Indy native who survived USS Indianapolis attack dies at 92

A statue of James O'Donnell stands at City Market. (City of Indianapolis photo)
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A retired Indianapolis firefighter and survivor of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis has died.

The Indianapolis Fire Department announced the passing of James E. O'Donnell, 92, Wednesday afternoon. O'Donnell was the only survivor out of 317 in the 1945 sinking of the USS Indianapolis to be from Indianapolis.

O'Donnell served as a firefighter in Indianapolis for 35 years, from May 1946 until July 1981. He retired as a lieutenant on Ladder 25. He was drafted into the Navy in 1944. He graduated from Tech High School in 1938.

A statue of O'Donnell was dedicated by the city on the west side of City Market on December 7, 2009.

O'Donnell is survived by his wife, Mary Alice, to whom he was married for 70 years. The couple celebrated their anniversary on New Year's Eve. He is also survived by four children and 11 grandchildren.

"Jimmy O'Donnell personified history and service to this country and city. The sinking of the USS Indianapolis is one of the greatest tragedies in U.S. Naval history. The statue of Jimmy in the City Market Plaza honors his service and that of his shipmates," Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said. "As a USS Indianapolis survivor and retired firefighter, Jimmy O'Donnell was an American hero and a great citizen of Indianapolis."

The Japanese attack on the USS Indianapolis on July 30, 1945 killed 879 sailors.

Visitation for O'Donnell will be Sunday (January 13) from 3-8 p.m. in the gymnasium of the Holy Spirit Catholic School. His funeral Mass will be held Monday (January 14) at noon at the Holy Spirit Catholic Church.

Both the visitation and funeral are located at 7243 East 10th Street in Indianapolis.

James O'Donnell photo gallery