Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ordeal by Sea

Ordeal by Sea by Thomas Helm

This is the story of the USS Indianapolis. On July 30, 1945 just having delivered an atomic bomb the ship hurried to rendezvous with the rest of the Pacific fleet. A Japanese submarine launched a torpedo and the ship began to sink. The order was given to abandon ship and 1,196 men did so. Five days later they were finally rescued but only 317 remained.

Ordeal is a very apropos name as that is what the men went through. Terrible shark attacks and dehydration were a few of the nightmares these men suffered. Several mistakes were made but I felt the Captain was made to take the blame for most of them.

The ship had zigzagged for most of the evening when the threat of sub attack was high but having reached what was considered a safer area according to the fleet's reports they quit taking the time to zig zag to their peril. The torpedo hit and there seemed to be some chaos.

For all the men who ended up in the water there were not enough life boats and so some had to cling on to the sides and face potential shark attack. There was also dehydration and the subsequent hallucinations following the drinking of salt water.

No one in the fleet command thought to pay attention to this ship's whereabouts and subsequently these men were not looked for and only found by luck. The Captain was eventually court martialed. In this case it seems that the lowest man on the totem pole gets the blame.

A very interesting book about the hardship of abandoning ship.

First Line: "At 2300 Navy time or eleven p.m. 29 July 1945, Commander Mochitura Hashimoto mounted the conning tower of his submarine I-58."


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