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Ordeal by Sea: The Tragedy of the U.S.S. Indianapolis Mass Market Paperback – June 1, 2001

4.1 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 251 pages
  • Publisher: Signet; Reissue edition (June 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451204476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451204479
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 6.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,606,353 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Interestingly, this book is not a collaboration between Thomas Helm and Capt. Toti. Mr. Helm released this book to the public in the early 60's. What makes this reissue worth reading and owning (in addition to the inherent worth of the original manuscript it houses) is the forward and afterward by Capt. Toti, written within the last six months (eg., George W. Bush is already President) and specific to the ongoing efforts of many Indianapolis survivors to clear the name of Capt. McVay once and for all in the eyes of American history. If you have never read or studied anything about the ordeal of the Indianapolis (except of course, maybe for Robert Shaw's description in "Jaws") then this is a very readable, very human history written by a one-time Indianapolis crewmember. However, if you have read this or other accounts of the tragedy (or perhaps remember some of the subsequent sensationalized controversy through the years including the court-martial of the Indy's Captain) then you'll enjoy this book all the more owing to the fact that the retiring Captain of the Indy's latest and perhaps last namesake (a decommissioned nuclear submarine) had been approached by the original survivors of the cruiser Indianapolis and asked to help clear the memory of Capt. McVay (who had committed suicide in the late sixties) within their lifetimes. The result is this book. I won't give away "the ending" (ie., paraphrase Capt. Toti's conclusions), but the result is a measured and honest discussion during which Capt. Toti shares his thinking on the subject as well as his feelings in a brutally frank and unhindered manner. This story may well reach out to you from the distance of ocean and time on the basis of its own human interest, but as Capt.Read more ›
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was fascinated and amazed by the story of the U.S.S. Indianapolis when I read Doug Stanton's recently released book on the topic, "In Harm's Way." If you've read Stanton's book, you will find that even though it covers the same topic as this one, the two books are not duplicative. There is little overlap in the survivors interviewed by Thomas Helm for "Ordeal by Sea" and those interviewed by Stanton. Consequently, reading both books gives you a more complete picture of this poignant historical tragedy. The story is an amazing one - 317 men surviving in the open water for 4 days during the closing days of the war in the pacific. It is a tale of unimaginable horrors and incredible bravery. Helm's narrative can be rather choppy, but the variety of first-hand accounts in the book are a valuable contribution to the historical record.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've read several books about the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, and I would rate Ordeal By Sea as only average. Mr. Helm does a good job of explaining the sinking itself, and the story of the survivors in the water is well-done, but some aspects are either complelely left out, or they are barely mentioned. These events, such as McVay's request and subsequent denial of a destroyer escort, failure to alert McVay about the recent sinking of an American destroyer along his proposed route, the ignoring by the navy of an intercepted message from the I-58 stating that she had sunk an American battleship, and the huge mess up regarding the departure and arrival of the Indianapolis are barely touched upon. Also, Mr. Helm devotes only a few pages of text to McVay's court martial procedure. While the book does a good job of telling about the sinking, abandoning, and struggle of the survivors, I was disappointed about the omission of the vital events leading up to the sinking. However, the author of the afterword, William J. Toti, does a good job of bringing the reader up to speed on the recent efforts by the survivors to get McVay's name cleared. I would recommend "In Harm's Way" by Doug Stanton over this book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A number of sentences stop before completing a full thought and there are a number of incorrect characters sprinkled throughout the book that make the experience of reading the Kindle version quite distracting. On top of that the book is cobbled together from interviews with survivors, newspaper articles, court testimony, etc., and lacks a continuous narrative. The story was created by cobbling together individual stories semi-chronologically, and the author fails to link them together very well. The large quantity of Navy jargon the author uses made it difficult for me to understand many of the roles played by various people highlighted in the book, but I'm not sure my ignorance was too detrimental to my level of understanding.

Overall it's a roughly written, but informative, book that I had a hard time putting down at times. Once one gets past the many typos and the lack of a cohesive story, it is a relatively enjoyable read.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
For history and naval enthusiasts, reading doesn't get much better than "Ordeal by Sea." The sinking of the USS Indianapolis was a tragic event, considering that the war was practically days away from its termination. Thomas Helm's description of the ship, its final minutes and the five-day ordeal that sailors endured after the sinking is hauntingly vivid. With the turn of each page, I found myself wanting to know more and more. Helm writes with a superior knowledge of the ship, having served on her before the war. He also provides a fascinating description of survivor accounts. That anyone could survive the sinking, five days under a scorching sun without food and fresh water, and the numerous shark attacks is amazing enough. Helm brings all this up and close to the reader.
Though Helm spends much time describing the ship, its sinking and the story of survival and the rescue, he brushes over the investigation and the court martial of Captain McVay. This area could have used more text. The foreword and afterword by Captain Toti put the book in a modern context by explaining what has become of survivors' efforts to clear McVay's name. All in all, "Ordeal by Sea" is a must read for those interested in history and naval matters.
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