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STATEMENT OF PAUL J. MURPHY, CHAIRMAN OF THE USS INDIANAPOLIS SURVIVORS ORGANIZATION, BEFORE THE SENATE ARMED FORCES COMMITTEE IN SUPPORT OF SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION 26

September 14, 1999


    MR. CHAIRMAN, MY NAME IS PAUL J. MURPHY, OF BROOMFIELD, COLORADO. I AM A SURVIVOR OF THE USS INDIANAPOLIS, AND FOR THE PAST FIVE YEARS I HAVE HAD THE HONOR OF SERVING AS CHAIRMAN OF THE USS INDIANAPOLIS SURVIVORS ORGANIZATION.

    ON BEHALF OF THE SURVIVORS ORGANIZATION, LET ME EXPRESS DEEP APPRECIATION FOR THIS HEARING WHICH GIVES US A CHANCE AT LAST TO SPEAK OUT IN A NATIONAL FORUM AGAINST THE SHAMEFUL COURT-MARTIAL CONVICTION OF OUR LATE CAPTAIN IN 1945. AND LET ME EXPRESS SPECIAL THANKS TO YOU, SENATOR SMITH, FOR SPONSORING THIS RESOLUTION WHICH WOULD HELP TO CLEAR HIS NAME

    WITH YOUR PERMISSION I WOULD LIKE TO SUBMIT A LENGTHY AND DEFINITIVE STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD, THEN SUMMARIZE THIS STATEMENT BRIEFLY NOW. I WOULD ALSO REQUEST PERMISSION TO SUBMIT STATEMENTS FROM SURVIVORS AND OTHER INTERESTED PARTIES FOR THE RECORD.

    THE RESOLUTION YOU ARE CONSIDERING TODAY REPRESENTS A GOAL OF ALL THE SURVIVORS OF THE USS INDIANAPOLIS. WE HAVE BEEN UNITED FOR OVER FIFTY YEARS IN OUR CONVICTION THAT CAPTAIN MCVAY'S COURT-MARTIAL WAS MORALLY WRONG AND IN OUR EFFORTS TO CLEAR HIS NAME.

    I WOULD BE REMISS NOT TO ACKNOWLEDGE YOUNG HUNTER SCOTT WHOSE PERSISTENCE AND DEDICATION ON OUR BEHALF HAS ATTRACTED THE ATTENTION OF THE MEDIA AND NOW CONGRESS. HIS ENTHUSIASM HAS HELPED BRING US HERE TODAY AND BE ON THE BRINK OF REALIZING OUR HALF-CENTURY-OLD DREAM OF SEEING OUR SKIPPER'S GOOD NAME RESTORED.

    MR. CHAIRMAN, IN ADDITION TO MYSELF, THERE ARE OVER A DOZEN SURVIVORS OF THE USS INDIANAPOLIS IN THIS HEARING ROOM, ALL OF WHOM TRAVELED HERE TODAY AT THEIR OWN EXPENSE. WE REPRESENT ABOUT TEN PERCENT OF THE REMAINING SURVIVORS OF THAT DISASTER. BUT I CAN TELL YOU THAT THEIR PRESENCE HERE TODAY SPEAKS FOR ALL OF THE 317 MEN WHO LIVED THROUGH THOSE DREADFUL DAYS AND NIGHTS IN THE SEA, MORE THAN HALF OF WHOM HAVE SINCE PASSED AWAY.

    TWO OTHER SURVIVORS FROM OHIO WHO HAD PLANNED TO DRIVE HERE FOR TODAY'S HEARING WERE BERNARD BATEMAN AND ALBERT MORRIS. I AM SAD TO TELL YOU THAT BERNARD BATEMAN DIED SUDDENLY ON FRIDAY EVENING, AND AL MORRIS WILL BE ATTENDING HIS SERVICES TODAY.

    WE WANT THE WRONG WHICH WAS DONE TO OUR SKIPPER RIGHTED, BUT TIME IS RUNNING OUT ON THE 134 OF US WHO REMAIN.

    MY WRITTEN STATEMENT COVERS IN GREAT DETAIL THE MANY, MANY CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH CONTRIBUTED TO THE LOSS OF THE INDIANAPOLIS, ALL OF WHICH WE BELIEVE WERE BEYOND OUR CAPTAINS CONTROL. LET ME LIST JUST A FEW:

    OUR CAPTAIN REQUESTED A DESTROYER ESCORT TO CROSS THE PHILIPPINE SEA. HE WAS TOLD AN ESCORT WAS NOT NECESSARY. HIS REQUEST WAS DENIED.

    HE WAS NOR TOLD OF THE SINKING OF THE DESTROYER ESCORT UNDERHILL BY AN ENEMY SUBMARINE WITHIN RANGE OF OUR PATH.

    HE WAS LED TO BELIEVE THIS TRANSIT WAS SAFE AND TOLD ONLY OF UNCONFIRMED SUBMARINE SIGHTINGS. THE TRANSIT WAS NOT SAFE.

    HE WAS GIVEN ORDERS TO ZIGZAG AT HIS DISCRETION. HE USED HIS DISCRETION TO CEASE ZIGZAGGING AT MIDNIGHT IN SEVERELY LIMITED VISIBILITY, THEN WAS COURT-MARTIALED FOR DOING SO.

    THE CHARGE UPON WHICH HE WAS CONVICTED FOR FAILING TO ZIGZAG CONTAINED THE PHRASE "IN GOOD VISIBILITY." THE VISIBILITY THAT NIGHT WAS NOT GOOD... AS ALL OF US KNOW WHO WERE THERE THAT NIGHT... AND AS YOU WILL HEAR FROM OTHER SURVIVORS TODAY.

    HE WAS DENIED HIS FIRST CHOICE OF A DEFENSE COUNSEL. THE DEFENSE COUNSEL HE WAS ASSIGNED WAS INEXPERIENCED.

    NAVAL INTELLIGENCE HAD BROKEN THE JAPANESE CODE AND KNEW THAT THE SUBMARINE WHICH SANK US WAS WITHIN RANGE OF OUR PATH. CAPTAIN MCVAY WAS NOT TOLD -- NOR WAS HIS DEFENSE COUNSEL BECAUSE THIS FACT REMAINED CLASSIFIED UNTIL ONLY SEVEN YEARS AGO.

    OF THE HUNDREDS OF NAVY CAPTAINS WHO LOST THEIR SHIPS TO ENEMY ACTION DURING WORLD WAR II, OUR CAPTAIN WAS THE ONLY ONE TO BE COURT-MARTIALED.

    ADMIRAL SPRUANCE FOR WHOM THE INDIANAPOLIS SERVED AS FLAGSHIP WAS OPPOSED TO THE COURT-MARTIAL. FLEET ADMIRAL CHESTER NIMITZ WAS OPPOSED TO THE COURT-MARTIAL. THEIR RECOMMENDATIONS WERE IGNORED.

    MR. CHAIRMAN, THE LOSS OF THE INDIANAPOLIS REMAINS THE GREATEST SEA DISASTER IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES NAVY. THIS WAS AN EMBARRASSMENT TO THE NAVY BECAUSE THEY NEVER EVEN NOTICED WE WERE MISSING UNTIL SURVIVORS WERE SPOTTED QUITE BY ACCIDENT FOUR DAYS LATER. SOMEONE HAD TO BE BLAMED ... SO THEY MADE OUR SKIPPER TAKE THE BLAME TO AVOID ADMITTING MISTAKES WHICH WERE NOT HIS.

    MR. CHAIRMAN, MY 20 PAGE WRITTEN STATEMENT IS DEVOTED IN PART TO COMMENTING ON AND CHALLENGING RECENT NAVY REPORTS, SPECIFICALLY ONE PUBLISHED IN JUNE OF 1996, WHICH ATTEMPT TO DEFEND CAPTAIN MCVAY'S COURT-MARTIAL AND CONVICTION.

    THESE REPORTS GREATLY ANGERED THOSE OF US WHO READ THEM.

    THEY CONTAINED, FALSEHOODS, STATEMENTS TAKEN OUT OF CONTEXT, AND PLAIN MEAN-SPIRITED INNUENDOES ABOUT OUR SKIPPER AND OTHERS WHO HAVE ATTEMPTED TO DEFEND HIM.

    AS EXAMPLES, THERE WAS ONE IMPLICATION THAT HE WAS A COWARD FOR NOT GOING DOWN WITH HIS SHIP, ANOTHER THAT HE WAS A LIAR IN COMMENTING ABOUT THE VISIBILITY AT THE TIME OF THE SINKING.

    PERHAPS THE MOST RIDICULOUS, HOWEVER, WAS AN ATTEMPT TO IMPUGN THE CREDIBILITY OF ALL OF CAPTAIN MCVAY'S DEFENDERS BY CITING NUMEROUS MISSTATEMENTS SUPPORTING CAPTAIN MCVAY IN A LETTER TO CONGRESS FROM A SURVIVOR. ONLY IN A SMALL FOOTNOTE WOULD YOU DISCOVER THAT NO SUCH MAN WAS ABOARD THE INDIANAPOLIS. THE LETTER WAS A HOAX.

    THE 1996 NAVY REPORT CONTAINED PERSONAL ATTACKS ON CAPTAIN MCVAY'S CHARACTER. THEY WERE UNWARRANTED AND , IN MOST INSTANCES, UNRELATED TO THE CHARGES AGAINST HIM. ON BEHALF OF THE MEN WHO SERVED ON THE INDIANAPOLIS UNDER CAPTAIN MCVAY, I WOULD LIKE TO STATE OUR DEEP RESENTMENT AND ASK "WHY IS THE NAVY STILL OUT TO FALSELY PERSECUTE AND DEFAME HIM?"

    MR. CHAIRMAN, PLEASE HELP US RESTORE OUR SKIPPER'S GOOD NAME. TIME IS RUNNING OUT ON THOSE FEW OF US FOR WHOM THIS HAS BEEN A GOAL OF MORE THAN FIFTY YEARS. PLEASE PASS RESOLUTION 26.
 

Courtesy of Michael Monroney



 

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