Thursday, July 12, 2001

An undated Honolulu Star-Bulletin file photo of United
States Navy Capt. Charles B. McVay and his second wife
Louise McVay during a court-martial in Washington,
D.C. following the sinking of the USS Indianapolis
near the Phillipines during World War II.

Navy places
exonerating resolution
in McVay file

His son Kimo, who died
2 weeks ago, had spent years
trying to clear his father's name

By Leila Fujimori and Gregg K. Kakesako |

Local entertainment promoter Kimo McVay spent much of his life trying to have the Navy clear his late father's name of any wrongdoing in the sinking of the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis during World War II.

Twelve days after McVay's death, Navy Secretary Gordon England issued a memorandum yesterday saying the Navy would insert into the record of his father, Capt. Charles Butler McVay III, a congressional resolution that exonerated the wartime commander of any blame in the tragedy that killed 875 sailors. McVay was promoted to rear admiral when he retired in 1949.

Capt. Kevin Wensing, England's spokesman, said, however, that doesn't mean that McVay has been exonerated by the Navy.

"Only the president can issue a pardon," Wensing added, "and it would take congressional legislation to reopen the investigation."

Wensing said England has no legal authority to overturn the findings of McVay's court martial or remove the court martial from McVay's personnel record.

"But he felt that it was important to include the sense of the Congress in Adm. McVay's personnel record."

He said England also authorized combat action ribbons to be presented to the crew of at the ship's annual reunion next month in the Indianapolis.

The resolution, approved by Congress in October, stated then-Capt. McVay should not be held culpable and his military record should reflect that he is exonerated for the loss of the USS Indianapolis and most of its crew. Kimo McVay's widow, Betsy Kim McVay, said "Kimo waited and waited. Now Kimo can rest in peace."

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who co-authored the bill to clear McVay's name, said yesterday from Washington: "I'm very grateful that Kimo and his family knew of the exoneration resolution before he passed away. I trust that today's formal announcement would have made Kimo very happy." But some Indianapolis survivors, who have fought for more than 50 years to clear their skipper's name, say the battle continues to expunge his Navy record of the court-martial.

"We'll keep working on the president to get the record expunged," said Woody James, 78, who was a coxswain on the USS Indianapolis when it was torpedoed. He survived nearly five days in the South Pacific by hanging onto a potato crate.

Considered by some to be the Navy's scapegoat, McVay was court-martialed for negligently endangering his ship by failing to steer a zigzag course.

He was the only ship commander court-martialed for losing a ship during wartime. The court-martial haunted the elder McVay, who committed suicide in 1968.

Most of his buddies who survived the sinking of the ship are no longer around to continue the fight. "We're dwindling. We're down to 120 of us."

James said Indianapolis survivors may continue to push for a retrial in a Navy court.Craig Gima 7/12/01 "I think it's feasible with declassified information now that is available that wasn't available back in '45," he said. "We're just asking to clear our captain's name."

Charles B. McVay IV, who served in the Navy from 1943-44 at the same time his father did, last night said, "The Navy bore a lot of the responsibility for the sinking of the Indianapolis."

He said his father was not privy to secret information, though the Navy was aware the ship was in the direct path of three Japanese submarines.

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