The U.S. Navy's greatest sea disaster occurred on July 30, 1945, when the USS Indianapolis was hit by two torpedoes and went down in 12 minutes. More than 850 men lost their lives as the U.S. fought to end World War II in the Pacific.
Two of the 321 survivors were Pvt. 1st Class Giles McCoy, of St. Louis, and the ship's captain, Charles Butler McVay III. McVay was court-martialed even though the evidence showed that it was the Navy who had put the ship in harm's way, not McVay. It was through the tireless efforts of McCoy, with help from Pensacola sixth-grader Hunter Scott, that finally, after 50 years, McVay was cleared of all charges regarding the loss of the USS Indianapolis.
McCoy was also responsible for organizing the first survivors reunion in 1960 and served as chairman of the USS Indianapolis Survivors Organization for many years.
Although McVay took his own life in 1968 and McCoy died in 2009, the story of the USS Indianapolis continues. After 72 years, the USS Indianapolis was found by a civilian search team at 18,000 feet in the Philippine Sea on Aug. 18, 2017. The wreckage belongs to the U.S. Navy, and there are no places to move it.
"On December 20, 2018, President Donald J. Trump signed the USS Indianapolis Congressional Gold Medal Act into law. The law calls for the award of a Congressional Gold Medal — collectively — to the crew of USS Indianapolis, in recognition of their perseverance, dedication and uncommon bravery while in the service of a nation engaged in a global struggle for freedom." (David J. Ryder, Director, US Mint)
The next chapter: the commissioning of the new USS Indianapolis (LCS 17). The commissioning ceremony is scheduled to take place Oct. 26. The event is open to the public, but tickets to attend are required and have already been allotted.
Elizabeth Davis was born and raised in Cooper County, Missouri, and has written Historically Yours for the Boonville Daily News since April 2008. In celebration of Missouri's upcoming Bicentennial, she has syndicated her column statewide and encourages readers all over the Show Me State to submit topic suggestions for future columns to HistoricallyYours.email@example.com.