In Harm’s Way

Persuasive Essay: In Harm’s Way The sinking of the USS Indianapolis was a horrible event, which killed hundreds of soldiers, and left hundreds floating adrift in the sea with swarms of sharks circling around them. Captain McVay, the captain of the Indianapolis, was charged with negligence. Truly, Captain McVay did his job with what he had, and should not be the scapegoat for the navy. Generals, Lieutenants, and Commodores are all partially responsible for the sinking due to negligence, miss communication, and important top-secret intelligence.

Captain McVay did nothing wrong, and did a great job as Captain with the knowledge and information that he was aware of. Inconsistent communication and information that were out of McVay’s control are responsible for the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. Captain McVay was an experienced captain and knew what needed to be done to run the ship and the procedures to travel safely during a period where Japanese subs were everywhere waiting to take down American ships. When the USS Indianapolis left San Francisco, McVay had a crew that was not experienced.

Therefore, he requested to have his crew be trained and was promised that training would take place in Guam when they arrived. When they arrived to Guam the crew was not completely trained. If an emergency were to happen, the crew would not be trained properly, which would result in many deaths. McVay was not being negligent, he knew what needed to be done in advanced and the navy denied his request. With a crew that was not very experienced, McVay was about to sail from the Marianas Sea Frontier into the Philippine Sea Frontier, a passage that had a navy communication conflict between Admiral Nimitz and General MacArthur.

The political conflict between Nimitz and MacArthur was somewhat resolved because Nimitiz ended up getting control. However, there was still tension between them that caused information about ships and important facts to sometimes become lost. During this time, the passage was dangerous due to Japanese subs and with inconsistent communication, The USS Indianapolis could be in trouble and communication could get lost. The ship was not equipped with sonar because it wasn’t used for finding and hunting down subs.

McVay was aware of this and how dangerous it was to cross to Leyte. Aware of the dangers, McVay requested an escort to assist with a safe sail to Leyte. Lieutenant Waldron, the convoy routing officer then called to request an escort “Waldron inquired of the officer on duty whether there was an escort leaving for Leyte, with whom the Indianapolis might tag along. Waldron was told that none was necessary”(Stanton 70). McVay did his duty by requesting the escort however; Captain Oliver Naquin was the one who denied it.

As Captain, McVay had to rely on mainland communication and intelligence. “naval command assumed that she could travel safely in the backwater unescorted”(70). Even if McVay disagreed with their decision, he would still have to follow orders. With no escort, McVay follow protocol to steer the ship to decrease the risk of getting hit by a torpedo and requested an intelligence report for the whereabouts of enemy subs. McVay knew to travel in a zigzag direction, which made the ship harder to hit. He was to follow a zigzag course during daylight hours, and at night, at his discretion, during periods of good visibility”(71). McVay followed this order but when the Indianapolis was hit, it was at night when McVay was sleeping and not zigzagging. The Navy blamed McVay for not zigzagging when the ship was hit, Zigzagging was only required by the navy during daylight. Also, the naval command thought it was going to be a safe sail unescorted in which McVay would obviously have to trust and agree with. This ended up being false and making his trip more dangers than expected.

McVay took action and requested an intelligence report to be aware of any enemy subs since he had no escort. When McVay received the intelligence report, the most crucial and important information was not given. “Three days earlier, the USS Underhill, a destroyer escort, had been sunk by a Japanese torpedo”(72). This message was kept a secret, neither McVay or anyone that he was communicating with was aware of this attack. However, this was crucial information for McVay, because the attacked happened in the same route as the USS Indianapolis.

Commodore James Carter met with McVay at the CINCPAC headquarters and was aware of the attack but neglected to mention it to McVay. Communication was a big factor in the attack of the USS Indianapolis and even when the ship sank, successful SOS messages did not get communicated right resulting in a delayed rescued mission. Before the ship went down SOS and even the ships coordinates were sent out multiple times to multiple communication stations. One of the messages was received at Leyte and Commodore Gillette sent out tugboats out to the location of the sinking.

After seven hours of the twenty-one hours initial trip, Gillette ordered the tugs to abort and come back to Leyte. McVay did the right procedures during the sinking; Gillette on the other hand was negligent and did not further investigate the reported sinking. Many of the other messages that were received were either ignored or thought to be fake distress calls from the Japanese. Throughout World War two, consistent communication was very difficult. Japan was intercepting America’s communication and getting leads throughout the war.

This caused inconsistent communication and intelligences, which resulted in disasters such as the USS Indianapolis because information was not being provided correctly. The navy new of such crucial information that was very important to the USS Indianapolis such as, the sinking of a navy ship three days before the Indy. The Indianapolis was carrying atomic bombs making its delivery very important even though very few people knew about the bombs. The navy was negligent for doing this, and if McVay had known about the secret information, he would have changed his tactics to make sure he completed his mission.

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