USS Indianapolis name resurrected
At the final reunion for survivors of the USS Indianapolis, a surprise announcement was made that the name will be resurrected in tribute to the men who endured the greatest tragedy in U.S. naval history.
USS Indianapolis name resurrected as the next Littoral Combat Ship
INDIANAPOLIS – What was dubbed as the final reunion for survivors of the USS Indianapolis was highlighted by a surprise announcement that one of the most famous ship names in history of the Navy will be resurrected in tribute to the men who endured the greatest tragedy in U.S. naval history.
The commander of Navy Region Midwest Rear Admi. Rick Williamson spoke on behalf of Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus at the formal dinner reception held in a flag-draped banquet hall at the downtown Hyatt.
“To honor the history of your crew,” Williamson said. “I am pleased to tell you I have notified Congress that pending authorization and appropriation, I intend to name the next littoral combat ship USS Indianapolis.”
The crowd roared with approval, interrupting Williamson’s announcement with a standing ovation.
“Once again the name Indianapolis will put to sea on the stern of a Navy warship carrying on the tradition of service that you and your shipmates have forever associated with the name.”
Williamson’s announcement provided an emotional lift to what was for many a somber reunion.
The USS Indianapolis was sunk by a Japanese torpedo minutes after midnight July 30, 1945.
Of the 1,196 men on the ship, 900 are estimated to have lived through the initial sinking. Surviving against immeasurable odds, 317 sailors were pulled from the water after surviving dehydration, shark attacks and battles with madness for five days drifting in the Pacific Ocean.
“You alone fully understand how such an experience would ultimately affect your life, just as it affected the Navy as a whole and is to this day woven into the fabric of every Navy sailor,” Williamson said.
The survivors have been meeting for decades in the Indiana capital, where the interstate that circles the city has been named in honor of the ship, a memorial has been erected on the city’s scenic canal and a USS Indianapolis radio room has been built into the city’s iconic downtown war memorial.
The city’s mayor, former Marine Corps Lt. Col. Gregory A. Ballard, spoke about what the ship’s history means to the city.
“We honor your sacrifice and the city is so proud to have you here to honor your courage,” Ballard said.
The reunion has served as an annual testament to the quiet fortitude that defines the greatest generation and, for the survivors, provided an annual pilgrimage to find solace in the company of shipmates who uniquely understand their battles with the enduring stress born out of the horrific experience.
“I haven’t taken a bath since I was pulled from the water,” said 89-year-old survivor Art Leenerman. “I can only take showers. I can’t stand to have that water around me.”
Organizers billed the reunion as the last due to both the failing health of the remaining survivors – estimated at 33 by organizers – and the difficulty for the survivors to travel from around the country to the event – only 13 were able to attend the four-day event.
“We look forward to this every year,” said 88-year-old survivor Louis Erwin. “There’s nothing like seeing these men again and sharing our pain together. We all know that war is hell and we all went through it together.”
But many of the survivors are determined to keep returning to Indianapolis as long as possible to keep the tradition alive. For the survivors, many who returned home to enjoy quiet lives consumed by work, family and faith, the reunion provides catharsis for the heartache that endures nearly seven decades after their brush with history.
“I think about these men every night, the ones I see here and the ones we lost out there,” said 87-year-old survivor Loel Dene Cox.
Please visit http://www.ussindianapolis.org for additional information on the USS Indianapolis.