July 30, 2005

Remembering USS Indianapolis


One of the worst naval disasters of World War II was the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. Some 900 men made it into the watter after it was hit by two torpedoes on July 30, 1945. Only 316 survived to be rescued five days later -- their shipmates the victims of injuries, exposure, and sharks.

Sixty years after he narrowly avoided death in the U.S. Navy's worst sea disaster, World War II veteran Loel Dene "L.D." Cox is haunted by a dream.

He's with buddies somewhere — the faces and places change from night to night — and suddenly they disappear.

"I turn around and they're gone. I hunt for them, and I may accidently find one of them, and I lose him again," he said. "It's that way every night."

The nightmare forces the 79-year-old West Texan to relive an unforgettable ordeal. Cox was among 316 survivors of the sinking of the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis between Guam and the Philippines on July 30, 1945.

Of the 1,199 crewmen, about 900 lived through a Japanese submarine attack, but they abandoned ship in shark-infested waters and were left for dead until rescuers arrived almost five days later.

By then, nearly 600 more crewmen had perished. In all, about 880 Indianapolis sailors and Marines lost their lives.

"They don't hardly talk about it in the history books. They talk more about Marilyn Monroe than the Indianapolis and it's a crying shame," Cox said last week.

The retiree from Comanche is among 93 living members of the Indianapolis crew. Sixty of them gathered in the ship's namesake city last week to mark the 60th anniversary of its sinking and the recent exoneration of Capt. Charles Butler McVay III of Navy charges of putting the ship in harm's way.

"We thought it was a travesty — every crew member who survived," said Cox, who in 2000 helped persuade Congress to posthumously clear the captain. McVay survived the sinking but took his own life in 1968.

When survivors put aside memories of their harrowing experiences, they take solace in having accomplished a crucial top-secret mission. Four days before the Indianapolis went to the bottom, the ship delivered the inner workings of the first atomic bomb, which was dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6.

The Indianapolis returned from near Japan to San Francisco after a kamikaze attack off Okinawa on March 31, which killed 13 sailors. After repairs, mysterious crates were put aboard, and with record speed, the ship delivered the bomb components to Tinian Island.

Before that mission, Cox was aboard the ship for two other historic missions. The Indianapolis was the command ship during the assault on Iwo Jima and assisted in the first air raids on Tokyo.

There is more to read about this naval tragedy, one more chapter about the lives -- and deaths -- of the Greatest Generation.

UPDATE: Dave Goodman from eMusings at Chez Goodman shares the story of one member of the crew of USS Indianapolis. I think I've found my non-council nominee for this week's Watcher's Council. Prepare to be touched.

» More Than Loans links with: 60 Years Ago Today

|| Greg, 11:58 PM || Permalink || Comments (2) || Comments || TrackBacks (1) ||

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» More Than Loans links with: 60 Years Ago Today, on July 30, 2005, 03:43 PM
Excerpt: I just want to say thank you to the men who won the war, the men who have missed the past 60 years because of their brave actions, and those who are still with us.

Comments on Remembering USS Indianapolis

I'm sure there was movie about this recently. No?

|| Posted by mcconnell, July 29, 2005 11:28 AM ||

Thank you for remembering.

|| Posted by Dave Goodman, July 30, 2005 12:08 PM ||
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