The change in status is the result of extensive research between Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC), 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.
USS Indianapolis sank July 30, 1945 after being struck by two Japanese torpedoes.
The Sailors whose status changed are:
Seaman 1st Class George Stanley Abbott
Seaman 2nd Class Eugene Clifford Batson
Gunner’s Mate 1st Class William Alexander Haynes
Seaman 2nd Class Albert Raymond Kelly
Seaman 1st Class Albert Davis Lundgren
Fireman 1st Class Ollie McHone
Seaman 2nd Class George David Payne
Storekeeper 3rd Class Alvin Wilder Rahn
Ship’s Cook 3rd Class Jose Antonio Saenz
Coxswain Charles Byrd Sparks
Radioman 2nd Class Joseph Mason Strain
Ship's Service Man Laundryman 3rd Class Angelo Anthony Sudano
Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Floyd Ralph Wolfe
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.”
“One of my favorite quotes is ‘Poor is the nation that has no heroes but shameful is the nation who, having heroes, forgets them,’” Stone said. “Our foundation will never forget the heroes of the USS Indianapolis and are proud of our role in helping thirteen families learn that the Navy went to great lengths to honor them soon after their deaths.”
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” he takes to heart.
“Nothing is more important to me than giving families that knowledge when the unthinkable happens,” he said. “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 (NMRTC) Beaufort, South Carolina, arrived at his door with a certificate and flag to recognize Wolfe’s sacrifice.
Baxter, an Okatie, South Carolina, native, said while he did not know his uncle, “it’s nice to finally have some closure to what actually happened to [him]. Thank you all for going above and beyond for me and my family. I wasn’t expecting all of this, but thank you.”
“It was an absolute honor and a privilege to be a part of informing Mr. Baxter and his family of his uncle’s status change, and also being a part of history,” said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Naomi Hall, one of the Sailors from NMRTC Beaufort involved in making notifications.
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. Learn more about Navy Casualty at:
Note to Media: For more information, or to request an interview with families of the Sailors named, please contact Navy Personnel Command Public Affairs Mr. Gene Hughes at 901-874-2438, or NPCPAO@navy.mil.
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