USS Indianapolis Survivors Here Tonight• March 3, 2008
USS Indianapolis survivors Mike Kruyla, Edgar Harrell, Jim O’Donnell, and Earl Henry Jr., the son of a survivor, will visit the Wabash College campus on Thursday, March 27 for a 7 p.m. presentation sponsored by the Experience Indiana program. The event will be held in the Wabash College Chapel. Admission if is free and the public is cordially invited to attend.
Media interviews may be arranged in advance. Please contact Gina Bowman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 765-361-6339 to set up an appointment.
While on campus, Kruyla, Harrell, and O’Donnell will give an open lecture about their survival from the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. Jeffrey Nance, the executive vice president of the USS Indianapolis Museum will also take part in the presentation, and will show a brief documentary about the USS Indianapolis before the survivors speak.
At 12:14 a.m. on July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis, a Portland-class heavy cruiser of the United States Navy, was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the Philippine Sea and sank in 12 minutes. Of 1,196 men on board, approximately 300 went down with the ship. The remaining 900 men were left floating in shark-infested waters with no lifeboats and most with no food or water. The ship was never missed, and by the time the survivors were spotted by accident four days later only 316 men were still alive.
The USS Indianapolis was commissioned in 1932 and later was sunk by the Japanese submarine I-58 after delivering components of the first atomic bomb "Little Boy" to Tinian Island. President Franklin D. Roosevelt used the Indianapolis as his "Ship of State" many times during the 1930s including a month long trip to South America in 1936 to attend the Good Neighbor Peace Conference. Admiral Raymond Spruance, a 1903 graduate of Shortridge High School in Indianapolis, selected the Indianapolis to be his flagship in command of the Pacific Fifth Fleet. Every major Pacific campaign was planned, executed and monitored from the Indianapolis. The Indianapolis was awarded 10 Battle Stars.
"On the faithful night of July 30, 1945, I was relieved of my watch just after midnight," said Michael Kuryla. "Because it was so hot, I decided to sleep on the deck where it was cool. That decision probably saved my life… Minutes after midnight two explosions lifted me up into the air. I joined the other men to try and battle the flames, but the ship was too damaged. We began to pass out kapok life jackets as the ship began to list quickly to starboard. It sank in 12 minutes. I was in the water for almost five days. On the final night in the water, I saw searchlights piercing the clouds and was convinced I was going to be rescued. That morning, the USS Register arrived, and I was pulled from the water."
In the early 1990s, Kuryla joined forces with a fellow Chicago survivor, Robert McGuiggan, to raise money to build the USS Indianapolis Memorial in downtown Indianapolis. The memorial became a national landmark in 1995.
Jeffrey Nance, the Executive Vice President of the Board of Directors of the USS Indianapolis Museum, will present the fascinating 13-year history of the famed heavy cruiser. The presentation will include not only the ship’s history, including many Indiana connections, but also an amazing collection of photographs from the period.
Nance is a graduate of Indiana University and has held several marketing positions throughout his career. In addition to his volunteer position with the USS Indianapolis Museum, Nance has begun work on a book about the history of the USS Indianapolis.
The Experience Indiana program is a portion of the Quality of Life in Indiana Grant, funded through a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. The Experience Indiana Speakers and Artists Series sponsor speakers and artists who represent Indiana culture and history.