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Family of DC sailor aboard USS Indianapolis finally gets answers after nearly 77 years

Seaman Albert Lundgren is among 13 sailors from the USS Indianapolis who recently had their status changed from "unaccounted for" to "buried at sea."

WASHINGTON — Dave Lundgren says his dad was only ever up to sharing one story about his late brother. As kids growing up in D.C. before World War II, the two siblings climbed the Washington Monument and tossed paper airplanes from the little window at the top. They watched them go, "like half a mile," his dad told him.

Seaman First Class Albert Davis Lundgren was among the nearly 900 sailors who died after Japanese subs sank the USS Indianapolis. Many of the victims were killed by sharks or exposure after abandoning ship and spending four days floating in open water. It was the worst maritime disaster in the U.S. Navy's history.

For almost 77 years, Seaman Lundgren has been listed as "missing in action" or "unaccounted for." Now, the 18-year-old is among 13 sailors who have had their status changed to "buried at sea."

The change is due to extensive research by the Naval History and Heritage Command, the Navy Casualty Office, The USS Indianapolis Survivors Association, the USS Indianapolis Legacy Organization, and the Chief Rick Stone and Family Charitable Foundation.

"Seamen Lundgren, it was well-documented that he had been recovered," said researcher Rick Stone. He says it was noted in the deck log of the ship that they found his remains, in its war diary and in the commander's report to the War Department.

"But for some reason, that paperwork never got to the decision-makers until last week," said Stone.

"This picture has been on my desk, for I don't know, 30-40 years," said Dave Lundgren, holding up a framed photo of his uncle.

Lundgren and his sister Barbara Lundgren Tonn said their dad always struggled with the loss of his brother. 

"I really think that it colored our dad's whole life," said Tonn.

Seamen Lundgren must have survived the initial sinking of the Indianapolis -- and succumbed in the days nearly 900 men spent drifting at sea.

Tonn had always told herself her uncle had died when Japanese torpedoes hit the Indianapolis. But the news that his body was found means he was more likely killed by sharks or exposure -- during four long days adrift.

The family wonders if he might have survived if rescuers had found them a little earlier. 

"That's the really unforgivable thing," said Tonn. "No one was looking for them."

Word of the Indianapolis' sinking never made it to anyone else in the Navy, so during those days in the water, no one was looking for the heroes who had just delivered the components for the atomic bomb to the Army Air Base on Tinian Island.

Dave Lundgren is convinced his uncle had a role in ending World War II. 

"Absolutely. And we, you know, will always be grateful for that," his voice catching for a minute with emotion, even after all these years.

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