The story of the USS Indianapolis, the last major American warship sunk in World War II, is one of the few naval disasters remembered to this day. Most probably remember the loss of the Indianapolis as the subject of a (mostly historically accurate) monologue by Robert Shaw’s character Quint in the movie Jaws.
This book was right up my alley. Being a veteran of the U.S. Navy I was very much at home when discussing Naval life and the use of naval terms. The book starts off by telling the tale of key figures in the story, well unfortunately, there may have been many more key figures, but this tells the tale of those who primarily went on to survive the horrid voyage they set on.
On July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine roughly 350 miles away from land in the Philippine Sea. There were over 1,196 crew and officers. It is estimated that around 300 men went down with the ship. The remainder of the men, were left afloat in shark infested water with little or no fresh water, food, life jackets or protection from sun in fuel rich water.
The book covers the carnage experienced by these men. From the actual torpedo affects and the ensuing chaos on the ship to the shark attack and insanity experienced by the men. It was extremely detailed and at times I found myself choked up. Reading about the times when one of the sailors in the water would reach out to pull in his fellow sailor,just to find that his lower half was missing due to a shark attack was shocking and must have done something to the minds of these poor survivors.
In the end, the captain, Charles McVay ended up court-matialed. The sad part is that in my opinion the U.S. Navy failed to protect the ship and sent them into a hostile environment to fend for themselves. Not only that, but afterward, blamed the captain for failing to "zig zag" which even at the time was said to be futile. More disturbing is that as of 2000, when you would think that the evidence would have been... well evident, they would clear the captain's name. However this is not the case.
I recommend this book for any history and/or military buff.
After reading this book, I researched the website http://www.ussindianapolis.org
and was able to see the pictures of the crew that survived. I suggest you do the same.
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; First Edition edition (May 1, 2003)