In Harm’s Way

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In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by Doug Stanton

In his book In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors, Doug Stantondepicts the deplorable experience of the U.S. Naval Army during World War II. He discussed the sinking of a heavy cruiser called USS Indianapolis that was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. For more than four days, nobody noticed the loss of a warship. Almost three hundred men died, while nine hundred survived after being cast into the Pacific Ocean. Most of them suffered from dementia and hypothermia. The book In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by Doug Stanton is extraordinary as the author describes the cruiser’s sinking from a perspective of survivors, whose endurance, sacrifice, and bravery helped them not to lose hope in one of the most decisive moments of their lives.

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Doug Stanton’s career has been marked by writing bestsellers, as well as engagement in the radio and national TV outlets. He has been working in the USA and overseas, collaborating with the government and military. He currently delivers lectures to civic, corporate groups, universities, and libraries nationwide. Stanton’s famous works include Horse Soldiers and In Harm’s Way. The latter is thoroughly researched, well-organized, and vividly descriptive. Stanton spent over one-year reviewing documents and interviewing survivors. The first chapter narrates about the cruiser’s sailing to war, the second chapter covers the very sinking, and the third one is dedicated to the rescue and return of a crew. Despite having only three chapters, the narrative is properly constructed, as it starts with the prerequisites of leaving the homeland and sailing to war, followed by the description of sinking and events accompanying this tragedy, namely abandoning of a ship, the attack of sharks, rescue, and homecoming.

In the 1940s, the USS Indianapolis was a highly classified cargo ship, the importance of which was widely acknowledged by the crew. The U.S. Naval Forces knew the secret mission that they had to fulfill. The cruiser used to deliver the mysterious cargo to particular destinations. However, in most cases, the ship traveled unescorted. Captain McVay did not pay significant attention to this issue, as the Navy officials considered the route safe (Stanton, 2001). Sinking of another navy vessel in the nearby waters by the submarine-launched torpedo was not taken into account at that time. The USS Indianapolis had spent only a few days on the sea before the two enemy torpedoes hit it. They were fired by the Japanese submarine on July 29, 1945 (Stanton, 2001). As a result, the U.S. cruiser sank. The torpedo killed three hundred crewmembers, and most of them were not able to escape the sinking ship. The majority of military seamen were sleeping during the torpedo attack. The speed of sinking was so considerable that crewmembers could not even gather necessary staff, launch lifeboats, and the majority did not have life vests to save themselves in the water.

Having sent a quick SOS before sinking, the crew believed that they would get help, but they were wrong. Seafarers were found four days later despite the fact that the rescue mission was supposed to come immediately after getting the SOS signal (Stanton, 2001). In the course of time, it was revealed that the message was not intercepted. Hence, this unfortunate circumstance caused significant human losses. However, those individuals, who survived, were in good physical shape. Therefore, criticism of the Navy officials was justified. At that time, the seamen thought about such cases, and what would happen, if the ship sank, or if the rescuers would not get an SOS signal message in a timely. Stanton’s book includes the dramatic stories of the three men, who survived on that ill-fated day. Interviews of a young marine, a ship’s doctor, and the captain have enabled the journalist to depict human destiny and reflect the drama of innocent people in a timeless narrative.

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The prose style is smooth, and it is easy to understand the idea that Doug Stanton wanted to convey to the readers. The main sources used for writing a book incorporate publications, historical books, articles, and interviews with survivors. The evidence is properly used to back up the argument, as the work is logically and chronically organized. Thus, in order to demonstrate the bravery of the Navy, Stanton has introduced Dr. Giles McCoy, who helped most of the cruiser’s crewmembers to survive shark attacks and drowning that reflected the best features of the naval forces of that time.

The famous journalist documented the facts of a tragic July day and filled the story with details derived from interviews with the survivors. Captain McVay was the first person to be tried by a court-martial for the loss of his ship and the crew (Stanton, 2001). However, Doug Stanton also seeks to justify survivors’ attempts to exonerate him. The book has a novelistic perception due to the successful technique used by Stanton: he has provided individual perspectives of the main characters. In order to get a clear representation of what occurred on that day, the readers should pay particular attention to details and research conducted by the author. Due to the authority that Doug Stanton has, all skepticism of readers and experts should be easily overcome. In addition to being illuminating, the book In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by Doug Stanton is an emotional account that proposes clear and comprehensive explanations of the sea disaster of the middle of the twentieth century.

Moreover, Stanton’s extraordinary writing reflects seamen’s courage, survival, and war. The book is easy to read, filled with vivid details, and it is recommended to all individuals, who are interested in the national, naval history as well as significant, tragic, and dramatic events that occurred during the military conflicts and wars (Stanton, 2001). The story of the worst sea disaster in U.S. naval history depicts the endurance, sacrifice, and bravery of mariners in one of the most decisive moments of their lives. The book deserves attention, inspiration, recognition, and admiration. The famous journalist was impressed with the characters and personalities of sailors. Conducting interviews has helped him recognize the value of speech and stories delivered by the survivors to all people concerned with the fate of the U.S. naval forces during World War II (Stanton, 2001). Stanton has provided a heartwarming story from the survivors’ viewpoint, thereby making his narrative more vivid and comprehensive to the readers. Despite the fact that many books raised the issue of the Indianapolis sinking, Doug Stanton outlined it in a different manner. He has not only reviewed a dramatic case from historical and military perspectives but also highlighted the importance of considering the human spirit and personal experience of survivors during and after the cruiser’s sinking.

In my opinion, Stanton’s book is extraordinary and distinctive since it has broached challenging points, particularly regarding the Navy’s failure to realize the missing of the Indianapolis. Another concern that the journalist expressed was related to the lack of escort of a cruiser in the enemy waters. The author did not only provide good research and chronicle of those dramatic days but also vividly depicted the infernal experience of combatants when being at sea, as well as their attempts to cope with the traumatic consequences of a tragedy. Therefore, Stanton’s narrative differs from other accounts, reports, and books due to the specific approach chosen by the writer.

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To conclude, in his narrative, Stanton describes the cruiser’s sinking from the survivors’ perspective, whom he interviewed and received firsthand information; hence, it has enabled him to write an extraordinary book representing human tragedy that occurred during World War II. His attempts to provide a heartwarming account make sense since it will attract people interested in history. Stanton has not only covered the tragic events of July 29, 1945, but also describes what happened to the survivors afterward. Captain McVay was sent to the court-martial; the survivors had to pass the ordeal after World War II. In 2001, the Navy officials exonerated the ship’s commander. It is often argued that Stanton’s work was supposed to advocate for the captain’s responsibility for the cruiser’s sinking and losses. In fact, the survivors have been condemning this decision for many years, because they could not forgive that fatal mistake. The author’s respect and compassion for the brave, strong, and courageous seaman of the USS. Indianapolis has helped him use his intimate knowledge to develop a truthful story about the tragic event in an honest and definitive manner.

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