Doug Stanton - In Harm's Way

"In creating this book, I decided to cast the tragedy of the USS Indianapolis not as a history of war but as a portrait of men battling the sea." (p. 314)
Incredible! In Harm's Way is very difficult to put down. Told mainly from the survivors' viewpoint, and with an emphasis on the days after the Indianapolis was torpedoed but prior to the rescue, some readers may find things disturbing, to say the least. There are certainly less morbid and less graphic accounts available. Some recommend Abandon Ship! instead of Stanton's book, but for an updated look at the tragedy and recollections from numerous survivors, this is probably the best place to look. Not having personally read Abandon Ship!, though, I'm not in a position to compare and contrast the two.

You need not have an interest in military history to thoroughly enjoy this book and be touched (and horrified) by what happened. It's an amazing story, well told.

One word of caution: Don't plan on getting much else done for a while once you begin reading In Harm's Way.

from the publisher:
On July 30, 1945, after completing a top secret mission to deliver parts of the atom bomb "Little Boy," which would be dropped on Hiroshima, the battle cruiser USS Indianapolis was torpedoed in the South Pacific by a Japanese submarine. An estimated 300 men were killed upon impact; close to 900 sailors were cast into the Pacific Ocean, where they remained, undetected by the navy, for nearly five days. Battered by a savage sea, they struggled to survive, fighting off hypothermia, sharks, physical and mental exhaustion, and, finally, hallucinatory dementia. By the time rescue -- which was purely accidental -- arrived, all but 321 men had lost their lives; 4 more would die in military hospitals shortly thereafter.

The captain's subsequent and highly unusual court-martial left many questions unanswered: How did the navy fail to realize the Indianapolis was missing? Why was the cruiser traveling unescorted in enemy waters? And perhaps most amazing of all, how did these 317 men manage to survive?

Drawing on new material and extensive interviews with survivors, In Harm's Way relates the tragedy of the USS Indianapolis not as a history of war, but as a portrait of men battling the sea. Interweaving the stories of three survivors -- Charles Butler McVay, the captain; Lewis Haynes, the ship's doctor; and Private Giles McCoy, a young marine -- journalist Doug Stanton has brought this astonishing human drama to life in a narrative that is at once immediate and timeless. The definitive account of a little-known chapter in World War II history, In Harm's Way is destined to become a classic tale of war, survival, and extraordinary courage.

"Doug Stanton has done this country a service by bringing the incredible yet almost-forgotten story of the USS Indianapolis to heart-pounding life. Do yourself a favor. Read In Harm's Way." --James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers

"For millions of people everywhere, World War II had moments, hours, days of horror and terror. For Captain Charles McVay and his crew, their five days in the ocean, where they were ripped apart by sharks, were gruesome and terrible almost beyond description. But after painstaking research and a brilliant use of oral history, Doug Stanton has told the tale. He writes carefully and judiciously, with a sense of timing and an eye for the right detail, to make this the most frightening book I've ever read." --Stephen E. Ambrose, author of Nothing Like It in the World

"In Harm's Way is a stunning book. The story of the USS Indianapolis is one of the most harrowing tales of World War II -- and Doug Stanton takes you through every terrifying moment in a vivid and utterly memorable account." --Tom Brokaw, author of The Greatest Generation

"A thoroughly researched, powerfully written account of a nightmare at sea, one of the most poignant tragedies and injustices of World War II. I was struck throughout by the extraordinary heroism of the marines and sailors who survived, all the more remarkable because they do not see it on themselves." --Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down

"A haunting story of valor, iniquity, and young men in peril on the sea. Once the Indianapolis steams into the crosshairs of the Japanese submarine I-58, In Harm's Way is impossible to put down. Doug Stanton's account of the Indy's sinking and the harrowing aftermath is as infuriating, mesmerizing, and heartbreaking as any tale yet told of the great war in the Pacific." --Rick Atkinson, author of The Long Gray Line and Crusade