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CHARLES B. McVAY IV

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McVAY CHARLES B. McVAY, IV June 11, 1925 ~ February 28, 2012 Charles Butler McVay IV was born on June 11, 1925 in Honolulu, Hawaii, the eldest of two sons. His father was Navy Captain Charles Butler McVay III (1898-1968). His mother was Hawaii heiress Kinau Wilder (1902-1992), from a prominent mercantile family whose forebears immigrated to Hawaii (Sandwich Islands) from New England in the 1820's. She was the great-granddaughter of pioneering missionary physician and politician Gerrit Parmele Judd who served as advisor and translator to King Kamehameha III, and granddaughter of shipping magnate, Samuel Gardner Wilder. Charles's grandfather, Admiral Charles Butler McVay, Jr. had commanded the Navy's Asiatic Fleet in the early 1900s. His father Charles B. McVay III, a 1920 graduate of the US Naval Academy, was a dedicated career naval officer. He was Captain of the ill fated cruiser, the USS Indianapolis, which after successfully delivering the component parts of the nuclear bomb to the Pacific island of Tinian, was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine. McVay was one of 317 of a crew of 1196 who survived. Despite much evidence that he was doing all he could to keep the ship safe, Captain McVay was unfairly convicted by a navy court martial of negligence for failure to "zig-zag". The court martial destroyed his otherwise exemplary Naval career. Devastated and haunted Captain McVay, the recipient of the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart, took his own life in 1968. The years following the tragedy were difficult for survivors and their families and devastating to Charles, living with this cloud overhead. Many of the ship's crew, New Hampshire Senator Bob Smith, Capt. Bill Toti, journalists, family, and friends worked tirelessly to clear Captain McVay's name. Hunter Scott, a young student fascinated by the compelling events of Captain McVay's career, became a lightening rod for keeping the story alive. Captain McVay was officially cleared by a Special Act of Congress in 2000, but sadly was long dead by then, never to know. On July 13, 2001-56 years after the sinking of the ship, the Department of Navy, finally made public their decision to exonerate Captain McVay. The Secretary of the Navy, Gordon R. England, instructed that the following declaration be appended to Captain McVay's official military record, "The American people should now recognize Captain McVay's lack of culpability for the tragic loss of the USS Indianapolis and so many of her crew". Like his father and grandfather before him, Charles also aspired to a Navy career. It was an historic moment when the three generations of McVays' were captured in a photograph taken for the Stars and Stripes newsletter. Unfortunately, Charles' Navy career was ended early on when he was accidently hit in the eye with a rifle butt. He remained in the Navy for a few months after the incident but the loss of sight in his left eye forced him to leave his beloved Navy. Charles was educated at Punahou School in Hawaii, the Thatcher School in Ojai, California, and St Albans in Washington, D.C. where he lived with his paternal grandparents. After leaving the Navy he attended Stanford University, California. After school he worked in the business sector where he owned a Documentary film company in D.C. and later worked at Royal Typewriter Company, Olivetti and Savin Corporations as one of their top Sales Representatives. Charles was a devoted husband to Elaine Cohen McVay for 32 years and a loving brother-in-law to Marsha Cohen and uncle to Melissa McVay Mateo and Lindsay McVay Roberson. He was a dear friend of the Russian community in Washington, D.C. having unofficially been adopted by them as one of their own when he was a young man. He remained close to Prince David Chavchavadze and his wife Princess Eugenie (Genia) and her son Paul (Pusha) and family until his death. Young in spirit with a passion for life, Charles was adventurous and always ready to try new things. In the last seven years of his life he came back to his missionary roots in Boston and was again close to the sea he loved. He will be remembered by those whose lives he touched. Services will be held at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA on May 30, 2012 at 10 a.m.Services will be held at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA on May 30, 2012 at 10 a.m.


Published in The Washington Post on May 27, 2012
bullet Bronze Star bullet Purple Heart
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