The Navy has changed the status of 13 World War II crew members of the ill-fated USS Indianapolis from “unaccounted for” to “buried at sea,” Navy officials announced this week.
The Indianapolis had completed a top-secret naval mission in July 1945 when it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, sinking in 12 minutes. At least 300 sailors went down with the Portland-class heavy cruiser.
The warship was tasked with delivering parts of Little Boy, the first nuclear weapon used in combat, to an Army Air Force crew on the island of Tinian. The bomb would later be loaded onto the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay and dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
About 900 crew members of the Indianapolis survived the torpedo attack but spent the next four days in the water, enduring dehydration, exposure and wave after wave of shark attacks. Only 316 of the original crew of 1,195 were rescued and survived.
Because of what Navy officials now say were “administrative errors,” many of the sailors whose bodies were recovered and later buried at sea were misclassified as “missing in action” or “unaccounted for.”
Now they are being reclassified after “extensive research” by the Naval History and Heritage Command, the Naval Casualty Office, and several USS Indianapolis veterans groups.
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“Nothing is more important to me than giving families that knowledge when the unthinkable happens,” Capt. Robert McMahon, director of the Navy Casualty Office, said in a statement. “No amount of time lessens the loss. However, if we can bring some certainty to loved ones, even seven decades later, we are keeping faith with those we lost.”
One of the Indianapolis sailors was Gunners Mate 3rd Class Floyd Wolfe, of Turner, Oregon. The Navy notified his family last month about the change in his status. William Baxter said he never knew his uncle, when Navy officials notified him at his home.
“It’s nice to finally have some closure to what actually happened to [him],” Mr. Baxter said, according to the Navy.
The other USS Indianapolis sailors now listed as buried at sea were:
Seaman 1st Class George Stanley Abbott, of Bedford, Kentucky
Seaman 2nd Class Eugene Clifford Batson, of Kansas City, Kansas
Gunner’s Mate 1st Class William Alexander Haynes, of Homedale, Idaho
Seaman 2nd Class Albert Raymond Kelly, of Cleveland
Seaman 1st Class Albert Davis Lundgren, of the District of Columbia
Fireman 1st Class Ollie McHone, of Mars Hill, Arkansas
Seaman 2nd Class George David Payne, of Grand Rapids, Michigan
Storekeeper 3rd Class Alvin Wilder Rahn, of Hamlet, North Carolina
Ship’s Cook 3rd Class Jose Antonio Saena, of Edinburg, Texas
Coxswain Charles Byrd Sparks, of Birmingham, Alabama
Radioman 2nd Class Joseph Mason Strain, of Creston, Iowa
Ship’s Serviceman 3rd Class Anthony Sudano, of Niles, Ohio