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Veteran creates an online legacy

Created date

February 22nd, 2010

[caption id="attachment_8218" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Benjamin Givens created this website to document the history of the U.S.S. Indiana, a ship he served on from September 23, 1944, until March 6, 1946."][/caption] Surrounded by bookcases filled with his research, Benjamin Givens shares the history of the World War II battleship U.S.S. Indiana BB-58 via a personally created website (, which he maintains from his Ashby Ponds home office. It s a labor of love, says Givens, who served on the Indiana from September 23, 1944, until March 6, 1946. The U.S.S. Indiana joined the Pacific Fleet in the war against Japan in November 1942. The ship and its crew saw action in the Guadalcanal, Gilbert and Marshall Islands, Marianas, Palau, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa campaigns. She was then the first U.S. ship to return to San Francisco from Tokyo Bay after Japan s surrender. Givens spent most of the war in the ship s main battery plotting room operating the Spot One fire control radar. I was only 19, a year out of high school, when I joined the crew, says Givens. It was all new andexciting. From my radar scope, I could see the targets we were firing at and where our 16-inch shells landed and make the necessary adjustments.

Comrades come together

The U.S.S. Indiana was decommissioned on September 11, 1947, and since 1956, its crew has met at yearly reunions to reminisce and share stories with fellow shipmates. After the 1990 reunion, Givens decided to begin compiling information on the 5,653 men who served aboard the historic battleship. It took eight years, but the result is a database containing 33 points of information on each crew member. It s this database that became the backbone of Givens website, which first appeared online in June 1998. When I began creating my website, I did not know where to start, says Givens. I got one of those Creating a Website for Dummies books and also looked at other sites. I am now very educated in HTML. Givens spent countless hours at the National Archives researching action logs, quarterly muster lists, and monthly reports of personnel changes. He continues to compile information from the yearly reunions and is diligent in collecting photographs. The result is a website with more bytes of information than ten copies of the King James version of the Bible!

Information takes its course

[caption id="attachment_8216" align="alignright" width="250" caption="The U.S.S. Indiana BB-58, pictured here April 30, 1942, is the inspiration behind Benjamin Givens website. (Photo from"][/caption] I maintain the website on my personal computer and can update anything at any time. It s important to me to keep the information updated, says Givens. Even now, I am behind on it. I want this site to be a legacy for all of those who served on the U.S.S. Indiana. It has everything you d want to know about life on a battleship in World War II. Givens website, which has received almost 90,000 visits, even includes information on how he developed his site. I did that for people who may want to create a website for another ship, he says. In fact, after the U.S.S. Indiana site went online, I decided to start a website for the U.S.S. Florida BB-30, the ship my father served on during World War I. And I couldn t stop there. Then I began a site on the 43rd Pennsylvania Volunteers (1st Light Artillery), the Union Artillery Regiment my great-grandfather served in as a sergeant in the Civil War. To date, Givens has seven other websites, in addition to his most comprehensive the U.S.S. Indiana. He maintains them all from his apartment home atAshby Ponds. It s funny, he says. I started the U.S.S. Indiana site for myself as a way of compiling everything I knew. But what is most rewarding to me is when a child or a grandchild of someone who served contacts me and tells me that they never knew what their father or grandfather did because they did not talk about it. And now, thanks to the site, they have this information. It really makes all those hours of hard work worth it.