In The News: Remembering the USS Indianapolis

Earlier this week, the Virginia War Memorial was mentioned in an opinion piece by Robin Beres of the Richmond Times Dispatch. Below is Beres editorial, highlighting the USS Indianapolis and their Congressional Gold Medal.

Editorial: USS Indianapolis crew awarded Congressional Gold Medal

August 6, 2020

Amid all the displays of bickering, finger-pointing and stonewalling members of Congress have treated us to during this session, it was mightily uplifting to see our lawmakers come together to award its highest honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, to the surviving members of the USS Indianapolis. In a virtual ceremony that was livestreamed on July 30, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., presented the medal to the living crewmembers to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the ship’s July 30, 1945, sinking.

“On behalf of the 1,195 sailors and Marines who served aboard USS Indianapolis, it is an honor to receive a Congressional Gold Medal,” Harold Bray, 93, the youngest remaining survivor and chair of the USS Indianapolis Survivors Organization, said in a July 29 statement. “Eight survivors remain today, and we are proud to represent our shipmates who are no longer with us. We are very grateful to Congress for this special recognition.”


USS Indianapolis survivors on Guam in August 1945. The survivors of the sinking ship drifted aimlessly for nearly five days, battling thirst, exposure and ravenous sharks. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Getting underway with a crew of 1,195 men, the USS Indianapolis departed San Francisco on a top-secret mission and a cargo the sailors knew nothing about. On July 26, 1945, the ship delivered that cargo — enriched uranium for the atomic bomb “Little Boy” that was to be dropped on Hiroshima — to Tinan Island in the Northern Marinas.

Four days later, the ship was sunk by two Japanese torpedoes. Nearly 900 of the men went into the Philippine Sea as the ship quickly disappeared below the water. Tragically, there only were a handful of lifeboats, and little to no food or water. For nearly five days, the men were stranded, desperately trying to stay afloat in the open waters. Those who survived suffered from severe burns, hunger, dehydration and continuous shark attacks. The ship’s 879 casualties represent the largest U.S. naval disaster in history. The Virginia War Memorial’s database lists seven Virginia crewmembers who perished that night.

The Gold Medal was awarded to the ship’s entire crew, both living and dead. The medal, long overdue, will be displayed at the Indiana War Memorial Museum in Indianapolis. During the ceremony, U.S. Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite directly addressed the surviving crew members, saying, “Your service, your sacrifice embodied the core tenets of our Navy: honor, courage and commitment. We the Navy salute you and thank you for your service. Bravo Zulu shipmates.”

So, too, does The Times-Dispatch.