The story of the USS Indianapolis, misplaced by the Navy and torpedoed by a Japanese sub just before the end of World War II, so that its crew floundered in the Pacific Ocean -- drowning, going mad, eaten by sharks -- for more than three days, has been told before (and not just by Captain Quint in the movie "Jaws"). It's a story one cannot hear too many times, though, and Stanton adds a bit to previous narratives by such writers as Richard Newcomb and Raymond Lech by filling in more of the background, from details about on-board life (what and how much the sailors consumed) to physical conditions (the nature of shark behavior, the degradation of body temperature over time when one is continually in the water, the mortal threat sea water itself poses to the human body). The author manages to get in a lot of detail without ever slowing a narrative that is crisp and reads swiftly. Although Congress finally passed an amendment exonerating the ship's captain, Charles McVay, in October 2000, the Navy has yet to expunge the conviction on his record for a disaster not of his making and in which he behaved honorably. A stunning tale, well told.
This report prepared by David Loftus