In Harm's Way
The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of its Survivors
by Doug Stanton
Right at the end of World War II a ship left from San Francisco carrying pieces of the atom bomb. The secret mission was an important one, crucial to ending the war. A lack of shared information and an unexpected Japanese submarine led to the torpedoing and sinking of the ship. The story of the USS Indianapolis became famous after a scene in Jaws viscerally described the horror the men experienced.
This is nonfiction at its best. The book sweeps you into the story immediately. It moves fast, hooking you and breaking your heart with every page. Trapped in the water, surrounded by sharks and without any drinkable water, the men began to drop like flies.
It’s horrifying to read about what the men in the water experienced. Some hallucinated, others gave up, and some fought to save their fellow men by giving them their life vests or diving off rafts to save someone. There were shark attacks, men drank the salt water out of desperation, others were burned badly when the ship was hit and were forced to sit in the water as their wounds festered. There were 1,196 crew members on the ship when it was torpedoed and only 321 survived, four more died in the weeks following. Those are not good odds.
The book also deals with the charges brought against the captain of the ship and how they affected him. There’s something particularly terrible about going through a trauma like that and knowing that it’s still not over when you get out of the water.
BOTTOM LINE: Just fantastic. If you enjoy good nonfiction, war stories or anything along those lines I would highly recommend it. It’s similar to Unbroken, but in my opinion was even better.
Photo of the survivors from here.