Summer Reading Presentation “In Harms Way” by Doug Stanton
The USS Indianapolis The USS Indianapolis was the United States Naval ship assigned to carry the atomic bomb to Hiroshima during World War II. After delivering the Bomb the ship began its voyage back to the United States when a Japanese submarine Shot two torpedoes into the Indianapolis’ side which resulted in the ships sinking.
The Sinking The USS Indianapolis was sunk on July 30th, 1945 by a Japanese submarine. America’s Navy ignored the distress signal, believing that it was a Japanese attempt to lure other ships out to sea for their own demise. The men of the ship were stranded in the sea for four days before the first rescue ship came around. The ship had not been escorted and was not equipped with submarine detecting technology, one of which was normally required during that time in history.
The Death Toll There were initially 1,196 men aboard the Indie upon its departure, 900 men went into the water upon the ship’s sinking, and only 321 remained alive upon it’s rescue. The majority of the men who died during those five days died from causes other than the ship’s sinking.
“Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin' back from the island of Tinian to Leyte... just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes. Didn't see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that when you're in the water, Chief? You tell by looking from the dorsal to the tail fin. What we didn't know, was our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn't even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin', so we formed ourselves into tight groups. You know, it was kinda like old squares in the battle like you see in the calendar named "The Battle of Waterloo" and the idea was: shark comes to the nearest man, that man he starts poundin' and hollerin' and screamin' and sometimes the shark will go away... but sometimes he wouldn't go away. Sometimes that shark he looks right into ya. Right into your eyes. And, you know, the thing about a shark... he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn't seem to be living... until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then... ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin'. The ocean turns red, and despite all the poundin' and the hollerin', they all come in and they... rip you to pieces. You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don't know how many sharks, maybe a thousand. I know how many men, they averaged six an hour. On Thursday morning, Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Boatswain's mate. I thought he was asleep. I reached over to wake him up. He bobbed up, down in the water just like a kinda top. Upended. Well, he'd been bitten in half below the waist. Noon, the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us. He swung in low and he saw us... he was a young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper. Anyway, he saw us and he come in low and three hours later a big fat PBY comes down and starts to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened... waitin' for my turn. I'll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went in the water; 316 men come out and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.”
Doug Stanton’s “In Harm’s Way” “In Harm’s Way” is the story of the USS Indianapolis following the ship’s captain and a few other important men aboard the ship. Stanton follows these men from the days leading up to their mission and follows a few of them through the rest of their lives.
Captain Charles Butler McVay III Charles Butler McVay III was the captain of the USS Indianapolis, he was put on trial after the sinking but was found not guilty of any of the charges. Stanton follows McVay in “In Harms Way.” Charles McVay committed suicide at the age of 70 on November 6th, 1968.
The Forgotten Ship The US Navy held back on telling the public about the sinking of the Indie because they thought it would take away from the United State’s victory altogether. The sinking of the USS Indianapolis is still considered one of the most preventable losses in WWII as well as one of the Navy’s biggest failures in its entire history, which is thought to be the reason why it isn't well known.