of the Silver Star for courage under fire earned during the 
        Solomon Islands campaign;
Whereas after assuming command of the INDIANAPOLIS on November 18, 1944, Captain 
        McVay led the ship during her participation in the assaults on Iwo Jima 
        and Okinawa;
Whereas during the latter assault, the INDIANAPOLIS suffered a damaging kamikaze 
        attack which penetrated the ship's hull, but the ship was made seaworthy 
        and skillfully returned by Captain McVay and her crew to San Francisco 
        for repairs;
Whereas following completion of those repairs, the INDIANAPOLIS was given the 
        mission of transporting to the island of Tinian vital parts of the 
        atomic bomb which was dropped on Hiroshima, a mission which was 
        completed successfully on July 26, 1945, at a record average speed of 29 
Whereas following the accomplishment of that mission, the INDIANAPOLIS sailed 
        from Tinian to Guam and from there embarked for Leyte Gulf in the 
        Philippines to join training with the fleet assembling for the final 
        assault on the Japanese mainland;
Whereas as the INDIANAPOLIS began its trip across the Philippine Sea on July 28, 
        1945, the war was virtually over in that area of the south Pacific, with 
        hostilities having moved 1,000 miles to the north, the Japanese navy's 
        surface fleet was nonexistent, and United States naval intelligence 
        reported only four operational Japanese submarines in the entire Pacific 
        theater of war, all of which resulted in the state of alert among shore-
        based personnel routing and tracking the INDIANAPOLIS across the 
        Philippine Sea being affected accordingly;
Whereas before departure from Guam Captain McVay requested a destroyer escort 
        because his ship was not equipped with antisubmarine detection devices, 
        but, despite the fact that no capital ship such as the INDIANAPOLIS had 
        made the transit between Guam and the Philippines without escort during 
        World War II, that request was denied, and a 1996 report by the Navy's 
        Judge Advocate General's office concedes that ``Captain McVay and the 
        routing officer did not discuss the availability of an escort after the 
        operations officer for COMMARIANNAS confirmed that an escort was not 
Whereas although Captain McVay was informed of ``submarine sightings'' in the 
        Philippine Sea, such sightings were commonplace, and none of those 
        reported to Captain McVay had been confirmed, and at the same time there 
        was a failure to inform him that a submarine within range of his path 
        had sunk the U.S.S. UNDERHILL four days before his departure from Guam;
Whereas United States military intelligence activities, through a code-breaking 
        system called ULTRA, had learned that the Japanese submarine I-58 was 
        operating in the Philippine Sea area, but Captain McVay was not told of 
        this intelligence, which remained classified as Top Secret until the 
        early 1990's, and this intelligence (and the fact that it was withheld 
        from Captain McVay when he sailed from Guam) was not brought to light at 
        his court-martial;
Whereas the INDIANAPOLIS was sunk by this same submarine;
Whereas the commander of that submarine, Mochitsura Hashimoto, testified at the 
        court-martial that once he had detected the ship, he would have been 
        able to make a successful torpedo attack whether or not the ship was 
Whereas with visibility severely limited by a heavy overcast at approximately 11 
        p.m. on the night of July 29, 1945, Captain McVay gave the order to 
        cease zigzagging and retired to his cabin and shortly after midnight the 
        INDIANAPOLIS was struck by two torpedoes and sunk within 12 minutes;
Whereas the formal charge upon which Captain McVay was convicted for ``suffering 
        a vessel to be hazarded through negligence'' contained the phrase ``in 
        good visibility'' in reference to the weather conditions on that night, 
        which is contrary to the recollection of all survivors, who recall that 
the visibility was very poor;
Whereas after the INDIANAPOLIS was sunk, various Navy shore offices compounded 
        the previous errors which had led to the ship being placed in jeopardy 
        by failing to report the ship's overdue arrival, thus leaving the 
        approximately 950 members of the crew who survived the sinking of the 
        ship adrift for four days and five nights until by chance the survivors 
        were spotted by a routine air patrol;
Whereas a court of inquiry to investigate the sinking was convened in Guam on 
        August 13, 1945, just two weeks after the sinking and nine days after 
        the survivors were rescued (a date so soon after the sinking that 
        Captain William Hillbert, the Navy judge advocate for the inquiry, 
        admitted that the inquiry was so rushed that they were ``. . . starting 
        the proceedings without having available all the necessary data'') and 
        recommended that Captain McVay be issued a Letter of Reprimand and that 
        he be court-martialed;
Whereas the headquarters staff of CINCPAC (commanded by Fleet Admiral Chester 
        Nimitz) disagreed with the recommendation of the court of inquiry, 
        stating that in not maintaining a zigzag course Captain McVay at worst 
        was guilty only of an error in judgment and not gross negligence and 
        concluded that the rule requiring zigzagging would not have applied in 
        any event since Captain McVay's orders gave him discretion on that 
        matter and took precedence over all other orders (a point that was never 
        made by Captain McVay's attorney during the court-martial);
Whereas the Department of the Navy delayed the announcement of the sinking of 
        the INDIANAPOLIS for almost two weeks to coincide with the announcement 
        of the surrender of Japan, thus diverting attention from the magnitude 
        of the disaster and lessening its public impact, and then, despite 
        opposition by Admiral Nimitz and Admiral Raymond Spruance (for whom the 
        INDIANAPOLIS had served as flagship), it brought court-martial charges 
        against Captain McVay in a rare instance when a commanding officer's 
        recommendations are contravened;
Whereas Captain McVay thus became the first United States Navy commanding 
        officer brought to trial for losing his ship in combat during World War 
        II, despite the fact that over 700 ships were lost during World War II, 
        including some under questionable circumstances;
Whereas Captain McVay was convicted on February 23, 1946, on the charge of 
        ``suffering a vessel to be hazarded through negligence'', thus 
        permanently damaging his career as a naval officer, although when 
        Admiral Nimitz was advanced to the position of Chief of Naval Operations 
        later that same year, he remitted Captain McVay's sentence and restored 
        him to active duty;
Whereas following his court-martial conviction, Captain McVay remained on active 
        duty until retiring in 1949 upon completion of 30 years of active naval 
        service, with a final promotion, in accordance with then-applicable law, 
        to the grade of rear admiral, effective upon the date of his retirement;
Whereas Rear Admiral Charles Butler McVay III (retired), died on November 6, 
        1968, without having been exonerated from responsibility for the loss of 
        his ship and the lives of 880 members of her crew;
Whereas the survivors of the INDIANAPOLIS still living have remained steadfast 
        in their support of the exoneration of Captain McVay;
Whereas in 1993, Congress, in section 1165 of the National Defense Authorization 
        Act for Fiscal Year 1994 (Public Law 103-160; 107 Stat. 1765; 16 U.S.C. 
        431 note), recognized the memorial to the U.S.S. INDIANAPOLIS (CA-35) in 
        Indianapolis, Indiana, as the national memorial to that historic warship 
        and to her final crew; and
Whereas in 1994, Congress, in section 1052 of the National Defense Authorization 
        Act for Fiscal Year 1995 (Public Law 103-337; 108 Stat. 2844), stating 
        that it was acting on behalf of the grateful people of the United 
            (1) recognized the invaluable contributions of the U.S.S. 
        INDIANAPOLIS to the ending of World War II; and
            (2) on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of her tragic sinking, 
        and the dedication of the national memorial in Indianapolis on July 30, 
        1995, commended that ship and her crew for selfless and heroic service 
        to the United States: Now, therefore, be it
    Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United 
States of America in Congress assembled,


    It is the sense of Congress that--
            (1) the court-martial charges against then-Captain Charles 
        Butler McVay III, United States Navy, arising from the sinking 
        of the U.S.S. INDIANAPOLIS (CA-35) on July 30, 1945, while 
        under his command were not morally sustainable;
            (2) Captain McVay's conviction was a miscarriage of justice 
        that led to his unjust humiliation and damage to his naval 
        career; and
            (3) the American people should now recognize Captain 
        McVay's lack of culpability for the tragic loss of the U.S.S. 
        INDIANAPOLIS and the lives of the men who died as a result of 
        her sinking.


    (a) Sense of Congress.--It is the sense of Congress that the 
President should award a Presidential Unit Citation to the final crew 
of the U.S.S. INDIANAPOLIS (CA-35) in recognition of the courage and 
fortitude displayed by the members of that crew in the face of 
tremendous hardship and adversity after their ship was torpedoed and 
sunk on July 30, 1945.
    (b) Waiver of Time Limitation.--A citation described in subsection 
(a) may be awarded without regard to any provision of law or regulation 
prescribing a time limitation that is otherwise applicable with respect 
to recommendation for, or the award of, such a citation.