Stephen Phillips's Reviews > In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors

In Harm's Way by Doug Stanton
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Apr 06, 12

bookshelves: subject-history, subject-navy
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One of the iconic stories of World War II, is that of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis after delivering the first atomic bomb, "Little Boy" to Tinian. Doug Stanton tells this story in great detail through his book In Harm's Way. Those who served in the U.S. Navy will recognize their own shipmates in Seamen First Class Ed Brown, Private McCoy, Captain McVay, and the rest of the crew while sympathizing with their sailing at short notice, on an unknown mission, while still in need of repair.

Stanton introduces the crew, and quickly moves past their important mission. He then tells the tale of brief combat, damage control, and finally survival at sea. Stanton's writing makes the whole account very real. The reader is drawn into the water with men struggling merely to stay afloat, and is forced to flinch as he describes the infamous shark attacks. Additionally, one senses the loss as men who consumed seawater and go insane, often drowning themselves while chasing apparitions.

Those who survive are rescued by the heroics of their fellow sailors, especially a seaplane crew who land on the water, turning their craft into a lifeboat for all they can find until the fleet is able to arrive and return them all to safety.

The story's end is frustrating as it appears that Captain McVay is chosen as the culprit in order to save the careers of others. The captain of the Indianapolis becomes the only U.S. Navy commanding officer who is court martialed for losing his ship to enemy action.

Stanton's book is an important read to understand the unforgiving nature of service at sea.
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