August 4, 1995 - Issue: Vol. 141, No. 129 — Daily Edition104th Congress (1995 - 1996) - 1st Session
U.S.S. INDIANAPOLIS MEMORIAL; Congressional Record Vol. 141, No. 129
(Extensions of Remarks - August 04, 1995)
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[Extensions of Remarks] [Pages E1636-E1638] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] U.S.S. INDIANAPOLIS MEMORIAL ______ HON. ANDREW JACOBS, JR. of indiana in the house of representatives Friday, August 4, 1995 Mr. JACOBS. Mr. Speaker, all Americans will be grateful to the Congress and to the President for adopting last year the following resolution commanding the noble service to our country rendered by the U.S.S. Indianapolis and its crew. The death of the Indianapolis and very many of its hands represents one of the more poignant tragedies of World War II inasmuch as it all happened shortly before the end of hostilities with Japan. At long last a suitable monument has been erected in the city of Indianapolis. The monument was dedicated on the second day of August of this year. In addition to the resolution itself which follows, I insert a story from the Indianapolis News and a story from the Indianapolis Star about this touching occasion. Special tribute should be paid to Patrick J. Finneran, Capt. James Holds, USN retired, Dr. Giles G. McCoy and Robert H. McKinney, who together with other pillars in the Indianapolis community, worked tirelessly and lovingly to bring all of this well deserved remembrance about. The Congress of The United States of America, the 103d Congress Assembled, Law No. 103-337 Sec. 1052 U.S.S. Indianapolis (CA-35) For gallantry, sacrifice and a decisive mission to end world War II. 1. The U.S.S. Indianapolis served the people of the United States with valor and distinction throughout World War II in action against enemy forces in the Pacific Theater of Operations from 7 December 1941 to 29 July 1945. 2. The fast and powerful heavy cruiser with its courageous and capable crew, compiled an impressive combat record during her victorious forays across the battle-torn reaches of the Pacific, receiving in the process ten hard-earned Battle Stars from the Aleutians to Okinawa. 3. This mighty ship repeatedly proved herself a swift hard- hitting weapon of our Pacific Fleet, rendering invaluable service in anti-shipping, shore bombardments, anti-air and invasion support roles, and serving with honor and great distinction as Fifth Fleet Flagship under Admiral Raymond Spruance, USN, and Third Fleet Flagship under Admiral William F. Halsey, USN. 4. This gallant ship, owing to her superior speed and record of accomplishment, transported the world's first operational atomic bomb to the Island of Tinian, accomplishing her mission at a record average speed of 29 knots. 5. Following the accomplishment of her mission, the Indianapolis departed Tinian for [[Page E 1637]] Guam and, thereafter, embarked from Guam for the Leyte Gulf where she was to join with the fleet assembling for the invasion of Japan. 6. At 0014 hours on 30 July 1945, the U.S.S. Indianapolis was sunk by enemy torpedo action. 7. Of the approximately 900 members of her crew of 1,198 officers and men who survived the initial torpedo attack, only 319 were eventually rescued because, as a result of the ship's communication ability having been destroyed in the attack, the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis was not discovered for five fateful days, during which the survivors suffered incessant shark attacks, starvation, desperate thirst, and exposure. 8. From her participation in the earliest offensive actions in the Pacific in World War II to becoming the last capital ship lost in that conflict, the U.S.S. Indianapolis and her crew left an indelible imprint on our nation's struggle to eventual victory. 9. This selfless and outstanding performance of duty reflects great credit upon the ship and her crew, thus upholding the very highest traditions of the United States Navy. recommendation and commendation Congress, acting on behalf of the grateful people of the United States, hereby--Recognizes the invaluable contributions of the U.S.S. Indianapolis to the ending of World War II; and, On the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of her tragic sinking, and the dedication of her National Memorial in Indianapolis on August 2nd, 1995, commends this gallant ship and her crew for selfless and heroic service to the United States of America. ____ Crewmen Applaud U.S.S. ``Indianapolis'' Memorial--107 Survivors Attend Ceremony Downtown (By Welton W. Harris II) As the sun beat down on today's dedication of the USS Indianapolis national memorial, 3,500 onlookers stood and applauded 107 crewmen who survived the sinking 50 years ago. For those who didn't make it, like Adrian Marks of Frankfort, Dr. Giles G. McCoy, chairman of the survivors' group, said it all: ``He was there when we needed him, and that was the important thing.'' The ceremonies today at the headwaters of the Downtown Canal concluded a 30-year effort to raise a memorial to the ship and its crew, especially the 880 who didn't survive. The Indianapolis was en route from Guam to Leyte on July 30, 1945, when it was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine. Because of wartime conditions, and partly through negligence, the loss of the heavy cruiser went undetected for four days. Survivors were left in the Pacific Ocean, where many drowned or became victims of shark attacks. While flying patrol on Aug. 2, Lt. Wilbur C. Gwinn detected an oil slick. When he flew lower, he saw the survivors. He radioed for assistance, which came in the form of Lt. Marks and the crew of his PBY flying boat. Gwinn, who died two years ago, was represented at today's ceremonies by his widow, Norma. Marks, whose health prevented him from attending, picked up 56 survivors and broke radio silence with his distress signal. Five rescue ships responded. Of the crew, only 317 survived. Today, there are 127 living, and 107 came to see the granite and limestone memorial. Louis P. Bitoni of Warren, Mich., was a seaman first class gunners mate 50 years ago. Today, he brought 22 members of his family to the ceremonies, including his wife, brothers and their wives, his children and grandchildren. After the unveiling he said: ``It's great. It's everything I hoped it would be.'' Dr. Lewis Haynes of Naples, Fla., the ship's doctor, and Harold Schechterle of Shelburn Falls, Mass., recounted their experience 50 years ago. Haynes had removed the appendix of the ship's radar operator eight days before the sinking. ``It would be harder today,'' the doctor told his former patient, pointing at Schechterle's midsection, which Haynes said had grown over the years. McCoy, part of the U.S. Marine detachment on the Indianapolis, brought his wife, three children and four grandchildren. He has been chairman of the survivors association since it formed in 1960 and held it first gathering in Indianapolis. Accepting the memorial today on behalf of the association, McCoy cut short his remarks. ``This heat reminds me of what it was like out there in that sea 50 years ago,'' he said. Despite the heat and humidity, crowds lined both sides of the canal and the memorial plaza for the 50-minute ceremony, led by Marine Sgt. Maj. Mac Magana of Indianapolis. When the canvas fell away from the memorial the crowd again stood and applauded. Within minutes, two old warbirds, replicas of the aircraft that found the survivors--a PBY and a PV2 Harpoon--lumbered over the site as the participants again applauded. Tuesday night, more than 2,000 people--including ``lost-at- sea family members''--attended a ``Banquet of Thanksgiving'' at the Hyatt Regency. McCoy's son, Craig, 43, of Abiline, Texas, said now that the survivors' numbers are dwindling, their children have formed the group ``Second Watch'' to carry on the tradition. ____ Memorial to the U.S.S. ``Indianapolis'' Helps the Survivors Put the Tragedy Behind Them (By R. Joseph Gelarden) As the chilling echoes of taps cut through a blistering summer sun, Eleanor Sforzo stood quietly. Her son, Joe Musarra Jr., reached out his burly arm and pulled her to his side. Both had tears in their eyes--the smallish, white-haired woman remembering a young sailor who never came home, and her son, a Cleveland police sergeant, whispering a prayer for the dad he never knew. The two were among the thousands gathered Wednesday at the Downtown Canal to dedicate a national memorial to the USS Indianapolis, the last U.S. ship lost in World War II. Hundreds of old sailors, their once-dark military haircuts replaced with gray, joined with the wives and families of their shipmates in Downtown Indianapolis for a final salute to the fallen ship and the hundreds of crewmen who perished in the Pacific after the ship was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. ``It's a very special day,'' Sforzo said. It was a different world when Eleanor married Joe Musarra. The world was at war, and the rules seemed simple: Men went into the service, women stayed home. Joe Musarra was assigned to the USS Indianapolis, one of the Navy's fastest and most powerful floating weapons. She was a veteran of 10 battles and served as a flagship for fleet admirals. She carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt on so many trips that he called her his ``ship of state.'' helped end the war Joe and Eleanor had only a few days together before he was ordered back to San Francisco to rejoin the Indianapolis for another mission. The ship had been ordered to speed to a tiny Pacific island to deliver a top-secret cargo, critical parts for the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in an act that ended the war. ``The ship was sunk in July. I was born in January,'' the son explained. Eleanor remarried and had nine kids. She loved her new husband; but deep in her heart, she remembered her Joe. ``I hurt for a long time. But now the time for hurt is past. This (monument) is so nice. It is like a final memorial service,'' she said. ``Tell the people (the survivors) that they (the sailors that perished) are now with God and He takes special care of His own,'' she said. For Charles B. McVay IV, the service was a fine tribute. But for his family, the story didn't end Wednesday. It won't be closed until the Navy wipes the court-martial off his father's record. The sinking of the USS Indianapolis was the Navy's greatest sea disaster. About 880 of the nearly 1,200 crewmen were able to escape the sinking ship, which went down in only 12 minutes. Of the 880, only 317 were rescued days later. For Capt. McVay, survival meant humiliation. The Navy brass, looking for a scapegoat, court-martialed him for failing to take a zig-zag course--one in which the ship might have avoided an attack. Years later, his career ruined and still haunted by the military action, McVay committed suicide. McVay's son, now 70, and many of the survivors who gathered for the memorial believe it's only right that the Navy admit it was wrong and take steps to erase that black mark from history. But until now, their requests have been rejected by presidents, Navy secretaries and admirals. ``Last night, at the survivor's dinner, Admiral Quast (Vice Admiral Philip M. Quast, the official Navy representative at the ceremony) and the Navy legal man (Joseph G. Lynch, assistant general counsel for the Navy Department), admitted to me that the court-martial was wrong. . . . It should never have happened,'' said McVay. ``It is the first time the Navy has ever admitted the truth. Maybe there is now a chance to clear his name.'' ship's bell rings again Mike G. Obledo, 70, Houston, was one of McVay's sailors on the Indianapolis. But he didn't know the skipper. He was just another seaman on a great ship. Wednesday, he and the other sailors marched into the ceremony as boatswain's pipes sang out and the old ship's bell tolled. The bell was removed from the ship when she went into wartime service. It is now kept at the Hessler Naval Armory in Indianapolis. Obledo and his shipmate, Gus Kay, now a deputy sheriff in Illinois, were self-styled ``young punks'' when they were dumped into the milk-warm waters of the Pacific after the incident. ``I was on a net raft. The sharks took 63 of our guys, but I don't know how I survived,'' said Kay. But Obledo thinks he knows the secret. ``It was prayer. That was about the size of it. You prayed. If you didn't know how to pray, you learned real quick.'' On Aug. 2, 1945, the crewmen of the Indianapolis were rescued. Fifty years later, under a similarly searing sun, they finally were able to pay tribute to the ship, their lost shipmates and their families, and to each other. ``It's over,'' said retired Indianapolis firefighter Jim O'Donnell, the only local survivor. [[Page E 1638]] ``It's finally over.'' ____________________