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 12 minutes. Of the 1200 or so men on board, around 300 were killed immediately, 900 abandoned ship. Through a series of Navy communication snafus nobody knew that the Indianapolis was sunk or even missing. The surviving men were picked up four and half days later after a bomber flying overhead happened to notice the oil slick in the water and groups of men in the water. By the time they were rescued, only a little more than 300 of the original 900 had survived. The rest had succumbed to dehydration, delirium, injuries, and sharks. Sharks fed twice a day at dawn and dusk and picked off about 50 men a day.
In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by Doug Stanton is a story of courage and despair, death and survival. Stanton spent a year researching and writing this book, interviewing USS Indianapolis survivors and recording their stories. The book is a fast and gripping read; I highly recommend it.