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:...
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