USS Indianapolis survivor honored aboard flight in heartfelt tribute

USS Indianapolis survivor honored aboard flight in heartfelt tribute

Though only a small number of World War II veterans remain, it is important we never forget their sacrifice.

In a touching, impromptu tribute, Alaskan Airlines Pilot Captain Brad Schumaker took a moment to salute one such gentleman. The veteran is Captain John Woolston, and he is one of the few survivors of the USS Indianapolis.

YouTube user Glenn M. Forrest III shared a video of the touching salute. Forrest wrote:

“I was lucky to be witness to an impromptu salute to Captain Woolston, 1 of 371 heroes to survive the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in 1945, in what became the greatest single loss of life at sea in the history of the U.S. Navy.

“Captain Brad Schumaker and Alaska Airlines took the time to recognize and thank Captain Woolston for his service and the sacrifice he made for our nation. Not only was the recognition given in-front of every passenger on the plane, they provided him with a first class seat.”

After calling Captain Woolston to the front of the plane, Captain Schumaker speaks to the passengers over loud speaker.

“It seems like nowadays people toss around the word ‘hero’ pretty lightly. We talk about heroes being people who can hit a ball really good or run particularly fast,” Captain Schumaker began. “Whatever the case might be, I think it’s lost a little bit of its gravity.”

He continued, “I think it’s safe to say, courtesy of this gentleman and all of his shipmates, we’re free. Some of you may or may not be fully aware of some of the events that led to the ending of WWII,” he said.

“What brought WWII and the war with Japan to a rather abrupt close, was the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki … What made that possible, number one, was the ingenuity and perseverance of a lot of engineers and designers that put that whole project together. But it would have never happened if it had not been for Mr. John Woolston here and his shipmates on the USS Indianapolis.”

Unfortunately, USS Indianapolis was struck by torpedoes from a Japanese submarine. The ship lasted only 12 minutes before she sank, taking the nearly 1,200 men aboard with her. About 800 survived the initial sinking, but over the five days the men spent in the waters of the South Pacific, many more lost their lives, many of them to sharks.

Of the 321 men who were rescued, 317 survived.

“Mr. John Woolston is one of those men. One of 22 surviving USS Indianapolis crew mates that are still alive with us today,” said Captain Schumaker.  “And one of the great men of WWII. And somebody that I personally feel we owe an incredible debt of gratitude to.”

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