Navy's failure to note us missing when we were long overdue
in port and then making Captain McVay the scapegoat are the
Quote from the late Joseph Kiselica, USS Indianapolis
survivor, from June 21, 1998 article by Bob Sudyk entitled
"Redemption for Sailor Joe" in the Hartford (CN)
Navy knew that the submarine which sank us was in our path.
They did not tell Captain McVay. We were sent into harm's
way, then forgotten, by these and many examples of carelessness."
statement submitted at September 1999 Senate hearing by Michael
N. Kuryla Jr., USS Indianapolis survivor
A giant step
to clear the name of Captain McVay was taken in October of
2000 when legislation was passed expressing the sense of Congress
that his "military record should now reflect that he is exonerated"
for the loss of the USS Indianapolis and the lives
of the men lost in that tragedy so many years ago.
Clinton signed that legislation on October 30, implying his
concurrence, it thus represented the view of both Legislative
and Executive Branches of our federal government that Captain
McVay was not responsible for the disaster which led to his
court-martial, his conviction, his humiliation, and the end
of his promising Navy career.
Organization would like to express genuine gratitude to those
in Congress who helped in the passage of this legislation
with special thanks to Senator Bob Smith (R-NH) and Representatives
Joe Scarborough (R-FL) and Neil Abercrombie (D-HA). Special
thanks also should be extended to young Hunter Scott, of Pensacola,
Florida, who, beginning at the age of eleven, renewed interest
in and campaigned steadfastly to correct this injustice.
is dedicated to the story of how Hunter Scott revived the
effort to clear Captain McVay's name over 50 years after his
court-marital and how he joined with survivors of the Indianapolis
and many of their supporters in getting legislation through
it should be emphasized that passage of the legislation did
not clear the conviction from Captain McVay's record. As noted
in the Introduction, Congress has rules against even considering
bills which alter military records.
the responses I got back were unanimous, and most were strongly
worded in anger and outrage over the court-martial and conviction
of their captain."
testimony at September 1999 Senate hearing by Hunter Scott,
describing results of questionnaire he sent to all Indianapolis
the first organized effort by survivors to clear Captain McVay's
name did not commence until 1960 when the Survivors Organization
was formally established, it was never able to gain sufficient
public attention until 1996 when an eleven-year-old boy, Hunter
Scott, for Pensacola, Florida, saw the movie "Jaws" and was
moved by the very accurate soliloquy of one of the actors
who explained his hatred of the sharks by telling his story
of surviving the attack upon the Indianapolis.
When told the
actor was describing an event which was true, young Hunter
began researching the story for what became an award-winning
school history project but then, still fascinated, pursued
it further, obtaining addresses of all survivors to whom he
sent a questionnaire. One of the questions was whether they
felt Captain McVay's court-martial was justified and his conviction
As he subsequently
testified in a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee
on September 15, 1999, "all of the responses I got back were
unanimous, and most were strongly worded in outrage and anger"
over the Navy's treatment of Captain McVay.
set Hunter Scott on a crusade to clear Captain McVay's name.
Because of his youth, he attracted media attention which,
in turn, attracted the attention of the Survivors Organization
and that of his member of Congress, Representative Joe Scarborough.
This led to invitations, first to the 1996 survivors' reunion
in Indianapolis, then to join a group of survivors in Hawaii
in 1997 for a short trip on the nuclear submarine the USS
It also led
to a 1997 promise from Representative Scarborough that he
would introduce legislation in 1998, and plans were made for
Hunter and a group of survivors to travel to Washington to
support Scarborough's Bill.
In April of
1998 fifteen survivors and Hunter Scott arrived in Washington
and met with members of both House and Senate, urging support
for Representative Scarborough's bill (H.R. 3610) which urged
a presidential pardon for Captain McVay. Unwittingly, it did
not take into consideration the fact that Captain McVay had,
in effect, already been pardoned in 1946 when Admiral Nimitz
remitted his sentence and restored him to duty.
a new Congress convened in 1999, Representative Scarborough
introduced a joint resolution (H.J. Res. 48) which, among
other things, expressed the sense of Congress that Captain
McVay's court-martial was morally unsustainable and that his
conviction was a miscarriage of justice. Once again in April
of 1999 Hunter Scott and fourteen Indianapolis survivors
traveled to Washington to meet with key members of Congress
in support of the Scarborough resolution.
On this visit
they persuaded Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire to introduce
an identical companion measure in the Senate (S.J. Res. 23),
and over the ensuing months over 100 House members joined
as co-sponsors of the Scarborough resolution and sixteen senators
as co-sponsors of the Smith resolution.
A major breakthrough
occurred when Senator Smith persuaded Senator John Warner
(R-VA), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to
hold a hearing on his joint resolution. The hearing was held
on September 14, 1999. Ten survivors came to Washington for
the hearing, and seventeen survivors submitted statements
for the record.
behalf of Senator Smith's resolution were Hunter Scott; survivors
Paul Murphy, Harlan Twible, and Giles McCoy, and Dan Kurzman
author of "Fatal Voyage." It was apparent that the eloquent
and emotional testimony of these witnesses made an impression
on Senator Warner. Additionally, the Navy witnesses had difficulty
responding to testimony which clearly indicated that mistakes
which caused the sinking of the Indianapolis were beyond
Captain McVay's Control.
here for a more complete report on the Senate hearing
prepared for the Survivors Organization newsletter.
here to view the language of the legislation.
2000 there was a constant stream of letters from survivors
and their friends to Senator Warner and consistent support
from the media, including an excellent cover article in Parade
Magazine on August 20 by Peter Maas entitles "It's Time
to Right a Wrong."
Senator Smith convinced Senator Warner to add S.J Res. 26
as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act
of 2001. Because of strong opposition of the Department of
the Navy, the language of the resolution was altered to omit
any reference to the court-martial being morally unsustainable
or the conviction being unjust.
It did, however,
express the sense of Congress that Captain McVay's record
should reflect that "he is exonerated for the loss of
the USS Indianapolis," representing acknowledgment
at last by the Federal Government that he was not guilty for
the tragedy which led to his shameful conviction.
As a footnote,
although the Navy admirals had strongly opposed the legislation
to exonerate, they must have learned a lesson. Following the
terrorist attack on the USS Cole in the Red Sea harbor on
October 12, 2001, the Navy decided not to court-martial her
captain. It gave as reasons that the captain of the Cole (1)
had taken all reasonable precautions to prevent such an attack
and (2) had not been adequately warned of the danger to his
ship in the harbor.
The same reasons
were used in the successful effort to exonerate Captain McVay.
It might be concluded that the Navy did not want another controversy
on their hands.