Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man

INDIANAPOLIS                                        LYNN VINCENT 

Just after midnight on July 30, 1945, days after delivering the components of the atomic bomb from California to the Pacific Islands in the most highly classified naval mission of the war, USS Indianapolis is sailing alone in the center of the Philippine Sea when she is struck by two Japanese torpedoes. The ship is instantly transformed into a fiery cauldron and sinks within minutes. Some 300 men go down with the ship. Nearly 900 make it into the water alive. For the next five nights and four days, almost three hundred miles from the nearest land, the men battle injuries, sharks, dehydration, insanity, and eventually each other. Only 316 will survive.

For the better part of a century, the story of USS Indianapolis has been understood as a sinking tale. The reality, however, is far more complicated—and compelling. Now, for the first time, thanks to a decade of original research and interviews with 107 survivors and eyewit­nesses, Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic tell the complete story of the ship, her crew, and their final mission to save one of their own.

It begins in 1932, when Indianapolis is christened and launched as the ship of state for President Franklin Roosevelt. After Pearl Harbor, Indianapolis leads the charge to the Pacific Islands, notching an unbroken string of victories in an uncharted theater of war. Then, under orders from President Harry Truman, the ship takes aboard a superspy and embarks on her final world-changing mission: delivering the core of the atomic bomb to the Pacific for the strike on Hiroshima. Vincent and Vladic provide a visceral, moment-by-moment account of the disaster that unfolds days later after the Japanese torpedo attack, from the chaos on board the sinking ship to the first moments of shock as the crew plunge into the remote waters of the Philippine Sea, to the long days and nights during which terror and hunger morph into delusion and desperation, and the men must band together to survive.

Then, for the first time, the authors go beyond the men’s rescue to chronicle Indianapolis’s extraordinary final mission: the survivors’ fifty-year fight for justice on behalf of their skipper, Captain Charles McVay III, who is wrongly court-martialed for the sinking. What follows is a captivating courtroom drama that weaves through generations of American presidents, from Harry Truman to George W. Bush, and forever entwines the lives of three captains—McVay, whose life and career are never the same after the scandal; Mochitsura Hashimoto, the Japanese sub commander who sinks Indianapolis but later joins the battle to exonerate McVay; and William Toti, the captain of the modern-day submarine Indianapolis, who helps the survivors fight to vindicate their captain.

A sweeping saga of survival, sacrifice, justice, and love, Indianapolis stands as both groundbreaking naval history and spellbinding narrative—and brings the ship and her heroic crew back to full, vivid, unforgettable life. It is the definitive account of one of the most remarkable episodes in American history


I have read another book about this incident year ago but it did not go into as much detail as this book. The authors take you through the christening of the ship in 1932 and then after the attack on Pearl Harbor it would be part of the group that would lead the assault against the Japanese Fleet and would have a stellar record in battle. Goes up to a Kamikaze attack in 1944 which causes enough damage that they would have to go to the west coast for repairs. The crew up to this point was a veteran and experienced crew that was able to make it from the middle of the Pacific all the way to the west coast. Now with upgrades coming with what was like a new ship, the Navy was also giving the Captain a new young and inexperienced crew. They were also given their first mission which was to deliver very important cargo. That cargo would later be the Atomic bomb, which was code-named “little boy”. It is after delivering the cargo that they are making their way to an Island only to be spotted by a Japanese sub which fires two torpedoes at her and sinks her. Now for the rest of the story, most people know, with sailors in the water and not all make it actually only 316. The Captain of the ship would be held responsible and in 1968 he would commit suicide. Almost since the finding of the Captain at fault, the members of the surviving crew and families have fought to clear his name. The remaining part of the book is that part of the story. I liked how the authors were able to get more interviews with survivors and their stories seemed more in depth than what I remembered from the last book I read about this story. People still have their opinions about us dropping the bombs back then. My father who fought with the 82nd in Europe told me that the 82nd was on a runaway preparing to leave Germany to go to Japan and were getting ready to board the planes when they got a call to stand down. So yes he was glad at the time for he had been fighting for a couple of years having forged his father name to join, it was a different time back then. Different men and women, so I can understand these men and families fighting for the Captain of their ship. Overall a very good book. I received this book from I gave it 5 stars Follow us at

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