Ephrata Legion learns about one of its own

By on July 5, 2017
Shown is the Thank You letter and personalized cap pins.

Shown is the Thank You letter and personalized cap pins.

The Ephrata American Legion Post 429 organization recently sent this letter of “Thank You” and personalized cap pins to the survivors of the World War II USS Indianapolis crew, in time for their annual reunion in July.

Members of the post recently discovered that their captain Charles B. McVay III lists Ephrata as his birth place. When contacted, the public relations director for the surviving crew members affirmed this for the post.

For those not familiar with the story of the USS Indianapolis, this ship and its crew played an important part in WWII history. It was this ship that delivered the components of the atomic bomb to Tinian Island, which was then dropped on Hiroshima.

McVay would be court martialed, due to the sinking of his ship, and the resulting loss of life after they were torpedoed on their way back to the Philippines. He was under sole orders of the president of the United States for this top-secret mission and had to maintain complete radio silence throughout the mission.

The sensitivity surrounding the development and use of the atomic weapon put our political leader in a very sensitive situation at that time. Therefore, all information regarding the development, housing, transportation and delivery of the bomb could not be shared in the court of public opinion.

McVay lived his remaining life plagued by the court martial and constant reminders of his decisions, which resulted in a staggering loss of life among his crew and the worst shark attack in history for the men that went into the sea for five long days before being rescued. Only 317 survived the ordeal. He eventually took his own life in 1968. Surviving crew members and family worked tirelessly to have his name cleared.

In 2000, President Clinton formally removed the court martial from his military file. McVay’s son was informed of the president’s decision, but died months before the formal action was taken.

Post 429 is attempting to arrange a speaking engagement with the son of crew member James Belcher. Belcher has spent most of his life sharing the USS Indianapolis’ story with the nation until his death. James Belcher Jr. carries the message now.

The post is hopeful this engagement will be in the fall of 2017.

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