Friday, May 9, 2014

Book Review: Out of the Depths

As most of you know, I'm a huge fan of history and spent 4 years of my life studying the stuff. Part of my love of history came from my dad. A self-proclaimed "history buff", we would often play Trivial Pursuit and watch Jeopardy together, and I was always especially impressed with his knowledge of military history. (It must have rubbed off on me, as I would later go on to marry a military officer.) As a child, I often heard about my great-uncle, a Marine who was killed during World War II in the fight for Saipan. When the opportunity arose to read Out of the Depths: An Unforgettable WWII Story of Survival, Courage, and the Sinking of the USS Indianapolis, I immediately jumped on it, excited to pass it on to my dad once I was finished reading it. 

The book, written by former Marine and Indy survivor Edgar Harrell, and co-authored by his son David, is a short and quick read (took me about 2 evenings to finish it), and details the plight of the torpedo-sunk USS Indianapolis. It was concise yet heart wrenching, and gave me a good understanding of the event, and the sacrifices of the men of "Greatest Generation".

Just before the end of the War in the Pacific, late summer 1945, the USS Indianapolis had just left Tinian in the western Pacific, having delivered some top-secret components of the nuclear bomb that, just weeks later, would end the War in Japan. On it's way back, the Indy was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and sunk, leaving the 1100-some man crew trying to survive in the open ocean. Because of the nature of the top-secret mission, no one seemed to know where they were, so for 5 excruciating days, the survivors of the Indy watched their numbers dwindle from shark attacks, dehydration, terminal burns from the ship's explosion, drowning, and even suicide. The book details the horrors of each day including some difficult to read passages discussing the pain and suffering the men endured, with Edgar Harrell sharing how his faith in Jesus gave him the hope to survive and remain calm in the midst of a horrifying ordeal.

On the 5th day, and only by the grace of God, (Harrell explains the odds of their being spotted "by chance" on the open water were literally zero, making it a miracle they were spotted), the USS Indianapolis was rescued. Of the nearly 1200 Marines and sailors initially on board, only 316 survived. The book then goes on to discuss how, in an effort to keep the top-secret nature of the mission classified, the Navy took a scapegoat in the Indy captain, Charles McVay, though he was not truly at fault. McVay later took his own life, but an act of Congress in 2000 exonerated him from culpability, to the joy of his crew, who knew the Indy was sunk from no fault of McVay.

This book was definitely worth the read, and while some of the scenes were graphic, it gave me a greater appreciation for the sacrifices these men made for their country. I recommend this book to any history enthusiast, and any high school and college student.

Bottom Line 8*/10*

*Thank you to Bethany House Publishers who provided me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

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