Book Review: In Harm's Way, The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of its Survivors by Doug Stanton

Photo taken July 10, 1945 off Mare Island
Reading In Harm's Way was personal to me. 
It was just recently that a dear friend of mine shared her testimony. She was married at age 17 to Charles Roberts, who did not survive the USS Indianapolis' sinking. She only knows that he was presumed dead on July 30, 1945. She does not want to know if he died on the ship, or in the water. It has been over sixty-six years and as she shared her story with me she shed tears just as if it had happened yesterday. For her, even though her life did eventually move on in marrying again and having children. Charles' memory has been an ever present companion.
Reading In Harm's Way was difficult. I paused often to walk around the room, and sometimes taking lengthier breaks. It was a difficult read only because it was a historical fact. It was difficult because I could state I know someone that was personally affected.
What the men aboard the USS Indianapolis endured was horrendous. To express in one word leaves an insufficiency. Instead, the full story must be told.

The USS Indianapolis was commissioned in 1932. It was "610 feet from waterline to tip of radar antennae."
It was "nearly the size of 2 football fields." It was a heavy cruiser and apart of the United States Navy's 5th Fleet. In June and the first part of July 1945 the men who were assigned to this ship had been on leave, but they were hurriedly called back for duty. The ship was docked off Mare Island near San Francisco, California. The USS Indianapolis had been hit and suffered damage by a Kamikaze plane on March 31. The ship had just been repaired. In May of 1945 the war ended in Europe. During the summer of 1945 the Allied forces were preparing to invade Japan. They knew that the invasion would inflict many more deaths. The USS Indianapolis or Indy was hurriedly repaired, and it's Captain Charles McVay had been to an important meeting. The Indy had a secret mission to complete. The Indy and its men of valor left Mare Island on July 16, 1945.
"For every sailor, passing under the Golden Gate bridge was a solemn moment. Silently eyeing its ochre spans, the boys wondered if they would ever lay eyes on it again."
Their first destination was Tinian Island in the south Pacific.
Their next destination would reverberate in Naval history.
It would also change the course of the lives of those on the Indy, and those waiting for them at home.

The author does a superb job of being the voice of the ones who survived. He had interviewed those survivors that were willing to share their story. With every expression and with every description, there is a haunting presence of those who did not survive, that no longer have a voice for us to hear.
While I was reading this book I had my friends letter or testimony of her memories of this time sitting beside me. Her dates and historical information she shared matched the authors information given.
It gave me a unique and deeply personal reading experience. Certainly not an experience most readers have.
The author writes about Captain McVay and his continuing ordeal after the sinking of the Indy. His life was disrupted and torturous by those who needed a scapegoat.
There are a few photographs of the ship and of the Navy and Marine men that were on it. Also included is photographs and follow-ups of the survivors.
The inside and back cover is the list of "all" those who were on the Indy. This was an additional memorial to them. The story, more than adequately written was the greatest memorial. 

I have a second book to read about the USS Indianapolis, entitled Left For Dead by Pete Nelson. I've not read this book yet, but will start soon!

Published by MJF Books, Fine Creative Media, Inc. 2001
339 pages
Non-fiction/Navy/USS Indianapolis/World War II/Pacific War/Atomic Bomb Hiroshima

Link for authors site:

Link @ Amazon:
Hardcover $12.94

I bought my copy at a bargain priced book table at Barnes and Nobles $8.98.

Authors newest release:
Hardcover bargain price $11.20

Blissful Reading!


  1. This sounds like an interesting book. That personal connection must have made for a richer reading experience. My heart goes out to your friend.


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