My first ever book - order it here

 Created: 7 June 2002. Update December 2021

This image was taken 4 days before she was sunk by the Japanese Submarine I-58

As reported in Daily Mirror. August 15 1945

Gross incompetence by the US Navy contributed to the loss, so they blamed the ships Captain.

At 0014hrs on 30 July, 1945, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the Philippine Sea. She sank in only 12 minutes. Of the 1,196 men on board, approximately 300 went down with the ship. The remainder, about 900 men, were left floating in shark-infested waters with no lifeboats and most with no food or water. The ship was never missed, and by the time the survivors were spotted by accident four days later only 316 men were still alive.  The ship's captain, the late Charles Butler McVay, survived and was subjected to a court-martial and convicted of "hazarding his ship by failing to zigzag" despite overwhelming evidence that the Navy itself had placed the ship in harm's way, despite testimony from the Japanese submarine commander that zigzagging would have made no difference, and despite that fact that, although 700 navy ships were lost in combat in WWII, Captain McVay was the only captain to be treated thus. Recently declassified material adds to the evidence that Captain McVay was a scapegoat for the mistakes of others.

In October of 2000, following years of effort by the survivors and their supporters, legislation was passed in Washington and signed by President Clinton expressing the sense of Congress, among other things, that Captain McVay's record should now reflect that he is exonerated for the loss of the Indianapolis and for the death of her crew who were lost.  In July of 2001 The Navy Department announced that Captain McVay's record has been amended to exonerate him for the loss of the Indianapolis and the lives of those who perished as a result of her sinking. The action was taken by the American Secretary of the Navy Gordon England who was persuaded to do so by Senator Bob Smith, a strong advocate of Captain McVay's innocence. The survivors are deeply grateful to Secretary England and Senator Smith and also to young Hunter Scott of Pensacola, Florida, without whom the injustice to Captain McVay would never have been brought to the attention of the media and the Congress.

This action, however, does not remove the conviction from Captain McVay's record. Nor would a presidential pardon. A pardon simple frees a person from punishment, but it does not clear the conviction nor the stain of guilt from that person's record.  Thus, the survivors still seek a presidential order to expunge the conviction from Captain McVay's record and bring final justice to this story.

What Happened?

The world's first operational atomic bomb was delivered by the Indianapolis, (CA-35) to the island of Tinian on 26 July 1945. The Indianapolis then reported to CINCPAC (Commander-In-Chief, Pacific) Headquarters at Guam for further orders. She was directed to join the battleship USS Idaho (BB-42) at Leyte Gulf in the Philippines to prepare for the invasion of Japan. The Indianapolis, unescorted, departed Guam on a course of 262 degrees making about 17 knots.

At 14 minutes past midnight, on 30 July 1945, midway between Guam and Leyte Gulf, she was hit by two torpedoes out of six initiated by the I-58 a Japanese submarine. The first blew away the bow, the second struck near midship on the starboard side adjacent to a fuel tank and a powder magazine. The resulting explosion split the ship to the keel, knocking out all electric power. Within minutes she went down rapidly by the bow, rolling to starboard.


Of the 1,196 aboard, about 900 made it into the water in the twelve minutes before she sank. Few life rafts were released. Most survivors wore the standard kapok life jacket. Shark attacks began with sunrise of the first day, and continued until the men were physically removed from the water, almost five days later.

Shortly after 11:00 A.M. of the fourth day, the survivors were accidentally discovered by LT. (jg) Wilbur C. Gwinn, piloting his PV-1 Ventura Bomber on routine antisubmarine patrol. Radioing his base at Peleiu, he alerted, "many men in the water". (a 3 hours delay ensued because of idiotic decision that there could be no ship there) A PBY (seaplane) under the command of LT. R. Adrian Marks was dispatched to lend assistance and report. Enroute to the scene Marks overflew the destroyer USS Cecil Doyle (DD-368), and alerted her captain, of the emergency. The captain of the Doyle, on his own authority, decided to divert to the scene. This disagrees slightly with a further report reprinted below.

Arriving hours ahead of the Doyle, Marks' crew began dropping rubber rafts and supplies. While so engaged, they observed men being attacked by sharks. Disregarding standing orders not to land at sea, Marks landed, and began taxiing to pick up the stragglers and lone swimmers who were at greatest risk of shark attack. Learning the men were the crew of the Indianapolis, he radioed the news, requesting immediate assistance. The Doyle responded she was enroute.

As complete darkness fell, Marks waited for help to arrive, all the while continuing to seek out and pull nearly dead men from the water. When the plane's fuselage was full, survivors were tied to the wing with parachute cord. Marks and his crew rescued 56 men that day. The Cecil Doyle was the first vessel on the scene. Homing on Marks' PBY in total darkness, the Doyle halted to avoid killing or further injuring survivors, and began taking Marks' survivors aboard.

Disregarding the safety of his own vessel, the Doyle's captain pointed his largest searchlight into the night sky to serve as a beacon for other rescue vessels. This beacon was the first indication to most survivors, that their prayers had been answered. Help had at last arrived. Of the 900 who made it into the water only 317 remained alive. After almost five days of constant shark attacks, starvation, terrible thirst, suffering from exposure and their wounds, the men of the Indianapolis were at last rescued from the sea.

The impact of this unexpected disaster sent shock waves of hushed disbelief throughout Navy circles in the South Pacific. A public announcement of the loss of the Indianapolis was delayed for almost two weeks until August 15, thus insuring that it would be overshadowed in the news on the day when the Japanese surrender was announced by President Truman.

The Navy, however, was rushing to gather the facts and to determine who was responsible for the greatest sea disaster in its history … who, in effect, to blame. It was a faulty rush to judgment. It is important to note at the outset that vital information pertinent to determining responsibility for the loss of the Indianapolis was not made public until long after the subsequent court-martial and conviction of Captain McVay. U.S. intelligence using a top secret operation labelled ULTRA had broken the Japanese code and was aware that two Japanese submarines, including the I-58, were operating in the path of the Indianapolis.

This information was classified and not made available to either the court-martial board or to Captain McVay's defence counsel. It did not become known until the early 1990s that - despite knowledge of the danger in its path - naval authorities at Guam had sent the Indianapolis into harm's way without any warning, refusing her captain's request for a destroyer escort, and leading him to believe his route was safe.

  • Captain McVay's request for a destroyer escort was denied despite the fact that no capital ship lacking anti-submarine detection equipment, such as the Indianapolis, had made this transit across the Philippine Sea without an escort during the entire war.

  • Captain McVay was not told that shortly before his departure from Guam a Japanese submarine within range of his path had sunk a destroyer escort, the USS Underhill.

  • Shortly after the Indianapolis was sunk, naval intelligence decoded a message from the I-58 to its headquarters in Japan that it had sunk an American battleship along the route of the Indianapolis. The message was ignored and was NOT passed onto the ship.

  • Naval authorities then and now have maintained that the Indianapolis sank too quickly to send out a distress signal. A radioman aboard the Indianapolis testified at the September 1999 Senate hearing, however, that he watched the "needle jump" on the ship's transmitter, indicating that a distress signal was transmitted minutes before the ship sank, and sources at three separate locations have indicated that they were aware of a distress signal being received from the sinking ship. Its very likely that these distress signals were received but ignored as a Japanese trick to lure rescue vessels to the area.

  • Confusion on the part of Navy communications and a faulty directive caused the failure of the Indianapolis to arrive on schedule to go unnoticed, leaving as many as 900 men at the mercy of a shark-infested sea. (The faulty directive - which required only reporting the arrival of non-combatant ships - was corrected days after the Indianapolis survivors were discovered to require reporting the arrival of combatant ships as well.)

    A hastily convened closed-door court of inquiry had been convened in Guam on August 13 with the Judge Advocate (prosecutor), Captain William Hilbert, stating that they were "starting the proceedings without having available all the necessary data." Little was done to add to such data prior to the court's decision. As the first witness, Captain McVay was asked, among other things, whether he had been zigzagging the night the ship was sunk. His answer was simply, "No, sir," but apparently little weight was given to the fact that he was under orders to zigzag at his discretion. Testimony by survivors that visibility was severely limited the night of the attack, thus explaining Captain McVay's orders to cease zigzagging, was heard but never considered again (either then or at the subsequent court-martial). The Surface Operations officer at Guam who had sent the Indianapolis across the Philippine Sea without a destroyer escort and who was responsible for advising Captain McVay of any perils in his path testified that the danger was "practically negligible." No one seemed to consider why his intelligence was so inadequate, and those aware of the ULTRA intelligence and who should have warned Captain McVay remained silent, very possibly conscious of their own culpability. The court of inquiry ultimately recommended that Captain McVay be court-martialed on two vague charges: (1) culpable inefficiency in the performance of his duties and (2) negligently endangering the lives of others.

    Over 350 Navy warships had been lost in combat during World War II, but none of their captains had been court-martialed. Both Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz and Vice Admiral Raymond Spruance for whom the Indianapolis served as Fifth Fleet flagship opposed court-martialing Captain McVay, and never had an officer been court-martialed over the objection of his superiors, much less such prominent flag officers. With the war ended, the scene then shifted to Washington. When orders were given to proceed with the court-martial of Captain McVay only days before the court-martial actually began on December 3 at Washington Navy Yard, he and his defence counsel learned for the first time of the charges against him.

    The Navy finally had decided on two charges against Captain McVay. There was no evidence to substantiate the first charge which was failure to issue timely orders to abandon ship. The fact that it was even lodged against him was curious. Well before the trial began, the Navy was aware that the torpedo attack had knocked out the ship's electrical system and that orders to abandon ship could only be shouted by word of mouth in the din and confusion about the sinking ship.

    The second charge against Captain McVay was that he had hazarded his ship by failing to zigzag in good visibility. Here are the facts which made this charge shamefully unjust.

    • The orders which Captain McVay received in Guam directed him to zigzag at his discretion.

    • No Navy directive in existence then or now requires zigzagging at night in limited visibility.

    • The charge against Captain McVay stated that the visibility was good on the night of the sinking (a fact never contested by the inexperienced defence counsel who was assigned to Captain McVay).

    • When Captain McVay issued orders to cease zigzagging shortly before midnight, the visibility, according to all eyewitnesses aboard the ship, was and remained very poor up to the time of the torpedoes struck, so bad that crew members could not identify their shipmates several yards away.

    • Statements taken by survivors immediately after rescue that the visibility was severely limited were not made available as evidence at the court-martial. And only recently surfaced as the result of research into old Navy records.

    • The commander of the Japanese submarine which sank the Indianapolis and who testified at the court-martial said that he could have sunk the ship whether it had been zigzagging or not.

    • A decorated U.S. submarine commander testified at the court-martial that, given the identical circumstances which faced the Japanese submarine that night, he could have sunk the Indianapolis whether it had been zigzagging or not.

    As so the Navy court-martial found Captain Charles Butler McVay III guilty of hazarding his ship by failure to zigzag in good visibility, thus diverting attention from so many others whose negligence and misjudgements were the real cause of this tragedy, humiliating Captain McVay, and damaging his promising naval career beyond repair.

    In early 2000, only months before his death at the age of 91 in Kyoto, Japan, the commander of the Japanese submarine which sank the Indianapolis gave an interview and, referring to Captain McVay's court-martial, said, "I had a feeling it was contrived from the beginning." A trial is most often contrived to find a scapegoat. That is the story. It remains a tarnish on the reputation of the United States Navy more than a half a century later. And it will remain a stain on the conscience of the Navy until the conviction is expunged from Captain McVay's official record.

     A 1920 graduate of the US Naval Academy, Charles Butler McVay III was a career naval officer with an exemplary record whose father, Admiral Charles Butler McVay II, had once commanded the Navy's Asiatic Fleet in the early 1900s. Before taking command of the Indianapolis in November 1944, Captain McVay was chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee of the combined chiefs of staff in Washington, the Allies' highest intelligence unit.  Captain McVay led the ship through the invasion of Iwo Jima, then the bombardment of Okinawa in the spring of 1945 during which Indianapolis antiaircraft guns shot down seven enemy planes before the ship was struck by a kamikaze on March 31, inflicting heavy casualties, including 13 dead, and penetrating the ship's hull. McVay returned the ship safely to Mare Island in California for repairs. On July 16, 1945, the Indianapolis sailed from California with a top secret cargo to Hawaii for refueling, then to Tanian where it unloaded its cargo, the uranium and major components of the atomic bomb to be dropped on Hiroshima by the Enola Gay on August 6. The Indianapolis was then routed to Guam enroute to Leyte in the Philippines. It was at Guam that the seeds for the destruction of the Indianapolis were laid. Hostilities in this part of the Pacific had long since ceased. The Japanese surfaced fleet no longer existed as a threat, and 1,000 miles to the north preparations were underway for the invasion of the Japanese mainland. These conditions resulted in a relaxed state of alert on the part of those who were to route the Indianapolis across the Philippine Sea.

    Here is the evidence:

    • Although naval authorities at Guam knew that on July 24, four days before the Indianapolis departed for Leyte, the destroyer escort USS Underhill had been sunk by a Japanese submarine within range of his path, McVay was not told.

    • Although a code-breaking system called ULTRA had alerted naval intelligence that a Japanese submarine (the I-58 by name which ultimately sank the Indianapolis) was operating in his path, McVay was not told. (Classified as top secret until the early 1990s, this intelligence -- and the fact it was withheld from McVay before he sailed from Guam -- was not disclosed during his subsequent court-martial.)

    • Although no capital ship (unequipped with antisubmarine detection devices such as the Indianapolis) had made the transit between Guam and the Philippines without a destroyer escort throughout World War II, McVay's request for such an escort was denied.

    • Although the routing officer at Guam was aware of the ULTRA intelligence report, he said a destroyer escort for the Indianapolis was "not necessary" (and, unbelievably, testified at McVay's subsequent court-martial that the risk of submarine attack along the Indianapolis's route "was very slight").

    • Although McVay was told of "submarine sightings" along his path, none had been confirmed. Such sightings were commonplace throughout the war and were generally ignored by navy commanders unless confirmed.

    Thus, the Indianapolis set sail for Leyte on July 26, 1945, sent into harm's way with its captain unaware of dangers which shore-based naval personnel knew were in his path. Captain McVay's orders were to "zigzag at his discretion." Zigzagging is a naval manoeuvre used to avoid torpedo attack, generally considered most effective once the torpedoes have been launched. No Navy directives in force at that time or since recommended, much less ordered zigzagging at night in poor visibility.  At about 11pm on Sunday night, July 29, the Indianapolis travelling alone was about halfway across the Philippine Sea. There was heavy cloud cover with visibility severely limited. Captain McVay gave orders to cease zigzagging and retired to his cabin. Minutes later the ship was spotted as an indistinct blur by Japanese submarine commander Mochitura Hasimoto of the I-58. It was coming directly toward him from the east.  Shortly after midnight the ship was struck by two torpedoes and sank in about twelve minutes. An estimated 300 men went down with the ship, leaving almost nine hundred men floating in the sea, including Captain McVay. Their ordeal lasted four days without lifeboats, food or water. Some of the men were in the water five days. McVay's ordeal was to last 23 years.

    When the ship failed to arrive at Leyte on Tuesday morning, a series of blunders ensued. First, there was confusion as to which area the Indianapolis was to report when it arrived. Second, there was no directive to report the non-arrival of a combatant ship. And, third, there was no request to retransmit a garbled message which would have clarified the Indianapolis' arrival time. As a result, the surviving crew of the Indianapolis was still floating in shark-infested waters until 11am on Thursday, August 2, when Lt. Wilbur C. Gwinn, the pilot of a Ventura scout-bomber, lost the weight from his navigational antenna trailing behind the plane, a loss which was to save the lives of 316 men. While crawling back through the fuselage of his plane to repair the thrashing antenna, Gwinn happened to glance down at the sea and noticed a long oil slick. Back in the cockpit, Gwinn dropped down to investigate, spotted men floating in the sea, and radioed for help. At 3:30 that afternoon Lt. R. Adrian Marks, flying a PBY Catalina, was the first to arrive on the scene. Horrified at the sight of sharks attacking men below him, Marks landed his flying boat in the sea, and, pulling a survivor aboard, he was the first to learn of the Indianapolis disaster.

    'Kangaroo Court'

    Upon their rescue by different vessels the Indianapolis survivors were scattered at various Pacific bases. Captain McVay was taken to Guam where he faced an board of inquiry ordered by Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz (CINCPAC) which convened on August 13, one day before the sinking of the ship was announced to the public simultaneously with the announcement that the Japanese had surrendered, thus insuring minimum press coverage for the story of the Indianapolis' loss. Conceding that they "were starting the proceedings without having available all the necessary data," the board nonetheless recommended a general court-martial for McVay. Admiral Nimitz, however, did not agree and on September 6, six weeks after the disaster, wrote to the Navy's Judge Advocate General opposing a court-martial and stating that at worst McVay was guilty of an error in judgment, but not gross negligence. Nimitz recommended a letter of reprimand which constituted a slap on the wrist but was far from career-ending punishment. In a CINCPAC report, Nimitz pointed out that the rule requiring zigzagging would not have applied in any event since McVay's orders gave him discretion on that matter and thus took precedence over all other orders (a point which, unbelievably, was never made by McVay's defence counsel during the subsequent court-martial).  Overriding the opposition of both Nimitz and Admiral Raymond Spruance (for whom the Indianapolis had served as Fifth Fleet flagship), naval authorities in Washington, specifically Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal and Admiral Ernest King, Chief of Naval Operations, directed that court-martial proceedings be held against McVay, and the trial was scheduled to begin on December 3, 1945, at the Washington Navy Yard. Captain McVay was notified but not told what specific charges would be brought against him. The reason was simple. The Navy had not yet decided what to charge him with. Four days before the trial began they did decide on two charges. One, failing to issue orders to abandon ship in a timely fashion. And, two, hazarding his vessel by failing to zigzag during good visibility.

    Captain McVay was denied his first choice of defence counsel, and a Captain John P. Cady was selected for him. McVay was also denied a delay to develop his defence, and thus Cady, a line officer with no trial experience, had only four days to prepare his case.  It's difficult to understand why the Navy brought the first charge against McVay. Explosions from the torpedo attacks had knocked out the ship's communications system, making it impossible to give an abandon ship order to the crew except by work of mouth which McVay had done. He was ultimately found not guilty on this count. That left the second charge of failing to zigzag. Incredibly, the Navy brought the commander of the Japanese submarine, Mochitura Hashimoto, to testify at the court-martial which was held at the Washington Navy Yard. Hashimoto implied in pre-trial statements that zigzagging would not have saved the Indianapolis but was not pressed on this point during the trial itself.  One prosecution witness which they wished they had never called was a veteran Navy submariner named Glynn Donaho. A four-time Navy Cross winner during the way, Donaho was asked by McVay's defence counsel whether "it would have been more or less difficult for you to attain the proper firing position" if the Indianapolis had been zigzagging under the conditions which existed that night. His answer was, "No, not as long as I could see the target." It was either deliberately ignored by (or passed over the heads of) the court-martial board, and it was not pursued by McVay's defence.

    There was also information withheld from McVay's defence counsel. It involved the testimony of a Captain Oliver Naquin who had been in charge of the routing instructions for the Indianapolis from Guam to Leyte. When asked about the risk of enemy submarine activity in the ship's path, Naquin replied "it was a low order" and "the risk was very slight." Being responsible for sending the Indianapolis across the Philippine Sea without a destroyer escort, Naquin's response served him well. Later it was learned that Naquin was aware of the ULTRA report indicating that the I-58 was operating in McVay's path and had not told him.  Perhaps the most egregious aspect of McVay's ultimate conviction for failing to zigzag, however, was in the phrasing of the charge itself. The phrase was "during good visibility." According to all accounts of the survivors, including eye-witness accounts of survivors only recently declassified and not made available to McVay's defence at the trial, the visibility that night was severely limited with heavy cloud cover. This is pertinent for two reasons. First, as stated in an earlier section, no Navy directives in force at that time suggested, much less ordered, zigzagging at night with visibility limited. Second, McVay's orders were "to zigzag at his discretion." Thus, when he stopped zigzagging, he was simply following procedures set forth by Navy directives.

    It is reasonable to assume from the evidence that a decision to convict McVay was made before his court-martial began. The survivors of the Indianapolis are convinced that he was made a scapegoat to hide the mistakes of others, mistakes which included sending him into harm's way without warning and failing to notice when the Indianapolis failed to arrive on schedule, thus costing hundreds of lives unnecessarily and creating the greatest sea disaster in the history o the United States Navy.  McVay was found guilty on the charge of failing to zigzag. The court sentenced him to lose 100 numbers in his temporary rank of Captain and 100 numbers in his permanent rank of Commander, thus ruining his Navy career. In 1946, at the behest of Admiral Nimitz who had become Chief of Naval Operations, Secretary Forrestal remitted McVay's sentence and restored him to duty. McVay served out his time in the New Orleans Naval District and retired in 1949 with the rank of Rear Admiral. He took his own life in 1968. 

    I-58 - prior to being scuttled in 1946

    Mochitsura Hashimoto was the commander of the Japanese submarine I-58 which sank the USS Indianapolis. He died on October 25, 2000, at the age of 91, having spent the last years of his life as a Shinto priest in Kyoto, Japan. For reasons which will be explained, his death saddened many Indianapolis survivors. His path was to cross theirs again in years to come. When the decision was made in November of 1945 to court-martial Captain McVay, a decision was also made to bring Hashimoto to the trial as a witness, and a military plane was dispatched to Japan with an armed escort to bring him to Washington. Public animosity toward the Japanese was still very high, and using Hashimoto, so recently an enemy, as a witness against a decorated American officer created a storm of controversy both in the media and in the halls of Congress. Dan Kurzman interviewed Hashimoto for his 1990 book "Fatal Voyage," however, and wrote "Commander Hashimoto was amazed by the Americans. While penned up in his dormitory during the trial, he was treated more like an honoured guest than an enemy officer who had caused the deaths of so many American boys." (His treatment by the Navy undoubtedly stemmed from the fact that he was to be one of their witnesses in the prosecution of Captain McVay. The charge against Captain McVay was that he had hazarded his ship by failing to zigzag at the time Hashimoto's torpedoes struck, and Hashimoto confounded the prosecution by stating that he would have been able to sink the Indianapolis whether it had been zigzagging or not, testimony which appeared to have no impact at all on the court-martial board which found McVay guilty anyway, and Hashimoto was returned to Japan.

    On December 7, 1990, with the war's bitterness faded, survivors of the Indianapolis, including Giles McCoy, met Hashimoto in Pearl Harbor on the 49th anniversary of that attack.  Speaking through a translator, Hashimoto told McCoy, "I came here to pray with you for your shipmates whose deaths I caused," to which McCoy, apprehensive about encountering the man who had caused him so much pain and sorrow but touched by Hashimoto's comment, replied, "I forgive you." Nine years later Hashimoto responded to this forgiveness by volunteering support to the survivors in their efforts to clear Captain McVay's name.

    In 1999, when a Japanese journalist was interviewing the elderly Shinto priest about his life and about the sinking of the Indianapolis, she informed him that an effort was being made in the United States Congress to exonerate Captain McVay. Hashimoto told her he would like to help, an offer which was relayed by e-mail to young Hunter Scott in Pensacola, Florida, who suggested that Hashimoto write a letter to Senator John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and passed on Warner's address.

    The text of that letter follows:

    "November 24, 1999
    Attn: The Honourable John W. Warner
    Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee
    Russell Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510

    "I hear that your legislature is considering resolutions which would clear the name of the late Charles Butler McVay III, captain of the USS Indianapolis which was sunk on July 30, 1945, by torpedoes fired from the submarine which was under my command." I do not understand why Captain McVay was court-martialed. I do not understand why he was convicted on the charge of hazarding his ship by failing to zigzag because I would have been able to launch a successful torpedo attack against his ship whether it had been zigzagging or not.  I have met may of your brave men who survived the sinking of the Indianapolis. I would like to join them in urging that your national legislature clear their captain's name.  Our peoples have forgiven each other for that terrible war and its consequences. Perhaps it is time your peoples forgave Captain McVay for the humiliation of his unjust conviction."

    Mochitsura Hashimoto
    former captain of I-58
    Japanese Navy at WWII
    Umenomiya Taisha
    30 Fukeno Kawa Machi, Umezu
    Ukyo-ku, Kyoto 615-0921, Japan"

    Hashimoto's letter received press attention during the effort to clear Captain McVay's name, and, as a result, it no doubt helped in getting Congress to exonerate him. For some reason, however, it was not included in the Senate Armed Services Committee report. Meanwhile, some very interesting comments by Hashimoto were revealed in an English translation of his interview with the same journalist who acted as the go-between in arranging his letter to Senator Warner. Here are some excerpts from that interview in which Hashimoto speaks about his involvement in the court-martial of Captain McVay:

    "I understand English a little bit even then, so I could see at the time I testified that the translator did not tell fully what I said. I mean it was not because of the capacity of the translator. I would say the Navy side did not accept some testimony that were inconvenient to them ... I was then an officer of the beaten country, you know, and alone, how could I complain strong enough?"

    When asked how he would feel to have his views known about the court-martial, here was his response:

    "I would feel great. It will be pleasant. No matter what the occasion would be. Because at the time of the court-martial I had a feeling that it was contrived from the beginning" and "I wonder the outcome of that court-martial was set from the beginning."

    The stigma of Captain McVay's conviction, however, has remained to this day. On my HMS Kite pages, I have the transcript of the Board of Inquiry, I get the distinct impression that the format and questioning of survivors was such that they had predetermined the outcome of the enquiry.

    For an in-depth narrative on the history of the USS Indianapolis (Site no longer exists)

    August 20th 2017: 

    Researchers have found the wreckage of the U.S. warship Indianapolis, which was sunk by a Japanese torpedo in the final days of World War Two, more than 18,000 feet (5.5 kilometers) below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, the Navy said on Saturday. The cruiser was returning from its mission to deliver components for the atomic bomb that would soon be dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima when it was fired upon in the North Pacific Ocean by a Japanese submarine on July 30, 1945. It sunk in 12 minutes, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington. No distress signal was sent. About 800 of the 1,196 crew members aboard survived the sinking, but only 316 were rescued alive five days later, with the rest lost to exposure, dehydration, drowning and sharks. After a Navy historian unearthed new information in 2016 about the warship's last movements that pointed to a new search area, a team of civilian researchers led by Paul Allen, a Microsoft Corp co-founder, spent months searching in a 600-square-mile (1,500-square-kilometer) patch of ocean.

    9 December 2021. A programme on tv, 'Draining the Ocean' showed the Petrel, a deep water search vessel had previous found the Lexington and the Fuso, found and filmed the remains of the ship. What was clearly transparent from the first section of film was the fact the all portholes were open and all hatchways were open. This had been done, on Captains orders, because the heat was almost unbearable (being 100F outside). All ports and hatchways were open to ensure a steady flow of air through the ship. Sadly his order to return to zig zagging came too late. The moon had risen and illuminated the ship in the periscope of the submarine.

    Reuters Link

August 2020. I have been sent an email from an aviator friend of mine with regards to the PBY Catalina rescue plane.

Just after midnight on 30/07/1945 the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed in the Philippine Sea by a Japanese submarine. The heavy cruiser was returning from Tinian, a tiny island in the West Pacific, where it had dropped off components for an atomic bomb. The ship sank in 11 minutes & led to the greatest loss of life at sea in the U.S. Navy’s history. The ship’s mission was classified & no one in the Navy’s chain of command missed them for four (4) days. Of the 1,200 men serving on USS Indianapolis, approximately 900 survived the torpedo attack & were left to fend for themselves w/little or no food or water for four days in shark-infested waters. By the time a seaplane spotted them & rescue ships arrived, only 316 men were still alive.

The Angels of the Sky & Water

Wilbur Gwinn

As day four dawned for the sailors of the Indy, hope was quickly fading. Watching their friends being devoured alive by the frenzied sharks and even witnessing fights as hallucinating sailors turned on one another, it was no wonder despair was sinking in. And so, perhaps it was divine intervention, maybe it was luck, but late morning that 4th day, American pilot Lieutenant Wilbur Gwinn was flying his PV-1 Ventura Bomber when he had trouble with an aerial antenna. Handing control over to his co-pilot, Gwinn moved to the back of the plane to attempt to fix the equipment. According to Dr. Haynes, Gwinn said his neck got sore hunching over the antenna, so he stretched out in the blister, looked down, & happened to focus his eyes on the water below at just the right moment.

Seeing what he later described as a big black smudge in the water, Gwinn assumed a Japanese submarine was disabled in the ocean below. Excited to finish it off, he took the controls and circled around to drop his bombs on the imagined sub. But as they drew nearer, he realized there were a large number of men bobbing lifelessly in the water. Waggling his plane’s wings to let the men below know he saw them, Gwinn radioed ahead to alert his base on the island of Peleliu. In a stroke of asinine bureaucratic idiocy, the Navy wasted three hours denying there could possibly be a ship’s crew floating in the ocean. Three hours before they ordered rescue be sent. Gwinn dropped what life jackets & canisters of water he had to the survivors, but according to Dr. Haynes the canisters ruptured on impact.

Rather than immediately sending a rescue crew, the Navy ordered a single airplane to do recon. A PBY5A (Patrol Bomber, Y is a manufacturer code) Catalina Seaplane piloted by Lieutenant Adrian Marks took off from the island of Peleliu in search of the disaster site. Marks was under strict orders to look & report only, but when he arrived at the scene, what he saw made him decide to ignore those orders. As he flew overhead, he witnessed a shark attack. According to his daughter, Joan, with whom he shared his story at great length & down to the smallest detail, Marks was gripped with horror as he watched a white tip shark savagely attack & devour a screaming sailor alive. So he went against standing orders not to land or become actively involved, & turned to land his PBY on the water. 

It was a tricky landing due to the chop of the water, but he managed it by landing in a power-on stall w/the tail down & the nose up. Marks remembers rivets popping out of the PBY’s hull from the sheer force of the landing, but he did it. At 1st he headed for the groups of men, but then he realized there were individuals floating alone all over. Understanding sailors on their own were at far greater risk of being mauled and eaten, Marks taxied the seaplane along while his flight crew pulled sailors aboard. Marks’ heroic actions are all the more astounding when you realize that until one of the oil-covered survivors uttered the word “Indianapolis,” he didn’t know who he was putting himself at risk to help. It could have been, quite literally, anyone, and we were a nation at war.

John Woolston speaks of how the flight crewmember lifting men out of the water was a “short fire-plug of a man” & Italian by descent. In fact, as fate would have it, the man who lifted the sailors out of the water had been a wrestler in high school & continued his body-building to that day. He was the best possible choice for a man to pull dozens of other men out of the water, and he just happened to be aboard Adrian Marks’ PBY. At one point, as the plane taxied towards a man floating alone, the rescuers realized they did not have enough time to make another pass. If they missed him on their 1st attempt and were forced to circle around, it was clear he would either succumb to the inky depths or be ripped apart by the circling sharks. The Italian reached down into the water as the plane moved by with surprising speed, grabbed the sailor under his arms, & flung him up into the air, over his own head, & into the belly of the plane.

Adrian Marks later described it as if you were standing on a chair & had to reach down to the floor to pick someone up who was absolute dead weight … while the chair moved away & the man fought his own rescue. Many of the sailors in the water were past the point of delirium & thought their rescuers were Japanese or could not comprehend what was happening at all, & as a result they fought wildly. Kicking, screaming & clawing, trying to swim away & doing everything possible to avoid rescue, many men had to be forcibly wrestled into the plane. John Woolston was one of the men rescued by pilot Adrian Marks, & he remembers the moment the plane taxied by & he was jerked up out of the water with what he recounts as herculean strength.

To the crew of the Indy, Wilbur “Chuck” Gwinn was their Angel of the Sky & Adrian Marks was their Angel in the Water. Knowing full well he could be spotted by the enemy, Marks turned his lights on to enable distant approaching ships to locate them more quickly as he stacked the men, he described, “like cordwood”. When he ran out of room inside the plane, he couldn’t bring himself to stop. He began wrapping men in the silk parachutes on board and tying them to the fabric-covered wings of the plane to stop them from sliding off. He used every available surface, & when he finally had no choice but to stop, he had rescued 56 men (18% of the 317 survivors).

One of the most amazing moments of the rescue, according to Marks, was the dehydrated sailors’ reactions while being given sips of water. There was nowhere near enough water on the PBY to give the men more than a tiny portion each, & Marks & his crew crawled from man to man, doling out tiny sips of their precious clean water stores. Not only did none of the men ever ask for extra water, but they spoke up if a crew member lost track & tried to give them a sip meant for another sailor. Marks had never before seen such loyalty & honor. Despite what had to be body-wracking pain & hellish misery from four days in the salt water, the survivors of the Indy displayed loyalty to their fellow sailors above all else.

Cecil J Doyle 

The nearest ship was the USS Cecil Doyle (DD-368), a John C. Butler class destroyer escort, far smaller than the lost Indianapolis at just 306’ in length & 1,305 tons. She was a fairly new ship, her keel laid in May of 1944, and her CO, Captain W. Graham Claytor, Junior, ordered her run at full speed to the coordinates relayed to him by pilot Adrian Marks: 11°30’N., 133°30’E. Captain Claytor made this decision of his own accord in response to Marks’ call for help, saving countless lives: The U.S. Navy’s 3-hour delay in ordering rescue was still dragging on when Claytor altered his ship’s course. The Doyle arrived hours after Marks’ PBY. Had Marks failed to land & take men on board, ensign John Woolston may not have survived to tell his story.

Survivors on Guam

Upon her arrival, the Doyle began to approach Marks’ PBY in the darkness, but was forced to halt some distance away to avoid injuring or killing sailors in the water. WW II was underway, although nearing its end … thanks to the Indianapolis … and enemy ships & planes could have appeared from any direction. Despite that reality, & at significant danger to himself, Captain Claytor turned on the Doyle’s massive spotlight, in part to guide coming rescuers, but also, he said, to offer hope to the men floating in the water. For many, the appearance of the ship’s spotlight was their 1st hope & knowledge of rescue. The Doyle pulled 93 survivors out of the water & gave final rites to 21 dead sailors. She was the 1st ship to arrive on 2nd August 1945, & the last to leave the scene on 8th August 1945, after days spent searching the Pacific for sailors. If not for Gwinn, the Angel of the Sky; Marks, the Angel in the Water; Captain Claytor, the Doyle, & their crews, who knows if any men would’ve had the strength or will to survive another day.

NOTE: 1,195 Sailors & Marines sailed on the final voyage of the USS Indianapolis. 879 were lost when the Indy was sunk on 30/7/1945. 316 were eventually rescued. As of 28/7/2020, the number that matters most now is 10. That’s the number of USS Indianapolis Sailors still alive today.

Adrian Marks dies at 81

WW II Pilot who led the rescue of 56 USS Indianapolis survivors

15 March 1998

Adrian Marks & his crew in front of a PBY Catalina seaplane.

Adrian Marks, a Navy pilot who rescued 56 sailors struggling in the shark-filled Philippine Sea after the cruiser USS Indianapolis was sunk by Japanese torpedoes in July 1945, died on March 7th (1998) at Clinton County Hospital in his hometown of Frankfort (IN). He was 81.

Lieutenant Marks was flying a seaplane designed for landings only in calm water. He had been ordered never to touch down on the high seas. But on what he would remember as ''a sun-swept afternoon of horror,'' he disregarded his orders, risking his life & the lives of his eight crewmen, & began a dramatic mass rescue following the worst disaster at sea in American naval history. The attack took almost 900 lives.   Lieutenant Marks later had the Air Medal pinned on him by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet. 

The Indianapolis, unescorted & carrying 1,200 men, was en route to the Philippines from Guam, having delivered atomic bomb components to Tinian, when it was spotted by the Japanese submarine I-58 around midnight of Sunday, July 29th.

The submarine skipper, Lieutenant Commander Mochitsura Hashimoto, ordered the firing of six torpedoes; two struck the Indianapolis. Rocked by the explosions, she rolled over & sank in 12 minutes. Some 400 men were lost outright, but 800 others scrambled into the water as S-O-S's were radioed.  

No one ever heard the distress calls, so far as is known. And because of slip-ups & bureaucratic lapses, Navy commanders would not think to look for the Indianapolis even when it became officially overdue at Leyte Gulf, the Philippines.

All thru Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday, the survivors of the torpedo attack … suffering from injuries, sunburn & dehydration & menaced by sharks … thrashed about in the sea. By Thursday, August 2nd, only 320 of the men were still alive. Then, at about 10AM, a Navy pilot flying a routine mission spotted figures bobbing in the water.

Lieutenant Marks, summoned from the island of Peleliu, piloted the 1st rescue plane to arrive. He dropped three life rafts in the late afternoon, but one broke up when it hit the water. He then polled his crew members about whether they should make a dangerous open-sea landing that was forbidden by regulations. When they agreed, he set down his PBY5A Catalina plane, known as a Dumbo, amid 12’ swells. The plane bounced 15’ in the air after hitting the waves, but incurred only slight damage.

Speaking at a reunion of Indianapolis survivors exactly 30 years later, he remembered his crew members' realization that they could not rescue everyone. ''We would have to make heartbreaking decisions,'' he recalled.

''I decided that the men in groups stood the best chance of survival,'' Lieutenant Marks said. ''They could look after one another, could splash & scare away the sharks & could lend one another moral support & encouragement.''

Lieutenant Marks' crewmen 1st picked up the men who were alone, throwing life rings attached to ropes to the men. Soon there were two survivors in each bunk on the plane, & then men were lying two & three deep in all the compartments. Lieutenant Marks later shut off the engines & put additional survivors on the bobbing wings, tying the last of the 56 men down with parachute material.

And then night came. ''Even tho we were near the equator, the wind whipped up,'' he remembered. ''We had long since dispensed the last drop of water, & scores of badly injured men were softly crying with thirst & with pain. And then, far out on the horizon, there was a light.''

It was the destroyer Cecil J. Doyle (below), the 1st of seven rescue ships that were belatedly dispatched.

The survivors were hauled onto the Doyle, followed by Lieutenant Marks & his crewmen, & the Doyle & other ships later fished others out of the water. The next morning, the Doylesank Lieutenant Marks' plane, now too damaged to fly again.

Twelve days later, Japan surrendered, ending WW II.

The skipper of the Indianapolis, Captain Charles B. McVay 3rd, was court-martialed in December 1945 & found to have left his ship vulnerable to torpedoes by maintaining a straight course rather than zigzagging. He was allowed to remain on duty, but his career was ruined. Reprimands were issued to four officers in the Pacific over the failure to mount a timely rescue operation, but these were later rescinded.

Robert Adrian Marks (he did not use his 1st name), a native of Ladoga (IN), & the son of a lawyer, had graduated from Northwestern University & Indiana University Law School before the war. He was stationed at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on 12/7/1941. He later attended flight school, became a pilot & served as an instructor at the Pensacola (FL) naval air station (NAS) before going to the Pacific. After the war, he returned to his Frankfort home … some 40 miles from Indianapolis … & opened a law practice, specializing in real-estate titles & deeds.

He is survived by his wife, Elta; a son, Robert, of Bellevue (WA); three daughters, Pamela Levine of Lakeville (MA), Alexis Shuman of Enumclaw (WA) & Lynn Larson of Olympia (WA); a foster son, John Barlas of Mercer Island (WA) & ten grandchildren.

Over the years, Mr. Marks never let the events of 2/8/1945, leave him.

Speaking at the 1975 survivors' reunion, he paid tribute to the sailors he rescued & to all others who had undergone a shattering ordeal.

''I met you 30 years ago,'' he said. ''I met you on a sparkling, sun-swept afternoon of horror. I have known you thru a balmy tropic night of fear. I will never forget you.''