WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) is launching an effort to ensure the U.S. Navy posthumously awards Navy Chaplain Lieutenant Thomas M. Conway with the Navy Cross, America’s second highest military decoration for valor. Father Conway, who grew up on Cooke Street in Waterbury, was a chaplain aboard the USS Medusa and the USS Indianapolis during the Second World War. On July 30, 1945, Father Conway was aboard the USS Indianapolis when it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. Of the 1,196 crew aboard, approximately 300 were killed in the attack and subsequent sinking of the ship.
Father Conway was among the roughly 900 sailors left in the water facing shark attacks, dehydration, and exposure. For three straight days, Father Conway swam back and forth among crew members, helping individual sailors who drifted away to rejoin their comrades, organizing prayer groups, and urging the increasingly dehydrated and delirious men not to give up hope of rescue. He died on the third night, August 2, 1945, shortly before Navy pilots spotted the survivors.
Just 316 men survived, making the sinking of the USS Indianapolis the single greatest loss of life at sea in the history of the United States Navy.
The living survivors of the USS Indianapolis have made it their mission to make sure Father Conway is recognized by the U.S. Navy for his acts of heroism, saving many of their comrades’ lives at sea. Murphy is joining local efforts and sending requests to veterans organizations across the country to gather eyewitness accounts of Father Conway’s actions to help make the case for this recognition to the Navy. Murphy also plans to meet with this group of WWII veterans to help them achieve their goal. Last year, Murphy introduced a Senate resolution to award Father Conway with the Navy Cross.
“Father Conway’s story of heroism and selflessness inspires me and the people of Waterbury every single day. His bravery is the stuff of legends,” said Murphy. “The veterans aboard the USS Indianapolis who are still with us today have incredible eyewitness accounts of Father Conway’s rescue efforts – saving countless sailors aboard the ship. They have made it their mission to make sure their hero gets the recognition he deserves, and I strongly support their efforts. I’m looking forward to bringing the details of Father Conway’s story to the U.S Navy’s attention so they can share in the inspiration we all feel from Father Conway’s story.”