Wednesday, September 15, 1999

USS Indianapolis
survivors testify

By Pete Pichaske
Phillips News Service


WASHINGTON -- Survivors of the USS Indianapolis, the Navy cruiser sunk by a Japanese submarine during World War II, returned to Capitol Hill this week in another attempt to salvage their reputations and that of Capt. Charles B. McVay, the ship's captain blamed for the disaster.

At a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, survivors testified in favor of legislation calling McVay's court-martial "not morally sustainable" and his conviction a "miscarriage of justice," and recommending the president grant a unit citation to the crew.

The resolution is the latest in what have become annual attempts to exonerate McVay and his crew, none of which has come to a committee vote.

Top Navy brass, backed up by key members of Congress, have opposed the resolutions as "rewriting history" and insisted that the court-martial was proper.

This year is no exception. At yesterday's hearing, Navy officers -- led by Adm. Donald Pilling, vice chief of Naval Operations -- argued against the exoneration, although they were more receptive to the notion that the ship's crew should receive a presidential citation.

The Navy has consistently argued that its own reviews support the actions taken against McVay.

At one time or another, all four members of Hawaii's congressional delegation have supported the idea of exonerating McVay and the crew, a move which also has been pushed zealously by Honolulu resident Kimo McVay, McVay's son.

Carter Cornick, spokesman for Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va., called the survivors' testimony yesterday "very heartfelt, very moving."

Still, an aide to the exoneration resolution's chief sponsor in the House, Rep. Joe Scarborough, R-Fla., said it was unlikely any legislation would come to a vote in Congress this year.

"We hope to move something forward next year," said David Stafford.

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