Survivors of Indianapolis head to reunion

Survivors of Indianapolis head to reunion

Two Champaign County Navy veterans who survived the sinking of their ship near the end of World War II in 1945 will be among a handful of those survivors to attend a reunion later this week.

Don McCall, 87, of Champaign, and Art Leenerman, 87, of Mahomet, will meet with other survivors of the USS Indianapolis at a reunion in Indiana's capital city from Aug. 3 to 5.

Peggy Campo of Urbana, the daughter of McCall, said about 15 of the 317 survivors of the worst open-sea disaster in U.S. naval history are expected to attend the reunion to commemorate the 67th anniversary of the sinking of their ship, their rescue and their lost shipmates.

It's believed that 45 are still living, eight fewer than last year. They range in age from 85 to their 90s, Campo said.

Among those who have passed since their last reunion in 2010 was Champaign native Earl Riggins.

Mr. Riggins, 86, who lived and farmed in Oakland, died Feb. 23, 2011. He was one of the 39 Marines on the ship that was hit by Japanese torpedos on July 30, 1945.

Of the approximately 1,200 crew members, 900 went into the Pacific Ocean, where they spent four days and nights in shark-infested waters before being accidentally discovered by a Navy pilot on a training mission. There were 317 pulled from the water.

They have been having reunions in Indianapolis since 1960.

The three-day event concludes with a solemn service at 9 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 5, at the site of the USS Indianapolis Monument, located at the end of the Canal Walk, near the intersection of Senate Avenue and Walnut Street in downtown Indianapolis. The public is invited to attend that service.

Shortly before its sinking, the ship had delivered the components for the first atomic bomb to be dropped on Japan.

For more about Leenerman, McCall and Riggins, and the sinking, visit online: http://bit.ly/NGINDY65

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nmiebach wrote on July 30, 2012 at 8:07 pm

My dad worked with Art Leenerman at Illinois Bell Telephone Co.  Thank you Art for my freedom and God Bless! Have a great time in Indy!