cover image Fatal Voyage: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis

Fatal Voyage: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis

Dan Kurzman / Author Atheneum Books $19.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-689

The cruiser Indianapolis was sunk by a Japanese submarine on July 30, 1945. Most of its crew went down with the ship, but many died during the extraordinary five-day delay in rescue. The ship's captain was one of 316 who survived of a crew of 1196. Charles B. McVay III was court-martialed for negligence, becoming the first captain ever tried by the U.S. Navy for losing his ship in battle. (He later committed suicide.) Kurzman ( A Killing Wind ) here presents a shocking, convincing tale of how a good officer became a political pawn and scapegoat for high-level administrative negligence. He also describes the efforts by McVay's family and survivors of the tragedy to overturn the conviction, efforts which continue despite the ``total resistance'' of the Navy. The sinking of the Indianapolis has been called the Navy's worst sea disaster; Kurzman suggests that it is the Navy's worst moral disaster as well. This is a first-rate work, covering the details of the sinking, the five-day ordeal of the survivors in shark-infested water, and the unusual court-martial (it featured in-person testimony by the Japanese submarine commander). Photos. (July)