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Abandon Ship!: The Saga of the U.S.S.…

Abandon Ship!: The Saga of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, the Navy's Greatest… (1958)

by Richard F. Newcomb

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326752,789 (3.97)9
Describes the perils faced by 900 shipwrecked survivors of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, after it was sunk by a Japanese submarine near the end of World War II. A naval correspondent details the appalling errors by the U.S. Navy that allowed the ship's disappearance to go unnoticed for days, and chronicles the effort to exonerate the ship's captain, who was unjustly court-martialed and eventually committed suicide.… (more)

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Solid account of the USS Indianapolis sinking, with significant attention given to the investigation, courts-martial trial, and disciplinary actions in response to this tragedy. Newcomb is very critical of the Navy for its handling of the matter and how it scapegoated certain officers. ( )
  gregdehler | Dec 28, 2018 |
Parts of the story of the USS Indianapolis are fairly well-known because of the speech in the movie Jaws where Quint recounts that over 1000 men went into the water when it was sunk and only 316 came out - sharks took the rest. The numbers are slightly different (800-900 went into the water) and there were 321 came out - but 4 died, and 317 survived in total. By all accounts most of these died a slower and more horrible death, being in the ocean for more than four days without food or water and with no shelter from the elements or the sun, life slowly, and painfully ebbed away. Many were taken by sharks, but the sharks took many of the already dead.
That's the story that most people know. What most do not is that this was a major SNAFU by the Navy, because standing directives did not require combatant ships to be listed as late when they did not arrive (no-one wanted the enemy to know where combatants were), the Indianapolis was not reported late and hence no rescue was begun until more than four days later when a plane on a routine patrol happened to see men in the water. The rescue was swift and efficient, but way too late, and literally hundreds of sailors died a horrid death, and those that lived had to deal with that.
To compound the horror the Navy decided to Court-Martial the Captain, and succeeded in ramming it through - the only Commanding Officer of a ship lost during the war who was Court-Martialed.
Later others were given career-ending reprimands, without justification. In the end Captain McVay was exonerated, but in 1968, after years of suffering abuse from those who thought him guilty he committed suicide.
Abandon Ship! was written not long after the sinking and is well-documented. It is a sad and disturbing story because of the tragedy itself, and the horrible and significant loss of life, but also because of the callous action to try and find a scapegoat after the fact. Fortunately rules were changed and others lives probably saved because of what happened, but what happened is a prime example of what happens when the focus is on fixing the blame instead of fixing the problem. ( )
1 vote bjtimm | Nov 8, 2016 |
for my book club. Story about the death of the heavy cruiser U.S.S. Indianapolis.
  Greymowser | Jan 23, 2016 |
Good story well and simply told of the events underlying “the only court-martial in the history of the U. S. Navy of a commanding officer for loss of his vessel in wartime.”
  Mark-S | Jan 18, 2015 |
Harrowing enough story of disaster and subsequent scapegoating of the innocent and cover-up by a rule-bound hierarchy, (USNavy). Most fascinating is the postscript where a schoolboy hears a bit of the story while watching Jaws ( sharks were among the hazards of floating in the South Pacific after the sinking). He got intrigued, then obsessed by the story and the injustice and eventually brought a tardy exoneration out of the Navy for Capt McVeigh, but too late: he'd put a bullet through his head at age 70.
The hearings and court martial procedures and witness statement are hard to follow; hard to make a narrative line through that kind of labyrinth. What stands out in that section is the calling of the Japanese sub captain as witness, in the face of much protest and against all precedent. Why the authorities called him is not illuminated. His testimony also exonerated the Captain (zig zag maneuvers would have made no difference) but the court found Capt M guilty anyway. Fiat justitia! ( )
  vguy | Sep 8, 2014 |
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To those who lost loved ones in the Indianapolis disaster, may understanding bring peace.
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Foreword: The story told here is not a happy one, and no official Navy imprimatur will be found upon it.
Chapter 1: Lieutenant Commander Mochitsura Hashimoto of the Imperial Japanese Navy, was not a happy man.
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