Indy (should) get a Gold Medal from Congress, 74 years after the fact

This photo was taken 27 July 1945, the day before she sailed from Guam to her doom, as documented by the ship’s photographer of USS Pandemus (ARL 18), on the back of the photo. This is probably the last photo taken of her. Caption on back of photo: “USS Indianapolis (CA 35) taken: 1530 27, July 1945, Apra Harbor, Guam, from USS Pandemus RL 18 as it passed heading for the sea. The picture was taken by Gus Buono”. U.S. Navy photo from the Collection of David Buell.

The loss of the Portland-class heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35) in 1945 is often cited as the worst disaster in U.S. Naval history. Now, Congress had approved a special medal for the ship.

S. 2101: USS Indianapolis Congressional Gold Medal Act, had 70 co-sponsors in the Senate this session Passed by Congress last week, it goes to the President next.

The medal once struck next year, will be presented to the Indiana War Memorial Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana. Hopefully, surviving Indy vets and their survivors can also claim one of their own.

The findings of the bill:

(1) The Portland-class heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis received 10 battle stars between February 1942 and April 1945 while participating in major battles of World War II from the Aleutian Islands to Okinawa.

(2) The USS Indianapolis, commanded by Captain Charles Butler McVay III, carried 1,195 personnel when it set sail for the island of Tinian on July 16, 1945, to deliver components of the atomic bomb “Little Boy”. The USS Indianapolis set a speed record during the portion of the trip from California to Pearl Harbor and successfully delivered the cargo on July 26, 1945. The USS Indianapolis then traveled to Guam and received further orders to join Task Group 95.7 in the Leyte Gulf in the Philippines for training. During the length of the trip, the USS Indianapolis went unescorted.

(3) On July 30, 1945, minutes after midnight, the USS Indianapolis was hit by 2 torpedoes fired by the I–58, a Japanese submarine. The resulting explosions severed the bow of the ship, sinking the ship in about 12 minutes. Of 1,195 personnel, about 900 made it into the water. While a few life rafts were deployed, most men were stranded in the water with only a kapok life jacket.

(4) At 10:25 a.m. on August 2, 1945, 4 days after the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, Lieutenant Wilbur Gwinn was piloting a PV–1 Ventura bomber and accidentally noticed men in the water who were later determined to be survivors of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. Lieutenant Gwinn alerted a PBY aircraft, under the command of Lieutenant Adrian Marks, about the disaster. Lieutenant Marks made a dangerous open-sea landing to begin rescuing the men before any surface vessels arrived. The USS Cecil J. Doyle was the first surface ship to arrive on the scene and took considerable risk in using a searchlight as a beacon, which gave hope to survivors in the water and encouraged them to make it through another night. The rescue mission continued well into August 3, 1945, and was well-coordinated and responsive once launched. The individuals who participated in the rescue mission conducted a thorough search, saved lives, and undertook the difficult job of identifying the remains of, and providing a proper burial for, those individuals who had died.

(5) Only 316 men survived the ordeal and the survivors had to deal with severe burns, exposure to the elements, extreme dehydration, and shark attacks.

(6) During World War II, the USS Indianapolis frequently served as the flagship for the commander of the Fifth Fleet, Admiral Raymond Spruance, survived a bomb released during a kamikaze attack (which badly damaged the ship and killed 9 members of the crew), earned a total of 10 battle stars, and accomplished a top secret mission that was critical to ending the war. The sacrifice, perseverance, and bravery of the crew of the USS Indianapolis should never be forgotten.

Indianapolis by Michel Guyot

Regardless of the medal. A lasting legacy of Indianapolis is at Great Lakes, and every budding bluejacket learns about her story first hand.

181218-N-BM202-1104 GREAT LAKES, Ill. (Dec. 18, 2018) Recruits receive training at the USS Indianapolis Combat Pool at Recruit Training Command. More than 30,000 recruits graduate annually from the Navy’s only boot camp. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Camilo Fernan/Released)

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

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