The USS Indianapolis was torpedoed in July of 1945, having delivered the major components of the weapons that ended World War II. And, if you have seen the movie Jaws, you are well aware that many of the men aboard ship survived the sinking, only to die in the water from the elements and the sharks.
Out of the Depths by Edgar Harrell, a Marine aboard the Indianapolis on that day, retells not only the story of the sinking, but the aftermath. Harrell provides many more details than Quint brought up on the Orca.
The primary emphasis here, though, is not on the sinking of the ship. While Harrell explains what happened, and he consistently speaks highly of his shipmates. The experience that Harrell and his fellow Marines and sailors endured is beyond understanding. That any of them survived is a marvel.
Naturally, though, there were aftershocks that we have rarely considered. As the last major vessel lost by the US Navy in World War II, there were more consequences and concerns afterward than any other sinking. In fact, Captain McVay was one of the only (if not the only) Captain court-martialed for the sinking of his ship. (Side note: it was formerly, 17th-18th century, the practice of the British Navy to automatically court-martial a captain who lost his ship, to ascertain facts of the event. )
Harrell goes to great lengths to explain how he and many of the survivors he knew felt Captain McVay was treated unfairly. He felt that the captain was scapegoated, and that the overall failure was systemic.
Overall, though, this is a story of faith in the midst of trials. Harrell clung strongly to his faith in God throughout his ordeal, and further used that faith to provide comfort to his fellow survivors. He also sees the events as important to understanding justice and the pursuit of truth, noting how Captain McVay was finally exonerated some 30 years after his death.
This is not an easy book to read, as it details the struggles against the elements and the attacks of the sharks. Every moment is not detailed, but the ones that are can be cringe worthy. These were truly men who faced a string of challenges and pulled through.
I can heartily recommend this as a look at one of the most-known-on-the-surface events of World War II. Many of us know it happened, but few know what occurred.
Free book from the publisher in exchange for the review.