Books That Inspire 2009

In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors
Doug Stanton

Given the stringent precision of the U.S. Navy and the military during World War II, how could a heavy cruiser, in this case the U.S.S. Indianapolis, carrying more than 1,400 men be torpedoed by a Japanese sub and sink within 12 minutes, leaving the 1,100 survivors to bob in the Pacific Ocean at the mercy of the elements and sharks, without anyone realizing the loss of the ship for more than four days? This sinking and the horror that followed is regarded as the Navy's worst disaster in U.S. history – it reveals the combatants' hellish ordeal during the sinking and the ensuing days of coping with attacks by hundreds of sharks and even worse, hypothermia. Even though the water temperature was 85 degrees, prolonged exposure to this temperature lowers a person's body temperature from 98.6 to 85 and they actually die from the effects of the lower temperature! Many drank seawater and died. The story, while hard to imagine, kept me totally entranced the entire time I read the book. I simply could not put it down. The irony of this story? The ship carried one of the two atom bombs dropped on Japan later in the summer (it had already off-loaded the weapon and was heading to a new assignment when sunk).

Steve T. Rice
Public Affairs Director and Editor, Sooner Lawyer
College of Law