27 May 2022
The Navy has officially changed the status of 13 sailors lost when the USS Indianapolis was sunk in 1945 from ‘Unaccounted for’ to ‘Buried at sea’.
The change in status is the result of extensive research between Naval History and Heritage Command, Navy Casualty Office, the USS Indianapolis Survivors Association, the USS Indianapolis Legacy Organization, and the Chief Rick Stone and Family Charitable Foundation. The announcement helps bring closure to the families of these sailors who lost their lives at the end of a secret mission which helped end World War II. The USS Indianapolis sank on July 30, 1945, after being struck by two Japanese torpedoes. The sailors whose status changed are:
Seaman 1st Class George Stanley Abbott - Bedford, Kentucky
Seaman 2nd Class Eugene Clifford Batson - Kansas City, Kansas
Gunner’s Mate 1st Class William Alexander Haynes - Homedale, Idaho
Seaman 2nd Class Albert Raymond Kelly - Cleveland, Ohio
Seaman 1st Class Albert Davis Lundgren - Washington, D.C.
Fireman 1st Class Ollie McHone - Mars Hill, Arkansas
Seaman 2nd Class George David Payne - Grand Rapids, Michigan
Storekeeper 3rd Class Alvin Wilder Rahn - Hamlet, North Carolina
Ship’s Cook 3rd Class Jose Antonio Saenz - Edinburg, Texas
Coxswain Charles Byrd Sparks - Birmingham, Alabama
Radioman 2nd Class Joseph Mason Strain - Creston, Iowa
SSML3 Angelo Anthony Sudano - Niles, Ohio
Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Floyd Ralph Wolfe - Turner, Oregon
Approximately 300 of the ship’s 1,195 sailors went down with the ship, and some 900 men were set adrift. Only 316 survived. Due to administrative errors, many sailors who were recovered from the ocean and buried at sea from responding vessels were misclassified as ‘Missing in action’ or ‘Unaccounted for’.
According to Rick Stone, who previously served at NHHC, he initiated the USS Indianapolis Burial at Sea Project to determine if any Indianapolis casualties met this criteria. Following his retirement from government service, he established the Chief Rick Stone and Family Charitable Foundation to continue the project and located documentation proving the 13 Sailors were misclassified. According to the foundation’s USS Indianapolis Burial at Sea Project web page, ‘Recovering a lost Sailor, giving their loved ones and family closure, is the greatest gift we can imagine and the greatest way to celebrate and thank the Sailors who lost their lives aboard the USS Indianapolis.’
Capt. Robert McMahon, director of the Navy Casualty Office, said bringing closure to families of those lost at sea is a, “Solemn duty and obligation. Nothing is more important to me than giving families that knowledge when the unthinkable happens. 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 those family members, William Baxter, nephew of Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Wolfe, was notified April 26 of the change in status. Sailors from Naval Medical Readiness and Training Command Beaufort, South Carolina, arrived at his door with a certificate and flag to recognise Wolfe’s sacrifice.
Navy Casualty's mission is providing timely and first-class casualty assistance to Navy families when a Sailor is seriously ill or injured, is placed in a duty status whereabouts unknown (DUSTWUN), or is declared missing and/or Prisoner of War or dies.
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