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Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man

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A human drama unlike any other—the riveting and definitive full story of the worst sea disaster in United States naval history.

Just after midnight on July 30, 1945, days after delivering the components of the atomic bomb from California to the Pacific Islands in the most highly classified naval mission of the war, USS Indianapolis is sailing alone in the center of the Philippine Sea when she is struck by two Japanese torpedoes. The ship is instantly transformed into a fiery cauldron and sinks within minutes. Some 300 men go down with the ship. Nearly 900 make it into the water alive. For the next five nights and four days, almost three hundred miles from the nearest land, the men battle injuries, sharks, dehydration, insanity, and eventually each other. Only 316 will survive.

For the better part of a century, the story of USS Indianapolis has been understood as a sinking tale. The reality, however, is far more complicated—and compelling. Now, for the first time, thanks to a decade of original research and interviews with 107 survivors and eyewit­nesses, Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic tell the complete story of the ship, her crew, and their final mission to save one of their own.

It begins in 1932, when Indianapolis is christened and launched as the ship of state for President Franklin Roosevelt. After Pearl Harbor, Indianapolis leads the charge to the Pacific Islands, notching an unbroken string of victories in an uncharted theater of war. Then, under orders from President Harry Truman, the ship takes aboard a superspy and embarks on her final world-changing mission: delivering the core of the atomic bomb to the Pacific for the strike on Hiroshima. Vincent and Vladic provide a visceral, moment-by-moment account of the disaster that unfolds days later after the Japanese torpedo attack, from the chaos on board the sinking ship to the first moments of shock as the crew plunge into the remote waters of the Philippine Sea, to the long days and nights during which terror and hunger morph into delusion and desperation, and the men must band together to survive.

Then, for the first time, the authors go beyond the men’s rescue to chronicle Indianapolis’s extraordinary final mission: the survivors’ fifty-year fight for justice on behalf of their skipper, Captain Charles McVay III, who is wrongly court-martialed for the sinking. What follows is a captivating courtroom drama that weaves through generations of American presidents, from Harry Truman to George W. Bush, and forever entwines the lives of three captains—McVay, whose life and career are never the same after the scandal; Mochitsura Hashimoto, the Japanese sub commander who sinks Indianapolis but later joins the battle to exonerate McVay; and William Toti, the captain of the modern-day submarine Indianapolis, who helps the survivors fight to vindicate their captain.

A sweeping saga of survival, sacrifice, justice, and love, Indianapolis stands as both groundbreaking naval history and spellbinding narrative—and brings the ship and her heroic crew back to full, vivid, unforgettable life. It is the definitive account of one of the most remarkable episodes in American history.

592 pages, Hardcover

First published July 10, 2018

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Lynn Vincent

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Profile Image for Matt.
919 reviews28.3k followers
April 17, 2020
“So, eleven-hundred men went into the water. Three-hundred-sixteen men come out. The sharks took the rest. June the 29th, 1945.”
- Robert Shaw, as Quint, in Jaws (1975)

“The Japanese Type 95 torpedo carried a huge explosive payload designed to mortally wound battleships and cruisers. The initial pressure blast was meant to buckle the ship’s skin and weaken her internal framing. The warhead’s second effect was to punch a cavernous, temporary hole in the ocean beneath the target. These first- and second-order effects created a kinetic ambush: With a well-aimed torpedo, the weight of both the weakened ship and the displaced water would crash back into the void and break the vessel in half…[Japanese sub Captain] Hashimoto’s first torpedo rammed Indy’s starboard bow just below the forward 20 mm antiaircraft guns. Before anyone had time to process what had happened, the explosion was over, its work done, and Indy’s bow was in shambles. Ripped away between frames 12 and 13, the bow clung to the keel of the ship like a hangnail, held there by only a few threads of hull plating. Two seconds later, the second torpedo exploded below the waterline near frame 45, missing Indy’s armor belt by just a few frames. The twin blasts and water cavity effects ruptured the hull, tore open the thin outer strakes, and opened the ship to the sea…”
- Lynn Vincent & Sara Vladic, Indianapolis

The scene is only about three-and-a-half minutes long, but it is one of the most famous in all movie history. About two-thirds of the way through Steven Spielberg’s 1975 masterpiece Jaws, the grizzled old fisherman Quint tells his shark-hunting companions how he was shipwrecked during World War II. Cast into the water, waiting for days, picked off by sharks, Quint ends his horrific tale muttering: “I’ll never put on a life jacket again.”

The fictional Quint’s ship was the real-life USS Indianapolis. Just after midnight, on July 30, 1945 (Quint was a bit off on his timing), returning to Leyte after delivering vital atomic bomb components to Tinian, the Japanese submarine I-58 drove two torpedoes into the cruiser’s side. The torpedoes practically blew off Indy’s bow. Within moments, she began sinking. The massive explosions knocked out the power, meaning no distress signals made it off the ship (though this point has been argued through the years). Hundreds of the Indianapolis’s 1,195-man crew spilled into the Pacific. There, they languished for four days and five nights, their fate unknown because Naval officials in Leyte never listed Indianapolis overdue, even though she failed to report. By sheer chance, a Lockheed Ventura flown by Chuck Gwinn saw them in the ocean and raised the alarm. When rescue ships finally arrived, only 316 were plucked from the water. The rest, 879 men, died from exposure, dehydration, and the largest shark attack in history.

The loss of the USS Indianapolis was second only to the bombing of the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor in terms of lives lost in a single vessel. Nevertheless, the U.S. Navy attempted to downplay the scale of the disaster, and the high-level mistakes that were made. Whether or not they were attempting a cover up (they probably were), the Navy quickly convened a court-martial for Captain Charles Butler McVay III, accusing him of failing to sail a zigzag course (to foil submarine attacks). Though officially he was not blamed for the sinking, the implication was clear. The Navy was also helped in their efforts by the end of World War II, which dampened the outrage that would have otherwise attended such a deadly and avoidable mishap. For awhile, the sinking of the Indianapolis became a lethal footnote.

Starting in the 1960s, though, with the publication of Abandon Ship by Richard Newcomb, the saga of the Indianapolis started its journey towards becoming one of the most famous in the annals of maritime lore. Aside from Abandon Ship, there have been many other solid written accounts, including All the Drowned Sailors, Fatal Voyage, and In Harm’s Way. There have been documentaries and movies, including a straight-to-streaming Nicholas Cage paycheck film that redefines the term dumpster fire. And of course, there is Quint’s show-stopping monologue.

With such thorough coverage, I had two immediate thoughts upon learning that a new book had arrived to retell this seventy-three year old story. First, is another book really necessary? Second, where is my wallet?

Of course, a good book provides its own justification. And with Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic’s Indianapolis, we have a great book. This is not only the best account of the Indy yet published, it provides a blueprint for popular histories to follow. This is massively researched, compellingly narrated, and utterly comprehensive. It is accessible even if you’ve never heard of the Indianapolis before. But it also contains revelations for those readers who have exhausted the lost ship’s bibliography.

Vincent & Vladic tell this story using two separate narrative timelines. The first timeline begins in 1945 with the Indianapolis being hit by a Japanese kamikaze. It continues by following the ship back to San Francisco, where she is tasked with delivering part of the Little Boy atomic bomb to Tinian. After delivery, we are with the ship as it sinks, plunging her crew into the sea. The timeline concludes with the court-martial of Captain McVay.

The second timeline, which is periodically intercut with the first, takes place in the late 90s and early 2000s. It is centered on Captain William Toti, commander of the nuclear submarine USS Indianapolis. Toti had a natural interest in his sub’s namesake, and became heavily involved in the survivors’ group. Specifically, he helped lead the charge (assisted independently by a then-sixth grade student working on a school project) to exonerate McVay. Early on, I was a bit worried that this framework would irritate me, by cutting away from the essential, life-or-death drama of the sinking. For the most part, however, Vincent & Vladic keep the modern-day stuff short and concise.

Indianapolis does just about everything right.

This is a disaster book. Thus, it follows the typical genre formula of introducing us to a bunch of people who will be intimately involved in the action to come. Having read my share of this type of book, I have grown used to authors who carelessly throw names and biographical facts down on the page, as though any minimal effort will suffice. Here, Vincent & Vladic take care in introducing the men of the Indianapolis. They find telling and memorable anecdotes and attributes. More than that, they weave these men into the larger story, using them to illustrate and enlighten. For instance, when we meet Ensign John Woolston, he is prowling the decks of the Indianapolis, to which he has just been assigned. The authors use Woolston, an engineering officer, to discuss the ship’s watertight vulnerability:

Indianapolis was designed in 1930 with a single “through deck” along wich one could pass from bow to stern without having to climb up and down ladders and make a circuitous route using multiple decks. This design made it impractical to operate completely buttoned up, with maximum watertight integrity – a condition known as “Material Condition Affirm” – since the ordinary duties of sailing necessitated free movement of personnel up and down the length of the ship. Further, Condition Affirm would shut off all ventilation to interior spaces. On a ship without air-conditioning operating in the steamy South Pacific, that could kill a crew as quickly as the enemy.

The sinking itself is rendered impeccably. Writing narrative non-fiction is hard, but there is a simple rule that is often ignored. Specifically, you need to deal with both the forest and the trees. Vincent & Vladic do this. As the ship is going down, they jump to all those individuals to whom we have been introduced, describing their efforts to escape. It is visceral and ground-level and often confusing. Every so often, though, they pull back, to give you an overview of big-picture happenings, putting all those personal stories into an overall context. The balance Vincent & Vladic strike is nearly perfect.

Their coverage of the hellish aftermath in the sea is just as good. Vincent & Vladic did a ton of interviews with survivors, and it is clear they earned their trust, because some of the information they turn up is dark. One young officer told a group of swimmers that he was going to try to make it to land. So he gathers up some of the healthiest sailors, commandeers a raft and supplies, and then paddles a mile away, in order to avoid the dehydrated and oft-hallucinating masses. The authors also unearthed a deadly pact, made between a group of lucid sailors, in which they would kill those of their shipmates who started going mad. Those men, hallucinating and thrashing, posed a danger to others (and also, I suspect drew unwanted attention from the sharks). According to these accounts, kept anonymous, some of the lucid sailors actually murdered their shipmates to preempt the danger they posed.

Vincent & Vladic relate this without commentary. Theirs is a no-judgment zone, the implication being that attempting to overlay normal moral constructs on young, shipwrecked sailors in a shark-infested sea is not fair or appropriate. There were times, though, when I thought the authors were a bit too passive. They tell, for instance, of sailors sexually assaulting other survivors. This kind of beggars the imagination. When you have a bunch of sailors fighting for their very lives, you don’t expect them to have the energy or inclination to act like it’s their first night at Shawshank Prison. But Vincent & Vladic just sort of drop this bombshell and walk away.

(At this point, I should mention that the endnotes contain a lot of very interesting and substantive information. However, the authors do not use superscript references to tell you when to head to the endnotes. This sort of drives me nuts. I wish that footnotes would make a comeback).

In terms of sheer writing style, the prose is incredibly evocative of the suffering these sailors endured:

[A]ll the seawater drinkers died painful deaths. A lack of fluid intake increased salt levels in their bodies, triggering the natural response of greater thirst. When they took in no fluid to decrease the salt levels, water rushed out from their cells to do the job. Brain cells tore loose from their rightful locations, impairing judgment just enough to cause the men to seek poisonous release. Thirst begged their hands to administer water to dilute the salt that was poisoning their bodies. They obliged with seawater, introducing more salt and increasing their thirst to the point of mindless lust. Blood vessels tore and fluid built up in the brain, causing seizures and insanity. They vomited and foamed at the mouth. Some died of kidney failure. Others’ brains short-circuited violently, as when a tree branch hits a high voltage power line.

This is the kind of thing you read with ice water close at hand.

The aftermath of the sinking, including McVay’s court-martial, is also engrossing. I especially appreciate that Vincent & Vladic quoted extensively from the transcripts.

Eventually, though, Indianapolis (which weighs in at 448 pages of text) runs out of steam. This is due to the unnecessarily exhaustive coverage of the quest to exonerate Captain McVay, who was found guilty in his court-martial, and eventually committed suicide in 1968. Though the quest was meaningful to the participants, especially the survivors, it starts to feel a bit quixotic. McVay, after all, did not end up going to jail. Instead, he lost 200 points on the promotion list. Even then, Admiral Nimitz set the punishment aside, and McVay retired as a rear-admiral. In terms of what others lost – their lives – McVay’s experience tends to pale.

Part of the reason the endgame drags is because focusing on McVay shows an uncharacteristic lack of perspective. No, what happened to McVay wasn’t fair. But where does fairness figure into any of this? A submarine fires a torpedo over here; a ship blows up over there. A bomb is dropped; a city disappears. Nine hundred U.S. sailors die in the open sea; two-hundred thousand Japanese burn in their homes. Forgive me if I’m not really that interested in Captain McVay’s reputation.

There is an impulse, on display here, to “fix” the past, as though slipping a paragraph into a dead man’s service jacket makes everything better. It does not change anything, but it has the potential to distort. In the process of remembering, we may be destroying the memory.
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,138 followers
July 21, 2018
5+++ Engrossing and Informative Stars!

From THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER, 1798: "Water, water everywhere, And all the boards did shrink, Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink."

U.S.S. INDIANAPOLIS - She was an old girl....just back from repairs after sustaining grave damage from a 1944 kamikaze suicide attack....now, with a new (very) young and inexperienced crew....now, an unescorted, unprotected cruiser (useless against subs) was on the way back from a new mission....a highly classified special mission....having delivered a mysterious secret cargo....the components for Little Boy.

It's July 30, 1945 just after midnight....Captain Charles B. McVay is 47 today; and submarine commander Hashimoto cannot believe his luck as a bit of moon peeks out from the clouds. He can now see a black shape, he dives....and slams two torpedoes into the unsuspecting INDIANAPOLIS. Destruction is catastrophic and chaos ensues aboard Indy; many die upon impact, others are severely burned or wounded. The order is given to Abandon Ship!

In the water with the constant swells of the Philippine Sea, the men are spread out over great distances, but some join together in circular groups. Shark attacks, screams of pain, fear of no rescue, dehydration and few rations lead to dissension among the men. Some drink seawater causing hallucinations, swollen tongues and painful death. Madness turns to fights, blood, more sharks and unspeakable acts, but there are also times of camaraderie, group prayer and heroism.

Even with Indy overdue, the rescue of the remaining 316 of 879 was indeed fortuitous as there was much incompetence and outright stupidity by navy personnel; and after a farce of a court martial and tortured life for McVay, (OMG the phone calls and letters) survivor's were so outraged that together, with the help of eighth grader Hunter Scott and William Toti (Captain of a modern day sub, Indianapolis) they worked tirelessly to clear his name.

"It is not right for one man to bear all the blame for the mistakes of so many others."

In 2017, 72 years later, explorers got their first look at INDIANAPOLIS wreckage 3.5 miles below the surface....an amazing find. (don't know how I missed this news )

The well-researched INDIANPOLIS reads like a novel and Lynn Vincent does a superb job of giving the reader a personalized view of crew members and their loved ones as well as providing illustrations of the ship, rescue operations, and survival groups in the water that lead us all the way to a well-deserved posthumous exoneration for Captain McVay.

So much information here....so well-written....Highly Recommend!

Charles B. McVay, III - July 30, 1898 - November 6, 1968.

Many thanks to Simon & Schuster for the arc COMING JULY 10, 2017 in exchange for an unbiased review.

UPDATE - July 20, 2018 - Watched the 2016 USS INDIANAPOLIS movie. (available on Netflix). Compared to the book, very disappointing. Expected more and poor acting (Nicholas Cage not a fav. of mine) put me off, and for a two plus hour flick, it seemed rushed. Did get to see those horrid life boats though....Good Lord!....and a bit of the rescue operation. 3 low stars for the movie.

Profile Image for Carol.
829 reviews482 followers
September 19, 2018
Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man

is the stark reality behind our use of the platitude

Thank you for your service.”

I say this not to admonish anyone who walks up to a Veteran wearing a cap, or any other identification as a Vet at a military event, hospital, or days to commemorate a remembrance of their military service. Yet, these words are easy to say without a thought to just what was sacrificed in this service to our country, The United States of America.

The aforementioned book is just one example of the service of our men/women who have or are serving in our nation's military forces, some voluntarily as in this case, and others in a draft due to the need for individuals to serve.

When I first heard that this book would be published I knew I would read it. I knew it would not be an easy read because even, I, with my limited knowledge could see that this would be a heart wrenching undertaking. The surviving crew of The USS Indianapolis' story deserves to be told. Yes, it has been told in other books, but this outing is a book for our times and theirs. Many of the surviving crew are in their in late 80's, some a bit younger, others a bit older. If we don't hear their voices, their stories now, then when?

From the book flap:

Just after midnight on July 30, 1945, days after delivering the components of the atomic bomb from California to the Pacific Islands in the most highly classified naval mission of the war, USS Indianapolis' sailing alone in the center of the Philippine Sea when she is struck by two Japanese torpedoes. The ship is instantly transformed into a fiery cauldron and sinks within minutes.

The numbers:

1,106 men
approx. 300 men went down with the ship
900 men were in the shark infested seas
316 men were alive when found accidentally after 4 days

Just quoting these numbers reminds us of the magnitude and tragedy of this sinking. Each of these men, the crew of this magnificent ship, the pride of the fleet, represents a man willing to serve his country but also a man who endured horrific circumstances and is a loved one or friend of someone. For the families left behind, those who died on impact or those who died in the water, or those who died just minutes, hours or days after rescue, the loss is indescribable.

What of those who survived, those whose lives were changed forever. Buy the book, read its pages and hear their voices. It is this, the voices, that makes this the powerful, memorable read it is.

Like any well researched book and well honed narrative non-fiction, the story did not stop here for me. I continue to seek out information about the USS Indianapolis. There are many websites, documentaries, or other books to learn more. I've added a few at the end of my comments.
I rarely cry when listening or reading a book. I listened to some of this in the audio edition published by Simon & Schuster and narrated by John Bedford Llyod with just the right pacing and tonal respect this book deserved. My tears fell. I read passages over in the hardbound copy. The tears continued to fall. I could not just listen to the audio as I needed some visuals of the crew. The book has many pictures. The words are compelling in both written and audio format, both work well for different reasons.

The author's choice to format the division in telling The Indianapolis' story, the ship, the war, the men aboard, by month and then by days worked very well for me. At first time speeds along but when we get to the days the men spent in the water awaiting rescue it truly brings home the longevity and horror of their plight.

A few additional, personal thoughts. My dad, Mario D. Ponte, served in the US Navy on the destroyer USS Tuscaloosa, 1936-1939. He wished to serve in World War II but could not get paperwork signed to allow this. He often spoke with pride of his service time and also told of his camaraderie with his shipmates. However, I do not remember him ever commenting on the USS Indianapolis. How I wish he were still with me as he was a voracious reader and I would have asked questions and hoped he would read this and discuss it with me.

In the beginning of this review I mentioned that this disaster changed the lives of these men and their families forever. Many of their sons daughters, and grandchildren, joined the armed forces and served or are serving now.

When Hunter Scott first saw the movie Jaws he asked his father if this quote was true?

“So, eleven-hundred men went into the water. Three-hundred-sixteen men come out. The sharks took the rest. June the 29th, 1945.”
Robert Shaw, as Quint, in Jaws (1975)”

I'm betting Hunter did not know the course his life would take when he decided to research the torpedoing of The USS Indianapolis for his school history project.

Did Atsuko Iida. (Hashimoto's granddaughter) ever envision that she, her mother and her children would come to America for a USS Indianapolis reunion and be welcomed?

I realize there may still be controversy and other opinions as to just what happened here. There is always another side to the story. My own feelings, given what I've read, leaves me with the feeling that some justice to the men, their captain and the ship, has been done.

Official Survivor's Website

The Final Crew of the Indianapolis

Tralier of Sara Vladik's Dream
The actual documentary is a must. Hear and see some of the survivor's of The Indianapolis

USS Indianapolis Live From the Deep
PBS Documentary of the finding of the sunken ship
Matt Kramer's fine review
My sincere thanks to Matt Kramer for his excellent review of this book. He convinced me to bump it up to the top of my reading list.
Profile Image for Steven Z..
586 reviews116 followers
July 25, 2018
A few days ago, I was sitting on the beach with a few friends and we began discussing the 1970s film “Jaws.” Someone referred to Robert Shaw’s crusty performance and a monologue he gave about the disaster that befell the USS Indianapolis at the conclusion of the World War II. Since I was familiar with Doug Stanton’s work, IN HARMS WAY written in 2003 about the sinking of the ship it immediately peaked my interest. When I returned home I saw an advertisement for a new book on the worst naval disaster in American naval history, entitled of course, INDIANAPOLIS: THE TRUE STORY OF THE WORST SEA DISASTER IN U.S. NAVAL HISTORY AND THE FIFTY-YEAR FIGHT TO EXONERATE AN INNOCENT MAN by Lynn Vincent and Sarah Vladic. This phenomenal new book updates Stanton’s effort and presents a more in-depth account based on significant new documentation, interviews, and takes the story through the exoneration of the ship’s Captain, Commander Charles B. McVay III, who for decades was the navy’s scapegoat for the events that occurred at the end of July and early August, 1945.

In 1932 the USS Indianapolis was christened by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the flagship of the US Pacific Fleet. In the summer of 1945 it was chosen to complete the most highly classified naval mission of the war by delivering two large cannisters of material that was needed to assemble the Atomic bomb that was to be dropped in Hiroshima to the Tinian Islands. Four days after completing its mission it was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and sunk resulting in over 1193 men either going down with the ship or being thrown overboard with only 316 surviving. The result was a national scandal as the government pursued its investigation and reached a conclusion that was both unfair and completely wrong.

Vincent and Vladic’s incremental approach in developing the story is very important as it allows the reader to understand the scope of the tragedy, the individuals involved, and the conclusions reached. The authors delve into the background history of the ship’s actions during the war, mini-biographies of the personnel aboard the ship, and the military bureaucracy that was responsible of the ship’s manifest and orders that consume the first third of the book.

After getting to know the important characters in the drama Vincent and Vladic transition to the actual delivery of the weapon components and follows the Indianapolis as she transverses through the Philippine Sea. Capt. McVay asked for a destroyer escort which was standard for this type of operation but was denied, in part because of availability, and in part because he was informed by Admiral Nimitz’s assistant chief of staff and operations officer James Carter that “things were very quiet…. [and] the Japs are on their last legs and there’s nothing to worry about.” What Carter did not mention was that ULTRA intelligence came across the deployment of four Japanese submarines on offensive missions to the Philippine Sea.” Later, Acting Commander of the Philippine Sea Front, Commodore Norman Gillette would characterize the same intelligence as a “recognized threat.” In addition to presenting the American side of events, the authors follow Japanese preparations for the defense of the home islands, and zeroes in on Mochitsura Hashimoto, the Commander of the Japanese submarine I-58 which would sink the Indianapolis.

The authors follow the movements of the Indianapolis and Hashimoto’s submarine the days and hours leading up to the attack. Five minutes before midnight on July 30, six torpedoes were fired at the Indianapolis and three hit the ship. Parts of the book read as an adventure story as the authors review calculations dealing with location and speed as the possible target begins to become clearer and clearer. After taking the reader through the attack and resulting sinking of the ship, the reader is presented with at times a quite graphic description of the plight of the sailors who died during the attack, those who jumped off the ship, and the others who abandoned ship under Capt. McVay’s orders. This section of the monograph can be heart wrenching as the men fight for their survival. The carnage and psychological impact of the attack is very disconcerting. After enduring shark attacks, living with no water and little food they resorted to cannibalism, theft, murder, and suicide. The conditions were appalling but others formed groups employing whatever could be salvaged from the ship to create islands of men linked together by netting, rafts, life jackets, or anything else that would float. Apart from men who became delirious and suffered from hallucinations, others found their main enemies to be hunger, dehydration, and sharks who seemed to circle everywhere, and sadly, when it seemed that an individual might be saved a shark attack would take another life.

The most chilling part of the narrative is the description of rescue operations that began on August 2nd. At 11:18 am Lt. Wilbur Gwinn flying a routine patrol in a PBM Mariner noticed a huge oil slick below, and after careful observation noticed a 25-mile oil slick. The spotting of the men below sends chills down the spine of readers as the authors details of the rescue as word spread that there were hundreds of men over an 80-mile area. Sadly, many men would die even as rescue operations commenced as they had little reserve after four days in the water. The question must be asked, when the Indianapolis went missing from July 30 onward no one was tracking the ship carefully to report that she had not arrived at her destination? The navy would investigate and reach a conclusion that the authors would totally discredit.

The last third of the book is devoted to the legal battle that surrounded who was responsible for the sinking of the Indianapolis and once the decision was reached the authors spend their time describing how a wrongful conviction was finally overturned. The authors follow the investigation and different hearings and the final court martial and analyze the testimony, conclusions, and final reports that were issued. They point out the inconsistencies and outright lies offered by certain naval officers as they tried to rest all the blame on Capt. McVay to cover their own “asses.” In describing the conclusions reached by the navy Vincent and Vladic point out “what was not discussed was the string of intelligence and communication failures that led to something being amiss in the first place—failures of Carter, Gillette, and Naquin, as well as Vice Admiral Murray, a member of the court, were well aware.” (317)

The authors dissect the report that called for McVay to be court martialed, especially the information that was left out. For the navy brass that had two ships sunk in the waning moments of the war resulting in over 1000 casualties, someone had to be found responsible. The materials presented reflect where the real blame should have fallen. At Guam, failure to provide an escort for the Indianapolis. Further, Guam took no action when Fleet Radio Unit Pacific intelligence indicated a Japanese submarine had sunk a vessel in the area that the Indianapolis was known to be present. At Leyte, the Philippine Sea Frontier Organization failed to keep track of the Indianapolis and take action when the vessel failed to appear at its scheduled time when a Japanese submarine was located near its line of course.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the weak defense put up by Navy Captain John Parmelee Cady who by this time had little interest in being a lawyer and was given little time to prepare a defense. Cady’s approach is highlighted by the testimony submarine combat expert Captain Glynn Robert Donaho whose statement should have helped exonerate McVay, but did not. The entire transcript of witness testimony is interesting particularly that of the man whose ship sank the Indianapolis, Mochitsura Hashimoto. Other fascinating components of the book are some of the heroes involved in publicizing and working behind the scenes to bring about justice for the McVay family and those of the survivors and men lost at sea. Chief among them was Commander William Toti who stood at the helm of the namesake submarine the Indianapolis. Another is Hunter Scott, an eleven year old boy who worked assiduously on the history of the disaster and in the end testified before a Senate Committee. Without their efforts and numerous others, one wonders if the degree of closure that was finally achieved would have come about.

As one reads the narrative, you grow angrier and angrier at the US Navy for its malfeasance and outright culpability in ruining a man’s life and providing false information for the families of the victims of the disaster. As the authors press on with their account the redemption that is finally earned it does not reduce the uncalled for actions of so many in the Navy and the US government. The authors do a nice job ferreting out those responsible, but that does not detract from the fact that the lies were seen as truth for decades.
Profile Image for Mackey.
1,057 reviews364 followers
August 1, 2018
In 1945, the USS Indianapolis was on a covert mission to carry nuclear materials to the Pacific where they would be used against the Japanese. On July 30, the Japanese torpedoed and sank the ship. Hundreds escaped the fiery death trap, only to be stranded for days in the shark infested ocean. Only 316 members of the crew survived. It is the worst maritime disaster in US history. However, the story doesn’t end there….

For over fifty years, the surviving crew members worked to exonerate their captain who was court marshalled for the disaster. Many questions were raised about the mission of the trip – which took years to have de-classified – and why the captain did not take evasive action to avoid the attack.
Despite having a US History degree and spending years studying the end of WWII, it was not until I moved to Indianapolis that I heard about this nightmare, again, the worst maritime disaster in US History. No high school or college text even alluded to the attack and subsequent sinking of the Indianapolis. It is at that point that anyone should start asking themselves “why?”

Lynn Vincent, an award winning author, and Sara Vladic, a historian for National Geographic, set out to discover the answers to that very question. What they found were lies, cover-ups, the destruction of the captain’s reputation and, ultimately, the crew – as well as the Japanese captain who sank the ship – who worked tirelessly to exonerate the US Captain of any wrong-doing.
The research found within this book is astounding. These authors overcame challenging circumstances to discover the truth about the USS Indianapolis, the captain and its crew. The result is an engaging, well-written account of the crew and their work in finally restoring the captain’s good name.

While the book is non-fiction, it truly doesn’t read that way. It is so fascinating that it comes across as a spy novel or thriller. Even if you are not fond of reading non-fiction, this is a book that is well worth your time. It finally answers the question of what happened on that fateful night and why this story took so long to see the light! It is long past time for this story to be told and for Americans to learn of the USS Indianapolis.

Thank you to Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to learn about these men and their story!
Profile Image for Michael Ferro.
Author 2 books213 followers
February 10, 2019
Like many people, my first experience with hearing about the tragedy of the Indianapolis was through Robert Shaw's monologue in the film "Jaws." That speech was haunting, especially for me as a young boy listening to it, and even more so than the shark in the film, it haunted me. Since then, I've always wanted to know more about those fateful days and nights on the water that the survivors endured back in 1945. With this book, all my questions and curiosities—from the morbid to the logistical—have been answered.

This book has clearly been exhaustively researched. As a sucker for any good WWII non-fiction and my pre-existing fascination with this story, it was a no-brainer I would get around to reading it. My message is this: for all those interested but haven't read it yet—do it; you won't regret it. The sinking, suffering of the crew stranded at sea, and the 50-year fight to exonerate the Indy's brave and valiant captain are all covered in such exquisite detail.

The only area I wished to know more about was the atomic bomb itself (which Indy transported to the Japanese archipelago shortly before sinking). Of course, this is not a fault on the author—the book is titled INDIANAPOLIS after all. There is information on the bomb in here, but I wanted to know more. That said, I went out and purchased two books on the bomb and will be reading those shortly to fill that gap. But when it comes to focusing on the ship and its history from the end of the war to the present day, this was an incredible read. I highly recommend it for history buffs, WWII nuts, and those looking to read a gripping tale of sea survival (and tragedy).
Profile Image for Martie Nees Record.
674 reviews137 followers
March 8, 2020
Genre: Historical Non-FictionIndy
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Pub. Date: July 10, 2018

If you did not see the movie “Jaws” (1975) you missed the actor Robert Shaw’s iconic scene describing the experiences the boys/men endured during WWII when their ship the USS Indianapolis was sunk by enemy fire. They spent four horrific days in shark-infested waters watching each other being eaten alive. The late actor will put more goose bumps on you than my words ever could: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_co....

In this book, you will find that there is so much more than just sharks to this historical non-fiction that reads like a fictional page-turner. If you are unfamiliar with the worst sea disaster in U.S. naval history, you may not be aware that the ship was on a secret mission to deliver some of the components for the atomic weapons that were used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Albert Einstein makes an early appearance since he signed a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt urging that the bomb be built. However, he also repeatedly warned the world about the dangers of nuclear weapons and its impact on the human race. In 1954 he wrote another letter “I made one great mistake in my life…recommending that the atom bombs be made; but there was some justification – the danger that the Germans would make them first.” Einstein’s conflicted feelings pave the way for the rest of the roller coaster ride the reader will be on before the book’s ending.

The beginning chapters alternate between the Japanese Lieutenant Commander Mochitsura Hashimoto, who torpedoed and sunk the ship, and the “Indy’s” Captain Charles B. McVay III. This writing style gives the reader a ringside seat into their surprising similar thoughts and emotions, making one feel as if they knew them both personally. The same is true (on the American side) of the ship’s crew. One of this reviewer’s favorites is Adolfo “Harpo” Celaya. A Mexican American who lied about his age and enlisted in the navy at 17. It is heartbreaking to read just how many teenagers and young men in their early twenties served on the USS Indianapolis. And that out of the 1,196 men aboard only 317 survived. In 2016 the U.S. post office in Florence, Arizona, Harpo’s hometown, was renamed in his honor. How could I not mention this fact when in 2018 there is much anti-Mexican rhetoric coming from the White House?

When McVay and his men were finally rescued from the waters, McVay’s nightmare was just beginning. He went on trial with the charge of failing to zigzag, which caused the ship to sink when it was hit. Many ships were lost in combat during World War II but McVay was the only captain to be court-martialed for the loss of his ship. The pressure for his trial came from the deceased’s families. To add salt to the families’ wounds, the men died immediately before the end of the war. Many received the dreaded telegram while watching other Americans celebrate in the streets. The families, as well as the press, were out for the captain’s blood as if they were great white sharks themselves. If not a naval person, the trial scenes could get dull from the technical and naval jargon. However, the authors manage to have most of the dialogue reading like a suspenseful courtroom drama, complete with a jaw-dropping witness who happened to be the Japanese commander Hashimoto.

The surviving members of the crew claimed that their captain did nothing wrong and was innocent. In the 1990s they still hadn’t stopped trying to clear his name. In 1998, they received help from a very usual source—a sixth-grade male student who researched the sinking of the Indy for his history fair project. Once the men learned of this kid they jumped onboard to help him. This led to a United States Congressional investigation that ended with the captain’s exoneration. Interestingly enough, one of the co-authors of this book, Sara Vladic, was just a 13-year-old schoolgirl when she learned of the USS Indianapolis and was captivated by all of the ship’s history. She wanted to see the story made into a movie. She figured some grown-up eventually would. In 2015, Vladic made the documentary, “USS Indianapolis: The Legacy.”

In this meticulously researched book, 25% of its pages are in the endnotes. It is extensively based on interviews with the survivors. Here I felt was a potential trial problem. The men themselves say that after days in the shark-infested waters there were widespread hallucinations. One could argue that their memories of the actual sinking were no longer intact. Furthermore, many of them had such severe post traumatic stress that they, like their Captain, committed suicide. But, after reading this book, how can anyone ever again wonder about McVay’s innocence? You will cheer that the “50-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man” is finally over. Still, it is a bittersweet vindication. This is a gut-wrenchingly hard story to read. Expect to feel a strong personal connection to the men from the re-telling of the tragedy. Once finished, it might be hard to process your own roller coaster emotions. Still, this is a book that should be read. An epic tale in American history.

Find all my book reviews at:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list...
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Profile Image for Kimberly .
487 reviews60 followers
February 4, 2023
Respectfully written and well researched historical work about the disaster aboard the Indianapolis and the search within the US Navy for a scapegoat. This is an informative and emotional read for anyone interested in the history of World War II and the heroism displayed by those who lived it. Memorable
Profile Image for Boudewijn.
650 reviews81 followers
March 17, 2020
It is not right for one men to bear all the blame for the mistakes of so many others

This is a great book, that not only draws its strength from the vivid and horrific description of the men that were 5 days in the water, but also the quest to exonerate captain McVay, who served as the scapegoat to draw away the attention to the real reason for the sinking: the failure of the navy to warn the Indianapolis of the presence of a Japanese submarine in the area.

After having delivered parts of the atomic bomb to Tinian, the Indianapolis left for Leyte, during which she was struck by three torpedoes from I-58 and sank in 12 minutes.

Of the 1,119 crewman aboard the ship, only 890 managed to get into the water, where during the next 5 days they suffered greatly, after which they were sighted by an airplane crew and subsequently rescued. However, by that time only 316 crewman had survived, the rest succumbing to dehydration, saltwater poisoning and shark attacks or hallucinations in general.

The descriptions are harrowing and make your stomach turn. I developed the greatest respect for the things these men had to endure and reading about the circumstances in which they kept their sanity made me feel humble. Shark attacks, men diving into the waves chasing a hallucinations or (worst of all) men drowning a few meters from the seaplane that came to their rescue.

The rest of the book is dedicated to the quest to exonerate the captain, who was wrongly convicted in a hastily setup court martial, even before the official navy investigation was finalised. The captain only served as a scapegoat and served only to draw away the attention to the failures of the US navy, that allowed the sinking of the Indianapolis to go unnoticed.

This is in my eyes the greatest part of this book. The description of the court room hearings, the evaluation of the arguments used by the advocates shows how much the author did his research. He is able to pinpoint the exact failures that the defence lawyer committed (although he only was granted 5 days to prepare for the court martial) and describe the effort in the later years to exonerate captain McVay.

On the behest of a 12-year old (Hunter Scott) it took until 1998 before captain McVay III was really proven innocent.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in the history of the US Navy, or World War II in general.
Profile Image for happy.
303 reviews95 followers
October 24, 2018
I found this book a fascinating retelling and expansion of the story of the USS Indianapolis. The Indi, as her crew called her, had just delivered the parts to the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima and was in transit to Leyte when she was struck by 2 torpedoes fired by a Japanese Submarine. She sank appox 12 minutes and of her nearly 1200 man crew, appox 900 were able to abandon ship.

This narrative is more than a retelling of that disaster. The authors tell the Indi's story from her commissioning in 1932 to the finding of her wreckage by Paul Allen's, of Microsoft fame, crew in 2017. Some of the prewar stories include her taking FDR on a good will tour of South America and FDR presiding at crossing the equator ceremonies.

When the war starts, the Indi is present for most of the major battle of the Pacific, winning 10 battle stars. Adm Spruance, the commander of 5th fleet, chose her as his flagship rather than a battleship or carrier. It was in this role that she was struck by a Kamikaze off Okinawa. She received such severe damage that she had to return to the US for repairs. She had just completed repairs when the Navy needed a ship to transport the bomb parts to Tinian. According to the authors because she was available and had a good record, she was chosen to transport the atomic bomb. The authors do an excellent job telling this part of the story.

As one of the survivors put it, the excitement happened on the night of 29/30 of July, when 2 torpedoes from the Japanese sub, I-58, slammed into her. One torpedo almost blew off her bow and the other hit her amidships, opening up her starboard side. She sank in less than 12 minutes. Appox 900 of her 1200 man crew managed to abandon ship.

Now comes the real tragedy. She sank so quickly, she was only able to transmit a distress signal a couple of times. The signal people were not sure whether it was sent or not. When she did not appear at Leyte a day later, the harbormaster didn't report her non-arrival. This was due recent change in procedure that stated the harbormasters weren't supposed to report combat ship arrivals. Since arrivals weren't to be reported, the harbormaster assumed non-arrivals were not to be reported either. The survivors were in the ocean for 4 days before a patrolling aircraft spotted an oil slick and followed it eventually spotting the survivors.

The story of the men in the water is heartrending. In addition to the sharks, the men die of exposure, salt water poisoning, suicide, and even just plain murder as some of them fought over scarce survival supplies. In fact, the authors state that of the 600 or so men who died in the water, "only" 100-150 actually died of shark attacks. They stated for the most part, the sharks were content to feed on the dead.

The story of the rescue has both heros and those who were not so heroic. One of the hero’s is a PBY pilot who landed his aircraft in 12 ft swells in defiance of all standard procedures. He ended up picking 51 people out of the water and his aircraft was not able to take off again. One of the not so heroic men is the commander of one of the rescue ships that was so frightened of enemy subs, he attempted abandon the search and his officers basically mutinied and the ship stayed in the area picking up anyone they could find floating in the water.

The authors also look at Capt McVay’s court martial and the reasons behind it. McVay was eventually found guilty of Hazarding his ship by not steering a zigzag course. During this section, the authors look at the Navy’s shortcomings in the disaster. These include not giving McVay current intelligence that enemy submarines were known to be operating in the area - a destroyer escort had been sunk a few days before the Indi, not providing an escort, not following up when the Indi did not respond to radio calls, the afore mentioned not reporting her non arrival, among other things. The conclusion that the authors drew from the court martial is that the Navy needed a scapegoat to make the bad pub go away and McVay was both convenient and logical.

Starting in the mid 1950’s with the first published books on the disaster, the survivors started agitating for the Navy to reverse McVay’s court martial. The Navy did take the matter up, but decided that the verdict was correct and did nothing. The authors continued McVay’s story up until his suicide in 1968. Whether it was from residual effects of the disaster, he continued to receive hate mail up until his death, or martial difficulties the authors couldn’t determine. The survivors continued to believe that he had been scapegoated by the Navy. The attempts to reverse the Navy’s findings gained new momentum in the mid 1990s, when a 13 year old boy, Hunter Scott, learns about the Indianapolis while watching “Jaws” with his father. Here is a link to the monologue


He decides to do his History Fair project on the sinking and its aftermath. He becomes convinced of McVay’s innocence and starts an effort to get the US Senate to intervene. He his successful and eventually the Senate directs the Navy to amend McVay’s records.

The other main player in the effort to exonerate McVay is the last captain of the WW II cruisers namesake, the LA Class attack submarine USS Indianapolis. The skipper, Bill Toti, is a bit of history buff and becomes fascinated with the WW II Indi. So much so, that he invites the survivors to the decommissioning ceremony of his boat. While there, some of the survivors ask him if there is anything, he can do for Capt. McVay. He tells them he would look into it. He eventually joins the staff of the Navy’s Vice CNO, Adm Pullig, and actually prepares Adm Pullig's testimony before the Senate in response to Hunter Scott's efforts. When the Navy slow rolls the senate’s instructions, the survivors ask him personally to make the changes to McVay’s service records, =which he does in 2005.

The last section of the book is the discovery of the wreck and the remaining survivor’s reaction to it.

To sum this all up, a very well done retelling of the story of the USS Indianapolis, CA-35. I have gone back and forth on my rating should be on Goodreads. It is either a very, very strong 4 star or a weak 5 star. Right now I’m leaning to 5 stars – the story is that good. At some spots, the writing can be a bit clunky, but still the story is so good it overtakes the writing.

for those interested here is a link to the authors presentation on BookTV

Profile Image for Juli.
1,879 reviews474 followers
July 27, 2018
I am ashamed to admit that I knew nothing of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis during World War II until I saw a documentary on it during Shark Week on Discovery Channel in 2007. Years of history classes...many on the two world wars....for a college degree....and I knew nothing about the most disastrous sinking in US Naval history. Most stories about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis focus on the sharks that attacked both dead bodies and live sailors in the water after the sinking, but this book focuses on the entire story, not just the dramatic survival parts. Information on the ship, its officers and crew, the war, its mission just before the ship was torpedoed, the men who died and the survivors who floated in the ocean for four days before being rescued. The intent of the authors is to present the information necessary to prove that Captain Charles McVay III was not at fault. Captain McVay was court martialed after the sinking, but later pardoned. His naval record was wiped clean decades later after his death.

The authors definitely did a lot of research. The facts are presented in an interesting and detailed fashion, while still being respectful of the Sailors who lost their lives in the sinking. This book dispels a lot of rumors and misinformation caused by movies and television shows. For example, the sharks did not appear for a couple days after the sinking not instantly as portrayed in a recent movie. The animals were lured in by the scent of corpses and injured sailors in the water. A majority of the deaths after the sinking were not due to shark attack. About 300 men went down with the ship. 900 went into the water. After dehydration, injuries, salt poisoning, lack of food, exhaustion....and sharks....took their toll on the survivors, only 316 sailors survived. The book also explains why Captain McVay was not zigzagging the boat at the time it was torpedoed, and why it took four days for suvivors to be rescued. The Indianapolis had just completed delivery of top secret war materials (uranium and materials for the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan) so it's position and orders were secret. Nobody knew where the ship was and when it was supposed to return to port except for a very, very few people. It took days for them to realize the ship was even missing.

Very interesting book! I enjoyed hearing the entire story. I never knew the ship was severely damaged by a suicide bomber just months before a torpedo sank the ship. I never knew why the captain was not zigzagging, as ships were usually directed to do to make it harder to target them. Because I learned about the sinking initially on a Shark Week documentary, I thought most of the men in the water were attacked by sharks. Not true. Some were, but most died of exposure, exhaustion and untreated injuries.

All in all, a great, very informative book. I will definitely read more by these authors!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Simon & Schuster via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
Profile Image for ✨Bean's Books✨.
648 reviews2,920 followers
September 8, 2018
“Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into her side, Chief. We was comin’ back from the island of Tinian to Leyte. We’d just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes.
Didn’t see the first shark for about a half-hour. Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that in the water, Chief? You can tell by lookin’ from the dorsal to the tail. What we didn’t know, was that our bomb mission was so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin’ by, so we formed ourselves into tight groups. It was sorta like you see in the calendars, you know the infantry squares in the old calendars like the Battle of Waterloo and the idea was the shark come to the nearest man, that man he starts poundin’ and hollerin’ and sometimes that shark he go away… but sometimes he wouldn’t go away.
Sometimes that shark looks right at ya. Right into your eyes. And the thing about a shark is he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, he doesn’t even seem to be livin’… ’til he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then… ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin’. The ocean turns red, and despite all your poundin’ and your hollerin’ those sharks come in and… they rip you to pieces.
You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don’t know how many sharks there were, maybe a thousand. I do know how many men, they averaged six an hour. Thursday mornin’, Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Boson’s mate. I thought he was asleep. I reached over to wake him up. He bobbed up, down in the water, he was like a kinda top. Upended. Well, he’d been bitten in half below the waist.
At noon on the fifth day, a Lockheed Ventura swung in low and he spotted us, a young pilot, lot younger than Mr. Hooper here, anyway he spotted us and a few hours later a big ol’ fat PBY come down and started to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened. Waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went into the water. 316 men come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945.
Anyway, we delivered the bomb.”
- Robert Shaw (Jaws 1975)
I'm not going to lie this is the reason I read this book. This speech from the movie Jaws inspired such fear and terror and added to the movie so well that the real story had to be even scarier.
And so it was in 1945 that after the USS Indianapolis carried the Hiroshima bomb it sank into the Philippine Sea leaving its crew to either sink, die of hypothermia or starvation, commit suicide, or simply wait for their turn.
A gripping and heated journey through the life and death of this ship and its crew. Amazingly written in a format that uses many naval terms but not so many that the layman cannot follow. Instead of just listing off the facts the authors decided to turn the book into a play-by-play story. Which makes it a lot easier for the reader to read. But there is no mistaking that the authors definitely did their homework on this one. This might possibly be the perfect maritime novel.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who's interested in the military, Naval History, US History, the history of World War II or even just history in general.
Profile Image for Dan.
1,106 reviews52 followers
June 15, 2019
Indianapolis by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic.

A remarkable work of historical research covering America’s worst maritime disaster of the 20th century. There were no stones left unturned here including vast coverage of the subsequent court-martial of the Captain and interviews with survivors some fifty years later. The portion of the book that detailed the men trying to cling to life in the shark infested waters was very tragic to read and well told.

For anyone who doesn’t know the story of the Indianapolis, it was a major command vessel in the Pacific theater in WWII that was sunk by Japanese torpedoes while on its way to the Philippines just a week before the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 3/4 of the approximately 1200 sailors died, some went directly to the bottom of the sea with the broken ship. Many others drowned over the ensuing days, many died of exhaustion and thirst, a few were killed by fellow sailors and still others died in grisly shark attacks as they drifted in the waters of the Philippine Sea. The survivors were plucked out of the sea some four days later, most near death covered in fuel oil, sunburnt and without exception all the survivors were very near death.

A few months earlier in the spring of 1945, Japanese kamikazes had successfully attacked the Indy near Guam and the ship nearly sunk then. The Indianapolis made its way back to the naval shipyard in San Francisco for repairs. It was there, after the dry dock repairs, where a special payload was loaded onto the ship of which only three people knew the top secret contents. The payload was comprised of the components of the first atom bomb . The Indianapolis delivered the bomb to Guam where it was later assembled and loaded into the fuselage of the Enola Gay. It was immediately after this delivery that the ship made its fateful journey toward the Philippines.

4.5 stars. Highly recommended. The tone of the book was respectful, certainly not overly dramatized. There was a lot of memorialization as many sailors were mentioned in the narrative. I think as far as WWII history books the Band of Brothers was written better but the true facts around the Indianapolis make for an unbelievably tragic story.
Profile Image for "Avonna.
1,155 reviews316 followers
October 12, 2018
Check out all of my reviews at: https://www.avonnalovesgenres.com

INDIANAPOLIS: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year-Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic is one of the most engrossing and riveting nonfiction books I have read. I enjoy reading nonfiction books set during WWII because I truly do believe they were written about an extraordinary generation. This book not only vividly describes the history of the Indianapolis’ war service, sinking and the five days of terror in the sea waiting for rescue, but continues with the survivors’ fight to clear their Captain’s record.

The Indianapolis was a historic ship that had seen major battles in the Pacific, survived to be repaired after a kamikaze attack, delivered the first atomic bomb to the Air Force to be dropped on Hiroshima and then was sunk by a Japanese submarine just after midnight on July 30, 1945. The night began with 1,195 men going about their duties or off-duty past-times. It is estimated that approximately 300 men went down with the ship with the remainder entering the sea. When the survivors were accidentally spotted from the air and rescued, only 316 men lived. The description of burns, dehydration, delirium, drowning and sharks had me in tears several times.

This was an extremely well documented and researched book. From the survivor’s firsthand accounts, naval documents, and previous historical books on this subject. The two authors interweave two timelines, one beginning in 1945 that takes you back to the ship and one that begins in the 1990’s that centers on the fight for justice for Captain McVay. I could not put this book down and I could vividly mentally picture every paragraph past and present.

I HIGHLY recommend this book!

(After reading this book, I watched the documentary USS Indianapolis: The Legacy on Amazon Prime. It was made by the authors of this book and was told in the first person by the survivor’s. It brought faces to the names I read about in the book. Extremely emotional.)
Profile Image for Eric Hausman-Houston.
Author 1 book12 followers
June 9, 2018
This amazing ship and these amazing men who fought for our freedom need to be remembered. INDIANAPOLIS is a captivating retelling bringing new light to this incredibly important moment in history. More than just a riveting, harrowing tragedy, due to such an unlikely series of events so near to the end of the war, it is ultimately a story of survival and redemption. A must read for all!
453 reviews132 followers
January 27, 2022
Every year, usually on July 4th, we watch Spielberg's "Jaws." Even after countless viewings, I find myself rapt by Quint's (played by Robert Shaw) monologue about the sinking of the Indianapolis: "Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin' back from the island of Tinian... just delivered the bomb, the Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in twelve minutes... Very first light, Chief, the sharks come cruisin'. So we formed ourselves into tight groups... And the idea was,the shark goes to the nearest man, and he'd start poundin' and hollerin' and screamin' and sometimes the shark would go away..." Mostly, we learn as he goes on, the shark wouldn't go away. (As I type I can hear Shaw saying these lines, and I have to stop myself from continuing the quote to his soul-scarring description of sharks' eyes and the screams of the crew.)

Every year, when the movie was over and the camera faded on Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss swimming back to Amity (which means "friendship," by the way), I determined this year I'm going to learn more about that event. So I ordered a copy of "Indianapolis." The book did exactly what I hoped it would, and a good deal more. It's an extraordinary work of history, briskly written, thoroughly -- even heroically -- researched. The people who played parts in the tragedy are all here: the captain and crew of the Indianapolis, the US Navy brass who for better or worse became part of Indy's story, Japanese military officials who demanded that the war continue in spite of the Emperor's wishes, the captain of the Japanese submarine that sank the Indy, politicians, and so many more.

Horrifying as Quint's monologue makes the experience sound, the reality of the sinking was far far worse. The mind balks at contemplating it. Men adrift in the ocean for days and days without food or water, many of them severely burnt by the explosions that went off when the ship was hit, many of them wearing life vests that were so saturated they no longer worked, sharks attacking again and again, crew mates going under (only 316 of the almost 1200 man crew survived), and worse. They tried to form into tight groups, as Quint says, but were mostly unable to do so because they were too weak, and ocean currents separated them from one another, often by many miles. Not knowing from day to day if a rescue ship was on its way, or if the Navy even knew their ship had gone down. (The Navy didn't, though they could and should have. The survivors were discovered entirely by accident.) And then, after all that horror, the captain of the Indy, Charles B. McVay, was court martialed.

Authors Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic go to extraordinary lengths to tell the whole story. How the bomb was delivered in secret. How a Navy official told McVay right before the Indy left on that last trip that it would be clear-sailing, no Japanese submarine activity had been reported in the area, which was not true: in fact, several subs had been detected. The infuriating litany of screw-ups at every stage of the way: laziness, buck-passing, cover-ups, face-saving lies up and down the chain of command, dysfunctional Naval culture and miscommunications, how one officer who might have noticed the Indy was late but was too drunk to do so, while another instructed his crew that he didn't want to be disturbed, and on and on. There were, of course, numerous acts of courage, self-sacrifice, and even defiance, that resulted in lives being saved. Over all, though, this was not one of the U.S. Navy's exemplary moments.

The wartime part of the Indy story is harrowing. No less so is the story of the court martial that followed. We read about Indy survivors who were infuriated at the mistreatment of their captain; they agitated for years to exonerate him... even after he killed himself. McVoy was assigned a defense attorney with no experience and no time to adequately build a case. It was a travesty: Even the commander of the Japanese sub that sank the Indy was flown to DC and gave testimony that should have exonerated McVoy, to no avail. Years later, William Toti, captain of the submarine USS Indianapolis, got involved (at the risk of his own career) in clearing McVoy's reputation. And a sixth grade student from Florida named Hunter Scott, after watching "Jaws" with his dad, was curious about what really happened. He researched the sinking of the Indy and its aftermath as part of a school project, and ended up testifying before Congress.

It's a hell of a story, very well told.
Profile Image for Joy D.
1,908 reviews221 followers
November 28, 2022
True story of the worst sea disaster in US Naval history. It starts with a high-level overview of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, tracing its involvement in various events over its lifetime. It sets the context for how it was involved in the Pacific theatre. It is known for delivering the atomic bomb that was subsequently dropped on Hiroshima. It was torpedoed by the Japanese in the Philippine Sea, resulting in the deaths of 879 sailors. The secondary narrative involves Captain Charles McVay III, who was subsequently court-martialed for not seeing to the safety of the ship by zig zagging, a technique later discredited.

The authors have obviously done their homework. This book is extremely detailed and thorough. They do a top-rate job in covering the sailors (whom they interviewed) – where they were on the ship and their individual experiences in the water. The court martial and subsequent attempt to exonerate the captain become rather tedious. It may depend on which book you read first, but I enjoyed In Harm’s Way by Doug Stanton more than this one, although they are both worth reading. I read this in honor of Veteran’s Day.
Profile Image for Charlie.
348 reviews21 followers
August 23, 2018
First, congratulations to the authors Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic for the many, many hours of research, interviews, and patience putting this true full account of the sinking of the ship and the court-martial of Captain Charles McVay.
I usually get tired or worn out reading books that are over 350 pages or so. This one is well over 400 and every bit of it was an adventure for me - a page turner.
This story is well defined about the stuff that took place before, during and after the sinking of the INDIANAPOLIS.

Suspense all the way on this true story.
Won this book from Goodreads.com and I thank you. One of the best books I have read, PERIOD.
Profile Image for Doug Phillips.
113 reviews12 followers
August 5, 2018
This is a book that held me quite interested for the first 60 percent, and then lost me like the title ship was for so many long days.

Other books have covered the ground of the great toll paid by the many sailors of the Indianapolis. The authors here have done meticulous research and it shows. Part of that research is a careful retelling of the court case that reads like a transcript for the ending portion of the book. I admittedly found myself wishing the book would conclude well before the final page.

I found it interesting to scan the vast bibliography, index, notes, and recap of the primary men involved with this unfortunate incident and corresponding trial. Again, it shows how the authors relied on primary and secondary research to gain an intimate knowledge of the people who were fighting for their country and then for their lives.

The story (and the book) concludes with an ending that makes it ripe for a new interpretation in the form of a Hollywood movie (beyond the scope of the poorly made "based upon a true story" Nicolas Cage interpretation from 2016). The real-life characters show endurance, bravery, and sacrifice that is not seen very often in today's world.

This one is recommended for anyone who has an interest in history, or those who look for examples of the human spirit and ultimate vindication.
Profile Image for Book Concierge.
2,772 reviews332 followers
February 12, 2020
Book on CD read by John Bedford Lloyd

The subtitle is all the synopsis anyone needs: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man.

I’ve known about the U.S.S. Indianapolis since I was about eleven years old. In 7th grade I became fascinated by sharks and read virtually every book in my public library about them. Many of those books included the story of the Indianapolis sinking and the days at sea that the survivors endured. So, this was not a new story for me, nor the first book about the tragedy that I’ve read.

But knowing the story did nothing to lessen my fascination or divert my attention from the tale. Vincent and Vladic did extensive research, including interviews with survivors and their families. The result is a detailed, thorough and still intimately personal story. There was more than one section that brought me to tears, and I cheered at the eventual success the survivors had in clearing their captain of charges of culpability.

The audiobook is masterfully narrated by John Bedford Lloyd. I listened in rapt attention.

Profile Image for Casey Wheeler.
899 reviews35 followers
July 10, 2018
I received a free Kindle copy of Indianapolis by LynnVincent and Sara Vladic courtesy of Net Galley  and Simon snd Schuster, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus pages.

I requested this book as  I read a couple of other books on the events surrounding the sinkng of the Indianapolis, but this one carried it forward to the present day.  This is the first book by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic that I have read.

This is an extremely well written and researched book. The subtitle is an accurate depiction of the contents of the book - The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man. This book reads more like a piece of fiction than history making it an engaging and interesting read.

The book covers the events leading up to the sinking of the Indianapolis, the stories of the crew adrift while waiting for resuce, the rescue effort, the hearings after the war and the long fight by the crew to exonerate their captain from blame for the events that occurred. It also points out the inflexibility of the Navy in admitting that they made a mistake even after Congress cleared the captain of any wrongdoing.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a comprehensive history of what took place with the sinking of the Indianapolis and the events afterwardes.
Profile Image for Brooke Lorren.
150 reviews6 followers
June 3, 2018
Indianapolis is an outstanding telling of the ship that was entrusted with the responsibility of carrying the atomic weapons that led to the end of World War II in Japan... and then was sunk shortly afterwards. It is the story of how the men survived five days in in shark-infested waters while the Navy bumbled about, not even knowing that the ship was missing until some of the survivors were spotted by a passing plane. It is the story of how the captain of the vessel was unjustly blamed for everything that happened -- and finally was absolved of guilt for the incident, decades after his death from suicide.

At times, this book reads almost like a fiction book. The stories of the sailors being surrounded by sharks, going crazy, and struggling to survive, are exciting and horrifying because they are true. You care for the people in this story as you get to know them, and I admit that I cried at the end when the ship's captain finally received justice.

This is a beautifully written story that would be great for history buffs, people that are interested in World War II, and people that like to see good finally triumph over corruption and miscarriages of justice.
Profile Image for Lance.
1,426 reviews95 followers
February 14, 2021
While there are several books published about the USS Indianapolis, this one is the most complete account of not only the sinking and survival stories, but also of the mistakes by other Navy commands, the subsequent scapegoating of Captain McVay with a court marshall due to failure to zig zag and the valiant attempt to clear his name by a 13 year old boy. No matter what aspect of the story of the Indianapolis intrigues you, pick up this book.
Profile Image for Spectre.
295 reviews
August 3, 2018
The numbers are just staggering in this largely unknown naval tragedy at the end of World War II. The USS Indianapolis is torpedoed by a Japanese submarine on a cloudy night and 300 men go down with the ship while 900 men end up in the water. The elements, lack of water and food, fire and oil, dehydration, and sharks lead to the deaths of nearly 600 more enduring four more days in the water before being discovered and rescued. There were 317 survivors including the Captain who was subsequently “scapegoated” by Naval Authorities with little interest in “spoiling” their well-earned victory over Japan. This account is very well told through the voices of the 317 survivors and the efforts by them and their families to clear the name of their Captain. It was a humbling honor for me, the reader, to share the experiences of these men realizing that efforts of men like them are my heritage and the heritage of my children and grandchildren. The authors were incredible acknowledging the efforts of those earlier historians who wrote of this tragedy who, along with the survivors, guided them to this comprehensive story of heroism and weakness and survival. Read this book and watch the video and you’ll surely be awed. (The USS Indianapolis- A Legacy directed by co-author Sara Vladic). This was a lucky Goodreads giveaway winner- Thank you!
Profile Image for Henry.
639 reviews29 followers
April 15, 2020
This is an excellent account of the tragic fate of the USS Indianapolis in the closing days of World War II. It tells the story with incredible attention to detail but is eminently readable. It, in fact, reads like a novel and is a magnificent tribute to the Captain and sailors of this famous ship. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Timothy Boyd.
6,560 reviews33 followers
April 18, 2023
An excellent history book. Very well written and deeply researched. Tons of personal accounts of before during and after the incident. Very recommended
Profile Image for Bookworm.
953 reviews131 followers
December 21, 2018
I'm not sure words can do this book justice! It's an immaculate portrayal of the history of the USS Indianapolis that was torpedoed and sunk during the end of WW2. What made this story so gripping was the quest of the ship's survivors to clear their captain's name of blame for the sinking. It is truly an inspiring and heroic tale that had my eyes welled up with tears and my ears fuming with steam. It will touch your heart and make you hoppin' mad!!

I'm going to be honest and warn other readers that the beginning starts off painfully SLOW, and has so much detail that it reminded me of a history text book. HOWEVER KEEP READING!!! The story starts to take shape once the action kicks in and from then on you won't be able to stop reading! I was GLUED to the pages...

I learned so much about this historical tragedy that I knew very little about. I'm shocked that the events of the USS Indianapolis haven't been more widely told. It was an honour to read this book. It gave me a whole new appreciation for the navy, the bravery of the men on board fighting for our freedom and their strength to overcome and persevere. If you enjoy WW2 history, this is a MUST READ!!

A huge gracious thank you to the authors, Simon & Schuster and Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book. It is a long overdue review and I'm so glad to have read it.
Profile Image for Anne Morgan.
691 reviews15 followers
July 6, 2018
Most people today know the story of the Indianapolis, if they know it at all, from the movie Jaws. While hunting a great white shark, boat captain Quint tells Hooper and Brody of being on the Indy (as she was known by the crew) when she sunk, sharks circling until the men were pulled from the water after delivering "the bomb". The full story, told here for the first time, is much more complex, dramatic, and heartbreaking. Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic do full justice to the story of the Indy, her crew, and her captain in this new book, The Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man.

Vincent and Vladic have done incredible, in-depth research with only primary sources- including speaking with survivors- to piece together a saga every bit as gripping and full of personal drama as the sinking of the Titanic or Lusitania. The stories of the crew, how they lived, how they came to be on Indy in the first place, their families and plans for the future connect you to them intimately. Indy's final, famous mission was a series of coincidences and Naval negligence from first to last. Originally she was not slated to carry uranium for the first atomic bomb, but due to damage from a kamikaze strike she was in California finishing repairs and called into action because of the sterling reputation of her captain, Charles McVay III. After successfully delivering the uranium, Indy was slated to travel to Guam for training. Despite knowing there was submarine activity in the route McVay was to take, he was told by authorities the route was safe, and given no escort. The recounting of the torpedo strikes, the sinking, and the five nights the survivors spent in the water are told in a straightforward piecing together of memories. No additional drama is needed to make the tale emotional, dramatic,, and viscerally terrifying and heartbreaking.

The story of the Indianapolis does not end when the 316 survivors were pulled out of the water. Vincent and Vladic follow the crew back to the States, and then all too troubling tale of the courtmarshal of Captain McVay for negligence in allowing his ship to be sunk. It took over fifty years and an amazing amount of intense battling before this injustice was rectified and McVay's record cleared.

Thoroughly researched and deeply moving, the story of the Indianapolis is a tale of courage, strength, and determination in the face of overwhelming odds. Despite Vincent and Vladic's prose occasionally falling victim to non-fiction book's tendency of dramatically foreshadowing what is to come (the typical "it was a mistake they would soon come to regret" type of chapter ending) and the fact that they can't seem to go more than three sentences without using similes or metaphors in describing anything, The Indianapolis is a well told, compelling story.

Fans of Erik Larson's Dead Wake will appreciate the attention to detail not only from the American point of view, but the Japanese as well. An absolute must-read for military history buffs, naval history buffs, or anyone curious about the story behind the tale told in Jaws, The Indianapolis is a powerful, fast-paced, emotionally moving, account of the greatest disaster in U.S. naval history.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for KC.
2,404 reviews
January 22, 2019
During WWII, under a highly classified mission, the USS Indianapolis delivered the atomic bomb. On its return, the Captain and crew were traveling solo in the Philippine Sea when struck by Japanese torpedos. Nearly 900 men went into the water and for five nights and four days each man struggled to stay alive. Desperate for food and water, the dangers only became worse. While many men were succumbing to disorientation due to lack of water, the increasing threat of shark attacks became considerably more frequent . Only 316 men were eventually rescued. The final mission came nearly a half century later for the remaining few survivors who were hoping to exonerate their Captain, Charles McVay III, who was wrongfully court-martialed. This epic tale was horrific, captivating and truly inspirational.
Profile Image for Amy.
79 reviews3 followers
May 31, 2018
Wow! Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic have crafted an amazing read in "Indianapolis" that puts you in the middle of a seemingly unbelievable tale of war, loss, brotherhood, victory, faith and determination as they unpack the story of the USS Indianapolis. From the time at sea through the secret journey to deliver components for Little Man to the heart-pounding torpedo attack and sinking of the ship through the survivors time adrift waiting for rescue days later, a clear visual picture is drawn of the surroundings as well as the people involved in this heroic tale. As fascinating as the story was leading up to the rescue, what happened in the months, years and decades since is also an amazing tale unto its own. The dogged determination of survivors and their families to right the record about what happened combined with the involvement of the final USS Indianapolis submarine commander make for a compelling read. Sara Vladic became enthralled with this story as a teenager and she has made it a key part of her life to capture and share the story of this crew - that passion was evident within the pages. Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic pull from myriad sources to tell a story that keeps you interested from the first page until the end (and even the end pages are an interesting read, too) - this book is a great example of a well crafted narrative nonfiction that I find to be some of the best writing around. In the days since reading it, I have already recommended it to at least 3 people and keep coming back to the story in conversation with others.

I received an ARC through NetGalley and Simon & Schuster to read in exchange for my honest review. This book is released July 10th. I look forward to buying my own copy of this in hardback for my personal library.
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