Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 559
In Harm's Way is a gripping historical narrative that chronicles the events of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in 1945 and the survival of a fraction of its men.
In his compelling novel, Stanton allows readers to understand more about Captain Charles McVay and the crewmen he sailed with:
McVay understood how large the war loomed in the minds of these boys, "green hands" and veterans alike, who during these last few days had made love one last time, gotten drunk one last time, wrote last letters to mothers and fathers, and prepared to settle on board the Indy, into the rhythm of getting ready for sea.
The Indy was operating in a battle-ready state known as Condition Able, which meant that the boys were on watch for four hours and then off for four, an exhausting, relentless schedule that left little time for sleep and induced in the boys a dreamlike state of jittery wakefulness.
One survivor Stanton interviewed, Marine Private McCoy, worked with injured veterans of previous battles in the war. As part of a Marine guard contingent on the ship, McCoy faced his own awful situation.
McCoy marveled at how these boys had accepted the awful things that had happened to them in war; he wondered how he would react in a similar situation. He hoped he wouldn't have to find out.
Through countless interviews with survivors, Stanton provides extraordinary detail about the perilous days after the ship sank. Crewmen awaited rescue in the water for days as they faced dehydration, devastating injuries, hypothermia, and shark attacks. Some sailors committed suicide instead of enduring the dangerous waters.
Those still lucid enough looked on in disbelief as their former shipmates calmly untied their life vests, took a single stroke forward, and sank without a word. Others suddenly turned from the group and started swimming, waiting for a shark to hit, and then looked up in terrified satisfaction when it did. Others simply fell face-forward and refused to rise.
Stanton captures the desperation many felt as they floated in the Pacific after the ship sank:
Where does a man go when there are no more corners to turn, when he's running out of hope,...
(The entire section contains 559 words.)
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