Notable Deaths ›

Don Howison (1921–2020), oldest remaining survivor of WWII USS Indianapolis disaster

USS Indianapolis

Howison told the story of the horrifying shipwreck in interviews for a bestselling 2018 book

Don Howison was a U.S. Navy veteran who was the last living officer of the USS Indianapolis and the oldest remaining survivor of the World War II torpedo attack and subsequent shipwreck that killed 75% of its crewmembers. Howison served as an ensign aboard the Indianapolis, and decades later, he was among the survivors who were interviewed for the bestselling 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.”

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Died: January 3, 2020 (Who else died on January 3?)

Details of death: Died at the age of 98.

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USS Indianapolis: The attack of the USS Indianapolis by a Japanese submarine on July 30, 1945 became one of the most famous episodes of the war. The Indianapolis had been carrying parts of the atomic bomb Little Boy, which it had dropped off on the Pacific island of Tinian before heading back to the Philippines. But before it could get there, it was bombed in the darkest hours of the night.

300 men went down with the ship, and almost 900 more awaited rescue, but rescue didn’t come soon. No one knew the ship had sunk, and it was only three and a half days later that survivors were spotted in the water and rescue planes and ships began picking up survivors. Those survivors were few — three days in the water had taken their toll, and many had succumbed to dehydration, hypothermia, and shark attacks. Howison was one of only 316 men who survived the sinking of the Indianapolis. Today, just 10 of those survivors remain.

Notable quote: “I decided I would survive no matter what. You had to have determination. Once you gave up, you weren’t long for the world.” —From a 2018 interview with the Bradenton Herald

What people said about him: “It brings us great sadness to share that Don Howison, the oldest remaining survivor, and last living officer of USS Indianapolis, has passed away. Don was a wonderful man with a great sense of humor and outlook on life, Rest in peace, sailor. You will not be forgotten.” —USS Indianapolis official Facebook page

Full obituary: Indy Star

Related lives:

  • Lauren Bruner (1920–2019), one of the last survivors of Pearl Harbor’s USS Arizona
  • Dick Churchill (2019), last surviving WWII “Great Escape” team member
  • Richard Cole (1915–2019), last surviving member of WWII’s Doolittle Raiders