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The Tragic Fate of the U.S.S. Indianapolis: The U.S. Navy's Worst Disaster at Sea Paperback – November 14, 2000
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From Library Journal
"There have been many books and articles on the sinking, but Lech is the first person to have had access to the confidential records and court martial proceedings," said LJ's reviewer of this 1982 investigation into the sinking of the navy cruiser Indianapolis, which was torpedoed by the Japanese after delivering the Hiroshima bomb. Most of the crew died, and the ship's captain was court martialed. Lech claims, however, that the skipper was entirely blameless and that the Navy fabricated a major cover-up to save the careers of numerous admirals and other high-ranking officers. This book "should be in all World War II collections" (LJ 12/15/82).
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Much of this grim tale was secreted away for decades in classified military files, from which Mr. Lech has now managed to pry the facts. The evidence he has collected is compelling. (The New York Times Book Review)
The incompetence and indifference of several key naval officers accounted for the high death toll.... There have been many books on the sinking, but Lech is the first person to have had access to the confidential records and court-martial proceedings. His book should be in all World War II collections. (Library Journal)
Lech's book is a solid recounting of Indianapolis's journey, its sinking, the ordeal of its survivors, and the aftermath. (The Northern Mariner/Le Marin du nord)
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A little amateurish the read, but very professional in the reporting. A sad day in US Naval history, and another manifestation that those in military power will push blame on those below them.
What makes this horrible event even more horrible and unforgivable is that it all; for the most part, could have been avoided...from the sinking of the ship to the delayed rescue operation. It was the results of blunder after blunder on the part of the U.S. Navy.
Actually though, this wretched tragedy was actually two tragedies. The second was in the way the Navy handled the inquiry and eventually court martial of the Captain of the ship – Captain McVay. He was made the scapegoat and was the only person out of literally dozens who were negligent in performing their duties who was punished. What makes matters worse is that he, of all those involved, was perhaps the most innocent. This is compounded yet again by the massive cover up by Naval authorities and the sham of a trial McVay was subjected to.
The author, Raymond B. Lech is the first researcher to have access to all of the files (due to many being declassified) and is the first author who had access to the full story. Several books have been written after this one was published but his was the first and I must say he did a great job. A large portion of the book, found in the back, is filled with source documents and Lech has gone to great lengths to be extremely accurate.
Now I fully realize that many mistakes are made during war and that there have been hundreds of cover ups (if not thousands) throughout the years...that is the nature of war and has been since the first guy clubbed another guy over the head with a stone axe because he wanted his goat herd. Still and all though, we can learn from this and hopefully avoid (which we won’t) more of the same in the future. One thing it most certainly reinforces is the fact that the higher the rank; the more butt covering and finger pointing takes place.
Readers take note: This book is quite detailed and for those of you that do not enjoy reading minute accounts of military action will find the book rather sluggish at times. On the other hand there are those of use who love this sort of thing and I found the author’s attention to details to be wonderful. Also it should be noted that the author does an excellent job of telling the story of some of the brave and unfortunate men who lost their lives during this sinking and the stories of several of those who survived.
This is a great account of just how things can go wrong on many levels and gives an excellent account of our most horrific naval disasters.
This was a library find.
Due to grievous and unforgivable errors on the part of the U.S. Navy, the non-arrival of the Indianapolis went unnoticed at Leyte. Further, Captain Charles McVay was denied vital information about a group of four Japanese submarines operating close to the Indianapolis' route. McVay was also denied an escort vessel, so the Indianapolis, with no underwater sonar gear, was left alone. All of these errors converged on the fateful night of July 30, 1945, when the I-58 sent the Indianapolis to the bottom of the Pacific.
Some 800 men, including Captain McVay, managed to abandon the sinking ship and make it into the water. Unfortunately for them, their ordeal was just beginning. Due to the earlier comedy of errors by the Navy, no one knew what had happened to the Indianapolis. These men endured 4 days in the unforgiving Pacific ocean. Ultimately, only 316 men out of a crew of 1,199 survived. As so eloquently noted by author Raymond B. Lech, these men were not killed in action, but killed by inaction.
Captain McVay was to be the scapegoat for the sinking of the Indianapolis, despite the monumental blunders by other members of the U.S. Navy. McVay was eventually found guilty of failure to sail his ship in a zigzag pattern which, according to Hashimoto's own testimony at McVay's trial, wouldn't have mattered anyway. McVay stayed in the Navy until he retired in June, 1949. But the deaths of those men in the ocean continued to haunt McVay until, on November 6, 1968, Captain McVay shot himself. The Indianapolis had tragically claimed its last victim.
I found this to be a very good book. Author Raymond B. Lech has done a fine job of telling the entire story of the Indianapolis and the struggle the survivors faced. I was somewhat disappointed that more attention was not paid to McVay's trial, but the use of recently declassified documents really helped clear up some of the previously censored materials related to the sinking. The appendices at the end of the book are very useful to the reader, too. Highly recommended.