Archive for the 'World War II' Category

Aug 14

Landing the Planes

Friday, August 14, 2015 11:12 AM

An excerpt from “‘The Big E’ Leadership Factory,” by Barrett Tillman, in the October 2015 issue of Naval History.

Lieutenant Robin M. Lindsey, USS Enterprise landing-signal officer, epitomized leadership on the flight deck. (USS Enterprise CV-6 Association)

Lieutenant Robin M. Lindsey, USS Enterprise landing-signal officer, epitomized leadership on the flight deck. (USS Enterprise CV-6 Association)

Leadership also was evident on the Enterprise’s flight deck, never better demonstrated than during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands at the height of the Guadalcanal campaign. The ship’s landing-signal officer was Lieutenant Robin M. Lindsey, assisted by the air group LSO, Lieutenant (junior grade) James G. Daniels. Lindsey had been on board since July 1941 and learned the “paddles” trade under the tutelage of prewar LSOs. Daniels had survived Fighting Squadron Six’s debacle in the night sky over Pearl Harbor on 7 December when panicked Navy and Marine gunners shot at anything, killing three Big E aviators.

During the carrier battle of 26 October 1942, the Enterprise’s sister, the Hornet (CV-8), sustained fatal damage from Japanese aircraft. The Big E had to accept the Hornet’s orphaned aircraft, but her flight deck began to fill up. She had taken a bomb hit that jammed the forward elevator full up, leaving only the number two elevator available to take planes to the hangar deck while room remained topside.

Standing on the LSO platform, Lindsey and Daniels brought plane after plane aboard. Eventually the “pack” moved steadily aft until only the last few arresting wires—closest to the stern—were available. Daniels bet Lindsey a dime for every plane he “cut” onto the “one wire,” which planes hardly ever snagged. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Aug 13

Restoring the US/C-3 Infrared Signalling Telescope

Thursday, August 13, 2015 2:15 PM
Bottom view

Bottom view of the US/C-3 Infrared Signalling Telescope. Collection of Tom Cutler.

In Greek Mythology, the prophet Tiresias was blinded by the gods as punishment for revealing their secrets. He begged the goddess Athena to restore his sight, but she could not. Instead, she gave him the gift of foresight, and Tiresias spent the remainder of his days spouting prophesy.

Tiresias had seen too much and had paid the price for it. Such too may be the case of a battered US/C-3 infrared signalling telescope that came into this writer’s care for restoration.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
Aug 4

Semper Paratus

Tuesday, August 4, 2015 9:00 AM

Semper Paratus

Signalman First Class Douglas Munro

Signalman First Class Douglas Munro

As the daughter of a Coast Guard officer and in honor of Coast Guard Day, I present the story of Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro, USCG. SM1 Munro is the U.S. Coast Guard’s only Medal of Honor recipient. He was awarded the nation’s highest honor posthumously for his service in World War II during the battle of Guadalcanal.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
Apr 1

Operation Iceberg — Okinawa Invasion in 1945

Wednesday, April 1, 2015 1:33 PM

By Joshua L. Wick, Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

Editor’s Note: The following photos tell just a brief story of the U.S. Navy’s involvement during the Okinawa Invasion and Battle of Okinawa. One of the unique items NHHC has in its archives is an oral history of Cmdr. Frederick J. Becton, commanding officer of destroyer USS Laffey (DD-724), which saw action during the Okinawa operations. To read Cmdr. Becton’s interview click here. All the photos below are courtesy of NHHC’s Photo Archives, the Navy Art Collection and the National Archives.

 D-Day Plus One, Green Beach, Okinawa. Artwork Mitchell Jamieson. Courtesy of the Navy Combat Art Collection. KN 21276 (Color).


D-Day Plus One, Green Beach, Okinawa. Artwork Mitchell Jamieson. Courtesy of the Navy Combat Art Collection. KN 21276 (Color).

On April 1, 1945, under heavy naval gunfire and aircraft support, U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps troops began the invasion of Okinawa, the last major amphibious assault of World War II. For Japan, the island was the barrier to a direct invasion of its homeland, while to the Allies, once the island was in their control, it would clear the path for the final invasion of Japan. When the island was finally declared secure on June 21, after 82 days of battle, the campaign ended up being the largest and one of the most costly battles in the Pacific.

Okinawa Operation. USS Idaho (BB 42) bombarding, circa April 1, 1945. Destroyer at left is probably USS Franks (DD 554). Courtesy of Robert O. Baumrucker, 1978. (Photo Courtesy of NHHC Photo Archives, NH 89368)

Okinawa Operation. USS Idaho (BB 42) bombarding, circa April 1, 1945. Destroyer at left is probably USS Franks (DD 554). Courtesy of Robert O. Baumrucker, 1978. (Photo Courtesy of NHHC Photo Archives, NH 89368)

 Okinawa Ryukyus Islands, 1 April 1945. Landing craft heading towards the beach. (Photo Courtesy of the National Archives) 80-G-313055


Okinawa Ryukyus Islands, April 1, 1945. Landing craft heading towards the beach. (Photo Courtesy of the National Archives) 80-G-313055

Vice Adm. Richmond K. Turner, Commanding Task Force 51, confers with Army and Marine Commanders on board his flagship, USS Eldorado (AGC 11), circa late March or early April 1945. They are working with a relief model of the South-Central part of Okinawa, with the main invasion beaches at right. Turner is in the center, with Army Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner on left and Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Oliver P. Smith, , on right. 80-G-48820.

Vice Adm. Richmond K. Turner, Commanding Task Force 51, confers with Army and Marine Commanders on board his flagship, USS Eldorado (AGC 11), circa late March or early April 1945. They are working with a relief model of the South-Central part of Okinawa, with the main invasion beaches at right. Turner is in the center, with Army Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner on left and Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Oliver P. Smith, , on right. 80-G-48820.

The invasion and ultimate seizure of Okinawa was not an easy operation, in fact it was a significantly costly operation. From April – June 1945, U.S. Navy merchant ships went to this island in great numbers with the intent of bringing much needed supplies — bombs, gasoline, and more, to consolidate the operational needs of this outpost on the direct road to Tokyo.

USS Idaho (BB-42). Bombarding Okinawa with her 14"/50 main battery guns, 1 April 1945. Photographed from USS West Virginia (BB-48). (Photo Courtesy of the National Archives) 80-G-K-3829 (Color).

USS Idaho (BB-42). Bombarding Okinawa with her 14″/50 main battery guns, April 1, 1945. Photographed from USS West Virginia (BB-48). (80-G-K-3829 (Color).

 USS Indiana (BB-58). Chaplain serves Holy Communion while holding Mass on the quarterdeck, during the Okinawa operation, 1 April 1945. (Photo Courtesy of the National Archives) 80-G-325209.


USS Indiana (BB-58). Chaplain serves Holy Communion while holding Mass on the quarterdeck, during the Okinawa operation, April 1, 1945. 80-G-325209.

 Okinawa Operation, 1945. Marines climb down a debarkation ladder from a Coast-Guard manned assault transport to board an LCVP to take part in the initial attack on Okinawa, 1 April 1945. Courtesy of Robert O. Baumrucker, 1978. (Photo Courtesy of the NHHC Photo Archives), NH 89369.


Okinawa Operation, 1945. Marines climb down a debarkation ladder from a Coast-Guard manned assault transport to board an LCVP to take part in the initial attack on Okinawa, April 1,1945. Courtesy of Robert O. Baumrucker, 1978. NH 89369.

The operation, under the strategic command of Adm. Raymond A. Spruance, began with 5th Fleet air strikes against Kyushu on March 18, 1945, and initial landings on Okinawa itself on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945. An enormous assemblage of ships participated in the operation, during which 36 of them of destroyer size or smaller were lost, most to the heaviest concentration of kamikaze attacks of the war.

USS West Virginia (BB-48). Crewmen on watch on a 40mm Quad. Gun Mount, while their ship was supporting the Invasion of Okinawa, 1 April 1945. 80-G-K-4707 (Color).

USS West Virginia (BB-48). Crewmen on watch on a 40mm Quad. Gun Mount, while their ship was supporting the Invasion of Okinawa, April 1, 1945. 80-G-K-4707 (Color).

USS Tennessee bombards Okinawa on April 1, 1945, while LVTs head for the beach.

USS Tennessee bombards Okinawa on April 1, 1945, while LVTs head for the beach.

 Okinawa Invasion, April 1945. LVTs and other landing craft head for the Okinawa landing beaches on 1 April 1945. USS LCI(G)-809 is partially visible at left, helping to cover the assault, with another LCI beyond her. Photographed from USS West Virginia (BB-48). 80-G-K-3848 (Color).


Okinawa Invasion, April 1945. LVTs and other landing craft head for the Okinawa landing beaches on 1 April 1945. USS LCI(G)-809 is partially visible at left, helping to cover the assault, with another LCI beyond her. Photographed from USS West Virginia (BB-48). 80-G-K-3848 (Color).

 Okinawa Invasion, 1945. USS LSM 85, off Okinawa, during the landings there circa 1 April 1945. 80-G-K-4922 (Color).


Okinawa Invasion, 1945. USS LSM 85, off Okinawa, during the landings there circa 1 April 1945. 80-G-K-4922 (Color).

USS Hutchins (DD 476) operating off Okinawa during the landings there, circa April 1, 1945. Other destroyers are in the background. 80-G-K-4919 (Color).

USS Hutchins (DD 476) operating off Okinawa during the landings there, circa April 1, 1945. Other destroyers are in the background. 80-G-K-4919 (Color).

Almost 8,000 enemy aircraft were destroyed in the air or on the ground.

 Okinawa Operations, 1945. Six USS Hancock (CV 19) TBM bombers fly near Okinawa, while supporting the invasion forces, 4 April 1945. 80-G-319244.


Okinawa Operations, 1945. Six USS Hancock (CV 19) TBM bombers fly near Okinawa, while supporting the invasion forces, 4 April 1945. 80-G-319244.

Okinawa Landings, April 1945. View of one of the beaches taken by CPhoM E.W. Peck off USS Tulagi (CVE 72), April 3, 1945. Several LSTs and LSMs are on the beach with other shipping offshore. Note LVTs in fields in the foreground. 80-G-339237.

Okinawa Landings, April 1945. View of one of the beaches taken by CPhoM E.W. Peck off USS Tulagi (CVE 72), April 3, 1945. Several LSTs and LSMs are on the beach with other shipping offshore. Note LVTs in fields in the foreground. 80-G-339237.

As April 7 rolled around, the last remnants of the Japanese Navy were met by overwhelming Navy airpower. Japanese battleship Yamato, a cruiser, and four destroyers were sunk in the one-day battle. Once U.S. Joint Forces secured Okinawa, the supply lanes of the East China Sea were blocked, isolating all southern possessions which were still in Japanese hands … the last obstacle in the path to the Japanese Home Islands was finally cleared.

To learn more about the Navy’s participation at Okinawa, click here. You can also read more about the U.S. Army’s involvement by clicking here.

 
Mar 7

NHHC Director Speaks at USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association Reunion

Saturday, March 7, 2015 1:55 PM
USS Houston (CA30) in the San Diego Bay in Oct. 1935.

USS Houston (CA30) in the San Diego Bay in Oct. 1935.

 

This weekend members of the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association and Next Generations are gathered for their 2015 reunion in Houston, Texas. In addition to conducting the business of the organization the reunion featured a dinner last night in which Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox provided the keynote remarks updating reunion attendees on the NHHC study of the condition of Houston’s wreck as well as ongoing Navy and diplomatic efforts to prevent further unauthorized disturbance of the ship which is the final resting place of more than 700 Houston Sailors and Marines who went down with the ship.

Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox provides the keynote remarks at the 2015 Reunion of the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association & Next Generations. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox provides the keynote remarks at the 2015 Reunion of the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association & Next Generations. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

One of the highlights of this weekend’s event is the 72nd Anniversary Memorial Service held Saturday at Sam Houston Park’s USS Houston Memorial, honoring those lost onboard the ship and the survivors who have since passed away.

In 2014, a Naval History and Heritage Command underwater archaeologist assisted in a survey of the wreck of USS Houston as part of the 2014 Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series. U.S. Navy divers, assisted by personnel from the Indonesian navy, surveyed the World War II wreck in June. Houston was sunk during the World War II Battle of Sunda Strait Feb. 28, 1942 with the loss of more than seven hundred souls. The ship remains sovereign property of the U.S. under customary international law, and is a popular dive site.

Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox shares a laugh with John Schwarz, Executive Director of the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association and Next Generations. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox shares a laugh with John Schwarz, Executive Director of the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association and Next Generations. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

The purpose of the CARAT 2014 mission was to determine the vessel’s current condition and provide real-world training to rescue and salvage divers in maneuvering around a sunken ship. The team’s interim report confirmed the site’s identity and documented conclusive evidence of a pattern of unauthorized disturbance of the wreck site. While the findings from the interim report remain intact, the final report released last summer benefits from additional archival research and more exhaustively details the condition of the wreck.

Houston, nicknamed “The Galloping Ghost of the Java Coast,” was sunk in combat during the World War II Battle of Sunda Strait in 1942. Capt. Albert H. Rooks, the ship’s commanding officer who was killed in action, posthumously received the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism, while USS Houston was awarded two battle stars, as well as the Presidential Unit Citation.

Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox (second from left) enjoys dinner with reunion attendees. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox (second from left) enjoys dinner with reunion attendees. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox (second from left) enjoys dinner with reunion attendees. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

Cmdr. Andy Schroder, who represented the Royal Australian Navy at the reunion dinner, pauses for a photo with Naval History and Heritage Command Director Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox and Carter Conlin, USN retired and former Commander of the US Naval Order, Texas Commandery. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox (Right) with Stephen Reilly (center) grandson of USS Houston (CA 30) Sailor John Reilly and John Schwarz (left) son of Houston Sailor Otto Schwarz (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

Rear Adm. (Ret) Sam Cox (Right) with Stephen Reilly (center) grandson of USS Houston (CA 30) Sailor John Reilly and the 2015 USS Houston CA-30 Survivors Association & Next Generations scholarship winner along with John Schwarz (left) son of Houston Sailor Otto Schwarz (Photo courtesy of Tim Joseph)

The Department of the Navy’s sunken ship and aircraft wrecks represent a collection of more than 17,000 fragile, non-renewable cultural resources distributed worldwide. They often serve as war graves, safeguard state secrets, carry environmental and safety hazards such as oil and ordnance, and hold great historical value. While it is not feasible to conduct similar surveys of all sunken military craft, Navy leadership desires to ensure the final resting place of those who made the ultimate sacrifice when Houston went down remains in a respected and solemn condition.

The flag of the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association and Next Generations was also displayed at the reunion. (Photo courtesy Tim Joseph)

The flag of the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors Association and Next Generations was also displayed at the reunion. (Photo courtesy Tim Joseph)

The flag of the HMAS Perth Association was on display at the reunion. HMAS Perth, of the Royal Australian Navy was sailing with USS Houston when they were both caught and sunk by the Japanese at the Battle of Sunda Strait Feb. 28, 1942.

The flag of the HMAS Perth Association was on display at the reunion. HMAS Perth, of the Royal Australian Navy was sailing with USS Houston when they were both caught and sunk by the Japanese at the Battle of Sunda Strait Feb. 28, 1942.

 
Feb 26

‘Enemy Forces Engaged,’ USS Houston Fought Insurmountable Odds

Thursday, February 26, 2015 4:44 PM
19-N-13455: USS Houston (CA 30), starboard view. Undated and unknown location. (Photo courtesy of the National Archives)

19-N-13455: USS Houston (CA 30), starboard view. Undated and unknown location. (Photo courtesy of the National Archives)

By Capt. R. Mark Stacpoole, U.S. Navy, American Legation, U.S. Naval Attaché, Jakarta, Indonesia

I ask you to spend a minute this weekend in remembrance of the 1,082 brave men of the heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA 30). It was in the early hours of March 1st, 73 years ago, that she sailed for the final time into the teeth of enemy fire. While heading for the Sunda Strait, and in concert with the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth, she ran into the main Japanese invasion force then landing on the island of Java. This force consisted, in its entirety, of one light carrier, one seaplane carrier, five cruisers, 12 destroyers, a mine-layer and 58 troopships.

Low on fuel and with her after turret out of action, this as a result of earlier damage sustained at the Battle of Makassar Strait, Houston, along with Perth, entered the fray. The last message anyone would ever hear from these ships was a radio transmission sent by Houston; the message read “Enemy forces engaged.”

Perth went down first, fighting to the end, but even the heroism of her crew could not overcome four torpedo strikes and untold hits by enemy cannon. When Perth succumbed, 353 men went down with her including her commanding officer, Capt. Hector Waller.

Battle of Sunda Strait, 28 February – 1 March 1942. Painting by John Hamilton depicting USS Houston (CA 30) in her final action with Japanese forces. Courtesy of the US Navy Memorial Foundation. Painting from the John Hamilton collection. (Courtesy of NHHC Art Gallery)

Battle of Sunda Strait, 28 February – 1 March 1942. Painting by John Hamilton depicting USS Houston (CA 30) in her final action with Japanese forces. Courtesy of the US Navy Memorial Foundation. Painting from the John Hamilton collection. (Courtesy of NHHC Art Gallery)

Houston was now left alone, surrounded by enemy ships and aircraft. In quick succession she was hit by shell and torpedo but continued to fight on. Some time after 01:30, having been hit scores of times, faced with extensive flooding below decks, out of ammunition for her main guns, and with fires raging out of control, Capt. Albert Rooks, the commanding officer, gave the order to abandon ship. Only minutes later he was killed by an exploding Japanese shell.

Houston was bathed in the glare of Japanese searchlights, still under heavy fire and settling by the bow when her surviving crew gave her to the sea. As she began her final plunge one survivor wrote that “it seemed as a sudden breeze picked up the Stars and Stripes, still firmly blocked on the mainmast, and waved them in one last defiant gesture.” Other survivors saw red tracer fire still spitting out of a machine gun platform as one lone Marine, Gunnery Sgt. Walter Standish, true to the traditions of the Corps continued firing until the sea took him.

Some 675 Sailors and Marines died with Houston. Most of these men were killed during her final battle, were taken down with the ship or died when the pitiless tide washed them into the vast Indian Ocean but others were machine gunned as they swam helpless in the water.

The 366 survivors were taken into captivity, but their ordeal was far from over. Many would end up in POW camps in Burma, where they were forced, under inhuman conditions, to construct the infamous Burma Railway. Of this handful of survivors a further 76 died of sickness, abuse, torture, hunger and neglect. At war’s end in 1945 only 290 men remained, many broken in body but not in spirit, to return to the United States. Think of them, for they paid the full price in defense of our freedoms.

As one of the survivors later wrote —“Well Done , Well Done!”

JAVA SEA (Oct. 14, 2014 ) Naval officers from Australia, Indonesia and the United States participate in a wreath-laying ceremony aboard the submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40) in honor of the crews of the U.S. Navy heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA 30) and the Royal Australian Navy light cruiser HMAS Perth (D29). Both ships were sunk during World War II by Imperial Japanese forces within Indonesian waters during the battle of Sunda Strait in February 1942. Frank Cable, forward deployed to the island of Guam, conducts maintenance and support of submarines and surface vessels deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet areas of responsibility and is on a scheduled underway. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jon Erickson/Released)

Capt. R. Mark Stacpoole (center) along with other Naval officers from Australia, Indonesia and the United States participate in a wreath-laying ceremony aboard the submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40) in honor of the crews of the U.S. Navy heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA 30) and the Royal Australian Navy light cruiser HMAS Perth (D29). Both ships were sunk during World War II by Imperial Japanese forces within Indonesian waters during the battle of Sunda Strait in February 1942. Frank Cable, forward deployed to the island of Guam, conducts maintenance and support of submarines and surface vessels deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet areas of responsibility and is on a scheduled underway. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jon Erickson/Released)

 

 
Aug 29

Paying Respects to USS Houston (CA 30) Crew and the Navy Family

Friday, August 29, 2014 2:24 PM
WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2014) Vice Adm. Scott Swift, Director of the Navy Staff, poses for a photo during a meeting with family members of the USS Houston Survivors Association. Pictured are, from left to right: -Dr. Jay Thomas - Mr. Joel Earl Snyder, Ms. Davidson’s father; the son of a Houston survivor - Ms. Stacey Davidson, an Military Sealift Command employee who is a Houston survivor’s granddaughter - Vice Adm. Swift - Ms. Sue Kruetzer, President, USS Houston CA-30 Survivors Association and Next Generations - Mr. John Schwarz, Executive Director, USS Houston CA-30 Survivors Association and Next Generations - Dr. Alexis Catsambis(U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Gabrielle Blake)

WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2014) Vice Adm. Scott Swift, Director of the Navy Staff, poses for a photo during a meeting with family members of the USS Houston Survivors Association. Pictured are, from left to right: Jay Thomas, PhD; Joel Earl Snyder, Ms. Davidson’s father; the son of a Houston survivor; Stacey Davidson, a Military Sealift Command employee who is a Houston survivor’s granddaughter; Vice Adm. Swift; Ms. Sue Kreutzer, President, USS Houston CA 30 Survivors Association and Next Generations; John Schwarz, Executive Director, USS Houston CA-30 Survivors; Association and Next Generations; Alexis Catsambis, PhD, NHHC underwater archaeologist (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Gabrielle Blake)

By Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

Officers of the USS Houston CA 30 Survivors Association and Next Generations, and descendants of the crew from the World War II cruiser USS HOUSTON (CA 30) spent the day with naval leadership at the Pentagon and the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC). The Houston went down fighting during the Battle of Sunda Strait on March 1, 1942, with approximately 700 Sailors and Marines on board.

The visitors were:

– John Schwarz, Executive Director, USS Houston CA 30 Survivors Association and Next Generations

– Sue Kreutzer, President, USS Houston CA-30 Survivors Association and Next Generation

– Joel Earl Snyder, Ms. Davidson’s father; the son of a Houston survivor

– Stacey Davidson, a Military Sealift Command employee who is a Houston survivor’s granddaughter

 

As part of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) 2014 exercise in June, U.S. Navy divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) One Company 1-5, along with personnel from the Indonesian navy, surveyed the wreck during a joint training evolution.

 

Earlier this month the Navy released its findings from the interim assessment and is working with Indonesia to preserve and protect the site from further disturbance. While there the joint team paid their respects to the crew by laying a wreath at the site.

140829-N-GE301-002 WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2014) Vice Adm. Scott Swift, Director of the Navy Staff meets with family members of the USS Houston Survivors Association. (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Gabrielle Blake)

WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2014) Vice Adm. Scott Swift, Director of the Navy Staff meets with family members of the USS Houston Survivors Association. (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Gabrielle Blake)

During their visit, they met in the Pentagon with the Director of Navy Staff Vice Adm. Scott Swift. At NHHC headquarters at the Washington Navy Yard they met with the Acting Director Jim Kuhn. They were hosted throughout the tour by Jay Thomas, PhD, NHHC assistant director for Collections Management, and Alexis Catsambis, PhD, the Navy’s underwater archaeologist who both supported the joint survey off Indonesia in June and authored the interim assessment report.

WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2014) - Kate Morand (left-right), Archaeologist from Naval History and Heritage Command's (NHHC) Underwater Archaeology (UA) Division, shows Johnathan Schwarz, executive director, USS Houston CA-30 Survivors Association and Next Generations, as well as association member, Joel Snyder, a trumpet that was taken from the wreck of the WWII-era cruiser USS Houston and is undergoing preservation at the UA conservation lab, as her coworker Alexis Catsambis, Ph.D., listens. The association members were escorted on their tour of NHHC by the command's Collections Management Division Director, Jay Thomas, Ph.D., and Underwater Archeology Archeologist, Alexis Catsambis, Ph.D. USS Houston was sunk during WWII's Battle of Sunda Strait, with only about 1/3 of the 1,061 crew surviving. The U.S. Navy uses NHHC's UA Division professionals to help keep track of and protect all seaborne and airborne craft that lie below the waterline. (Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford / Released)

WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2014) – Kate Morrand (left-right), an archaeologist from Naval History and Heritage Command’s Underwater Archaeology (UA) Division, shows John Schwarz, executive director, USS Houston CA 30 Survivors Association and Next Generations, as well as association member, Joel Snyder, a trumpet that was taken from the wreck of the WWII-era cruiser USS Houston and is undergoing preservation at the UA conservation lab. Coworker and underwater archaeologist Alexis Catsambis, Ph.D., is in the foreground. (Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford / Released)

In addition to received briefs on the assessment and the opportunity to speak face-to-face with leadership, the guests had a chance to view a trumpet from USS Houston currently being treated by NHHC’s Underwater Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory.

 

WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2014) - James Bruns, director of the National Museum of the United States Navy (NMUSN), talks to (right - left) Susan Kreutzer, president, USS Houston CA-30 Survivors Association and Next Generations, Stacey Davidson and Joel Snyder , association members, and Johnathan Schwarz, executive director, USS Houston CA-30 Survivors Association and Next Generations about the model of the Houston that the association donated to the museum. The association members were escorted on their tour of the museum and Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) by the command's Collections Management Division Director, Jay Thomas, Ph.D., and Underwater Archeology Archeologist and Cultural Resource Manager, Alexis Catsambis, Ph.D. USS Houston was sunk during WWII's Battle of Sunda Strait, with only about 1/3 of the 1,061 crew surviving. The survivors Association and Next Generations members include survivors of the cruiser, as well as family members and friends of those who served aboard and seek to perpetuate the memory of the ship and her courageous crewmen. (Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford / Released)

WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2014) – James Bruns, director of the National Museum of the United States Navy (NMUSN), talks to (right – left) Susan Kreutzer, president, USS Houston CA-30 Survivors Association and Next Generations, Stacey Davidson and Joel Snyder , association members, and Johnathan Schwarz, executive director, USS Houston CA-30 Survivors Association and Next Generations about the model of the Houston that the association donated to the museum. The association members were escorted on their tour of the museum and Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) by the command’s Collections Management Division Director, Jay Thomas, Ph.D., and Underwater Archeology Archeologist and Cultural Resource Manager, Alexis Catsambis, Ph.D. USS Houston was sunk during WWII’s Battle of Sunda Strait, with only about 1/3 of the 1,061 crew surviving. The survivors Association and Next Generations members include survivors of the cruiser, as well as family members and friends of those who served aboard and seek to perpetuate the memory of the ship and her courageous crewmen. (Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford / Released)

The crumpled copper and steel instrument with its mother-of-pearl keys and felt stoppers had been removed without authorization from the wreck site but was returned to the United States last year. The trumpet is soaking in a special solution to mitigate the damage on being removed from its salt water grave site.

 

Afterward, the visitors were taken to the USS Houston (CA-30) model on display at the National Museum of the United States Navy located at the WNY. The 1929 vintage 1/48-scale model of the Northampton-class cruiser reflects the Houston in its original 1920s configuration. It is displayed in a wood and glass case donated by the USS Houston (CA 30) Survivors and Next Generations Association.

 

The USS Houston CA-30 Survivors Association and Next Generations group has worked tirelessly to ensure the Navy and the American public recognize the valor, contributions, and ultimately the sacrifice paid by the Houston crew, in hopes of ensuring the nation never forgets.

NHHC is grateful for their commitment to the crew’s storied legacy and our Navy heritage. It was both an honor and a privilege to host them today, and we’re looking forward to continuing the partnership on this most important matter.

WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2014) - James Kuhn, acting director of Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) talks with members of the Houston CA-30 Survivors Association and Next Generations about NHHC's mission and historic holdings, during the association's tour of NHHC. The association members were escorted on their tour of NHHC and the National Museum of the United States Navy by NHHC's Collections Management Division Director, Jay Thomas, Ph.D., and Underwater Archeology Archeologist and Cultural Resource Manager, Alexis Catsambis, Ph.D. USS Houston was sunk during WWII's Battle of Sunda Strait, with only about 1/3 of the 1,061 crew surviving. The survivors Association and Next Generations members include survivors of the cruiser, as well as family members and friends of those who served aboard and seek to perpetuate the memory of the ship and her courageous crewmen. (Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford / Released)

WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2014) – James Kuhn, acting director of Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) talks with members of the Houston CA-30 Survivors Association and Next Generations about NHHC’s mission and historic holdings, during the association’s tour of NHHC. The association members were escorted on their tour of NHHC and the National Museum of the United States Navy by NHHC’s Collections Management Division Director, Jay Thomas, Ph.D., and Underwater Archaeology and Cultural Resource Manager, Alexis Catsambis, Ph.D. USS Houston was sunk during WWII’s Battle of Sunda Strait, with only about 1/3 of the 1,061 crew surviving. The survivors Association and Next Generations members include survivors of the cruiser, as well as family members and friends of those who served aboard and seek to perpetuate the memory of the ship and her courageous crewmen. (Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford / Released)

 
Jul 31

Timeline to Justice – the quest to restore honor to the Captain and Crew of the USS Indianapolis

Thursday, July 31, 2014 4:00 PM

 

 

The following article was printed in the July/August 1998 issue of Naval History magazine. It was written by 12-year old Hunter Scott in his quest to restore honor to the Captain and Crew of the USS Indianapolis:

Survivors of the USS Indianapolis aboard the USS Hollandia

Survivors of the USS Indianapolis aboard the USS Hollandia

 

With perhaps greater reverence than many of my 12-year-old peers, I appreciate this opportunity to write about what has grown from a school history project into a mission. My quest has allowed me to be associated with individuals who fought so that all Americans could live in the greatest democracy the world has ever known. Throughout this journey, I have learned the great price of freedom, the meaning of honor, valor, and supreme sacrifice in the line of duty, and the fact that democracy is a treasure so valued that men and women are willing to give their lives in its pursuit.

 

For that reason, I have urged the introduction of a bill before Congress (H.R. 3710) to correct an injustice done 53 years ago. I pray that the men and women who gave their lives are looking down on what I am doing, knowing their sacrifice was not in vain. I am proud and honored to bring to the attention of Naval History readers again the case of Captain Charles B. McVay III and the crew of the USS Indianapolis (CA-35).

 

President Abraham Lincoln once said: “The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.” I began such a “struggle” when I was 11 years old, for the “just cause” of restoring honor to Captain McVay and gaining a Presidential Unit Citation for the Indianapolis and her crew.

 

My dad tells me that, “the true test of your character is what it takes to make you quit.” The men of the Indianapolis and their captain did not quit in their quest to bring a hasty end to World War II. After making a record-setting run to the island of Tinian for delivery of components for the first atomic bomb, the ship was torpedoed, sinking in just 12 minutes. Of her 1,196 men, 850 to 950 made it off the ship and into the water, where they spent five nights and four days surrounded by sharks and death, while those responsible for their safety did not notice that the ship was missing. An accidental spotting of the survivors saved the lives of 316 crew members, 150 of whom are still with us today. Now, more than a half-century after this tragedy, we must not forget these men, and we must not quit in our effort to set the historical record straight.

Based on my research, the following timeline tells the story of the final days of the Indianapolis.

 

  • 16 July 1945—Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie Groves choose to load components for the first atomic bomb on board the Indianapolis. Captain McVay receives orders to proceed “with all possible haste” to Tinian.

 

  • 21 July—The USS Underhill (DD-682) is sunk by a Japanese submarine in the same area where the Indianapolis will go down. Captain McVay never is given this information nor any notification that the Japanese submarines I-58 and I-367 are operating in the area. A directive from the Chief of Naval Operations, Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, prevents Captain McVay from receiving this intelligence.

 

  • 26 July—The Indianapolis arrives in Tinian; atomic bomb components with the USS Idaho (BB-42) on 2 August. The Idaho receives a garbled message about the arrival of the Indianapolis. No request is made for retransmission. The Idaho is unaware that the Indianapolis is en route. (This is the first in a series of blunders that led the Indianapolis to cruise into a bureaucratic void.)

 

  • 28 July—In Guam, Captain McVay is denied requests for an escort. His orders give him discretion concerning whether or not to zigzag while under way. The Indianapolis makes the trip from Guam to Leyte unescorted—the first heavy warship to do so during the war—without capabilities to detect enemy submarines.

 

  • 31 July—At sunset, Captain McVay comes on the bridge to discuss weather conditions. The night is overcast and cloudy. He believes he is cruising in waters free of enemy submarines, because of intelligence given to him prior to his departure from Guam. The Indianapolis is doing 17 knots, and Captain McVay gives orders to cease zigzagging because of poor visibility. He gives orders to be awakened if weather changes occur.

 

  • 1 August—At 0004, the ship is struck by two of six torpedoes fired by the 1-58. The first torpedo takes off 60 feet of her bow, andthe second hits amidships, igniting the powder magazine and shutting off most electrical power. Chief Radio Electrician L. T. Woods, observed by Radio Technician 2nd Class Herbert J. Minor, sends SOS and position of the Indianapolis on 500 kilocycles from Radio Room II, which maintains power. According to Minor, at least three signals are transmitted. Former Yeoman 2nd Class Clair B. Young stated in a letter received by Commander T. E. Quillman, Jr., “while stationed at U.S. Navy 3964 Naval Shore Facilities Tacloban, Philippine Islands, that he personally delivered the SOS message to Commodore Jacob H. Jacobson, U.S. Navy.”

 

Young awakens Commodore Jacobson and notices a strong odor of alcohol in the room. Commodore Jacobson reads the message, which identifies the ship, her location, and her condition. Mr. Young asks Commodore Jacobson: “Do you have a reply, sir?” The answer comes: “No reply at this time. If any further messages are received, notify me at once.” The SOS is received and ignored. Meanwhile, Commander Hashimoto of the 1-58 radios Japan and indicates that he has just sunk a battleship and gives the location. The message is decoded by the U.S. Navy. Still, no one checks on the whereabouts of the Indianapolis.

 

  • 2 August—The Indianapolis is due to arrive in Leyte that morning. Upon non-arrival, the ship is taken off the plotting board, and no effort is made to determine where she is. Admiral King had standing orders that combatant ships’ arrivals in port were not to be reported, which implied that non-arrivals also were not to be reported.
  • 3 August—Lieutenant Wilbur Gwinn, flying a Ventura bomber, accidentally spots Indianapolis survivors and radios Palau for rescue operations to commence. Lieutenant Adrian Marks lands a PBY in heavy seas and picks up 56 survivors. Tom Brophy defies orders and tries to swim to the plane; he does not survive.

    This is the PBY and her crew that set down at sea and rescued 56 men of the USS Indianapolis. The pilot, LT Marks, is 4th from the right. The plane was badly damaged by frantic men climbing aboard but stayed afloat through the night until rescue ships arrived.

    This is the PBY and her crew that set down at sea and rescued 56 men of the USS Indianapolis. The pilot, LT Marks, is 4th from the right. The plane was badly damaged by frantic men climbing aboard but stayed afloat through the night until rescue ships arrived.

 

  • 4 August—Rescue operations start in a 50-mile radius.

 

  • 6 August—First atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima.

 

  • 15 August—Japan surrenders. Navy releases information about the sinking of the Indianapolis. The press begins to ask the Navy why the ship was never missed.

 

Note: The father of the aforementioned Tom Brophy goes to Washington after the war to arrange a meeting with Captain McVay. According to Mr. D. J. Blum, Brophy tries to call on Captain McVay the day he arrives in Washington and is told to arrange the meeting for the following week because of Captain McVay’s prior commitments.

Brophy follows Captain McVay, who attends a party. Furious, Brophy meets with his friend, President Harry S. Truman, and convinces him to court-martial Captain McVay. President Truman pressures Admiral King to convene a court-martial. Admiral King himself appoints the members of the court, who know Admiral King wants Captain McVay found guilty and who also are depending upon Admiral King for promotions.

 

  • 3 December—Court-martial begins. Captain McVay requests Lieutenant Commander Donald Van Koughnet, Chief Legal Officer of the U.S. Navy Military Government for the Marianas Islands, to represent him. Admiral King denies the request. The charges are “failure to follow a zigzag course” and “failure to sound an abandon ship.”

 

Note: Since 1991, several Navy documents have been declassified, showing that Captain McVay was not given intelligence that could have prevented this disaster (see “Ultra and the Sinking of the USS Indianapolis,” a paper given to the Eleventh Naval History Symposium, 1993). This same information—which could have been useful in Captain McVay’s defense, showing that the “super technical” charges were unfounded—was considered Top Secret in 1945 and was not used in the court-martial. The question as to why the men of the Indianapolis spent five nights and four days in the water without anyone noticing that the ship was missing was not considered in the trial.

 

  • 13 December—Admiral King brings in Hashimoto, commander of the 1-58 to testify against Captain McVay. Hashimoto states that zigzagging would have made no difference, that he would have sunk the Indianapolis anyway. The 1-58 had several kaiten on board, had the six-torpedo spread missed its target. The Indianapolis was doomed.

 

  • 19 December—Captain McVay found guilty of failure to follow a zigzag course, therefore hazarding his ship. His sentence, loss of 100 promotion numbers, is later remitted. His conviction is not. The guilty verdict stands to this day. Out of more than 700 ships lost in World War II, the Indianapolis is the only one to have her captain court-martialed.

 

  • 6 November 1968—Captain McVay commits suicide.

 

NOTE: In a 10 August 1990 letter to Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), Captain Russell E. Sullivan stated that he was on board the USS General R. L. Howze (AP-134), which traveled the same course as the Indianapolis and cruised through her wreckage. Bodies and debris were observed. Captain Sullivan stated: “We had not received orders to zigzag. We had 4,000 troops on board. We had not been notified that an enemy submarine was in the area. The foregoing can be confirmed by referring to the official log of the USS General R. L. Howze for August of 1945.”

 

In a letter dated 10 February 1998, Dr. Lewis Haynes, the chief medical officer on board the Indianapolis, stated that, as he was treating Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz at the Chelsea Naval Hospital, Admiral Nimitz told him that Captain McVay “should not have been court-martialed.”

 

Conclusion:

After two years of research and interviews with almost all remaining Indianapolis survivors, I have amassed what one naval historian has called “the greatest collection of information on the USS Indianapolis in the world.” On 22 April 1998, accompanied by Congressman Joe Scarborough (R-FL), Congresswoman Julia Carson (D-IL), and 11 Indianapolis survivors, I personally dropped H.R. 3710 into the hopper on the floor of Congress. This bill will erase all mention of the court-martial and conviction from the record of Captain Charles B. McVay III and award a Presidential Unit Citation to the USS Indianapolis and her crew.

 

In 1806, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Political interest can never be separated in the long run from the moral right.” Now, 53 years after the politically motivated court-martial of an innocent ship captain, we are in the “long run,” and we have the opportunity to do what is “morally right.” I write this near the beginning of my life, making a request for many men who are toward the end of theirs. Please do not forget about the captain and crew of the Indianapolis for the second time in 53 years. Write to your congressmen and senators, asking them to support H.R. 3710.

 
« Older Entries