In Harm’s Way was one of the more incredible books I have read.
It tells the true story of the USS Indianapolis and the fate of the men who were on board the night of July 30th, 1945.
That night the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed in the South Pacific by a Japanese submarine. An estimated three hundred men were killed upon impact; close to nine hundred sailors were cast into the Pacific Ocean, where they struggled to stay alive, battered by a savage sea and fighting off sharks, hypothermia, and dementia.
Robert Shaw, playing the part of Quint and a shark-hunter in the first Jaws movie, spoke of the Indianapolis even though Quint says the ship sank “June the 29th, 1945,” but it was actually July 30 when the Indianapolis went down.
At the time of the sinking there was a radio blackout given the U.S. was about to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. In fact, the USS Indianapolis had delivered the bomb to the island of Tinian four days earlier.
By the time help arrived–nearly four days and nights later–all but 317 men had died and with sharks taking a great many of the ships crew. It also got so cold at night than when anyone felt like a ‘pee’ his colleagues would gather around just to feel the warmth of his urine – woh!
There is the harrowing lines also in the book telling of sharks still biting at the torsos of the bodies being rescued.
But then the book asked a number of questions: How did the navy fail to realise the Indianapolis was missing? Why was the cruiser travelling unescorted in enemy waters? And 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 book is a classic tale of war, survival, and extraordinary courage.
And this week I have been fortunate to visit a memorial erected by the survivors of the USS Indianapolis in memory of those who didn’t survive the sinking and the sharks.