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Navy changes status of Alabama sailor who died in World War II aboard USS Indianapolis

The U.S. Navy heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35) underway at sea on Sep. 27, 1939. (U.S. Navy/Released)

The Navy has changed the status of 13 sailors – including one from Alabama – who were lost when the USS Indianapolis sunk in 1945 from “unaccounted for” to “buried at sea.”

Coxswain Charles Byrd Sparks of Birmingham was listed as unaccounted for after the USS Indianapolis was struck by two Japanese torpedoes on July 30, 1945. The change in status comes after “extensive research” between Naval History and Heritage Command, Navy Casualty Office, the USS Indianapolis Survivors Association, the USS Indianapolis Legacy Organization, and the Chief Rick Stone and Family Charitable Foundation, the Navy said in a release.

“The announcement helps bring closure to the families of these Sailors who lost their lives at the end of a secret mission which helped end World War II,” the release noted.

The sailors whose status changed are:

  • Seaman 1st Class George Stanley Abbott – Bedford, Kentucky
  • Seaman 2nd Class Eugene Clifford Batson – Kansas City, Kansas
  • Gunner’s Mate 1st Class William Alexander Haynes – Homedale, Idaho
  • Seaman 2nd Class Albert Raymond Kelly – Cleveland, Ohio
  • Seaman 1st Class Albert Davis Lundgren – Washington, D.C.
  • Fireman 1st Class Ollie McHone – Mars Hill, Arkansas
  • Seaman 2nd Class George David Payne – Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Storekeeper 3rd Class Alvin Wilder Rahn – Hamlet, North Carolina
  • Ship’s Cook 3rd Class Jose Antonio Saenz – Edinburg, Texas
  • Coxswain Charles Byrd Sparks – Birmingham, Alabama
  • Radioman 2nd Class Joseph Mason Strain – Creston, Iowa
  • SSML3 Angelo Anthony Sudano – Niles, Ohio
  • Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Floyd Ralph Wolfe – Turner, Oregon

“Nothing is more important to me than giving families that knowledge when the unthinkable happens,” said Capt. Robert McMahon, director of the Navy Casualty Office. “No amount of time lessens the loss, however, if we can bring some certainty to loved ones, even seven decades later, we are keeping faith with those we lost.”

Approximately 300 of the ship’s 1,195 sailors went down with the ship, and some 900 men were set adrift. Only 316 survived. Due to administrative errors, many sailors who were recovered from the ocean and buried at sea from responding vessels were misclassified as “missing in action “or “unaccounted for,” according to the Navy.


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