I was humbled this week to host a ceremony honoring Congressional Gold Medal recipient Dick Thelen, a survivor of the USS Indianapolis disaster.
The story of the USS Indianapolis is a distinctively tragic one. On July 30, 1945, a Japanese submarine torpedo struck the USS Indianapolis, sinking it within 12 minutes. Of the 1,195 sailors that served on the ship, 900 initially survived its sinking. Mr. Thelen, just 18 years old at the time, survived in shark-infested waters for nearly five days before he was rescued. He was one of just 317 who ultimately lived to return home.
Mr. Thelen, along with his family, were honored on this day by Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin. Also joining the event were members of VFW Post 701; Lansing Mayor Andy Schor; State Reps. Sarah Anthony, Kara Hope and Angela Witwer; and Zaneta Adams, director of the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency. Click here to watch the video and read the article from the Lansing State Journal.
Dozens of Michiganders served on the USS Indianapolis, as the state of Michigan was the third highest represented home state within the crew. Today, Mr. Thelen is but one of only 11 remaining USS Indianapolis survivors in the country, and Mr. Thelen is the only survivor living in Michigan. Before the ceremony, I had a chance to speak with him, and he told me he stayed alive during those harrowing five days by thinking of his father and his promise to him to return home safely.
The bravery and selflessness Mr. Thelen showed nearly 75 years ago inspire me and reflect the values that we all should aspire to uphold. In recognition of his heroism and service to our country, we presented him with a Congressional Record Statement and a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol. At the ceremony, Lansing Mayor Schor declared December 2nd Richard Thelen Day.
Member of Congress
Dick Thelan YouTube Interview, October 4, 2012
USS Indianapolis : Dick Thelen, April 5, 2016.