USS Indianapolis Burial at Sea Project

The USS Indianapolis (CA-35) off Mare Island Navy Yard, California, 10 July 1945

(Only three weeks before her sinking)

Rick Stone is a retired Chief of Police with service in the Dallas, Texas Police Department, the Wichita, Kansas Police Department, and the Hollywood, Florida Police Department.  As a law enforcement retiree, Chief Stone served during 2011 and 2012 with the Department of Defense (DoD) as the Deputy Chief of the World War II Research and Investigation Branch of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Honolulu, Hawaii.  During his tenure with DoD, 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.

In 2019, Chief Stone again agreed to come out of retirement status to accept an appointment as the Chief of the Histories Branch at the U.S. Navy’s Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC), 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 contemplate a project to determine if there were any “Indy” casualties that were recovered shortly after the tragedy, identified and buried at sea, but who were still listed as  “Unaccounted For” by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Command.

Unfortunately other operational priorities at NHHC and the Covid 19 pandemic of 2020 prevented the initiation of the “USS Indianapolis Burial at Sea Project” at NHHC.   In 2021 Chief Stone returned to retirement status.

After Chief Stone’s departure from NHHC, The Chief Rick Stone and Family Charitable Foundation initiated the “USS Indianapolis Burial at Sea Project” by working with Indy survivor’s groups, utilizing publically available resources of NHHC, other 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 550 “Investigative Reports” that have assisted in the accounting for over 200 American servicemen who were originally listed as MIA.

For the “Indy Project”, Foundation researchers poured through dozens of books and articles published on the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, acquired and analyzed all of the seven recovery ship’s Deck Logs, recovery ship’s War Diaries, and the recovery ship’s commanding officer’s After Action Reports.  In addition, Foundation investigators obtained the “Individual Deceased Personnel Files” and other documents from the National Archives to determine possible biometric matches to unknown sailors recovered at the sinking site.

While it was originally thought there might be just two or three Indy sailors whose recovery paperwork was lost that the Foundation could identify beyond a reasonable doubt, Foundation researchers found documentation to indicate thirteen (13) members of the Indy crew were recovered, identified, and buried at sea in the aftermath of the sinking  but who still remain on the official “Unaccounted For” rolls posted online by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

The evidence varies from case to case but some of these thirteen current MIA’s were recovered in 1945 with identification media which included their full name, ship division, and/or service number.  And, there may be more as the Foundation does not yet have all the publically available documentation from the National Archives that may be available to Foundation researchers.

The Foundation’s researchers independently completed thirteen (13) individual “Investigative Reports” on each of the Indy sailors still listed as “Unaccounted For” for whom there are records to prove the individual was recovered and buried at sea in 1945.

On 1 May 2021, the Foundation provided the NHHC Director, Admiral Samuel Cox, with these comprehensive investigative reports which the Foundation researchers felt confirmed beyond a reasonable doubt that twelve crew members of the USS Indianapolis should be removed from the “Unaccounted For” list.

In August 2021, a supplemental investigative report completed by Foundation researchers was forwarded to Admiral Cox after the Foundation received a previously unavailable Deck Log of one of the recovery ships which provided the name of a thirteenth member of the Indy crew who was buried at sea in 1945.

Chief Stone respectfully recommended that the NHHC Director submit the thirteen investigative reports to the Secretary of the Navy with a request that the appropriate administrative procedures be implemented to remove the thirteen sailors identified by Foundation research as “Buried at Sea” in August 1945 from the “Unaccounted For” list maintained by the Department of Defense.

Chief Stone further recommended that the status of the thirteen Indy sailors be officially changed to “Accounted For” due to their  established burial at sea on in August 1945 and that their “Official Military Personnel Files” (OMPF) be updated to reflect this change.

Upon receipt of the Foundation’s submissions, the Director requested his staff at NHHC to review the Foundation’s investigative reports and determine if the recommendations were proven by clear and convincing evidence, as required by Federal statute.  Upon completion of the review of the Foundation’s investigative reports by NHHC and concurrence with the conclusions of Foundation researchers, the NHHC Director then forwarded the reports to the Navy Casualty Office who completed another review of the “VERY thorough reports regarding these…sailors” and convened a formal board to make recommendations to the Director of the Navy Casualty Office.

The Director of the Navy Casualty Office concurred with the board’s recommendations of approval of the Foundation’s findings.  The  Commander of the Navy Personnel Command then directed that the Navy Casualty Office personally inform the families of the thirteen sailors that their loved one was properly buried at sea and will now be officially listed as “Accounted For.”

On the 76th anniversary of the sinking, the USS Indianapolis Legacy Organization posted the below video on YouTube and Facebook titled “A Quest for Closure” as a segment of the 2021 Indy’s Survivor’s Reunion.  Please click on the logo below to watch the short video on YouTube:

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.

Below are the active cases of the  Indy sailors who were previously listed as “Unaccounted For” by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and that Foundation research proved by clear and convincing evidence should be resolved by a finding of “Buried At Sea.”

ABBOTT GEORGE STANLEY S1C
BATSON EUGENE CLIFFORD S2C
HAYNES WILLIAM ALEXANDER S1C
KELLY ALBERT RAYMOND S2C
LUNDGREN ALBERT DAVIS S1C
McHONE OLLIE F1C
PAYNE GEORGE DAVID S2C
RAHN ALVIN WILDER SK3C
SAENZ JOSE ANTONIO SC3C
STRAIN JOSEPH MASON S2C
SUDANO ANGELO ANTHONY SSML3C
WOLFE FLOYD RALPH GM3C
SPARKS CHARLES BYRD COX

Please click on the logo below to read the Navy’s press release announcing the official change in status by the U.S. Navy to “Accounted For” for the 13 Indy sailors:

Here’s the link to the latest news story on the project:

IT IS THE LARGEST SINGLE GROUP IDENTIFICATION AND CHANGE TO

“ACCOUNTED FOR” STATUS OF U.S. NAVY SAILORS IN AMERICAN HISTORY!

Here is the link to the ABC News story on the official announcement:

 

Here is the link to the CBS News story on the official announcement:

For more information, please check out our podcast episodes below from “NO HOME FOR HEROES” which feature case stories about the USS Indianapolis:

NO HOME FOR HEROES

EPISODE 61: THE USS INDIANAPOLIS: SHOW ME A HERO AND I’LL WRITE YOU A TRAGEDY : The case of CAPT Charles Butler McVay III

EPISODE 68:  THE NAVY BURIED THEM AT SEA BUT NO ONE TOLD THE FAMILIES

EPISODE 70:  LOST AT SEA FOR OVER 75 YEARS?  NO, NOT REALLY : The case of SK3c Alvin Wilder Rahn

EPISODE 72: FINDING A LOST SAILOR WHO GAVE HIS LIFE JACKET TO A FRIEND : The case of S1c George Stanley Abbott

EPISODE 76:  THE UNSOLVED MYSTERY OF SEAMAN BING

 

CURRENT STATISTICS ON THE FOUNDATION’S USS INDIANAPOLIS BURIAL AT SEA PROJECT

Bodies recovered near the scene and given a burial at sea – 91

Of these 91, number identified by the recovery ships or later by fingerprints – 40

Of the 51 remaining unidentified, number identified by Foundation research and status changed to “Buried at Sea” by the Navy – 13

Of the 38 remaining unidentified, current number of open cases with viable leads assigned to Foundation investigators  – 7

 

Copyright (C) 2012-2022 Chief Rick Stone & Family Charitable Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

If you are a family member of one of the lost Indy heroes listed below, please contact us as soon as possible as we have a great deal of information to share with you: