HomeNew Records Show 13 USS Indianapolis Sailors Were Buried At Sea

New Records Show 13 USS Indianapolis Sailors Were Buried At Sea

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George David Payne 2nd Class Navy Seaman was only 17 years old when a Japanese submarine sank his ship in the last weeks of WWII, sinking her and killing him and over 800 other American sailors.

His family believed he was missing in action for decades. However, the Navy now claims that freshly reviewed documents suggest he was buried at sea.

The Wyoming, Michigan boy is one of 13 sailors from the USS Indianapolis who were recently revealed to have received Navy commitment ceremonies 77 years ago. In response, the Navy amended their status to “buried at sea” from “unaccounted for.”

In an interview from Sparta, Michigan, his brother, David Payne, stated, “It’s reassuring that he was found, and hopefully he didn’t suffer much.”

The revelation came as a “shock,” according to Payne. He initially mistook it for a joke because his family had always believed George’s remains had never been recovered.

The USS Indianapolis was damaged by two Japanese torpedoes on July 30, 1945, while on its route to the Philippines from Guam. In about 12 to 15 minutes, the ship sank. The Navy estimates that roughly 300 men were trapped within the ship and perished with it.

The remaining 800 sailors abandoned ship, but rescue ships took four days to arrive. Hundreds more sailors died as a result of injuries, dehydration, and shark attacks during the interim. Only 316 people made it out alive. It is regarded as one of the most tragic events in US Navy history.

“Survivors said it was terrible to be in the water and the sharks were just taking these young guys and older guys one at a time and eating them, and hauling them under and taking them away,” Payne added. “And so that’s what we always envisioned. You know, we hoped that maybe if he was on the ship maybe he was killed outright — instead of suffering .”

George was the third of 12 children, but Payne was born a year after the war ended, so he never met him. Payne’s older brother was described as a “quiet, well-behaved kid,” according to him.

Researchers discovered the identities of the 13 men in deck logs, commanders’ reports, and combat diaries kept by the seven ships that recovered bodies, according to Rick Stone, retired chief naval historian at the Naval History and Heritage Command.

These ships buried 91 identified men at sea, although the military only published the names of 40 of them for unknown reasons. Another 51 names were not on the list. This is where the 13 newly discovered individuals come from. Researchers have “good clues” about the identities of five of the remaining 38, according to Stone.

Stone believes the names slipped through the holes in the system and were never followed up on.

The fact that the Navy disclosed the ship’s loss on the same day the war ended didn’t help matters.

“The sinking of the Indy, which would have been front page news a week earlier,” he recalled, “was kind of relegated to one of the midsections of the newspaper.”

In January 2021, Stone’s private foundation began searching for the documents. While working at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Stone established a file on the Indianapolis after discovering hints that some sailors listed as missing had been found.

“Giving their loved ones and their families some kind of closure — I mean frankly and in all sincerity — it’s the greatest gift I can imagine,” Stone added.

The Naval History and Heritage Command, the Navy Casualty Office, the USS Indianapolis Survivors Association, and the USS Indianapolis Legacy Organization collaborated with Stone’s group, Chief Rick Stone and Family Charitable Foundation, to locate their names.

Image Credit: Getty

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