There never seems to be an end to amazing stories about World War II, and this book is no exception. However, this story stands out for several reasons. Along the way the reader sees cowardice and heroism, selfishness and selflessness, disgrace and redemption, desperation and salvation, but perseverance, dedication and loyalty are what this story is all about.
Many have heard of the USS Indianapolis disaster – it was mentioned in Quint’s monologue in “Jaws” – but probably few are familiar with the details surrounding her sinking and the Navy’s subsequent court martial of her commander, Captain Charles B. McVay. The authors provide the details and, in the process, have honored the memory of the Indianapolis, the men who survived and the men who were lost. The title of the book may seem to give the whole story away, but the fantastic writing coupled with extensive research makes this a page-turner regardless of how much you may know about it.
The authors interviewed many of these men and spent a great deal of time with them over the years. The personal touches they share about the men give the reader a visceral connection to them that couldn’t be created using secondary sources. They start the story before the sinking and end it 50-plus years later. It is an incredible story from beginning to end, but the recounting of how the men survived stands out.
There were 1,195 aboard the Indianapolis when she was hit by two torpedoes on July 30, 1945. It took 12 minutes for the ship to go down. About 900 made it into the water, and after nearly five days afloat in the ocean 316 were rescued. What happened while these men were in the water is the stuff of nightmares and comprises the most riveting and harrowing part of the book.
In so many other books the ordeal they endured and their rescue would be enough. This book takes us on a much longer journey. The sinking of the Indianapolis was a story buried by the news of the Japanese surrender. It was only through the work of authors, politicians, dedicated civilians and the survivors that the story, specifically the fate of Captain McVay, eventually garnered the attention it deserved. It was that attention that led several people to take another look at what led to the sinking. What they found and did with that information changed history. This is a stunning work that gives a voice to so many who can no longer speak for themselves.