On July 30, 1945, four days after the USS Indianapolis delivered the first operational atomic bomb to the island of Tinian (and exactly a week before that bomb would be dropped on Hiroshima), the unescorted heavy cruiser was torpedoed on its way to the Philippines by a Japanese submarine. The Navy never noticed that the ship did not reach its destination; 300 sailors went down with the ship, and 900 others floundered in the water for four days -- starving, drowning, and attacked by sharks, before being accidentally spotted by a passing bomber. Only 316 members of the original 1,196-man crew survived. Several books have been published about the hapless ship and how the Navy courtmartialed and blamed its captain so that he died a broken and alcoholic man (and Quint, the crusty sea salt played by Robert Shaw, claims to be a survivor and recounts the basic tale in the movie "Jaws"). This is the only one I have read, so I don't know how it compares (and since Capt. McVay has only recently been officially rehabilitated by Congress, I gather the book is being republished in 2001 as _The Tragic Fate of the USS Indiapolis_), but it's competently written and the tale is irresistable. Some of the images make indelible imprints on the mind: "The doctor [Lt. Cmdr. Lewis Leavitt Haynes] continued to pronounce men dead. He would remove their jackets, recite the Lord's Prayer, and release the bodies. The water was very clear, and Doctor Haynes remembered the bodies looking like small dolls sinking in the deep sea. He watched them until they faded from sight."
This report prepared by David Loftus