USS Indianapolis Crew Awarded Congressional Gold Medal on Anniversary of Sinking

 In U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy

House of Representatives Image

The sur­vivors of one of World War II’s worst naval dis­as­ters were award­ed Congressional Gold Medals in a cer­e­mo­ny last Friday.

In the vir­tu­al cer­e­mo­ny, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D‑Calif.) pre­sent­ed the medal to the sur­vivors from the crew of USS Indianapolis (CA-35) ahead of the 75 anniver­sary of the July 30,1945, sink­ing of the heavy cruis­er by a Japanese sub­ma­rine in the clos­ing months of the war.

“On behalf of the 1,195 Sailors and Marines who served aboard USS Indianapolis, it is an honor to receive a Congressional Gold Medal,” Harold Bray, 93, the youngest remain­ing sur­vivor and chair of the USS Indianapolis CA-35 Survivors Organization, said in a Wednesday state­ment pro­vid­ed to USNI News.
“Eight sur­vivors remain today, and we are proud to rep­re­sent our ship­mates who are no longer with us. We are very grate­ful to Congress for this spe­cial recog­ni­tion.”

The House will stream last Friday’s cer­e­mo­ny on YouTube on Thursday at 11 a.m. EDT.

The award was part of leg­is­la­tion rec­og­niz­ing the crew of the cruis­er that was signed into law in 2018 by President Donald Trump after Indiana Sens. Todd Young (R‑Ind.) and Joe Donnelly (D‑Ind.) intro­duced the leg­is­la­tion in 2017. The law rec­og­nizes not only the sur­vivors but also the sailors and Marines who died in the sink­ing and while wait­ing up to five days for rescue.

Almost 900 sur­vived the ini­tial attack by a Japanese sub­ma­rine short­ly after Indianapolis had dropped off com­po­nents for the Little Boy atomic bomb on the Pacific island of Tinian.

During the Friday pre­sen­ta­tion cer­e­mo­ny, retired Navy Capt. Bill Toti spoke on behalf of the eight sur­vivors of Indianapolis.

Toti was the former com­man­der of the nuclear attack sub­ma­rine USS Indianapolis (SSN-697) and was instru­men­tal in the sur­vivors’ fight to clear the name of Capt. Charles McVay, the com­man­der of the cruis­er who was court-mar­tialed by the Navy after the loss of the ship.

USS Indianapolis in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 1937. US Navy Photo

“The sur­vivors of the sink­ing of the World War II cruis­er USS Indianapolis strug­gled for almost five days in the water just to sur­vive,” Toti said during the cer­e­mo­ny.
“Then for the next five decades, they con­tin­ued to fight. They did not fight for recog­ni­tion for them­selves, they did not fight for resti­tu­tion from the Navy for the awful fact that they were for­got­ten in the water and left to die — they fought to clear their captain’s name.”

McVay’s conviction was over­turned by an act of Congress in 2001.

The awardees were pre­sent­ed with a spe­cial­ly cast gold medal cre­at­ed by the U.S. Mint.

Capt. Charles McVay

On one side, the medal shows Indianapolis under­way with its dates of ser­vice and its 10 battle stars. The other side shows the dis­cov­ery of the sur­vivors by the PBY-5A Catalina flown by Lt. Cmdr. Adrian Marks and the arrival of USS Cecil J. Doyle (DR-368), the first of seven rescue ships that recov­ered the crew, along with the inscrip­tion, “1195 sailors; 316 sur­vived.”

The loca­tion of the lost cruis­er was dis­cov­ered in 2017 by an explo­ration led by the late billionaire Paul Allen.

On Wednesday, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday asked sailors to remem­ber the crew in a period of reflec­tion.

“Remember their courage and devo­tion to each other in the face of the most severe adver­si­ty. Remember their valor in combat and the role they played in ending the most dev­as­tat­ing war in his­to­ry. Honor their memory and draw strength from their legacy,” he said in a state­ment.
“Those brave Sailors and Marines endured impos­si­ble hard­ships by band­ing togeth­er. And we must do the same today.”

USNI source|articles

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