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USS Langley Personal Stories - History

USS Langley Personal Stories - History

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Navyhistory.com is dedicated to telling the story of the navy. The site is primarily dedicated to telling the story of the US navy, but will include information on other navies. The history of individual ships on the site comes from the Dictionary of Naval Fighting Vessels published by the Department of the Navy from 1959-1993. We believe that every day a rich history is being lost as we lose those people who have never recorded their stories. MultiEducator Inc produces the Navalhistory.com site.

Humble Harbinger: The USS Langley CV-1

Last week the US Navy’s newest Aircraft Carrier the USS Gerald R Ford was launched and christened. Looking at the behemoth it is hard to believe that nine decades ago the US Navy was experiment with its first aircraft carrier the USS Langley.

Now Langley was not the first aircraft carrier. That honor went to the Royal Navy’s HMS Furious. The HMS Argus, a converted passenger liner was more comparable to Langley and served many of the same purposes for the Royal Navy.

Langley was not much to look at, her nickname in the fleet was the “Covered Wagon.” She was not built as a carrier. Instead, like most of the early aircraft carriers in the US Navy, Royal Navy, French Navy and Japanese Navy she was converted from a ship built for a different purpose. Langley initially took to the water as the USS Jupiter, AC-3 a Collier, or coal ship in the days before oil replaced coal as the fuel for warships. Her more infamous sister ship, the ill-fated USS Cyclops disappeared with all hands in what is called the Bermuda Triangle in March 1918.

She was converted into a carrier in 1920 and joined the fleet again as Langley on March 22nd 1922. At 542 feet long and 65 feet in beam she would fit several times over on the flight deck of any current US Navy carrier. Her slow speed of 15 knots meant that she would be relegated to training aviators, participating in fleet exercises and testing new aircraft.

Lieutenant Commander Godfrey DeCourcelles Chevalier

The first takeoff from Langley was on 17 October 1922 when Lieutenant Virgil Griffin flew a Vought VE-7 off her bow. It was the beginning of carrier based aviation in the US Navy. Nice days later Lieutenant Commander Godfrey DeCourcelles Chevalier made the first landing on Langley landing a Aeromarine 39B trainer on a deck equipped with experimental arresting gear. Chevalier died less than a month later when his Vought VE-7 crashed on a flight from Norfolk to Yorktown Virginia. Langley was the first carrier of any navy equipped with a catapult and on 18 November 1922 her Commanding Officer, Commander Kenneth Whiting was the first aviator to be catapulted from a ship.

Commander Kenneth Whiting

Whiting is considered by some to be the “father of the aircraft carrier” and had been instrumental in the selection of Jupiter for conversion, the conversion process and the continued development of carrier aviation following his command of Langley.

Langley’s Hangar Deck

Langley remained the primary training carrier for the Navy until 1936 when she was converted into a Seaplane Tender. In the decade and a half that she served in this role she was used to test various catapult and arresting systems the knowledge gained being useful in the development of new carriers. Likewise the aviators trained aboard her would go on to help develop US Navy Carrier aviation before and during the Second World War.

Langley served in the Southwest Pacific during the opening months of the war and was sunk on 27 February 1942 after being attacked by Japanese bombers near Tjilatjap Java.

When the Gerald R Ford enters service in 2016 she will continue a tradition that began with the humble USS Langley, the illustrious Covered Wagon.

The First Aircraft Carriers Part One: The First American Flattops- Langley, Lexington and Saratoga

Aircraft over Saratoga

Note: This is the first in a series on the early aircraft carriers. Two others will follow on the British and Japanese carriers. My dad was a Chief Petty Officer in Naval Aviation. As such I grew up around Naval Air Stations, Squadrons and of course Aircraft Carriers. My dad retired off of the USS Hancock CVA-19 in 1974. I spent two weeks underway on USS Coral Sea CV-43 as a NJROTC Cadet in the summer of 1976. It was an experience that I will never forget. While on the Cruiser USS Hue City CG-66 we deployed with the USS John F Kennedy CV-67 for Operation Enduring Freedom. There is something about the power and majesty of the modern carriers at the same time there is a sense of timelessness in the first aircraft carriers. Three of the first four American ships were converted from other platforms. As a kid, a young adult and even now I am fascinated by all things Navy, especially ships that made history. Here is my look at the first American Aircraft Carriers.

The United States did not invent the aircraft carrier although Eugene Ely flew an aircraft onto and off of the Armored Cruiser USS Pennsylvania on January 18 th 1911. It was the British Royal Navy which first built and operated aircraft carriers beginning with the HMS Furious which had been converted from a light Battle Cruiser. The Royal Navy would covert the sister ships of the Furious, the Glorious and Courageous as well as the auxiliary ship the Argus before building their first carrier that was designed from the keel up, the HMS Hermes. With the British building carriers and the Japanese following suit the United States began a program of aircraft carrier production and operation unmatched in history.

USS Langley CV-1 The “Covered Wagon”

The first US carrier was the USS Langley, CV-1. Langley was converted from the collier USS Jupiter beginning in July 1919. She was commissioned as USS Langley CV-1 on 21 April 1920. Displacing 15,150 tons fully loaded Langley embarked 34 aircraft and had a maximum speed of 15.5 knots. Langley was primitive but groundbreaking. She was the first carrier equipped with catapults and on 18 November 1922 achieved the first catapult takeoff by an aircraft. She served as an invaluable training platform for Naval Aviators and helped provide the fleet with highly skilled flight crews that would operate from the USS Lexington and USS Saratoga.

Langley after conversion to AV-3

Nicknamed the “Covered Wagon” she served initially in the Atlantic until November of 1924 when she was transferred to the Pacific Battle Force. She served as a carrier in the Pacific until 1936 when she was converted into a Seaplane Tender AV-3 and assigned to the Pacific in September 1939 based in Manila. She was in the Philippines when the Japanese attacked and was sent south to Australia. She was assigned to the ABDA forces defending the Netherlands East Indies and was sunk by her escorts after being bombed and disabled by Japanese aircraft while delivering fighter aircraft to Java with the loss of 16 sailors.

USS Lexington CV-2

The second two American Aircraft Carriers were also conversions. Unlike Langley the Lexington and Saratoga were converted from a new class of large and powerful battle cruisers whose construction had been canceled by the restrictions of the Washington Naval Treaty. Commissioned on December 14 th 1927 Lexington was 880 feet long and displaced 38,746 tons. Saratoga was commissioned on November 16 th of the same year and of similar dimensions and displacement. Both of these ships could steam at 33.25+ knots and had a complement of 90 aircraft. They were armed with eight 8” guns mounted in 4 turrets at the behest of more traditionally minded officers who felt that the armament might be needed for surface actions.

USS Saratoga CV-3

They were the largest American carriers built until the Midway class appeared inin late 1945 and early 1946. Of other nations pre-war carriers only the Japanese Navy’s Akagi and Kaga, converted from a battle cruiser and battle ship for the same reason as a the Lexington’s were comparable in size, air group capacity, protection and speed. Saratoga’s 8”battery would be replaced by twin 5” 38 caliber mounts in 1942.

Lexington Burning and Sinking

Both ships were used to help develop carrier doctrine and the concept of the carrier task force. Future leaders of Naval Aviation including Marc A. Mitscher trained aboard or flew from these ships. Of particular note was that during Fleet Problem XIX in 1938 Saratoga launched a surprise air attack on Pearl Harbor from a point 100 miles off Oahu, setting a pattern that the Japanese copied in December 1941.

Saratoga 1945

During World War II both helped hold the line after Pearl Harbor along with Enterprise, Yorktown and Hornet. Lexington was the flagship of TF-11 during as series of raids on Japanese outposts in the Solomons. TF-11 joined Admiral Frank “Jack” Fletcher’s TF-17 at the Battle of Coral Sea, the first Naval Battle fought outside of eyesight of the respective forces. Lexington’s aircraft helped sink the Japanese light carrier Shoho on May 7 th 1942 and heavily damage the fleet carrier Shokaku the following day. However aircraft from Shokaku and Zuikaku hit Lexington with two torpedoes and 3 bomb hits which her damage control parties seemed to have under control when vapors from ruptured aviation fuel lines were ignited resulting in a series of explosions which ignited uncontrollable fires. Her crew was evacuated by escorts and she was torpedoed by the destroyer USS Phelps.

Saratoga served throughout the war. She engaged in patrols after Pearl Harbor and while enroute to joining Enterprise was hit by a torpedo from the Japanese submarine I-16. After repairs she was rushed to Hawaii to join the American Task Forces at Midway but arrived in Hawaii the day after the battle. Following this Saratoga operated in the Central Pacific in the first offensive at Guadalcanal. She participated in the landings as the flagship of Admiral Fletcher and then at the Battle of Eastern Solomons sank the Japanese light carrier Ryujo and damaged the seaplane carrier Chitose. Following this battle she was hit by a torpedo from the I-26. After repairs she again went to the Solomons joined by the light carrier USS Princeton. On November 5 th the two carriers conducted a brilliant strike on Japanese ships and aircraft facilities at Rabaul which were threatening the landings at Bougainville.

Saratoga September 1943

Following these operations Saratoga operated in the Gilberts and then with the British in the Indian Ocean. She then was used as a training carrier for new pilots and aircrews at Pearl Harbor before being brought to Iwo Jima to operate night fighters against Kamikaze raids. While conducting these operations she was attacked by Japanese aircraft in which 6 Japanese aircraft score 5 hits on her in 3 minutes. Her forward flight deck was wrecked and she suffered great damage below decks and she lost 123 sailors.

Saratoga burning after Kamikaze hits in 1945

Following repairs she resumed training duties and after the defeat of Japan was involved in Operation Magic Carpet to bring Servicemen back from overseas. Surplus to Navy needs at the end of the war Saratoga was sunk in Operation Crossroads at Bikini Atoll by an underwater atomic blast in the “Baker” bomb test a mere 500 yards from her position. She sank 7 hours later.

The End of an Era- Saratoga goes down at Bikini

#4. Nearly Blew Up the President's Boat With a Depth Charge .

Twenty-four hours after the anchor-scrape incident, the Porter meekly took its place alongside the rest of the convoy, no doubt with her metaphorical head hanging and her shame glasses on. The journey across the Atlantic would take eight days, and the ships would pass through U-boat-infested waters during wartime, so it was critical that the boats keep up with training and maneuvers on the journey. For example, in a real-live battle situation, if a submarine got too close, it was the destroyer's job to drop depth charges (just huge bombs that sink down and blow up next to the submerged sub). So, one of the drills that the Porter was tasked with was sending out fake depth charges for practice.

You can tell where this train wreck is heading, can't you?

"We wrote 'void' on the side, so it should be dead. Bombs are like checks, right?"

Yes, the geniuses on the Willie Dee never got around to disarming their anti-submarine weapons. And on November 12, a live depth charge just fell off the deck. Fell. As in it kind of rolled off, into the ocean, within killing distance of the president of the United States. And it exploded. And that was when shit got real.

As you can imagine, the sonar on every ship in the convoy started ringing like the world was ending, because clearly there was an enemy boat within firing range. In addition to trying to track the phantom Nazi down, the ships also began executing evasive maneuvers, which means they were tasked with getting the hell out of the line of fire. Surely the Axis powers had intelligence on the secret mission and were after them, knowing that freaking FDR was on board.

"Hide in my cabin? Not when there are Nazi assassins to mock."

Just as the captain probably got ready to wheel FDR over the deck in a mercy killing, everyone got a message from the Porter. They did it. The Willie Dee was actually fortunate that the bomb had sank a ways before detonating, otherwise their entire stern would have blown off. But we're going to take a wild guess and presume no one was counting their lucky stars at the moment when they had to make that call.

"You know when you're so embarrassed you want the ship to explode and remove your head with shrapnel? That."

And then, because every single man on the Willie Dee had made a deal with the devil and lost, a freak wave hit the boat, knocking one guy overboard (he was never found) and flooding the boiler room. This resulted in a loss of power, which put the William D. Failure even further behind the rest of the convoy. If it had been us, we would have just quietly turned tail and slipped on back to the States. But they didn't. Even though Admiral Ernest King, who was in charge of the convoy (and getting sick of the problems and hourly damage reports from the Willie Dee), personally radioed Captain Walter, telling him to cut the shit out and start acting properly.

"This thing is making weird sounds. Someone should see to that."

Walter vowed to "improve his ship's performance." But of course he didn't, otherwise this list wouldn't exist.

Mysterious lights. Sinister saucers. Alien abductions. Between 1947 to 1969, at the height of the Cold War, more than 12,000 UFO sightings were reported to Project Blue Book, a small, top-secret Air Force team. Their mission? To scientifically investigate the incidents and determine whether any posed a national security threat. Here are some of their most fascinating cases.

Stealth aviation. Obsessive security. Clandestine A-Bombs. How much do you know about the real history of Area 51?

USS Langley Personal Stories - History

By Joan Hunt

The 13,000 ton Independence-class aircraft carrier USS Princeton, which was commissioned on February 25, 1943, quickly became known as the “Fighting Lady.” She made a name for herself supporting the occupation of Baker Island in August of that year, followed by raiding against Japanese installations on Makin and Tarawa atolls in the Gilbert Islands in September, and a busy November supporting the Bougainville landings and raiding Rabaul and Nauru and participating in the invasion of Tarawa and Makin that same month. Following a quick overhaul at the Puget Sound Naval Yard, she continued in action during the conquest of the Marshall Islands in January and February 1944.

Princeton was soon to become a casualty of the largest naval battle in history, Leyte Gulf, which was actually a series of connected naval engagements. The carrier was lost in the Sibuyan Sea at Leyte Gulf while serving under the command of Admiral William F. (Bull) Halsey. Assigned to Task Force 38.3, Princeton (CVL-23) was in company with three other carriers, USS Lexington, USS Essex, and USS Langley, along with four battleships, four light cruisers, and 17 screening destroyers.

The Battle of Leyte Gulf took place in conjunction with the U.S. invasion of the Philippines in October 1944, and a significant component of U.S. airpower that supported the landings and provided air cover for the naval vessels operating at sea was the tremendous capability of the Grumman F6F Hellcat. The Hellcat entered service in mid-1943 with six wing-mounted .50-caliber machine guns, each with 400 rounds of ammunition. Some variants included a 20mm cannon with 200 rounds replacing the innermost machine gun in each wing. The Hellcat could carry up to two 1,000-pound bombs as well as six 5-inch-high velocity aircraft rockets.

Aboard the USS Princeton, it was Aviation Machinist Mate 3rd Class Frank L. Heineman’s job to keep his new F6F-5 Grumman fighter plane in the air. The F6F-5 resembled the earlier F6F-3 variant but it had extra armor, stronger main landing gear legs, and spring tabs on the ailerons for better maneuverability most of them had water-injection engines. Both versions had a 250-gallon fuel capacity in internal tanks and a 150-gallon belly drop-tank.

Now aged 87 and living in Buena Park, California, Heineman, known to his shipmates as “Heine,” was assigned to the Princeton immediately after training, and he was aboard the Fighting Lady on the fateful day of October 24, 1944.

At daybreak, elements of the Japanese Navy were approaching the Philippines from the north and west, and Task Force 38.3 was facing a threat to the U.S. landings being conducted on the beaches of the island of Leyte. After several days of air operations that pounded enemy targets ashore in support of the Leyte invasion, the carriers launched Hellcats on combat air patrol that morning and other planes on search missions. More aircraft were on deck, ready for attack missions.

At about 10 am a lone Japanese Yokosuka D4Y “Judy” dive-bomber dropped a single bomb between the carrier’s elevators. The bomb penetrated the flight deck and hangar before exploding. The destroyer USS Irwin and the cruiser USS Birmingham came to the aid of the stricken carrier however, sometime after 3 pm massive secondary explosions ripped through the ship and seriously damaged Birmingham. The USS Princeton was doomed.

The American Hellcat vs the Japanese Zero

Joan Hunt: What was your responsibility aboard the USS Princeton?

Frank Heineman: I had to make sure that the plane was properly fueled and ready to take off at a moment’s notice, maintaining the plane’s oxygen and fuel injection water system, seeing to it that the plane was securely lashed down when not in use. We all had to wipe off the oil slicks that accumulate during air time. They streak the fuselage undercarriage, allowing the enemy a greater chance to spot them overhead during battle. I assisted the pilot while he prepared for flight and gave him the “all clear” signal to start his engine. This was accomplished by a cartridge starter and causes the propeller to spin about four revolutions. This is enough to cause the magneto to send the necessary electricity to fire up the engine. All we had to do now was to pull the wheel chocks, and the pilot was free to go airborne.

JH: How did the F6F-5 fighter planes stack up in battle?

FH: They had a definite advantage over their enemies’ planes. The lighter Japanese Zeros were very maneuverable and on some occasions would give our pilots some trouble. Our planes were equipped with half-inch armor plate behind the pilot’s head and back. I had seen my pilot come back from a sortie with a hole in the canopy behind his head. When I inspected the inside of the fuselage, there was a large indentation in the armor plate behind his head. This is the kind of hit that would have killed my pilot had he been piloting a Japanese plane, as they didn’t have the armor or self-sealing fuel tanks needed to bring the fighter planes back to a safe landing aboard their carriers.

The American pilots had a decided advantage in combat as their Pratt & Whitney engines were equipped with a water fuel injection system, which, when called upon during the heat of battle, would give them a chance to outrun, outmaneuver, and possibly finish off the enemy.

The “Mariana’s Turkey Shoot”

JH: How had the USS Princeton performed since you were transferred aboard in spring
of 1944?

FH: She had already accumulated seven battle stars and was now ready to acquire more by attacking Japanese targets in the Central Pacific. We continued on supporting amphibious landings at Hollandia, New Guinea. In June, the Princeton participated in the invasion of Saipan, Tinian, Guam, and Rota, all of these islands making up the Mariana chain. This was quite a campaign, loaded with enemy action. Our planes really had a field day, as our whole carrier group shot down about 400 enemy aircraft. That also included the amount hit by gunfire from our ships that were under attack. This incident is what created the name the “Mariana’s Turkey Shoot,” as representing what had happed that day.

JH: How did the USS Princeton’s planes fare in this engagement?

FH: Darkness was fast approaching, and our aircraft were on their way back to the fleet. As they were nearing their destination, realizing they were low on fuel and nightfall was closing in fast, it became apparent to the admiral some drastic action would have to be taken. After giving it some thought, knowing that his decision would put the fleet at the risk of a Japanese submarine attack, he ordered all carrier captains to light up their flight decks and prepare for night landings.

The close-up photo of the USS Princeton on the afternoon of October 24, 1944, reveals the extent of the damage to the aircraft carrier. Shortly after 3 pm, a massive internal explosion set off raging fires aboard the ship and sprayed the nearby cruiser USS Birmingham with shrapnel.

The incoming planes, low on fuel, pilots tired from a day-long battle with hundreds of Japanese aircraft of all types, were left very little room for error. Most of them would have to come aboard on the first attempt, no wave-off or trying another landing. Our carrier was very lucky, as we retrieved our squadron without a mishap, although we did have to wave off a Japanese Zero trying to come aboard without an arrestor hook to bring him safely to a halt. Never saw him again.

Abandoning the Princeton

JH: Where were you when the bomb hit the USS Princeton that morning?

FH: Having sent our fighter planes off about 0600 hours with the mission of attacking the Luzon airfields in support of General Douglas MacArthur’s landing troops, the planes began returning about 0900 hours, and I had just secured my F6F-5 Grumman aircraft. I had checked it over thoroughly for any problems and found the oxygen tank needing a replacement. After securing a new one in place, I crawled out of the fuselage and was securing the hatch when all hell cut loose. I got up just in time to hear ack-ack fire from the Marine gunners on the forward 40mm gun mount.

I can still visualize the large white hub of his [the Japanese pilot] propeller, not more than 100 feet above me, as he released his lethal bomb that hit amidships between the forward and after elevators. It penetrated the flight deck, producing a 15-inch hole, then continued on down through the hangar deck and into the galley area, where it exploded, killing cooks, bakers, and other crewmen in the vicinity of the blast. The flames shot up through the holes it had created, setting the hangar deck on fire.

JH: What was the immediate result of the strike?

FH: While the firefighting crew was busy on the flight deck trying to extinguish the flames with an inadequate water supply due to damage suffered below, the hangar deck containing 10 TBM Avenger Torpedo bombers being prepared for another strike at the enemy was all ablaze with 100-octane high-test fuel as its source. The bomb, when it exploded, produced so heavy a concussion that our TBMs dropped their extra fuel tanks to the deck they burst open upon impact and spilled the fuel in all directions. The firefighters could not contain this fire, which had quickly spread throughout the hangar deck with hungry flames making their way to the torpedoes secured in the bomb bays of the TBMs.

JH: What did you do next?

FH: As the fire continued unabated, those of us located topside tried to render assistance as much as we could. We experienced the effect of several torpedoes blowing up on the hangar deck. The blasts, at regular intervals, would lift us about six inches above the flight deck. The captain announced over our loudspeakers so all could hear the order “abandon ship, abandon ship!” This is an order a sailor never wants to hear.

JH: Were there lifeboats, or did you just jump overboard?

FH: I had a young crewman under my guidance, as he was working to be a plane captain. He was very eager to be one and showed good promise, when tested. His name was James (Jimmie) Jarrell from Louisville, Kentucky. Here we are on the forward flight deck and about 400 feet from our gear locker, as the fire was out of control and preventing us from retrieving our life jackets. We recovered a life raft from my plane’s cockpit. As Jimmie was just learning to swim, I thought it would be a good idea if he lowered himself in the water via the line thrown over the side for that purpose. I dropped the inflated life raft to him and said I would join him shortly. Problem was, when I hit the water there was no Jimmie sitting in the life raft waiting for me. I swam around looking in all directions for a sign of him or the raft. That is the last I saw of a really fine young man, full of vim and vigor.

JH: How did you survive without a life raft?

FH: After swimming for a couple of hours, I came upon a 5-inch powder bag can that was occupied by a sailor who was a cook. There was enough buoyancy that it was capable of supporting us both until we were pulled out of the water by the [destroyer] USS Morrison.

JH: Where was the USS Morrison headed?

“The Whole Aft of the Princeton Blew Sky High”

FH: Now that the Japanese aircraft were no longer coming at us, the Morrison pulled up along the port side of the Princeton, which by this time had developed a 10-degree list to port. As we arrived we were greeted by a bunch of debris and two plane tractors coming off the flight deck. Fortunately, no one was hit, but then our ship’s radar antennas managed to interlock with the Princeton’s antennas. When we finally broke away from her grasp, the Morrison’s ability to use our radar system to aim and fire our 5-inch guns was nullified.

JH: Were other ships giving aid to try and save the USS Princeton?

FH: The light cruiser USS Birmingham was on the starboard side of the ship, doing her best to help put her fire out. Everybody had turned to getting the fire under control, when the admiral gave orders to all ships in the area to break off aid to the Princeton and get under way, as Japanese aircraft had been sighted and were heading our way. Our patrolling Hellcats engaged in dogfights with them and soon the USS Birmingham, the [cruiser]Reno, and the [destroyer] Ward returned after being away for a couple of hours. Upon their return, they were greeted by a severe fire [aboard the Princeton] burning out of control.

Survivors of the sunken USS Princeton bob in the water while awaiting rescue on October 24, 1944. Ten officers and 98 enlisted men were killed out of a complement of 1,361 sailors. More casualties were sustained aboard the cruiser USS Birmingham as a result of a secondary explosion. Eighty-five Birmingham sailors died, and 300 were wounded.

JH: With so much fuel and munitions aboard the Princeton, wasn’t it risky being near her in the water?

FH: As it turns out, it was. The USS Morrison with myself and our surviving crew was off at a distance cruising about observing the ever-increasing flame and smoke on board the Princeton, noting that the USS Birmingham was the only ship spraying water on it, when all of a sudden there was a terrific explosion on the fantail. The whole aft end of the Princeton blew sky high, showering the Birmingham with an endless amount of deadly shrapnel. In an instant, this explosion killed and wounded 600 men on the Birmingham and the Princeton.

JH: What did you see from your vantage point on the Morrison?

FH: [It was] a horrific scene of the worst kind, crewmen helping the injured and dying as they lost their footing because of the blood-covered decks, ladders, and passageways. They quickly poured sand all around in order to regain traction of their deck shoes. Now aboard the Princeton, our new captain, John Hoskins, lost a foot, as Captain William H. Buracker rendered aid to stop the bleeding. Commander Roland Sala, our senior medical officer, although injured, administered morphine and sulfa powder, using a sheath knife to cut off part of the leg that was dangling. Shortly after, Dr. Sala himself had to be given treatment for his wounds. All the ships that were helping out and near the Princeton were ordered to pull away and get a good distance, as there was no chance to save her and we were going to sink her.

Sinking the Princeton

JH: How was the Princeton sunk?

FH: The light cruiser USS Reno was given the order to take over and finish off the USS Princeton [after near misses by the USS Irwin, whose launching tubes had been damaged]. The Reno launched two torpedoes at her hull broadside, and they both struck her around the magazine area. The explosion was so violent that it sent up a column of smoke, topping out at 1,500 feet. When the smoke cleared, the Fighting Lady, as she was known, had disappeared beneath the ocean waves, finding a new home some 20,000 feet down, taking with her the nine battle stars she so valiantly fought for and earned, as costly as it was.

JH: Where did you and the other survivors go?

FH: All of us survivors ended up at Ulithi, our farthest supply base in the north Pacific. Here we were issued the much-needed and required clothing, gear, and necessities to sustain us. We were put aboard a troop transport and got under way for a long trip home. We ended up in San Diego, California, while they worked on our records and getting the right paperwork finished so that we could go on our survivors leave and return for our next tour of duty.

JH: How many perished aboard the USS Princeton?

FH: One hundred and fifteen lives were lost.

JH: What was the result of the action at Leyte?

FH: The Third and Seventh Fleets had wrecked the Imperial Japanese Navy. We finished off four aircraft carriers, three battleships, 10 cruisers, and nine destroyers, damaging many more. The battle for Leyte Gulf was an overwhelming triumph for the U.S. Navy against the losses.

Aftermath of the Battle of Leyte Gulf

The United States lost the light carrier Princeton, two escort carriers—the USS Saint Lo and USS Gambier Bay, two destroyers—the USS Johnston and USS Hoel, and one destroyer escort—the USS Samuel B. Roberts and a few lesser craft (these in the battle off Samar on October 25).

The Battle of Leyte Gulf left the U.S. Navy in command of the eastern approaches to the Philippines, providing support for General MacArthur’s invading forces and maintaining the seaborne supply lines pouring men and munitions into the combat area.

Two months after Heineman’s experience at Leyte Gulf, he escorted Priscilla, his sweetheart from Lakeview High School, down the aisle. Stationed later at Brown Field in California and living in Chula Vista, he repaired the same type of airplanes that were aboard the Princeton, and the following year the Heinemans’ first child was born, “a real beauty, a blond baby girl, we named Diana Lynn,” he said. He was discharged from the service on December 7, 1945, Pearl Harbor Day.

Heineman refers to his loving wife of 65 years—mother of two daughters, grandmother of five, and great grandmother of five—who passed away in April 2009, as “missing in action.”

USS Langley Personal Stories - History

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the BRONZE STAR MEDAL to ELZIE VERNON STUCKER, SEAMAN FIRST CLASS UNITED STATES NAVAL RESERVE for service as set forth in the following: "For meritorious achievement as a Member of a 20-mm. Gun crew on board the U.S.S. LOUISVILLE, During operations against enemy Japanese forces at Luzon, Philippine Islands, January 6, 1945. Skillfully directing the fire of his gun at an approaching enemy suicide plane, STUCKER succeeded in destroying the hostile aircraft, thereby preventing the enemy from crashing onto his ship. His devotion to duty throughout was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service." STUCKER is authorized to wear the Combat "V". For the President, James Forrestal Secretary of the Navy.

Upon separation from U. S. Naval Service Seaman 1class Stucker had received Phillippines Liberation Ribbon-2 stars, Bronze Star Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Area Ribbon 8 Stars, American Area Ribbon, and Victory Ribbon.

Elzie Stucker died August 20,1999. I would appreciate hearing from anyone who
remembers or served with him. Felita Stucker Giles

2. The USS Nimitz Encounter (2004)

On November 14, 2004, the USS Princeton, part of the USS Nimitz carrier strike group, noted an unknown craft on radar 100 miles off the coast of San Diego. For two weeks, the crew had been tracking objects that appeared at 80,000 feet and then plummeted to hover right above the Pacific Ocean. 

When two FA-18F fighter jets from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz arrived in the area, they first saw what appeared to be churning water, with a shadow of an oval shape underneath the surface. Then, in a few moments, a white Tic Tac-shaped object appeared above the water. It had no visible markings to indicate an engine, wings or windows, and infrared monitors didn&apost reveal any exhaust. Black Aces Commander David Fravor and Lt. Commander Jim Slaight of Strike Fighter Squadron 41 attempted to intercept the craft, but it accelerated away, reappearing on radar 60 miles away. It moved three times the speed of sound and more than twice the speed of the fighter jets. 


Indianapolis was the second of two ships in the Portland class, the third class of "treaty cruisers" constructed by the United States Navy following the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, after the two vessels of the Pensacola class, ordered in 1926, and the six of the Northampton class, ordered in 1927. [7] Ordered for the US Navy in fiscal year 1930, Indianapolis was originally designated as a light cruiser because of her thin armor and given the hull classification symbol CL-35. She was reclassified a heavy cruiser, because of her 8-inch (203 mm) guns, with the symbol CA-35 on 1 July 1931, in accordance with the London Naval Treaty. [8]

As built, the Portland-class cruisers were designed for a standard displacement of 10,258 long tons (10,423 t), and a full-load displacement of 12,755 long tons (12,960 t). [9] However, when completed, Indianapolis did not reach this weight, displacing 9,950 long tons (10,110 t). [10] The ship had two distinctive raked funnels, a tripod foremast, and a small tower and pole mast aft. In 1943, light tripods were added forward of the second funnel on each ship, and a prominent Naval director was installed aft. [10]

The ship had four propeller shafts and four Parsons GT geared turbines and eight White-Forster boilers. The 107,000 shp (80,000 kW) gave a design speed of 32.7 kn (60.6 km/h 37.6 mph). She was designed for a range of 10,000 nmi (19,000 km 12,000 mi) at 15 kn (28 km/h 17 mph). [10] She rolled badly until fitted with a bilge keel. [8]

The cruiser had nine 8-inch/55 caliber Mark 9 guns in three triple mounts, a superfiring pair fore and one aft. For anti-aircraft defense, she had eight 5-inch/25 caliber guns and two QF 3 pounder Hotchkiss guns. In 1945, she received twenty-four 40 mm (1.57 in) Bofors guns, arrayed in six quad mounts. Both ships were upgraded with nineteen 20 mm (0.79 in) Oerlikon cannons. [3] The ship did not have torpedo tubes. [11]

The Portland-class cruisers originally had 1-inch (25 mm) armor for deck and side protection, but in construction [8] they were given belt armor between 5 in (127 mm) (around the magazines) and 3.25 in (83 mm) in thickness. [11] Armor on the bulkheads was between 2 in (51 mm) and 5.75 in (146 mm) that on the deck was 2.5 in (64 mm), the barbettes 1.5 in (38 mm), the gunhouses 2.5 in, and the conning tower 1.25 in (32 mm). [10]

Portland-class cruisers were outfitted as fleet flagships, with space for a flag officer and his staff. The class also had two aircraft catapults amidships. [10] They could carry four aircraft. The total crew varied, with a regular designed complement of 807 [9] and a wartime complement of 952, which could increase to 1,229 when the cruiser was a fleet flagship. [10]

Indianapolis was laid down by New York Shipbuilding Corporation on 31 March 1930. [10] The hull and machinery were provided by the builder. [8] Indianapolis was launched on 7 November 1931, and commissioned on 15 November 1932. [10] She was the second ship named for the city of Indianapolis, following the cargo ship of the same name in 1918. She was sponsored by Lucy M. Taggart, daughter of former Mayor of Indianapolis Thomas Taggart. [12]

Under Captain John M. Smeallie, Indianapolis undertook her shakedown cruise through the Atlantic and into Guantánamo Bay, until 23 February 1932. Indianapolis then transited the Panama Canal for training off the Chilean coast. After overhaul at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, she sailed to Maine to embark President Franklin Delano Roosevelt at Campobello Island, New Brunswick, on 1 July 1933. [12] Getting underway the same day, Indianapolis arrived at Annapolis, Maryland, on 3 July. She hosted six members of the Cabinet, along with Roosevelt, during her stay there. After disembarking Roosevelt, she departed Annapolis on 4 July, and steamed for Philadelphia Navy Yard. [13]

On 6 September, she embarked Secretary of the Navy Claude A. Swanson, for an inspection of the Navy in the Pacific. Indianapolis toured the Canal Zone, Hawaii, and installations in San Pedro and San Diego. Swanson disembarked on 27 October. On 1 November 1933, she became flagship of Scouting Force 1, and maneuvered with the force off Long Beach, California. She departed on 9 April 1934, and arrived at New York City, embarking Roosevelt, a second time, for a naval review. She returned to Long Beach on 9 November 1934 for more training with the Scouting Force. She remained flagship of Scouting Force 1 until 1941. On 18 November 1936, she embarked Roosevelt a third time at Charleston, South Carolina, and conducted a goodwill cruise to South America with him. She visited Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Montevideo, Uruguay, for state visits before returning to Charleston and disembarking Roosevelt's party on 15 December. [13] President Roosevelt underwent his crossing the line ceremony on this cruise on 26 November: an "intensive initiation lasting two days, but we have all survived and are now full-fledged Shellbacks". [14]

On 7 December 1941, Indianapolis, leading Task Force 3, (Indianapolis and destroyer-minesweepers Dorsey, Elliot, and Lamberton from MineDiv 6, and Southard and Long from MineDiv 5 [15] ) was conducting a mock bombardment at Johnston Atoll during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Indianapolis was absorbed into Task Force 12 and searched for the Japanese carriers responsible for the attack, though the force did not locate them. She returned to Pearl Harbor on 13 December and joined Task Force 11. [13]

New Guinea campaign Edit

With the task force, she steamed to the South Pacific, to 350 mi (560 km) south of Rabaul, New Britain, escorting the aircraft carrier Lexington. Late in the afternoon of 20 February 1942, the American ships were attacked by 18 Japanese aircraft. Of these, 16 were shot down by aircraft from Lexington and the other two were destroyed by anti-aircraft fire from the ships. [13]

On 10 March, the task force, reinforced by another force centered on the carrier Yorktown, attacked Lae and Salamaua, New Guinea, where the Japanese were marshaling amphibious forces. Attacking from the south through the Owen Stanley mountain range, the US air forces surprised and inflicted heavy damage on Japanese warships and transports, losing few aircraft. Indianapolis returned to the Mare Island Naval Shipyard for a refit before escorting a convoy to Australia. [13]

Aleutian Islands campaign Edit

Indianapolis then headed for the North Pacific to support American units in the Battle of the Aleutian Islands. On 7 August, Indianapolis and the task force attacked Kiska Island, a Japanese staging area. Although fog hindered observation, Indianapolis and other ships fired their main guns into the bay. Floatplanes from the cruisers reported Japanese ships sunk in the harbor and damage to shore installations. After 15 minutes, Japanese shore batteries returned fire before being destroyed by the ships' main guns. Japanese submarines approaching the force were depth-charged by American destroyers and Japanese seaplanes made an ineffective bombing attack. In spite of a lack of information on the Japanese forces, the operation was considered a success. US forces later occupied Adak Island, providing a naval base farther from Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island.

1943 operations Edit

In January 1943, Indianapolis supported a landing and occupation on Amchitka, part of an Allied island hopping strategy in the Aleutian Islands. [13]

On the evening of 19 February, Indianapolis led two destroyers on a patrol southwest of Attu Island, searching for Japanese ships trying to reinforce Kiska and Attu. She intercepted the Japanese 3,100-long-ton (3,150 t) cargo ship, Akagane Maru laden with troops, munitions, and supplies. The cargo ship tried to reply to the radio challenge but was shelled by Indianapolis. Akagane Maru exploded and sank with all hands. Through mid-1943, Indianapolis remained near the Aleutian Islands, escorting American convoys and providing shore bombardments supporting amphibious assaults. In May, the Allies captured Attu, then turned on Kiska, thought to be the final Japanese holdout in the Aleutians. Allied landings there began on 15 August, but the Japanese had already abandoned the Aleutian Islands, unbeknownst to the Allies. [13]

After refitting at Mare Island, Indianapolis moved to Hawaii as flagship of Vice Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, commanding the 5th Fleet. She sortied from Pearl Harbor on 10 November, with the main body of the Southern Attack Force for Operation Galvanic, the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. On 19 November, Indianapolis bombarded Tarawa Atoll, and next day pounded Makin (see Battle of Makin). The ship then returned to Tarawa as fire-support for the landings. Her guns shot down an enemy plane and shelled enemy strongpoints as landing parties fought Japanese defenders in the Battle of Tarawa. She continued this role until the island was secure three days later. The conquest of the Marshall Islands followed victory in the Gilberts. Indianapolis was again 5th Fleet flagship.

1944 Edit

The cruiser met other ships of her task force at Tarawa, and on D-Day minus 1, 31 January 1944, she was one of the cruisers that bombarded the islands of Kwajalein Atoll. The shelling continued on D-Day, with Indianapolis suppressing two enemy shore batteries. Next day, she destroyed a blockhouse and other shore installations and supported advancing troops with a creeping barrage. The ship entered Kwajalein Lagoon, on 4 February, and remained until resistance disappeared (see Battle of Kwajalein).

In March and April, Indianapolis, still flagship of the 5th Fleet, attacked the Western Carolines. Carrier planes at the Palau Islands on 30–31 March, sank three destroyers, 17 freighters, five oilers and damaged 17 other ships. Airfields were bombed and surrounding water mined. Yap and Ulithi were struck on 31 March, and Woleai on 1 April. Japanese planes attacked but were driven off without damaging the American ships. Indianapolis shot down her second plane, a torpedo bomber, and the Japanese lost 160 planes, including 46 on the ground. These attacks prevented Japanese forces stationed in the Carolines from interfering with the US landings on New Guinea.

In June, the 5th Fleet was busy with the assault on the Mariana Islands. Raids on Saipan began with carrier-based planes on 11 June, followed by surface bombardment, in which Indianapolis had a major role, from 13 June (see Battle of Saipan). On D-Day, 15 June, Admiral Spruance heard that battleships, carriers, cruisers, and destroyers were headed south to relieve threatened garrisons in the Marianas. Since amphibious operations at Saipan had to be protected, Spruance could not withdraw too far. Consequently, a fast carrier force was sent to meet this threat while another force attacked Japanese air bases on Iwo Jima and Chichi Jima, in the Bonin and Volcano Islands, bases for potential enemy air attacks.

A combined US fleet fought the Japanese on 19 June in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Japanese carrier planes, which planned to use the airfields of Guam and Tinian to refuel and rearm, were met by carrier planes and the guns of the Allied escorting ships. That day, the US Navy destroyed a reported 426 Japanese planes while losing 29. [16] Indianapolis shot down one torpedo plane. This day of aerial combat became known as the "Marianas Turkey Shoot". With Japanese air opposition wiped out, the US carrier planes sank Hiyō, two destroyers, and one tanker and damaged others. Two other carriers, Taihō and Shōkaku, were sunk by submarines.

Indianapolis returned to Saipan on 23 June to resume fire support and six days later moved to Tinian to attack shore installations (see Battle of Tinian). Meanwhile, Guam had been taken, and Indianapolis became the first ship to enter Apra Harbor since early in the war. The ship operated in the Marianas for the next few weeks, then moved to the Western Carolines, where further landings were planned. From 12 to 29 September, she bombarded Peleliu, in the Palau Group, before and after the landings (see Battle of Peleliu). She then sailed to Manus Island, in the Admiralty Islands, where she operated for 10 days before returning to the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in California for refitting.

1945 Edit

Overhauled, Indianapolis joined Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher's fast carrier task force on 14 February 1945. Two days later, the task force launched an attack on Tokyo to cover the landings on Iwo Jima, scheduled for 19 February. This was the first carrier attack on mainland Japan since the Doolittle Raid. The mission was to destroy Japanese air facilities and other installations in the Home Islands. The fleet achieved complete tactical surprise by approaching the Japanese coast under cover of bad weather. The attacks were pressed home for two days. The US Navy lost 49 carrier planes while claiming 499 enemy planes, a 10-to-1 kill/loss ratio. The task force also sank a carrier, nine coastal ships, a destroyer, two destroyer escorts, and a cargo ship. They destroyed hangars, shops, aircraft installations, factories, and other industrial targets.

Immediately after the strikes, the task force raced to the Bonin Islands to support the landings on Iwo Jima. The ship remained there until 1 March, protecting the invasion ships and bombarding targets in support of the landings. Indianapolis returned to VADM Mitscher's task force in time to strike Tokyo, again on 25 February, and Hachijō, off the southern coast of Honshū, the following day. Although weather was extremely bad, the American force destroyed 158 planes and sank five small ships while pounding ground installations and destroying trains.

The next target for the US forces was Okinawa, in the Ryukyu Islands, which were in range of aircraft from the Japanese mainland. The fast carrier force was tasked with attacking airfields in southern Japan until they were incapable of launching effective airborne opposition to the impending invasion. The fast carrier force departed for Japan from Ulithi on 14 March. On 18 March, she launched an attack from a position 100 mi (160 km) southeast of the island of Kyūshū. The attack targeted airfields on Kyūshū, as well as ships of the Japanese fleet in the harbors of Kobe and Kure, on southern Honshū. The Japanese located the American task force on 21 March, sending 48 planes to attack the ships. Twenty-four fighters from the task force intercepted and shot down all the Japanese aircraft.

Indianapolis was assigned to Task Force 54 (TF 54) for the invasion of Okinawa. When TF 54 began pre-invasion bombardment of Okinawa on 24 March, Indianapolis spent 7 days pouring 8-inch shells into the beach defenses. During this time, enemy aircraft repeatedly attacked the American ships. Indianapolis shot down six planes and damaged two others. On 31 March, the day before the Tenth Army (combined U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps) started its assault landings, the Indianapolis lookouts spotted a Japanese Nakajima Ki-43 "Oscar" fighter as it emerged from the morning twilight and dived vertically towards the bridge. The ship's 20 mm guns opened fire, but within 15 seconds the plane was over the ship. Tracers converged on it, causing it to swerve, but the pilot managed to release his bomb from a height of 25 ft (7.6 m), then crashing his plane into the sea near the port stern. The bomb plummeted through the deck, into the crew's mess hall, down through the berthing compartment, and through the fuel tanks before crashing through the keel and exploding in the water underneath. The concussion blew two gaping holes in the keel which flooded nearby compartments, killing nine crewmen. The ship's bulkheads prevented any progressive flooding. Indianapolis, settling slightly by the stern and listing to port, steamed to a salvage ship for emergency repairs. Here, inspection revealed that her propeller shafts were damaged, her fuel tanks ruptured, and her water-distilling equipment ruined. But Indianapolis commenced the long trip across the Pacific, under her own power, to the Mare Island Navy Yard for repairs.

Secret mission Edit

After major repairs and an overhaul, Indianapolis received orders to undertake a top-secret mission of the utmost significance to national security: to proceed to Tinian island carrying the enriched uranium [17] (about half of the world's supply of uranium-235 at the time) and other parts required for the assembly of the atomic bomb codenamed "Little Boy", which would be dropped on Hiroshima a few weeks later. [18]

Indianapolis was then sent to Guam, where a number of the crew who had completed their tours of duty were relieved by other sailors. Leaving Guam on 28 July, she began sailing toward Leyte, where her crew was to receive training before continuing on to Okinawa to join Vice Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf's Task Force 95. [ citation needed ]

At 00:15 on 30 July, Indianapolis was struck on her starboard side by two Type 95 torpedoes, one in the bow and one amidships, from the Japanese submarine I-58, [21] captained by Commander Mochitsura Hashimoto, who initially thought he had spotted the New Mexico-class battleship Idaho. [23] The explosions caused massive damage. Indianapolis took on a heavy list (the ship had had a great deal of armament and gun-firing directors added as the war went on, and was therefore top-heavy) [24] and settled by the bow. Twelve minutes later, she rolled completely over, then her stern rose into the air and she sank. Some 300 of the 1,195 crewmen aboard went down with the ship. [4] With few lifeboats and many without life jackets, the remainder of the crew was set adrift. [25]

Rescue Edit

Navy command did not know of the ship's sinking until survivors were spotted in the open ocean three and a half days later. At 10:25 on 2 August, a PV-1 Ventura flown by Lieutenant Wilbur "Chuck" Gwinn and his copilot, Lieutenant Warren Colwell, and a PBY 2 piloted by Bill Kitchen spotted the men adrift while on a routine patrol flight. [26] Gwinn immediately dropped a life raft and radio transmitter. All air and surface units capable of rescue operations were dispatched to the scene at once.

First to arrive was an amphibious PBY-5A Catalina patrol plane flown by Lieutenant Commander (USN) Robert Adrian Marks. Marks and his flight crew spotted the survivors and dropped life rafts one raft was destroyed by the drop while others were too far away from the exhausted crew. Against standing orders not to land in open ocean, Marks took a vote of his crew and decided to land the aircraft in twelve-foot (3.7 m) swells. He was able to maneuver his craft to pick up 56 survivors. Space in the plane was limited, so Marks had men lashed to the wing with parachute cord. His actions rendered the aircraft unflyable. After nightfall, the destroyer escort USS Cecil J. Doyle, the first of seven rescue ships, used its search light as a beacon and instilled hope in those still in the water. Cecil J. Doyle and six other ships picked up the remaining survivors. After the rescue, Marks' plane was sunk by Cecil J. Doyle as it could not be recovered. [27]

Many of the survivors were injured, and all suffered from lack of food and water (leading to dehydration and hypernatremia some found rations, such as Spam and crackers, among the debris of the Indianapolis), exposure to the elements (dehydration from the hot sun during the day and hypothermia at night, as well as severe desquamation due to continued exposure to salt water and bunker oil), and shark attacks, while some killed themselves or other survivors in various states of delirium and hallucinations. [28] [29] Only 316 of the nearly 900 men set adrift after the sinking survived. [4] Two of the rescued survivors, Robert Lee Shipman and Frederick Harrison, died in August 1945.

"Ocean of Fear", a 2007 episode of the Discovery Channel TV documentary series Shark Week, states that the sinking of Indianapolis resulted in the most shark attacks on humans in history, and attributes the attacks to the oceanic whitetip shark species. Tiger sharks may also have killed some sailors. The same show attributed most of the deaths on Indianapolis to exposure, salt poisoning, and thirst/dehydration, with the dead being dragged off by sharks. [30]

Navy failure to learn of the sinking Edit

The Headquarters of Commander Marianas on Guam and of the Commander Philippine Sea Frontier on Leyte kept Operations plotting boards on which were plotted the positions of all vessels with which the headquarters were concerned. However, it was assumed that ships as large as Indianapolis would reach their destinations on time, unless reported otherwise. Therefore, their positions were based on predictions and not on reports. On 31 July, when she should have arrived at Leyte, Indianapolis was removed from the board in the headquarters of Commander Marianas. She was also recorded as having arrived at Leyte by the headquarters of Commander Philippine Sea Frontier. Lieutenant Stuart B. Gibson, the operations officer under the Port Director, Tacloban, was the officer responsible for tracking the movements of Indianapolis. The vessel's failure to arrive on schedule was known at once to Gibson, who failed to investigate the matter and made no immediate report of the fact to his superiors. Gibson received a letter of reprimand in connection with the incident. The acting commander and operations officer of the Philippine Sea Frontier also received reprimands, while Gibson's immediate superior received a letter of admonition. [31]

In the first official statement, the Navy said that distress calls "were keyed by radio operators and possibly were actually transmitted" but that "no evidence has been developed that any distress message from the ship was received by any ship, aircraft or shore station". [31] Declassified records later showed that three stations received the signals but none acted upon the call. One commander was drunk, another had ordered his men not to disturb him, and a third thought it was a Japanese trap. [32]

Immediately prior to the attack, the seas had been moderate, the visibility fluctuating but poor in general, and Indianapolis had been steaming at 17 kn (20 mph 31 km/h). When the ship failed to reach Leyte on 31 July, as scheduled, no report was made that she was overdue. The Navy then created the Movement Report System to prevent such disasters in the future. [33]

Court-martial of Captain McVay Edit

Captain Charles B. McVay III, who had commanded Indianapolis since November 1944 through several battles, survived the sinking, though he was one of the last to abandon ship, and was among those rescued days later. In November 1945, he was court-martialed on two charges: failing to order his men to abandon ship and hazarding the ship. Cleared of the charge of failing to order abandon ship, McVay was convicted of "hazarding his ship by failing to zigzag". Several aspects of the court-martial were controversial. There was evidence that the Navy itself had placed the ship in harm's way. McVay's orders were to "zigzag at his discretion, weather permitting" however, McVay was not informed that a Japanese submarine was operating in the vicinity of his route from Guam to Leyte. Further, Mochitsura Hashimoto, commander of I-58, testified that zigzagging would have made no difference. [34] Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz remitted McVay's sentence and restored him to active duty. McVay retired in 1949 as a rear admiral. [35]

While many of Indianapolis 's survivors said McVay was not to blame for the sinking, the families of some of the men who died thought otherwise: "Merry Christmas! Our family's holiday would be a lot merrier if you hadn't killed my son", read one piece of mail. [36] The guilt that was placed on his shoulders mounted until he committed suicide in 1968, using his Navy-issued revolver. McVay was discovered on his front lawn by his gardener with a toy sailor in one hand, and a revolver in the other. [37] He was 70 years old.

McVay's record cleared Edit

In 1996, sixth-grade student Hunter Scott began his research on the sinking of Indianapolis for a class history project. Scott's effort led to an increase in national publicity, which got the attention of retired Congressional lobbyist Michael Monroney, who had been scheduled to be assigned to Indianapolis before she shipped out on her final voyage. Around the same time, Captain William J. Toti, USN, final commanding officer of the fast attack nuclear submarine USS Indianapolis (SSN-697) received an appeal from several Indianapolis survivors to assist with the exoneration effort. Toti then demonstrated through analysis that the tactic of zigzagging would not have spared the Indianapolis from at least one torpedo hit by the I-58. [38] Monroney, whose son-in-law was on the staff of Senator Bob Smith (R, NH), brought the matter to the attention of his son-in-law, who was able to get the issue in front of Smith. Smith convinced Senator John Warner (R, VA) to hold hearings on the Senate Armed Services Committee on 14 September 1999, in which several Indianapolis survivors testified. Also called to testify in the hearings were Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Donald Pilling, Director of Naval History Center Dr. William Dudley, and the Judge Advocate General of the Navy Rear Admiral John Hutson. The hearings were reported to sway Senator Warner into allowing a "Sense of Congress" resolution clearing Captain McVay's name to be passed to full Congress for a vote. In October 2000, the United States Congress passed a resolution that Captain McVay's record should state that "he is exonerated for the loss of Indianapolis". President Bill Clinton also signed the resolution. [39] The resolution noted that, although several hundred ships of the US Navy were lost in combat during World War II, McVay was the only captain to be court-martialed for the sinking of his ship. [40] In July 2001, United States Secretary of the Navy Gordon England directed Captain Toti to enter the Congressional language into McVay's official Navy service record, clearing him of all wrongdoing. [41] [42]

USS Arizona survivor, Navy veteran celebrates 100th birthday, receives personal message from Secret Service

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One of the two living survivors from the USS Arizona celebrated his 100th birthday Thursday, with a personal message from the White House Secret Service to wish him well on his special day.

Navy veteran Ken Potts, who now lives in Utah, served on the USS Arizona as a crane operator. Potts was aboard the craft when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, escaping with other sailors who were above-deck at the time.

Some 80 years later, there are only two living survivors: Potts and Lou Conter, the latter turning 99 in September 2020.

Reaching the centennial landmark did not go unnoticed, and Stg. Jonathan Stockeland, a 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran, sent Potts a happy birthday message filmed in front of the White House.

Sgt. Jonathan Stockeland showing World War II veterans around the White House. The 2017 tour included survivors of the USS Arizona. (DHS)

Stockeland met Potts in 2017 when he volunteered to give a "Veterans Tour" of the White House while he served as a member of the Secret Service.

He only later learned that the tour included survivors of the USS Arizona.

World War II veteran Ken Potts met President Trump during a 2017 tour of the White House. Potts is one of two remaining survivors of the USS Arizona, which was lost during the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. (DHS)

Potts also met former President Trump during the tour.

Stockeland now says that the highlight of his career was giving that tour, which he concluded in the Map Room of the White House, where President Roosevelt would go for his daily briefings during World War II.

Sgt. Jonathan Stockeland films a message to celebrate veteran Ken Potts' 100th birthday. (DHS)

Potts will receive many video messages, but Stockeland’s message is a personal one that will be shared with Potts and his family, a Secret Service spokesperson told Fox News.

Potts joined the Navy at 18 when jobs were scarce and the war raged in Europe and the Pacific. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Potts recovered stateside and received a medical discharge.

He reenlisted a year later, serving on a destroyer and fighting in the invasion of the Philippines, according to Stars and Stripes.

Last year, Potts saw another of his fellow survivors, Don Stratton, pass, leaving him and Lou Conter as the last two.

"It's important when you get old, like we are," he said of his bond with his fellow survivors. "It's especially important when you lose one."


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