USS Indianapolis memorial advocate dies at 84By Tom Spaldingtom.email@example.com
Michael Kuryla Jr., one of 317 survivors of the World War II sinking of the USS Indianapolis who later joined veterans of the tragedy to build a memorial along the Downtown Canal, has died.
Kuryla, of Bartlett, Ill., was 84.
His death was reported today by the Chicago Tribune.
The ship was hit by two Japanese torpedoes in July 1945 and sank in the South Pacific in 12 minutes. Because of a frustrating culmination of circumstances some naval protocol and some human error no one knew the Indianapolis had been attacked or even that it was missing. There would be no search party and for the next four days the survivors were at the mercy of the elements: blistering heat on salt-cracked skin, dehydration and sharks, he told the News Leader of Glen Ellyn, Ill. in a 2007 interview.First they swam in circles around us, Kuryla said, remembering when he first saw the sharks. Around and around, all these fins.The Tribune reports that Kuryla for years was reticent to share details of the ordeal unless asked. But he and other survivors of the USS Indianapolis came together later to help exonerate their ship's captain, whom they believed was unfairly court-martialed and blamed for putting the ship in harm's way.Kuryla and the group succeeded in clearing Capt. Charles B. McVay III's name through an act of Congress, which was signed by President Bill Clinton in 2000, the Tribune reports.
For many years, Kuryla held a leadership role in the USS Indianapolis Survivors Organization. In the early 1990s, the group raised money to build the USS Indianapolis Memorial -- which was dedicated as a national landmark in 1995 -- in downtown Indianapolis, just west of Senate Avenue and between West Walnut and West St. Clair streets."He served for a few years in the Navy but, for the rest of his life, served as a delegate of his ship for all those who had died," his son Michael told the Tribune.The memorial was dedicated Aug. 2, 1995.
Of the 317 who survived the ship's sinking, 67 remained as of June 2009.