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Navy christens new USS Indianapolis

USS INDIANAPOLIS: The littoral combat ship USS Indianapolis (LCS 17) is moved in preparation for its launch into the Menomenee River. (Val Ihde/Navy photo courtesy of Marinette Marine)

BY SHARON BARDONNER - sbardonner@ftimes.com

The U.S. Navy planned to christen a combat ship Saturday as the nation’s fourth military vessel named the USS Indianapolis.

The wife of U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, Jill Donnelly, was tagged to christen the ship during the ceremony at a Marinette, Wisconsin, shipyard by smashing a bottle of sparkling wine across its bow, according to the Associated Press.

The new USS Indianapolis is a combat ship that’s flexible for a variety of missions, including mine-clearing and anti-surface warfare, the AP reported.

The second USS Indianapolis was sunk by a Japanese submarine on July 30, 1945, while returning from a Pacific island where it delivered key components for the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Only 317 of its nearly 1,200 crewmen survived the sinking and days in shark-infested waters just over a week before the end of World War II.

Fifty-six of the sailors on the USS Indianapolis were rescued by Navy pilot Lt. Adrian Marks, a Frankfort native, in his PBY5A Catalina seaplane that was never to be landed on the high seas, according to a New York Times account of the feat.

Marks canvassed his eight crewmen and they agreed to ignore orders and land the plane to save as many men as they could.

Marks brought the seaplane down with minimal damage and his crew began hauling in suvivors, eventually strapping some upon the wings to get them out of the dangerous waters, the NYT reported.

But it was impossible for the plane to hold them all so Marks decided the better choice was to leave the men who were clustered in groups, believing that together they stood a better chance at survival.

Marks, his crew and the 56 sailors spent the night in and on the bobbing plane, said the NYT, and in the morning the destroyer Cecil J. Doyle, one of seven rescue ships dispatched, hauled them aboard along with others still in the sea.

Within the next few months, the Frankfort Municipal Airport will complete its Adrian Marks Terminal, named for the famed Clinton County aviator. In addition to an exhibit dedicated to Marks, there will be several other aviation exhibits in the terminal.

One of these will be a plaque listing all Clinton County military flight crew members who served anytime from 1912 to the present. If you know any individuals whose names should be included, contact Mike Nichols at mpnichols@gmail.com or Larry Price at lrprice48@gmail.com.