LEFT FOR DEAD by Pete Nelson


A Young Man’s Search for Justice for the USS Indianapolis
Age Range: 14 & up
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On July 30, 1945, after transporting the atomic bomb to Tinian for the Enola Gay, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed in shark-infested waters and sunk. In the largest wartime loss of life for the navy, 880 of the ship’s 1,197 men found themselves in the water, 250 miles from the closest land. When they were eventually rescued, only 317 men had survived. How had it happened that a ship as important as the USS Indianapolis had been unescorted in waters where Japanese submarines were known to lurk, and Captain McVay had not been notified? Why was Captain McVay court-martialed, when accountability clearly extended beyond his role as captain? Nelson is telling two stories here: the wartime story of the USS Indianapolis and the story of Hunter Scott, a young boy doing a history project for school. Scott got interested in the Indianapolis after watching Jaws with his dad, and a character in the movie tells of the Indianapolis and the shark attacks on the men. Fascinated, Scott chose this as his topic for a history fair. He did research, wrote letters to survivors, and began to feel something was not quite right in the story, that Captain McVay and his officers were more heroic than negligent, and the record should be set straight. The story of the USS Indianapolis is fascinating, and Nelson capably puts that story in the context of the war and the events leading up to it. Less successful is the melding of the two stories of ship and young researcher. The story of Hunter Scott sandwiches the war story, but it is important in its own right, and Scott, along with survivors and a congressman, plays a key role in the exoneration of Captain McVay. As engaging as the best historical fiction, this will appeal to any reader who likes history and a good story at the same time. (photographs, maps, bibliography) (Nonfiction. YA)

Pub Date: May 14th, 2002
ISBN: 0-385-72959-6
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2002


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