it is time your peoples forgave
Captain McVay for the humiliation
of his unjust conviction."
November 24, 1999, letter by Mochitsura Hashimoto,
commander of submarine which sank the Indianapolis,
to Senator John W. Warner, Chairman,
Senate Armed Services Committee
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.
reasons which will be explained, his death saddened many Indianapolis
survivors. His path was to cross theirs again in years to
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
years later Hashimoto responded to this forgiveness by volunteering
support to the survivors in their efforts to clear Captain
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.
text of that letter follows:
Attn: The Honorable John W. Warner
Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee
Russell Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510
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.
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.
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.
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.
former captain of I-58
Japanese Navy at WWII
30 Fukeno Kawa Machi, Umezu
Ukyo-ku, Kyoto 615-0921, Japan"
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
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:
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?"
asked how he would feel to have his views known about the
court-martial, here was his response:
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"
wonder the outcome of that court-martial was set from the
told of the efforts of young Hunter Scott to clear Captain
McVay's name, Hashimoto replied as follows:
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."
little Shinto priest and a former wartime foe had joined the
Indianapolis survivors in their quest for justice.