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In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors
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In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  16,718 ratings  ·  915 reviews
A harrowing, adrenaline-charged account of America's worst naval disaster — and of the heroism of the men who, against all odds, survived. Interweaving the stories of survivors, 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 Har ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published May 1st 2003 by Owl Books (first published January 1st 2001)
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Fred I spent 36 years in commercial nuclear power generation. A basic concept for safety used throughout the industry is "defense in depth." When the…moreI spent 36 years in commercial nuclear power generation. A basic concept for safety used throughout the industry is "defense in depth." When the decision was made not to provide the Indy with an escort, compensatory measures should have been implemented to ensure that communication was maintained with the ship AND that there was a heightened alertness toward its expected time of arrival. The actual sinking was probably unavoidable. The book makes it sound like the Japanese sub essentially came across the Indy in a stroke of luck. But the fact that it took so long to discover the sinking and respond was due to recklessness bordering on negligence. Inexcusable that the post-tragedy inquest focused more on the sinking of a ship, as an act of war, than on the details of the botched communications that led to the delay in response.(less)

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Japanese torpedo slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin' back from the island of Tinian to Leyte. Just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in twelve minutes. Didn't see the first shark for half an hour...Sometimes that shark looks right into ya. Right into your eyes. And you know the thing about a shark, he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya he doesn't seem to be living...until he ...more
Apr 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww2
“Very first light, Chief…sharks come cruisin'.”

Can you name that movie? Yep, you and everybody else guessed it: the 1975 classic Jaws. I’d argue that the majority of those from every generation since the 1970’s to present first learned of the USS Indianapolis and her crew’s fate through this film alone; I did when I first saw it at about six or seven years of age and to be perfectly honest the story scared the living shit out of me cuz unlike the fictional motion picture, it really happened.
Nov 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
OMG...Goosebumps. REALLY!

After delivering the last component of the A-bomb, the USS Indianapolis (carrying a crew of almost 1,200) is torpedoed. Within 12 minutes, an estimated 300 men have been killed, 900 have been forced into the oil-slicked, shark-infested sea, the ship has been sunk, and the first in a long line of oversights will guarantee the US navy is totally unaware of the ships fate until it is too late for more than 2/3 of displaced men.

This story, competently told by Doug Stanton, s
Rebecca McNutt
Aug 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In Harm's Way is a shocking and unbelievably powerful true story, revolving around an event in history that shattered the lives of many, but the ones who survived never gave up hope.
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I tore through Doug Stanton’s In Harm’s Way at breakneck speed. The book read like a novel. I flipped through the pages like a hot knife passes through whipped butter. Stanton’s book is so readable.

The Indianapolis was the ship tasked to carry the first atomic bomb from San Francisco over to the US strategic airbase at Tinian for eventual deployment over Hiroshima. After discharging her cargo, the ship was sunk by a Japanese submarine somewhere between Guam and Okinawa. This disaster was the re
Joy D
True story of the U.S.S. Indianapolis torpedoed and sunk near the end of WWII by a Japanese submarine. Based on interviews with survivors, extensive research, and review of declassified information, the author sheds light on what really happened to the ship and its crew. It starts with an ending, then traces the ship’s last journey from San Francisco to Tinian to deliver an important cargo to its final resting place at the bottom of the Philippine Sea. It brings to light the series of miscommuni ...more
11811 (Eleven)
Dec 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
You already heard Quint tell this story in Jaws. This is the longer version. It's horror at its purest.
Aug 15, 2009 rated it liked it
Like About Face and the Pat Tillman story, this book leaves one highly disillusioned. I know I should praise the heroism of the survivors of this horrific tragedy (and that is a given), but my primary reaction to this book was actually one of disgust and great cynicism concerning the US military. At every step of the way the USS Indianapolis was exploited - in the mad rush to get the atomic bomb over to Japan she was rushed through maintenance repairs, upon arrival in the Pacific her captain was ...more
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cruiser captains, sub commanders, atomic deliverymen, sharkhunters
This book joins other survival epics like Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage that make you repeatedly say "Holy shit, how did they survive that?"

And also "Holy shit, I hope I never have to survive that!"

Most people today, if they remember the Indianapolis at all, it's from the movie Jaws, when Robert Shaw tells Roy Scheider about the disaster and how a large number of the Indianapolis's crew was eaten by sharks.

USS Indianapolis

The cruiser USS Indianapolis was once the flagship of President Roosevelt, but
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the true story of the sinking of the great battleship USS Indianapolis during the final weeks of World War 11. It is heartbreaking to read of the cries of anguish during the attack on the ship. So many young men sent to their graves at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The secret mission of transporting and unloading the nuclear bomb on the small island of Tinian, to be later dropped on Hiroshima was complete. However disaster for the battleship USS Indianapolis and her over 1200 sailors ...more
Michael Twist
Aug 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I’ve long contended that one of the greatest scenes in all of movies entails the bonding that took place in Jaws between Brody, Hooper, and Quint as the latter recounted the horror of awaiting rescue in shark infested waters after the USS Indianapolis had been sunk in the South Pacific just days before the end of the second World War. Spielberg’s ability to ratchet tension was a product of our understanding that the account was based on a true event as well as the inherent fear we all have of sh ...more
Jan 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everybody
Shelves: history, owned
I would guess that many people only know the story of the USS Indianapolis from the movie 'Jaws' and the story that Quint told in the one scene. This is a story from history that should be known by all Americans. It is a tale of utter despair and the depths to which humans can descend when placed in the worst situation possible.

I had read about and seen television programs about the Indianapolis but I learned a lot more about it than ever before. Doug Stanton did an excellent job of getting the
Dana Stabenow
Oct 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
If you've ever seen Jaws you're familiar with this story. Days after it delivered Little Boy to Tinian, the battle cruiser USS Indianapolis is torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. The attack is so effective that the bow literally vaporizes and because they are running "yoke-modified," or most of the hatches dogged open because the crew is roasting in the tropical heat, water rushes into the hull and the ship sinks in twelve minutes (it took the Titanic two hours and 40 minutes from the time it hit ...more
Kat Hagedorn
Jun 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, non-fiction

I finished this in less than 2 days. I think that's a record for a 250+ page book.

Valid criticisms of this book might include that it reads a bit like death porn, knowing as we do the ending, but those criticisms would have missed the boat (or ship, as it were). As Stanton himself explains in an afterword, his ultimate goal in writing this story was to explore the survivors: their ordeal, their suffering, their lives post-Indianapolis. How do you survive something like
Aug 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military, non-fiction
There are any number of reasons to read this book, but a great excuse for (finally) reading it today is that despite having been sunk on July 30, 1945, after 72 years, in August of 2017, the wreck of the ship was recently discovered, 18,000 feet below the surface. . [NYT coverage here:]

The book has been out long enough, and is sufficiently acclaimed, that there's not much point in rehashing here. Still, it's a remarkable piece of history - an incredible
Sep 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book tells the incredible journey of the U.S.S. Indianapolis following its route from San Francisco on July 16, 1945 to Tinian delivering the atom bomb "little boy" that would be dropped on Hiroshima on July 26th, and of the courageous young sailors who survived the two torpedo hits by a Japanese submarine on July 30th. The story details the horrific conditions the "boys" endured while in the oil slick waters for nearly five days awaiting rescue.

(view spoiler)
Jan 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I was not educated on the story of the USS Indianapolis. I am haunted by what the men on this ship experienced; and how senseless their misery was, waiting for rescue. A series of mistakes caused this ship to be "lost", meaning nobody missed it after it sunk. Reading about how some took leadership roles, and so many would not give up. The author touched on this when he realized the survivors all shared a deep held belief that they were not going to give up. Have I left an impression on the peopl ...more
Doug Clemens
Jul 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: available
Wow!  This book starts off with a bang and the story goes from there.  I had never heard of the USS Indianapolis and so this was a great story for me to read.  It played an important role in the war and also revealed a lot about our Navy operations.  Three things that struck me were the unbelievable conditions endured by the survivors, the incompetence of the Navy in not noticing the ship was missing, and the inexcusable assignment of blame to captain of the ship.  It was sad for me to see someo ...more
Apr 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Most of us have probably heard of the U.S.S. Indianapolis because of the movie Jaws. You remember Quint, Brody and Hooper sitting around drinking and discussing scars. Unfortunately the movie got it wrong, at least about the reason the Indianapolis wasn't initially reported missing. They were delivering part of the atomic bomb but it was through a series of tragic mistakes that the ship wasn't really noted as overdue. From the improper decoding of a message, withholding top secret information on ...more
Mike Wolstat
Apr 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
I guess I never really needed to know what it was like to drift for days in the open ocean without a boat, but there are very few more vivid scenes that I suppose I'll ever read about. There is something in the discovery of the extremes of human endurance that I find inspiring and I was in tears at the end of this when the survivors were being plucked from the water.

This book also goes a long way to exonerate the captain of the ship, who was subsequently court-martialed, something that the survi
Jan 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, favorites
Well researched and well-written account of the unimaginable ordeal suffered by the crew of the cruiser that delivered the components for the Hiroshima bomb. 5 out of every 6 men on the ship died, most while floating in the Philippine Sea for five days and five nights with the sharks. The court-martialed captain was vindicated decades after his suicide. Great read for any fans of the Navy in WWII.
Jamie Smith
Sep 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Real life thriller. Great read...unless you're on a cruise.
Nola Redd
May 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: History buffs, WWII buffs, someone interested in the past
Recommended to Nola by: Found at a booksale
Most nonfiction books, I've found, tend towards being dry and overly academic. Historical ones in particular have never managed to hold my attention for very long. Yet, as I read Doug Stanton's In Harm's Way, I found myself drawn into the story, connecting with and grieving for the men onboard the U.S.S. Indianapolis. I also found myself frequently shouting insults at the Navy's handling of the situation. And, although I am a fast reader, this is certainly one of the fastest times I've ever cloc ...more
Jun 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin' back from the island of Tinian to Leyte... just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in twelve minutes. Didn't see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. Thirteen footer. You know, you know that when you're in the water, chief? You tell by lookin' from the dorsal to the tail. Well, we didn't know. 'Cause our bomb mission had been so secret, no distre ...more
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
There is a point just over halfway through In Harm's Way where author Doug Stanton struggles with the semantics of describing a World War II naval disaster. The USS Indianapolis was sunk 40 hours earlier. The survivors have been treading water, suffering from toxic doses of sun rays and ocean water, along with relentless shark attacks. Yet, for legitimate reasons, the book is only half over and things will get worse. Stanton writes, "By late afternoon, things had mutated from horrific to unbeara ...more
Feb 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, ww2, non-fiction
Anyone who has seen the original Jaws movie will probably remember the story told by the character, Quint, about the USS Indianapolis. On the night of July 29th, 1945, the USS Indianapolis, returning from a secret mission to deliver the Hiroshima atomic bomb, was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and sunk within minutes. Of the approximately 1200 men on board, around 300 were killed immediately, and about 900 made into into the water alive. Even though the ship radioed for help, the message coul ...more
David Zimmerman
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Doug Stanton has done a masterful job of telling the story of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. He brings to life each of the men who had a significant role aboard the Indianapolis in such a way that you grieve with them through their losses, rejoice with them in their victories, and inwardly "pray" for their endurance and survival.

Stanton begins their story in a way I think was very risky. At the hands of a less capable author, many readers might have laid the book aside, never to pick it up
Sep 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
A quick read that keeps the action moving at a brisk pace. Like most I assume, I was inclined to read this based on Quint's monologue from Jaws (and even though many of his facts were totally wrong, I find that bit no less entertaining).

It's just about as bad a situation as you can imagine. When the crew abandoned ship, in most cases they swallowed a bunch of seawater and oil and spent several hours vomiting it up. That was the least bad thing that happened to them. Sharks bit them in half. Deh
Feb 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: true-tales
Here's a true story that beats the heck out of any fictional thriller. Anyone who's seen the original "Jaws" movie remembers Quint's desciption of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. While Quint's numbers may have been different, the description held: 1,196 men went into the water, 321 came out; sharks got the rest.

In Harm's Way gives the back story and the epilogue, the lives of the men who went onto the ship, their mission, the mistakes that led to delays in looking for them, the court marti
Jul 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
In Harm’s Way is a very vivid and detailed telling of the fate of the USS Indianapolis, which was torpedoed by the Japanese in the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean, leaving the survivors stranded and drifting on the sea for days. The homecoming of the survivors was marred by the court-martial of their Captain in what the author portrays as a real miscarriage of justice; furthermore, the announcement of the end of the war just two weeks after they were rescued sidelined the survivors’ tragic sto ...more
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Doug Stanton is a journalist, lecturer, screenwriter, and author of the New York Times bestsellers In Harm’s Way and Horse Soldiers. His newest book is The Odyssey Of Echo Company. Horse Soldiers is the basis for a Jerry Bruckheimer-produced movie by the same name, starring Chris Hemsworth and Michael Shannon, to be released by Warner Bros. in 2018. In Harm’s Way spent more than six months on the ...more
“Where does a man go when there are no more corners to turn, when he's running out of hope, out of luck, out of time?” 5 likes
“They’d been afloat now without food, water, shelter, or sleep for over forty hours. Of the 1,196 crew13 members who’d set sail from Guam three days earlier, probably no more than 600 were still alive. In the previous twenty-four hours alone, at least 200 had likely slipped beneath the waves or been victims of shark attack. Since the sinking, each boy had been floating through the hours asking himself the same hard question: Will I live, or do I quit?” 3 likes
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