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Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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A Final Account

Friday, June 08, 2018

Trenches USS Indianapolis Donnor LetterWhen USS Indianapolis was found last year (“Top 10 Discoveries,” January/February 2018), it laid to rest some of the questions that had always surrounded the location of her sinking. However, the exact number of people aboard Indianapolis when she went down continued to be debated. This uncertainty, too, has now been resolved, with the final correct number established at 1,195, not, as was previously believed, 1,196. While researching the discrepancy, naval historian Richard Hulver found a letter from Radio Technician 2nd Class Clarence W. Donnor’s mother, Ruth, in reply to a telegram informing her that her son had perished. She wrote that she had, in fact, spoken to Clarence since July 30, 1945, the day Indianapolis sank to the bottom of the North Pacific. The letter clarified that although RT2c Donnor had been on Indianapolis in San Francisco where she was docked, within an hour of arriving there, he received new orders to go to officer training in New York and left the day before the vessel departed on her final voyage. “I was somewhat surprised by the file,” says Hulver. “I felt relief for the Donnors that their son escaped being part of that voyage. There was also a sense of gratefulness as a historian that Mrs. Donnor submitted her letter. She finished it with the hope that it would ‘set the record straight,’ and it did—just 73 years later.” The official number of those who died in the attack has also been revised from 880 down to 879 to account for RT2c Donnor.

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