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"Perhaps it is time your peoples forgave
Captain McVay for the humiliation
of his unjust conviction."

From November 24, 1999, letter by Mochitsura Hashimoto,
commander of submarine which sank the Indianapolis,
to Senator John W. Warner, Chairman,
Senate Armed Services Committee

Mochitsura Hashimoto

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 honored 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 Honorable 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."

When told of the efforts of young Hunter Scott to clear Captain McVay's name, Hashimoto replied as follows:

"This is the first time I am informed about Hunter Scott. Well, that's fine ... I hope he will succeed (in his effort) because it's a good thing to do."

The little Shinto priest and a former wartime foe had joined the Indianapolis survivors in their quest for justice.