Thursday, April 22, 1999

Captain of
USS Indianapolis
may yet have his
name exonerated

A joint congressional resolution
says the court-martial of Navy
Capt. Charles B. McVay was
'a miscarriage of justice'

By Pete Pichaske
Phillips News Service


WASHINGTON -- Undeterred by last year's rebuff, supporters anxious to exonerate the captain and crew of the USS Indianapolis, the Navy cruiser sunk by the Japanese during World War II, are back again this year.

A joint congressional resolution was introduced in the House today declaring that the court-martial of Navy Capt. Charles B. McVay II, the ship's captain, was "not morally sustainable" and "a miscarriage of justice that led to his unjust humiliation."

The resolution exonerates McVay and asks that the president award a presidential citation to the crew of the Indianapolis.

The resolution was drafted by Rep. Joe Scarborough of Florida, whose interest in McVay was sparked by a Florida middle-schooler's history project concluding that McVay was wrongly blamed for the worst sea disaster in the history of the U.S. Navy.

The resolution has 35 co-sponsors, including both Hawaii House members, Democrats Neil Abercrombie and Patsy Mink. It will be introduced later this week in the Senate by Sen. Bob Smith, R-New Hampshire.

"We will not give up on this issue," said Abercrombie. "All of the values we treasure are embodied in the actions of the men of the Indianapolis, from the captain on down."

The Indianapolis had just delivered key parts of the atomic bomb to be dropped on Hiroshima to the Pacific island of Tinian when it was attacked by a Japanese submarine on the night of July 30, 1945, about halfway between the Philippines and Guam.

Only 316 of the ship's 1,196-member crew, including McVay, survived the attack and the shark-infested waters.

Shortly after the incident, McVay was court-martialed for negligence. More than 20 years later, declassified documents revealed that the Navy had failed to inform McVay the Japanese submarine had been spotted in the Philippine Sea.

McVay committed suicide in 1968. The crusade to clear his name has been championed by his son, Honolulu promoter Kimo McVay, and by former sailors convinced his conviction was unfair.

"They made a scapegoat of our captain," said Charles Murphy, head of the Indianapolis Survivors Association. About 135 of the crew are still alive today, and about a dozen were here today.

Last year, Scarborough introduced a slightly different resolution which asked for a posthumous pardon for McVay and had more than 100 co-sponsors. The bill died after the Senate parliamentarian ruled that Senate rules bar Congress from changing military records.

Backers hope this year's resolution would clear that procedural hurdle. "I think the bill is written now so it won't change any history," said Kimo McVay.

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