Summary and book reviews of In Harm's Way by Doug Stanton

In Harm's Way

By Doug Stanton

In Harm's Way
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Apr 2001,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: May 2002,
    384 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

A harrowing, adrenaline-charged account of America's worst naval disaster at sea -- and of the heroism of the men who, against all odds, survived.

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.

SUNDAY, JULY 15, 1945
San Francisco, California

The ship was still tied up in the harbor at Mare Island, but already the captain felt it was drifting out of his control.

Marching up the gangway of the vessel under his command, the USS Indianapolis, Captain Charles McVay was a man perplexed. Reaching the top, he turned toward the stern, saluted the flag, and strode on through the bronze light of the chill California morning, stepping past the electricians, painters, and engineers working on deck. No one watching the forty-six-year-old McVay, dressed smartly in his khaki and crisp campaign hat -- its black vinyl bill decorated with gold braid that the enlisted men called "scrambled eggs" -- would have guessed the depth of his concern. He hid it well.

He had just come from an early morning meeting at U.S. naval headquarters in downtown San Francisco. The meeting, with Admiral William R. Purnell and Captain William S. Parsons, had been disappointingly quick and to the point:...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews
Author Blurb James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers
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.

Author Blurb Stephen E. Ambrose, author of Nothing Like It in the World
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 were gruesome and terrible almost beyond description. But through 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.

Author Blurb Tom Brokaw, author of The Greatest Generation
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.

Author Blurb Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down
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 in themselves.

Author Blurb Rick Atkinson, author of The Long Gray Line and Crusade
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.

Reader Reviews
Michael Danich

A MUST READ!!!
Hard to put down. A real story about real men in a real and unbelievable situation. We should never forget what these men did for our country. I laughed and cried. The book puts you there next to them throughout the event. This book was long overdue ...   Read More

Carlos Felfoldi

Great book
Great book. Need to read it.

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked In Harm's Way, try these:

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Shotgun Lovesongs
    Shotgun Lovesongs
    by Nickolas Butler
    Nickolas Butler's debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, follows five life-long friends, now in their mid-...
  • Book Jacket: Gemini
    Gemini
    by Carol Cassella
    How good is Gemini, Carol Cassella's book about a Seattle intensive care physician who becomes ...
  • Book Jacket: The Goldfinch
    The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer for Fiction.

    Her canvas is vast. To frame a story about art, love and ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Who Said...

Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.