Thursday marked 75 years since the USS Indianapolis was sunk by a pair of Japanese torpedoes from a submarine after delivering essential components of “Little Boy,” which was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan at 9:15 a.m. on the morning of Aug. 6, 1945.
Sunday, Aug. 2 will mark the 75th anniversary of when Lieutenant Adrian Marks and his crew aboard a PBY-5A “Catalina” flying boat rescued 53 of the 316 remaining survivors of the USS Indianapolis. The USS Indianapolis had 1,195 on board when it was torpedoed. It took less than 12 minutes for it to sink. More than 300 sailors and Marines went down with the ship, and approximately 890 went into the ocean. By the time Marks landed his PBY-5A amid large swells, only 316 were still alive after enduring exposure, dehydration and shark attacks. Marks was able to fill his Catalina with about 50 of them, and his crew even tied some to the wings when they were out of room. They kept those survivors out of the water until rescue ships arrived.
Though he was born in Lagoda, Marks spent the bulk of his years as a Frankfort resident and opened a law practice and title company there after the war. He died on March 7, 1998 at Clinton County Hospital.
When the time came to plan the building of a new terminal and hangar at the Frankfort-Clinton County Airport several years ago, it was decided that it would be named in honor of Adrian Marks. From the ceiling of the terminal’s lobby hangs an impressive model of Marks’ PBY-5A which was created by local modeler Terry Laughner. The Airport Authority board hoped to finally dedicate the terminal on the 75th anniversary of the rescue but, like many things, the novel coronavirus pandemic put a stop to that.
“We got working on the project and, as time went on, people like myself who didn’t really know anything about it, learned about it and learned that the survivors have a reunion every year in Indianapolis,” said Mike Nichols, who is on the airport board. “This year is the 75th anniversary of the sinking. The plan was that we were going to have a celebration here at the airport on (July 26) at the terminal. A lot of the people who would have been at the convention would have been able to come up and speak.
“The whole thing fell apart because of COVID,” he continued. “It was cancelled, so we didn’t have it this year. But they are having a virtual convention which people can view on Facebook, YouTube and so on.”
The USS Indianapolis CA-35 Virtual Reunion Commemorating 75 Years is online from July 20 to Aug. 1 and can be found at ussindianapolis.com.
“We had hoped to make that our dedication (on July 26) with those people speaking – the last Marine, the last guy alive who was rescued by Adrian and so on,” Nichols said. “We thought it would be a good thing.”
The airport board had also invited Sara Vladic and Lynn Vincent to speak at the ceremony that would have been in Frankfort. They are the authors of the book, “Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man.”
“We actually have a four-minute segment on our airport and Adrian Marks, in particular, in Frankfort, Indiana,” Nichols said. “That is going to be on YouTube, and that is also going to be on that virtual reunion. It was put together by Kaspar Broadcasting.”
There is a plaque on one of the walls of the terminal which tells the story of Marks and the rescue.
“We are really proud of the airport being named after him, and that is why we put a storyboard together so somebody could come in not knowing anything, look at that board and understand,” Nichols said. “That board sums it up pretty good.”
Nancy Hart of the Clinton County Historical Society is currently gathering stories of Marks’ life in Frankfort after the war.
“Not the war. Everybody knows that,” Hart said. “My interest is getting personal views and conversations and tidbits of Adrian and his personal life. His interests and his hobbies – just the everyday like of Adrian Marks.
“I just think it is time for people to get to know that man behind the heroic act,” Hart continued. “For instance, the family owned a mynah bird named Henry who could imitate Adrian’s laugh down to a T. Adrian’s laugh came from the bottom of his stomach. He projected his voice, and the bird could do that.”
Marks and his family also raised German Shepherds.
“One dog from each litter would be donated to the Leader Dogs for the Blind in Michigan,” Hart said. “They gave each dog a name, and he added another part of that name. He added ‘Long Nose’ to it. That is the type of thing that he would do.
“Judy was one of those dogs,” she continued. “Adrian added ‘Long Nose’ to her name, so Judy Long Nose was taken to Michigan. The family walked into the building, took her leash off and said ‘Heel!’ The office staff advised the family that the dog should not have been trained to heel. Despite being trained to heel, ‘Judy Long Nose’ was accepted into the program.”