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Waterbury Navy hero posthumously awarded highest honor

The ceremony at the Basilica lasted about an hour and brought pride to all who attended.

WATERBURY, Conn — Lt. Thomas M. Conway, who served in World War Two aboard the USS Indianapolis was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, among the highest honors given for military service. Since 2013, Waterbury’s Mayor, Neil O’Leary, and the Waterbury Veterans Memorial Committee had been working to get Conway, a chaplain aboard his ship, recognized by the Government. 

“We are very proud and pleased,” O’Leary said.

The ceremony was for a limited audience due to COVID-19 at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Waterbury, where both Connecticut senators attended as well as Kenneth Braithwaite, the Secretary of the Navy. 

“It’s a good day,” Secretary Braithwaite said, “to finally recognize the heroism of Father Thomas Conway -- a true hero to all who serve today.”

Father Conway and 1,196 crew members of the USS Indianapolis were attacked by Japanese torpedoes in July of 1945. Conway spent four days in the waters of the Philippine Sea with only a life jacket, tending to fellow sailors and praying for them. Conway died at sea a day before 300 of his fellow sailors were rescued,

The ceremony at the Basilica lasted about an hour and brought pride to all who attended. 

Charlie Harris, an 85-year-old Army vet from Waterbury, said of the honor for Conway, “It’s been 75 years but it’s here now, thank God. O’Leary added, “He was a true American hero and a Waterbury hero.”

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