On July 30, 1945, just days after delivering the atomic bomb “Little Boy” to the island of Tinian, the cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35), steaming alone en route from Guam and heading to Okinawa, was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. Nearly 900 of its 1,195-strong crew died. 

Now, the eight surviving crewmembers were honored by Congress. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, in a virtual ceremony, awarded the crewmen with the Congressional Gold Medal on the anniversary of the ship’s sinking. 

“On behalf of the 1,195 Sailors and Marines who served aboard USS Indianapolis, it is an honor to receive a Congressional Gold Medal,” Harold Bray, 93, the youngest remaining survivor and chair of the USS Indianapolis CA-35 Survivors Organization, said to USNI News in a statement on Wednesday.

“Eight survivors remain today, and we are proud to represent our shipmates who are no longer with us. We are very grateful to Congress for this special recognition,” Bray added.

Retired Navy Captain Bill Toti spoke on behalf of the crew of the Indianapolis. He was the commander of the nuclear attack submarine USS Indianapolis (SSN-697). He also helped the crew members get the recognition they so rightly deserved and to clear the name of their captain, Charles McVay, the commander of the Indianapolis who was court-martialed by the Navy after the ship was sunk.

“The survivors of the sinking of the World War II cruiser USS Indianapolis struggled for almost five days in the water just to survive,” Toti said.

“Then for the next five decades, they continued to fight. They did not fight for recognition for themselves, they did not fight for restitution from the Navy for the awful fact that they were forgotten in the water and left to die — they fought to clear their captain’s name.”