- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
How does a U.S. battle cruiser, torpedoed by a Japanese sub in the Pacific, go completely undetected by the Navy for five days? How did the 900 survivors of the blast -- thrown into the water and left to fight off hypothermia, sharks, and mounting despair -- get through the ordeal? In the compelling pages of In Harm's Way, Doug Stanton draws on previously unknown information and has conducted extensive interviews with the survivors of the USS Indianapolis in order to bring this amazing WWII tale of courage and sacrifice to the reader.
Stanton begins by presenting a look at Indianapolis captain Charles McVay, the only captain of a sunken ship to be court-martialed for "negligence." Stanton presents McVay as a precise and thoughtful commander who cared deeply for his crew -- and who wound up emotionally devastated by the sinking and its aftermath.
Ship's doctor Lewis Haynes is also profiled. When the ship is hit, Haynes's life is saved by an officer who warns him of imminent danger -- before being incinerated before Haynes's eyes by the force of an explosive flash fire. When the crew then abandons ship and winds up in the Pacific, Haynes does all he can to attend to the wounded while (literally) trying to talk them out of suicide.
Meanwhile Giles McCoy, a young marine private eager for some military action, finds his military toughness tested when he finds himself trying to herd the crewmembers -- scattered and drifting randomly through the oil-slicked waters -- together into a cohesive group.
Stanton alternates between relating the experiences of these three key men and detailing the frustratingly complex behind-the-scenes bureaucracy of the Navy. The Navy, amazingly, allowed the cruiser, which had just delivered the integral components of the "Little Boy" atomic bomb to Tinian Island in the South Pacific, to cross the Pacific unescorted -- a decision practically unheard of in wartime. The position of the Indianapolis was unknown to the Navy because of a series of snafus that defy belief -- each naval division, basically, thought another knew where the ship was!
The centerpiece of the book -- one that will chill every reader to the bone -- is the nearly five-day ordeal experienced by the 300 men adrift in the ocean: no food, no water, some burned so badly that their flesh hung off their bodies, some blinded, all at the mercy of hundreds of hungry sharks! It's an ordeal that is simply unthinkable and unbelievable -- but it happened.
After the rescue of the survivors -- only 317 out of the original crew complement of 1,196 survived -- came the court-martial of McVay, a man already consumed with grief and loss. What was the primary charge? "Failure to abandon ship in a timely manner." Since the ship had been torpedoed and sunk in a matter of moments, this was a bitter pill indeed. But McVay -- who would eventually take his own life -- felt responsible for the ship and his men, so he didn't contest his punishment. Based on Stanton's spellbinding account, however, it seems that it was the Navy itself which should have been on trial. (Nicholas Sinisi)
Nicholas Sinisi is the Barnes & Noble.com History Editor.