Over 350 US Navy ships were lost in combat during World War II. Only one
of them resulted in the captain being court martialed.
Anyone who has seen the movie "Jaws"
knows the basics of the story
of the USS Indianapolis, the last ship to be lost in combat during World War II. She was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-58
at 12:14 a.m. on July 30, 1945. Over the next 4 days, exposure, injuries, madness, and shark attacks killed most of the approximately 900 sailors who survived the torpedo attack. Contrary to Quint's speech
in Jaws, the Indianapolis did send a distress call in the 12 minutes between the attack and the ship sinking. It was ignored. The survivors were discovered by accident when an aircraft that noticed the oil slick from the ship. Only 321 men were found and pulled out of the water, 316 of whom
survived the entire ordeal.
one of the worst disasters in the history of the USN. The captain, Charles McVay III
, son of a US Navy admiral, was court martialed
for failing to direct his ship in a zig-zag path. The captain of the I-58, Mochitsura Hashimoto
testified that it wouldn't have mattered and he'd have sunk the ship anyways. The Indianapolis was denied a destoryer escort even though she was not equipped with anti-submarine technology. And due to information classification issues, details of Japanese submarine activity in the area of his route were withheld from McVay. Captain McVay was found guilty.
The following year, Admiral Nimitz
requested that the Secretary of the Navy remit McVay's sentence and restore him to active duty. McVay continued in his Navy career until his retirement from the service in 1949. While some of the families of the sailors who died sent McVay hate mail, the survivors of the Indianapolis lobbied in favor of clearing McVay's record. In 2000, the US Congress approved a resolution - signed by President Clinton - that McVay's record should reflect that he "is exonerated for the loss of the USS Indianapolis."
In 1968, McVay killed himself with his Navy-issued revolver; when his body was found, he was found holding a toy sailor given to him as a child by his father.