Special to the Star-Bulletin
Hunter Scott stands next to his history project that outlines
the Indianapolis tragedy in 1945. The Florida youth believes
the ship's skipper was wrongly court-martialed.
may be absolved
A schoolboy's crusade may lead toBy Gregg K. Kakesako
exoneration for the skipper
of the Indianapolis
A history project by a 12-year-old Florida schoolboy has become a crusade to right what he believes was an injustice dealt to the skipper of a World War II cruiser that was torpedoed and became the Navy's worst wartime sea loss.
Of the 1,916 sailors who served on the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis, only 316 men survived the sinking. As many as 500 were eaten by sharks or succumbed to injuries or the elements.
Her skipper, Capt. Charles B. McVay III, was court-martialed for losing the ship.
After spending nearly a year researching the fate of the Indianapolis from more than 500 documents and interviewing 150 survivors, Hunter Scott believes McVay, who committed suicide in 1968, was wrongly accused and court-martialed.
Capt. Charles B.
McVay in 1945
"I felt that he was made a scapegoat," said Scott, a seventh-grader at Ransom Middle School in Cantonment, Fla., a suburb of Pensacola, in a telephone interview.
"These men had to fight off sharks and had nothing to eat or drink for four days and five nights. They had to pay the true cost of freedom so the rest of us could be free."
HIS history project was noticed by U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough, a Pensacola Republican, who has said that he is willing to support a joint congressional resolution that Scott hopes would "express the sense that Congress realizes an injustice was done and order that all mention of the court-martial and convictions of Charles McVay be expunged from the records."
Scott also would like the crew of the Indianapolis be awarded a presidential unit citation.
Hawaii Democratic Rep. Patsy Mink has said she will support such a resolution, and Scott also has written to Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye.
Island promoter Kimo Wilder McVay, who has been fighting for more than five decades with little success to exonerate his father, is overwhelmed.
"I am in awe of this wonderful youngster who, without prompting, has decided to do the near impossible in clearing my father's name," said Kimo McVay. "He's gotten farther in Congress already in a few months than I or the survivors have in 52 years."
Kimo McVay said he didn't know about Scott's efforts until he saw a report on "NBC Nightly News" after Scott attended a reunion of the survivors of the Indianapolis in July.
"As it is said in the Bible, 'And a little child shall lead them.' That's what is happening here," said Kimo McVay, who has arranged hotel accommodations, tours and nightclub shows for the Scott family during its one-week vacation here.
WHILE in the islands, Hunter will sail on a Pearl Harbor-based nuclear attack submarine -- the third ship named after the Indiana capital -- to Lahaina on Nov. 20 at the invitation of its skipper, Cmdr. W.J. Toti.
His history project also will be on display at Ala Moana Center Nov. 21, 24, 25 and 26 from noon to 1:30 p.m., with Scott on hand to answer questions.
Scott said the inspiration for his history project came after viewing the movie "Jaws," where one of the characters said he was attacked by sharks after his ship, the Indianapolis, was sunk.
The Florida youth immersed himself in the project for nearly a year. He read Dan Kurzman's book "Fatal Voyage" and wanted to learn more, so he placed an advertisement in a local newspaper searching for area survivors.
That led to one local contact and a list of the survivors. Eventually, Scott wrote or e-mailed 150 of the survivors -- many of whom still believe that McVay was wronged.
He even wrote to President Clinton asking him to pardon Charles McVay or to reopen the court-martial. But the White House told Scott that the only legal recourse was through congressional legislation.
Scott said he never considered a career in the military until after he talked to Indianapolis survivors and came away impressed with their accomplishments. Now his goal is to attend the Naval Academy at Annapolis and pin on gold aviator wings.
Questions remainBy Star-Bulletin staff
about the Indianapolis
The USS Indianapolis was the flagship of the Navy's 5th Fleet and was returning from one of World War II's top secret missions -- delivering uranium and components to Tinian to complete the atomic bombs that would be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- when it was torpedoed July 30, 1945, about 600 miles west of Guam.
Hit by three of six Japanese torpedoes, the ship sank in 12 minutes.
Her 950 surviving crew members were left adrift, most without lifeboats, in shark-infested waters of the South Pacific. More than 500 were eaten by sharks or succumbed to injuries or the elements.
The commander of the Indianapolis, Capt. Charles McVay, was court-martialed for the sinking.
Today, questions still remain whether McVay was used by the Navy as a scapegoat for the horrendous loss of life and why it took five days to discover and rescue the survivors.
These questions are explored in a new one-hour documentary -- "Sea Tales: Missing! The Indianapolis" -- which premieres on the A&E Network (Oceanic Cable Channel 33) 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Nov. 13 and repeats again at 11 a.m. Nov. 16.