Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * “GRIPPING…THIS YARN HAS IT ALL.” —USA Today * “A WONDERFUL BOOK.” —Christian Science Monitor * “ENTHRALLING.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review) * “A MUST-READ.” —Booklist (starred review)
A human drama unlike any other—the riveting and definitive full story of the worst sea disaster in United States naval history.
Just after midnight on July 30, 1945, days after delivering the components of the atomic bomb from California to the Pacific Islands in the most highly classified naval mission of the war, USS Indianapolis is sailing alone in the center of the Philippine Sea when she is struck by two Japanese torpedoes. The ship is instantly transformed into a fiery cauldron and sinks within minutes. Some 300 men go down with the ship. Nearly 900 make it into the water alive. For the next five nights and four days, almost three hundred miles from the nearest land, the men battle injuries, sharks, dehydration, insanity, and eventually each other. Only 316 will survive.
For the better part of a century, the story of USS Indianapolis has been understood as a sinking tale. The reality, however, is far more complicated—and compelling. Now, for the first time, thanks to a decade of original research and interviews with 107 survivors and eyewitnesses, Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic tell the complete story of the ship, her crew, and their final mission to save one of their own.
It begins in 1932, when Indianapolis is christened and launched as the ship of state for President Franklin Roosevelt. After Pearl Harbor, Indianapolis leads the charge to the Pacific Islands, notching an unbroken string of victories in an uncharted theater of war. Then, under orders from President Harry Truman, the ship takes aboard a superspy and embarks on her final world-changing mission: delivering the core of the atomic bomb to the Pacific for the strike on Hiroshima. Vincent and Vladic provide a visceral, moment-by-moment account of the disaster that unfolds days later after the Japanese torpedo attack, from the chaos on board the sinking ship to the first moments of shock as the crew plunge into the remote waters of the Philippine Sea, to the long days and nights during which terror and hunger morph into delusion and desperation, and the men must band together to survive.
Then, for the first time, the authors go beyond the men’s rescue to chronicle Indianapolis’s extraordinary final mission: the survivors’ fifty-year fight for justice on behalf of their skipper, Captain Charles McVay III, who is wrongly court-martialed for the sinking. What follows is a captivating courtroom drama that weaves through generations of American presidents, from Harry Truman to George W. Bush, and forever entwines the lives of three captains—McVay, whose life and career are never the same after the scandal; Mochitsura Hashimoto, the Japanese sub commander who sinks Indianapolis but later joins the battle to exonerate McVay; and William Toti, the captain of the modern-day submarine Indianapolis, who helps the survivors fight to vindicate their captain.
A sweeping saga of survival, sacrifice, justice, and love, Indianapolis stands as both groundbreaking naval history and spellbinding narrative—and brings the ship and her heroic crew back to full, vivid, unforgettable life. It is the definitive account of one of the most remarkable episodes in American history.
This True Story was insane to read! Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic were able to write this story, facts and all, without hitting any boring chapters.
As someone in a family full of military members it hit close to home, just thinking that anyone I know could have gone through what the members of the USS Indianapolis had to endure and for most, not survive.
I never fully grasped the military’s ineptitude in handling this case with regards to the USS Indianapolis, its sinking and the inexcusable blaming of an innocent man, the Captain. All because he didn’t go down with his ship.
There are some particular hard parts of this book to read. Being picked off by sharks or going insane from starvation and dehydration is prevalent in this retelling and I appreciate the writers’ honesty and tactfulness in their descriptions. These were good men before the ship went down. Fighting for their country and their loved ones so very far from home.
For the survivors, their fight to exonerate their Captain correctly shows the closeness of the military members, and that no matter what, they are there for one another. The bond created in such a dark and deadly memory is something most people will never understand.
Retelling stories like this are an important part of not only our history as Americans but the history of the entire world. We should always know where we came from and what the people before us did. Not only to maintain an sense of respect for their sacrifices but to learn from our mistakes as well.
About the Authors
Lynn Vincent is the New York Times bestselling coauthor of Same Kind of Different as Me, the story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy white art dealer and a homeless African-American man; and Going Rogue: An American Life, the memoir of former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
The author or coauthor of nine books, Vincent worked for eleven years as senior writer, then features editor, at the national news biweekly WORLD Magazine where she covered politics, culture, and current events. A U.S. Navy veteran, Lynn is also a lecturer in writing at the World Journalism Institute and at The King’s College in New York City. She lives in San Diego, California.
Sara Vladic, an acclaimed documentary filmmaker, is one of the world’s leading experts on the USS Indianapolis, having become obsessed with the story at the age of thirteen. Over the next two decades, Vladic met and interviewed 107 of the ship’s survivors, and in 2016 she released an award-winning documentary film on the disaster, USS Indianapolis: The Legacy. She has published new research on Indianapolis in Proceedings, the official journal of the US Navy, and appeared as an expert commentator on PBS’s USS Indianapolis: Live from the Deep, which explored the ship’s wreckage. She and her husband, Ben, live in San Marcos, California.
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