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Fatal Voyage Essay, Research Paper


The Sinking of the

USS Indianapolis


Dan Kurzman

8 September 2000

The United States Navy’s core values are based on Honor, Courage, and Commitment. These three basic principles have laid the foundation for the continued success of the Navy and has enabled us to meet and conquer every new challenge.

Honor – true faith and allegiance; conducting ourselves in the highest ethical manner in all relationships with peers, superiors, and subordinates. Abide by an uncompromising code of integrity, taking responsibility for our actions and keeping our word.

Courage – support and defend; make decisions in the best interest of the Navy and the nation, without regard to personal consequences. Be loyal to our nation, ensuring the resources entrusted to us are used in an honest, careful, and efficient way.

Commitment – obey the orders; demand respect up and down the chain of command. Show respect to all people without regard to race, religion, or gender. Be committed to positive change and constant improvement.

Fatal Voyage displayed countless examples of all of the above principles. From the Commanding Officer of the USS Indianapolis (Captain McVay), to the Japanese I-58 Commander (Hashimoto), and both of their crews, these core values were exemplified with pride and professionalism.

Commander Hashimoto demonstrated honor throughout the book. He served his Emperor with true faith and allegiance. He and his crew dedicated themselves to their mission even when a majority of them new that the fight would soon be over and not in the favor of the Japanese.

Captain McVay, a very proud man from a long history of Navy tradition, showed immense honor after his ship was sunk. From a floating crate, Captain McVay sat looking around at the surviving members of his crew. These people were no longer merely members of his crew, but they were now a part of him. He felt their agony, he felt their deaths, and he felt their spirit. It was no longer a matter of being the Captain of a ship, but a matter of survival. His knew role was keeping the remaining members of his crew alive and giving them hope. After being found guilty by court-martial, Captain McVay quietly accepted the courts decision. He sacrificed his honor to help ease the pain and suffering of 880 families. Although there were many people that could have been blamed for this tragic incident, Captain McVay displayed honor by holding himself accountable both professionally and personally.

All of the members of the USS Indianapolis demonstrated courage by risking their lives to save the lives of others without regard to personal consequence. Many crew members supported the weight of other crew members who were injured or who were unable to find life jackets before abandoning ship. The survivors, whose mission was transformed from search and destroy to survival of the fittest under extreme conditions in shark infested water, displayed the ultimate courage. They challenged each other to survive.

The Japanese military, on the brink of extinction, took drastic measures in courage. Japanese crew members, without hesitation, volunteered for suicide missions. They did this to please their Emperor and their godly ancestors.


These volunteers were used as human torpedoes. Although Hashimoto did not agree with this strategy, he obeyed orders. This display of courage was thought to have brought everlasting glory and fortune.

Members of the USS Indianapolis exhibited the highest degrees of moral character. They worked together as a team to stay alive as a team taking turns supporting the injured and encouraging the weak. They were committed to life, theirs as well as those around them. After being without water for four days, Dr. Hayes the ship’s surgeon, found a pint of water in a raft that was dropped down by the rescuers. Without thinking about his own injuries and wants, he ensured that each man was given their fair share of the water. Not once did Dr. Hayes worry about himself. He was committed to doing whatever he could to comfort those Sailors in need.

Captain McVay demonstrated commitment by taking responsibility for the sinking of his ship and the death of 880 men. He was committed to the Navy and committed to the men under his command throughout his career.


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