Harm's Way Analysis

863 Words 4 Pages
In Harm’s Way, by Doug Stanton is among the top of my list for truly gripping survival stories. Tasked with a secret mission by the U.S. government; the Indianapolis was moored in the San Francisco Bay - undergoing repair work from her last scuff with the well-disciplined and ruthless Japanese Empire. Caught off guard and seeming almost corralled into the mission, Captain James Butler McVay, a competent and respected man, was ordered to sail components of the world's first operational atomic bomb (Little Boy) across the Pacific. Their destination was the island of Tinian, a massive military stepping stone for allied forces. Once delivered, the Indianapolis reported directly to CINCPAC (Commander-In-Chief, Pacific) Headquarters at Guam for further …show more content…
The bow had become non-existent from the first torpedo, the second struck midship on the starboard side neighboring a fuel tank and powder magazine. The subsequent explosion split the ship straight down to the keel, knocking out all electric power. Within minutes she went down swiftly by the bow, listing hard to starboard.
Of the 1,196 souls aboard, about 900 made it into the water during those few minutes, before she sank. Few life rafts were able to be released from their staging positions. Most survivors relied on their personal standard-stuffing life jacket to stay afloat. Shark attacks began with sunrise of the first day, accompanied by exposure, dehydration, salt water poisoning, and sustained wounds from the torpedo attack; all which continued, until their rescue five days
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The story is filled with "could haves" and "should haves," which is a verification to the number of things that had to go wide of the mark, before the casualty list went as high as it did. Highlighting the uncertainty of the situation both during the ordeal and in the subsequent years is an awesome balance of disaster and victory of the human spirit, with which Stanton relies heavily upon. Fortunately, the author is passionate enough about his subject to plunge himself in it completely and confident enough in his skills as a writer to allow the memories of the sailors to speak through him. Stanton's account captures the irregular, sometimes startling, and sometimes reaffirming ways that people respond when they reach the edge of life. Small-unit leaders who pick up In Harm's Way will learn how people behave while they are under enormous stress. In Harm’s Way also contains important lessons on risk management, showing what can happen when senior leaders personally manage the risks attached to potentially catastrophic missions, and how to assign responsibility and blame when risk becomes reality. Stanton successfully argues that Navy leadership was partly responsible for the ship's sinking because the Navy failed to mitigate the risk that an enemy submarine would sink

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