The USS Indianapolis (CA-35) off Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 10 July 1945
(Only three weeks before her sinking)
While at the Department of Defense in 2011/2012, Chief Stone occasionally encountered MIA cases among Navy and Marine Corps members where sailors and Marines were identified and buried at sea, but the record of that burial somehow failed to get into the deceased member’s service file, rendering them officially classified as “missing in action”, “lost at sea” and/or “body not recovered.” This administrative error left families suffering the loss with no closure-the comfort of knowing their loved one received a funeral and fitting Navy burial at sea stolen by the fog of war.
Upon appointment as the Chief of the Histories Branch at the U.S. Navy’s Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) in 2019, one of Chief Stone’s duties was to provide support to the USS Indianapolis Survivors Organization and the USS Indianapolis Legacy Organization. This activity caused Chief Stone to initiate a project by the Naval Historians under his command at NHHC to determine if there were any “Indy” casualties that were recovered shortly after the tragedy, identified and buried at sea, but who are still listed as “Unaccounted For” on the official rolls of the Department of Defense.
Unfortunately other operational priorities at NHHC and the Covid – 19 pandemic of 2020 prevented the completion of the “USS Indianapolis Burial at Sea Project” prior to Chief Stone’s retirement in 2021. The Chief Rick Stone and Family Charitable Foundation has taken up the gauntlet to finish the project by working with the Director of NHHC and Indy survivor’s groups by utilizing the combined resources of both the Navy, the non-governmental organizations, and the worldwide network of volunteer researchers and investigators within the Foundation who assist MIA families in learning the circumstances of their service member’s loss. To date, Foundation researchers and investigators have completed almost 500 “Investigative Reports” that have assisted in the accounting for over 140 American servicemen who were originally listed as MIA.
While it was originally thought there might be just two or three Indy sailors whose recovery paperwork was lost that we could identify beyond a reasonable doubt, Foundation researchers have found documentation to indicate twelve (12) members of the Indy crew may have been recovered, identified, and buried at sea but who still remain on the official “Unaccounted For” rolls. The evidence varies from case to case but some of these current MIA’s were recovered in 1945 with identification media which included their full name, division, and/or service number. And, there may be more as we do not yet have all the documentation from the currently closed National Archives that may be available to NHHC personnel who the Director has approved to work with the Foundation on this project.
The Foundation’s mission is to provide individual “Investigative Reports” to the Director of NHHC on each of the Indy sailors still listed as “Unaccounted For” for whom there are records to prove the individual was identified and buried at sea in 1945.
The goal then is for the NHHC Director to determine the appropriate means for the Navy and the Department of Defense to review the information, approve the recommendation to change the status of the casualty (if proven by clear and convincing evidence), and allow the family to be informed by the Navy Casualty Office that their loved one was properly buried at sea and can now be officially “Accounted For.”
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.
Finally, can you assist us in helping to bring these cases to Navy. Below are the active cases of the Indy sailors who are “Unaccounted For” that research has indicated have the potential for their cases to be resolved.
If you are a family member of one of the lost Indy heroes listed below, please contact us as soon as possible: