Book Review: Out Of The Depths

Out Of The Depths:  An Unforgettable World War II Story Of Survival, Courage, And The Sinking Of The USS Indianapolis, by Edgar Harrell, USMC with David Harrell

This is a powerful story, a tale full of faith and divine providence, and a story that gives a great deal of criticism to the US Navy establishment for their willingness to destroy the reputation of an honorable captain in order to save face for their own failures in passing along intelligence that ended up costing hundreds of American lives.  It is rather telling that this book was published by Bethany House, one of the foremost Christian publishers in the United States, and not a military publisher as one would expect from this sort of book.  As someone who reads a fair amount about World War II [1], this book struck me as a particularly fierce book, but the kind of book written by those who are looking for vindication from what they view as intolerable injustice.  The writing is certainly able and skilled, and the presence of a sympathetic co-writer certainly makes the writing ab it more smooth, though no less impassioned, than it would have been otherwise.

In a bit under 200 pages, the author covers the history of the USS Indianapolis in eight chapters.  The author first introduces his own story and how he went off to war, a story that seems fairly typical from other accounts I have read of American servicemen who ended up in the navy.  After that the author discusses the context of the USS Indianapolis and its efforts in the Pacific front of World War II, including its role in the fascinating Battle of the Philippine Sea.  The author spends five chapters looking at the several days of the disaster from being sunk to finally being rescued after being sighted thanks to divine providence.  After that, the author examines the aftermath of the disaster and the quest for justice among the survivors of the disaster.  The Navy does not come off looking very good here, with the ship having delivered the payload for Hiroshima shortly before being sunk, naval intelligence having information the ship was traveling into harm’s way without letting the captain know so that preparations could be taken, and the Navy subjecting the ship’s captain to a court martial to make him a scapegoat for their own failures.  Sadly, the captain was driven to despair as a result of that and other experiences.

Since the USS Indianapolis sank in deep waters, it is unlikely that the ship will ever be salvaged and brought to the surface.  So we have a book that uncovers a mystery of why a noble ship was put in harm’s way with no escorts or warning of any kind, why no one thought to rescue the survivors of the ship or even alerted other ships nearby until the survivors were witnessed by a plane, and then why after the survivors came home the captain of the ship was thrown to the wolves in order to avoid putting blame where it belonged.  The book itself blends a concern with military history with a strong focus on divine providence, and contains many quotes from the survivors themselves, many of whom struggled with PTSD for the rest of their lives.  This is a book that I can definitely understand, in that the survivors were faced with terror and injustice, many of them concluding that the lucky ones did and the unlucky ones had to live through the horror and endure it and overcome as best as they can.  Fortunately, this book represents their plight in a moving way, as horrible as it is.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/03/11/audiobook-review-c-s-lewis-at-war/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/02/26/book-review-why-the-germans-lose-at-war/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/10/19/book-review-black-earth-the-holocaust-as-history-and-warning/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/02/15/book-review-there-once-was-a-world/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2012/01/31/a-different-world/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/04/28/the-military-historian-and-the-fog-of-war-a-case-study/

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About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, Book Reviews, Christianity, History, Military History and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Book Review: Out Of The Depths

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Fatal Dive | Edge Induced Cohesion

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