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Posts Tagged ‘World War II’

517a4WwQTZL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_When a book like Lynn Vincent’s and Sara Vladic’s Indianapolis lies open on lap or desk, a reader sometimes forces himself from page to page. This one does, at any rate.

This slow march signals no deficiency in the book itself. In fact, this latest entry on the U.S. Navy’s single worst disaster is fluid, witty, somber, and smart. The book ought to be a page-turner.

It’s the story that hurts, the awful, aching tale of seawater, sharks, men driven to lunacy, a breathtakingly inept response to the disappearance of one of the era’s most storied (heavy) cruisers, and then the arguable scapegoating of the ship’s captain for failing to avoid the Japanese submarine he could never have known was there.

This new work on Indy is a terrible tale, finely told. Particularly after the recent discovery of the Indianapolis deep on the floor of the Pacific where it came to rest days before the end of hostilities with Japan, it is a story that must be read.

Others have told Indy’s story. Vincent’s and Vladic’s new edition adds to that legacy in two ways. First, the authors have found their way into the embrace of the fast-diminishing Indy survivor family and so have heard many versions of Indy’s loss that had not been told heretofore. Secondly, they have meticulously pieced together the unlikely events that led to the posthumous rehabilitation of Captain Charles B. McVay, III, the man at Indy’s helm in the summer of ’45. This part of the ongoing drama of Indy has never, to my knowledge, been told in such detail.

My mother lost an adoptive cousin when the Indy went down. By appearances, he perished in the initial submarine assault and Indy’s subsequent plunge to the bottom. Perhaps some measure of blessing accrues to not having had to face the sharks and the oil-drenched seas during the terrible days that followed. He would have been a kind of uncle to this reader, had he not too young become known only to God and the sea.

There appear, in Vincent’s and Vladic’s difficult pages, both heroism and shame, and then everything that falls between those somewhat artificial extremes. The writers have worked hard not to reduce the story to one or the other, a task that is always difficult when the passage of decades has blurred memory of the large middle place.

Indy will soon be forgotten, except by those who force themselves from one page to another of works like these, a latter-day tragedy that is perhaps unavoidable but no less sad for the inevitability of it. For a while, though, this new telling of the U.S.S. Indianapolis’ deeply moving story will keep memory alive, honoring men like Dougald Bruce McLean, EM3, known only to God.

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