Tuesday, April 21, 1998

Capt. Charles McVay, Hunter Scott

Legislation to clear
USS Indianapolis
skipper is ready

The U.S. House will
take up the matter, thanks to a boy,
12, and his history project

By Gregg K. Kakesako


Two years ago, Hunter Scott watched "Jaws." Actor Robert Shaw said he was a crew member of the USS Indianapolis and survived a shark attack after the cruiser was sunk by Japanese torpedoes.

That drew the 12-year-old into interviewing nearly 150 survivors of the Indianapolis sinking and reviewing 800 documents.

It became Hunter's dream to clear the name of Capt. Charles McVay, court-martialed for being responsible for the Navy's worst wartime casualty.

Hunter's research was turned into an award-winning state history project and caught the attention of Pensacola (Fla.) Rep. Joe Scarborough, who will introduce legislation tomorrow designed to exonerate McVay.

Joining Scarborough will be Hawaii Democratic Rep. Neil Abercrombie and Indianapolis Rep. Julia Carson, also a Democrat; and Florida Rep. Carrie Meek. Scott was to meet with Sen. Daniel Inouye today with hopes that the Hawaii Democrat will join his cause.

The Indianapolis had just delivered the Hiroshima atomic bomb to the Enola Gay bomber stationed at Tinian. Hit by three Japanese torpedoes, the Indianapolis sank in 12 minutes 600 miles west of Guam on July 30, 1945.

Only 316 men survived the attack and the subsequent five-day ordeal adrift at sea. When the ship went down, 850 sailors were believed to have been left on battered rafts in shark-infested Pacific waters with no lifeboats, water or food.

In 1946, McVay, who survived the sinking, was charged with "suffering a vessel to be hazarded through negligence" and was convicted by a court-martial. He committed suicide in 1968.

"Capt. McVay's court-martial was simply to divert attention from the terrible loss of life caused by procedural mistakes which never alerted anyone that we were missing," said Paul Murphy, president of the USS Indianapolis Survivors Organization.

"His conviction remains a black mark on our ship, and in just a few months this extraordinary young man has already called more attention to this injustice than we've been able to do in the past half century. We are all 100 percent behind this effort."

Island promoter Kimo McVay, who has spent the past five decades trying to clear his father's name, said he is awed by Scott's efforts. "He's gotten farther than we -- the survivors of the Indianapolis -- have ever gotten in getting people aware of my father's plight."

Mike Slackman, Abercrombie's spokesman, said the Hawaii Democrat believes "Capt. McVay was unjustly convicted."

"It's a very tragic story," Slackman said.

Kimo McVay, who also was invited to participate in this week's congressional activities, said the Navy was negligent for not dispatching a rescue mission when the Indianapolis failed to arrive on schedule in the Philippines.

He added that additional evidence was uncovered later by the declassification of secret documents that Navy officials on Guam were aware that there was a Japanese submarine in his father's path, but the Navy failed to warn him.

Numerous books, plays, a television movie "Mission of the Shark" and documentaries have been made about the sinking of the Indianapolis, the shark attacks on the survivors, their rescue and the court martial.

Kimo McVay said another movie based on Hunter's crusade with the Florida youth playing a key role is being planned. The movie also will use as its basis Richard Newcomb's 1958 best seller, "Abandon Ship," McVay said.

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