USS Indianapolis survivor honored with statue dedication

James O'Donnell is the only survivor of the USS Indianapolis who grew up in the city.
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Kris Kirschner/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - A permanent memorial was dedicated Monday to one of the survivors of the worst disaster in naval history.

On the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the city held a ceremony to honor not the start of World War II, but its finish.

"It was the worst disaster in our navy's history," said John Gromasiak, USS Indianapolis Survivors Organization.

They also honored a native son that lived to tell about it.

"It is a promise redeemed by men, including Jimmy O'Donnell, who served and fought aboard the USS Indianapolis," said Mayor Greg Ballard.

At 89 years old, the memory of the tragedy of the USS Indianapolis is as clear to James O'Donnell as it was more than six decades ago. His place as one of the lucky ones who made it home is now a permanent reminder for future generations of his place in history.

"This statue is a reminder that freedom has a cost," Ballard said.

Of the nearly 1,200 men aboard the USS Indianapolis, only 317 survived. O'Donnell is the sole survivor from the city that bears its name.

Now, his likeness is carved in granite, but his allegiance remains with those left behind.

"I think it should be for all of them. It's nice, I appreciate it very much. I hope it goes to represent the whole place," O'Donnell said.

"The statue is not merely a piece of granite recognizing and honoring the sacrifice of one man, it represents the generation that saved the world from tyranny," Ballard said.

"It's remarkable," said Mary Hofmeister, O'Donnell's daughter.

For O'Donnell's family, it's the ultimate show of respect. For the city, a sign of gratitude and for a nation, a reminder that there are those willing to stand up for freedom - no matter the cost.