FATAL VOYAGE: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis by Dan Kurzman

FATAL VOYAGE: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis

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KIRKUS REVIEW

World War II was all but over when, on July 30, 1945, a Japanese submarine torpedoed and sank the US Navy cruiser Indianapolis. In dramatic and entertaining fashion, Kurzman (Day of the Bomb, 1985; A Killing Wind, 1987, etc.) re-creates the ill-fated cruise and the tragic aftermath that continued to resound more than 20 years later. Under the command of Capt. Charles B. McVay III, the Indianapolis was en route from Guam to the Leyte Gulf after secretly delivering atomic bomb components to the island of Tinian. Current reports placed the closest enemy submarine more than 300 miles away. With the Japanese navy in a shambles, there was little cause for more than routine concern; indeed, writes Kurzman, even though ships were under orders to ""zigzag"" through enemy waters, few continued to utilize the elusive maneuver. When the torpedoes struck the cruiser, chaos ensued. Communications were knocked out, and entire sections of the ship were cut off, including the engine room: McVay had no way to order the engines shut down. It was initially difficult to assess the extent of the damage and, although some sailors almost immediately abandoned ship, McVay delayed his abandon-ship order until he was certain the Indianapolis could not be saved. It was three days before anyone discovered that a ship had been sunk, and it was mere accident that survivors were spotted by a routine Air Force patrol. Hundreds of men spent up to five torturous days adrift in the ocean. Only 316 of the 1,196 aboard survived, with scores losing their lives after the ship was sunk. In order to cover the Navy's fatal delay in attending to the missing ship, McVay was court-martialed for issuing delayed abandon-ship orders and for not zigzagging through the supposedly safe waters. He was acquitted on the first charge, but found guilty on the second. Haunted by the loss of his ship and the death of 880 of his men, he took his own life in 1968. Kurzman, an able historian and a talented writer, gives an especially gripping account of the survivors' days adrift.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1990
ISBN: 0307484688
Publisher: Atheneum