On July 26, 1945, the heavy cruiser Indianapolis
steamed into port at the Pacific island of Tinian, carrying a cargo that would end World War II: the uranium that would be dropped on Hiroshima just three weeks later. Having delivered its load without incident, Indianapolis
moved on toward the Philippines to join the great armada moving in on Japan. Though intelligence reports assured Captain Charles McVay that the route from Guam to Leyte was safe, there were Japanese submarines active in the area. On the night of July 29, having detected with sonar the clinking of dishes aboard the Indianapolis
from a distance of more than a dozen miles, the submarine I-58
sank the American ship, killing nearly 900 sailors in the explosion and its terrible aftermath.
Captain McVay was quickly court-martialed for having failed to follow evasive maneuvers, "the first captain in the history of the U.S. Navy," Doug Stanton observes, "to be court-martialed subsequent to losing his ship in an act of war." Although the sailors under his command would insist that McVay had been scapegoated, and although I-58's commander testified before the court that "he would have sunk the Indianapolis no matter what course she was on," McVay was never able to clear his name. He committed suicide in 1968.
Stanton captures the drama of these events in his vigorous narrative, which augments and updates Richard Newcomb's Abandon Ship!. Stanton observes that although McVay was exonerated by an act of Congress in 2000, the conviction still stands in Navy records. Stanton's book makes a powerful case for why that conviction should be overturned, and why the captain and crew of the Indianapolis deserve honor. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
Given the stringent precision of the U.S. Navy and military during wartime, how could a WWII battleship carrying over 1,000 men be torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and sink, leaving the survivors to bob in the Pacific Ocean at the mercy of elements and predators, without anyone realizing the loss for more than four days? Stanton not only offers a well-researched chronicle of what is widely regarded as the worst naval disaster in U.S. history, but also vividly renders the combatants' hellish ordeal during the sinking, and the ensuing days at sea as well as attempts to cope with the traumatic aftermath. Stanton documents the facts of the case, embellishing his story with lurid details gleaned from interviews with survivors. Though the ship's captain would become the first and only in U.S. naval history to be court-martialed for the loss of his ship, Stanton offers a solid body of evidence to justify the survivors' partially successful efforts to exonerate him. Stanton's omniscient narrative shifts among the individual perspectives of several principal characters, a successful technique that contributes to the book's absorbing, novelistic feel. Readers, of course, must trust Stanton and his research in order to be truly consumed, but the authority of his voice should win over all but the most obsessive skeptics. Illuminating and emotional without being maudlin, Stanton's book helps explain what many have long considered an inexplicable catastrophe. (May 21)Forecast: Following on the heels of the bestselling Abandon Ship, recently resurrected by Peter Maas, this book is unlikely to be ignored. A $150,000 marketing campaign includes a nine-city author tour, national print advertising, and target marketing to the military and naval market.
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