I was fortunate, today, to meet 94 year old Cleatus Lebow, a true war hero, at Indianapolis Airport, on my way back from a meeting with the U.S. Navy at Virginia Beach. Cleatus Lebow is one of 23 crew members of the 1,196 crew of USS Indianapolis still living. USS Indianapolis was sunk on July 30 1944 by a Japanese Sub. U.S. Navy command had no knowledge of the ship’s sinking until survivors were spotted three and a half days later by Warren Colwell, while on a routine patrol flight, who spotted the men adrift in shark infested waters.
Some 300 of the 1,196 crewmen went down with the ship and with few lifeboats and many left without life jackets, the remainder of the crew were set adrift. Of the 880 who had survived the sinking, which took only twelve minutes, only 321 men came out of the water alive; 317 ultimately survived. They suffered from lack of food and water and If that wasn’t enough the shark attacks took many of the survivors.
Captain Charles B McVay was court-martialed and held accountable but due to the relentless work of Cleatus and his crew members, in October 2000, the United States Congress passed a resolution that Captain McVay’s record should state that “He is exonerated for the loss of Indianapolis.” President Bill Clinton signed the resolution and he and his crew members were finally exonerated of all blame.
“Ocean of Fear“, a 2007 episode of the Discovery Channel’s TV documentary series Shark Week, states that the Indianapolis sinking resulted in the most shark attacks on humans in history. The same show attributed most of the deaths on Indianapolis to exposure, salt poisoning and thirst, with the dead being dragged off by sharks.
I was honored to be able to shake Cleatus Lebow’s hand and he asked me about the FireDex logo on my shirt, when I told him where I had come from, and what my company did, he thanked me! Way to go Cleatus Lebow What a true hero you and your crew really were and I am very honored to have met you. We all thank you for your extraordinary courage, your uplifting story and your outstanding service!
via (1) Tony Moore