Abandon Ship!: The Saga of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, the Navy's Greatest Sea Disaster

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9780060184711: Abandon Ship!: The Saga of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, the Navy's Greatest Sea Disaster

She was a ship of destiny.  Sailing across the Pacific, the battle scarred heavy cruiser U.S.S. Indianapolis had just delivered a secret cargo that would trigger the end of World War II.  As she was continuing westward, her captain asked for a destroyer escort. He was told it wasn't necessary. But it was.  She was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine. In twelve minutes, some 300 men went down with her.  More then 900 others spent four horrific days and five nights in the ocean with no water to drink, savaged  by a pitless sun and swarms of sharks. Incredibly, nobody knew they were out until a Navy patrol plane accidentally discovered them.  Miraculously, 316 crewmen still survived.  How could this have happened -- and why?  This updated edition of Abandon Ship!, with a new introduction and afterword by Peter Maas, supplies the chilling answer. Originally published in 1958, Abandon Ship!, was the first book to describe, in vivid detail, the unspeakable ordeal the survivors of the Indianapolis endured.  It was also the first book to scrutinize the role of the U.S. Navy in the Indianapolis saga, especially in the cruel aftermath of the rescue when Captain Charles Butler McVay III was courtmartialed and convicted of "hazarding" his ship.

The bitter controversy over the Navy's handling of this case has raged for decades, with the survivors leading a campaign to set the record straight and exonerate Captain McVay. Peter Maas, the author of the New York Times bestseller The Terrible Hours, reveals facts previously unavailable to Richard Newcomb and chronicles the forty-year crusade to restore the captain's good name, a crusade that started with the publication of this book. He also pays tribute to its author, who dared, ahead of his time, to expose military malfeasance and cover-up, and to inspire a courageous battle to correct a grave miscarriage of justice.

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Review:

In July 1945, the heavy cruiser U.S.S. Indianapolis put in at the Pacific atoll of Tinian to deliver a rare cargo: several hundred pounds of uranium, the makings of the two atomic bombs that only a few weeks later would be dropped on Japan. Having discharged this duty, the Indianapolis made way for Guam, and thence for the Philippines, in waters that the high command had assured its captain were safe. En route, it crossed the path of a Japanese submarine, which fired six torpedoes and sank the cruiser, killing hundreds of sailors--some of whom were devoured by sharks--and leaving others to float in the open ocean for days.

Almost as soon as the survivors of the Indianapolis were rescued, the cruiser's unfortunate captain, an Annapolis graduate named Charles Butler McVay III, was court-martialed for his alleged failure to practice evasive maneuvers in enemy waters. Eventually exonerated of all but one charge, McVay still could not escape blame for the ship's loss, and he killed himself in 1968. Richard Newcomb's Abandon Ship!, first published in 1958, brought McVay's sad case to the American public's attention with a vigorous you-are-there account that depicts the miscalculations--and willful misrepresentations--that condemned the Indianapolis. The case was recently reopened thanks to the efforts of McVay's family and a bright middle-school student who looked into the matter as a class project. As a result, the scapegoated captain's name has been cleared. In this edition, McVay's case is updated by the noted true-crime author Peter Maas, whose arguments in McVay's favor add to Newcomb's original findings. Superb as historical journalism, the book is also a fascinating document in the annals of military justice. --Gregory McNamee

About the Author:

Richard F. Newcomb served as a wartime naval correspondent during World War II and received a Purple Heart. He is a retired news editor of the Associated Press and the author of six books, including Savo, and Iwo Jima.. He lives in Palm Coast, Florida.

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