Cover image for In harm's way : the sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the extraordinary story of its survivors
In harm's way : the sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the extraordinary story of its survivors
Stanton, Doug.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : H. Holt, 2001.
Physical Description:
333 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, map ; 25 cm
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 8.3 14.0 84910.
Corporate Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
D774.I5 S73 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
D774.I5 S73 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
D774.I5 S73 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
D774.I5 S73 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
D774.I5 S73 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
D774.I5 S73 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
D774.I5 S73 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
D774.I5 S73 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



A harrowing, adrenaline-charged account of America's worst naval disaster - and of the heroism of the men who, against all odds, survived.

On July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed in the South Pacific by a Japanese submarine. An estimated 300 men were killed upon impact; close to 900 sailors were cast into the Pacific Ocean, where they remained undetected by the navy for nearly four days and nights. Battered by a savage sea, they struggled to stay alive, fighting off sharks, hypothermia, and dementia. By the time rescue arrived, all but 317 men had died. The captain's subsequent court-martial left many questions unanswered: How did the navy fail to realize the Indianapolis was missing? Why was the cruiser traveling unescorted in enemy waters? And perhaps most amazing of all, how did these 317 men manage to survive?Interweaving the stories of three survivors - the captain, the ship's doctor, and a young marine - journalist Doug Stanton has brought this astonishing human drama to life in a narrative that is at once immediate and timeless. The definitive account of a little-known chapter in World War II history, In Harm's Way is destined to become a classic tale of war, survival, and extraordinary courage.

Author Notes

A former contributing editor at Esquire & Outside, Doug Stanton is now a contributing editor at Men's Journal. He received an MFA from The Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. He lives in Traverse City, Michigan.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

One of the more notorious snafus of World War II concerned the July 1945 sinking of the cruiser USS Indianapolis by a Japanese submarine, with the loss of almost 900 sailors. Richard Newcomb's Abandon Ship! (1958) successfully recounted the disaster, but Stanton's account isn't at all redundant. Superbly crafted, it benefits from sympathetic research on the Indianapolis survivors, the horror of their experiences, and their courage in surviving. After the 300 men who hadn't been blown up, burned, drowned, or devoured by sharks were rescued, it emerged that the disaster was exacerbated by the navy's having incompetently lost track of the Indianapolis, which delayed rescue. Yet only Indianapolis captain Charles McVay was punished, and his heroism after the sinking was officially ignored, albeit not by the men he encouraged to hang on during four days of drifting in the ocean and, for many, dying. That horrible ordeal Stanton renders vividly, thanks to the recollections of several living survivors and his evocative narrative style. Expect strong demand for this powerfully engaging book. Gilbert Taylor

Library Journal Review

Has anyone not yet heard of the tragedy of the USS Indianapolis? Several books, many articles, a TV movie, and constant replays on the History Channel have been dedicated to this fiasco. Journalist Stanton has written a compelling, eminently readable account of the Indianapolis for the nonspecialist. Just before the end of the war, the heavy cruiser was sent from San Francisco to Tinian in great secrecy, carrying the atomic bomb. After delivering her cargo, the ship was ordered to the Philippines and torpedoed by a Japanese submarine on July 20, 1945. Because of a foul-up at naval headquarters, no one realized that the ship was overdue, and a search was not organized. Consequently, survivors of the torpedoing were in the water for several days, and 600 died from exposure and shark attacks. Finally, after five days, the navy sent out rescue vessels, and 318 were saved. The navy high command decided to save its reputation by scapegoating Capt. Charles Butler McVay. At his court-martial, the jury of admirals was instructed to find him guilty, a verdict surviving crew members tried to overturn for 50 years. Last year, the navy finally admitted that McVay was not in any way responsible for the loss of his ship, though sadly it was too late for McVay; he committed suicide 20 years after his court-martial. Richard Newcomb first revealed this story in his Abandon Ship! (1958), which has recently been reissued by Harpercollins with an update by Peter Maas. Newcomb's book is more scholarly, and he had access to many survivors then still living. His book's coverage of the new trial held in 2000 is also more thorough than Stanton's. Both books are worth purchasing and should be in every public and college library. Stanley Itkin, Hillside P.L., New Hyde Park, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-On July 16, 1945, the battle cruiser USS Indianapolis left San Francisco for Tinian Island in the South Pacific. The secret mission, the identity of which was unknown to even Captain Charles Butler McVay, was to deliver parts for the atomic bomb "Little Boy" that was to be dropped on Hiroshima. After the delivery, the ship headed to Guam where it was to rejoin the fleet for the proposed invasion of Japan. It never made it. On July 29, 1945, the cruiser was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. Stanton begins this harrowing true story with Captain McVay's suicide in 1968, and continues in a style that reads like an adventure novel. More than 1200 men were aboard the Indianapolis when it left San Francisco; approximately 300 were killed by the torpedoes. The rest were tossed into the South Pacific and remained there for nearly five days facing dehydration, starvation, exposure, and recurring shark attacks. Due to a series of tragic errors, no rescue operation was mounted. The 321 men who ultimately survived (four of whom subsequently died) were found purely by accident. Captain McVay, scapegoated by the Navy, was court-martialed and convicted of negligence, despite the ongoing protests of his remaining crew. At the time, their story was lost in the euphoria of Japan's surrender and the Navy's desire to ignore their errors. It is time their story is told and Stanton has done it magnificently, with meticulous research and great poignancy.-Carol DeAngelo, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



A few men were vomiting so violently that they were actually doing somersaults in the water. Trying to keep his wits, Dr. Haynes called out, "Here! Right here! Where is the sick sailor?" And then he moved into the throng. It was not a happy sight. In the crowd, about a dozen sailors were holding a body aloft, an incredible feat of strength considering they were all treading water furiously to stay afloat beneath the added weight. The man in question was in terrible shape. His eyes had been burned away. The flesh on his hands was gone and what remained were bare tendons. The boys held him in an effort to keep these terrible wounds out of the salt water. Haynes recognized the man as his good friend and liberty buddy, gunnery officer Stanley Lipski. Miraculously, Lipski had made his way blind from the quarterdeck, off the ship, and into the water. Haynes knew that Lipski's pain must be unbearable -- he himself could barely look at his old friend, who was moaning softly. Stanley, he knew, was one tough bird; Haynes also understood that he didn't have long to live. Reluctantly, he turned away to those he could actually help. Excerpted from In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the U. S. S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by Doug Stanton All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Sailor on a Chainp. 1
Part 1 Sailing To War
1 All Aboardp. 13
2 Good-bye, Golden Gatep. 39
3 The First Dominop. 63
Part 2 Sunk
4 The Burning Seap. 91
5 Abandon Shipp. 119
6 Hope Afloatp. 139
7 Shark Attackp. 163
8 Genocidep. 183
Part 3 Rescue
9 Dead Driftp. 209
10 Final Hoursp. 237
11 Aftermathp. 251
12 Back in the Worldp. 269
Epiloguep. 277
Notesp. 283
Bibliographyp. 301
Author's Notep. 313
Indexp. 323