Left for Dead: A Young Man's Search for Justice for the USS Indianapolis

Left for Dead: A Young Man's Search for Justice for the USS Indianapolis


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For fans of sea battles, adventures, and war stories like Unbroken, this is the incredible true story of a boy who helps to bring closure to the survivors of the tragic sinking of the USS Indianapolis, and helps exonerate the ship’s captain fifty years later.

Hunter Scott first learned about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis by watching the movie Jaws when he was just eleven-years-old. This was fifty years after the ship had sunk, throwing more than 1,000 men into shark-infested waters—a long fifty years in which justice still had not been served.
                It was just after midnight on July 30, 1945 when the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. Those who survived the fiery sinking—some injured, many without life jackets—struggled to stay afloat as they waited for rescue. But the United States Navy did not even know they were missing. As time went on, the Navy needed a scapegoat for this disaster. So it court-martialed the captain for “hazarding” his ship. The survivors of the Indianapolis knew that their captain was not to blame. For fifty years they worked to clear his name, even after his untimely death.
But the navy would not budge—not until Hunter entered the picture. His history fair project on the Indianapolis soon became a crusade to restore the captain’s good name and the honor of the men who served under him.

Praise for Left for Dead:

Christopher Award Winner

An ALA-YALSA Best Nonfiction for Young Adults Book

“Compelling, dreadful, and amazing.”—VOYA
“This exciting, life-affirming book about war heroics and justice . . . proves without question the impact one student can have on history.”—Booklist

“Well written and well documented … this excellent presentation fills a void in most World War II collections “—School Library Journal
“Young readers . . . will no doubt be inspired by the youth’s tenacity—and by the valor of those who served on the Indianapolis.”—The Horn Book

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385730914
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 11/11/2003
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 97,714
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Peter Nelson won the Christopher Award for Left for Dead, which is bestowed upon a novel that affirms the highest value of the human spirit. He is also the author of numerous books of fiction and nonfiction and has written many articles for magazines. Nelson lives with his wife and son in Westchester, New York.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Sailor

July 1945

The horror has seared my mind like a hot poker and I cannot forget it. After fifty years the dates and faces have lost their distinction, but the horror never gives way. The older I get, the more it bothers me. I can still hear the screams of the injured and dying.

Cozell Smith, 1994

The sailor finds himself swimming in the open ocean, wondering in shock how it came to this so suddenly. It's just past midnight. He'd been sleeping above deck, because it was too hot below and it smelled of sweat and bad breath and dirty laundry. He woke up at eleven-thirty, half an hour before his turn to stand watch. He went to the mess hall, grabbed a cup of coffee from the fifty-gallon urn and took his coffee topside. A quarter moon appeared briefly in a break in the clouds, high overhead. Now it's dark. He looks up, straining to see the moon. There's no light. The last light he saw was his ship on fire, flames, smoke, mixed with the horrible sounds of men screaming.

"I can't swim!" the man hanging on to him shouts.

The sailor wonders how they could let a man who can't swim join the navy. The sailor's name is Cozell Lee Smith, but they call him Smitty. The man whose life he's saving is named Dronet. Smith has no life jacket. Dronet has no life jacket. Smith has already warned Dronet not to get scared and grab him around the neck, that he'll leave him if he does. He'll save Dronet's life if he can, but if he has to, he will cut him loose. He's already tiring. He's a strong swimmer, but Dronet is heavy, weighing him down.

Smith swims. He gets a mouthful of seawater. He spits, coughs, keeps swimming. He inhales fumes and feels sickened by them. He hears screaming. He wonders how many others there are. He can't see a thing. It's too dark. He can't tell what direction the screaming is coming from. He strains for breath and accidentally swallows another mouthful of seawater, but it's not just seawater. It's fuel oil from the ship's ruptured tanks, thick and gooey. Instantly he's covered in it. It goes down his throat. More fumes. He feels sick and retches. He pushes his vomit away from him in the water. Dronet is coughing.

"What is it?" Dronet asks.

"Oil," Smith gasps. "Hang on. Keep kicking."

The irony is that if Smith hadn't joined the navy, he might well have been working in the oil fields back in Oklahoma. He'd volunteered at the age of seventeen, fresh out of tenth grade. His father, a barber, signed the permission papers with the thought that joining the navy might keep his son out of the kind of trouble a boy might get into, hanging around in a small town with nothing to do.

He spits. The oil goes down his throat even when he tries not to swallow. The ship burned oil to heat its boilers, which created the steam needed to turn the turbines to drive the propellers, which seamen call screws. It was, for its size, one of the fastest ships in the world, with a flank speed of thirty-two knots. He'd been standing at his watch station in "the bathtub," an antiaircraft battery protected by a circular splinter shield, shooting the breeze with Jimmy Reid, another coxswain from his division, when they heard the explosion. The shock of the blast nearly knocked him off his feet.

"What the heck was that?" Smith asked. Reid said he thought it was a boiler exploding.

"That could be good," Reid said. Smith wondered what could be good about it. "We'll go back to the States for repair," Reid explained.

Then the ship began to list, still moving forward but tilting to starboard, five degrees, then ten. Smith thought it would stop any second, but it didn't, listing fifteen degrees, then twenty. It slowly dawned on him that the unthinkable was coming to pass. They were sinking. Were they? Impossible. Not impossible--it was happening. When the list reached thirty degrees, he climbed down from his position and scrambled to the high side, grabbing hold of the steel cable lifeline that girded the ship. Other men had nothing to grab on to and fell. One man fell backward into the number three gun turret and hit it hard with his head. His head cracked with a sound like Babe Ruth hitting a baseball. That man was dead. A second man fell into the gun turret, and Smith could hear his bones break. The ship kept rolling over on its side until it reached ninety degrees. Smith ran across the hull of the overturned ship. In the dim light, through the smoke, he saw other men scattered down the length of the ship, some running, some standing frozen with fear. He was about to jump off the keel when Dronet stopped him and asked him for help, explaining that he couldn't swim. Now they're together in the water.

A scream. Smith looks around. Where is the screaming coming from? Is a scream something to be avoided or approached? He swims. Smith is tired. His eyes sting from the oil. He looks up. The moon is again breaking through the clouds. He tries not to swallow salt water.

"Kick!" Smith commands.

The screams grow louder. They swim to a group of men, about eight in all.

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Left for Dead; A Young Man's Search for Justice for the USS Indianapolis 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked it
doingthisforschool More than 1 year ago
Left For Dead book review I chose a book called Left For Dead by the author Pete Nelson. It includes unique personality and style. However, it is a terrible read in my opinion. The main characters don't really appear until the latest part in the book. Senator bob smith, rep Scarborough, Kimo Mcvay, Capt. Mcvay, the survivors (McCoy, twimble, kuryla, mcguiggan, miner), admiral Donald Pilling (the antagonist) and Hunter Scott make up the list of important figures. The first few chapters are composed of monotonic facts and primarily useless information. They describe the outline of the war and the current situation of the "U.S.S. Indianapolis" as it travels from one place to another in the Pacific Ocean. The only part that I mildly enjoyed came about in chapter 6 when the sinking of the ship is described. The days following are told from survivors' stories, and are slightly interesting, but made boring after a while. The fun ends at chapter 9 as Pete Nelson looks into why the Indianapolis wasn't properly prepared and why Captain Charles B. Mcvay (ship commander) was blamed and court marshaled. Here is when the main conflict is truly introduced. The captain of the U.S.S. Indianapolis was wrongfully accused of neglecting his duties and causing the vessel to be torpedoed and sunk. The conflict is resolved by the navy clearing the name of captain Mcvay. All of the survivors play large roles in testimonies and personal accounts for the court marshal of captain Mcvay. Essentially, they are motivated, inspired, and determined. Sen. Bob Smith acted as the main force behind the effort to redeem the captain. Words to describe him would be vigorous, intelligent, insightful, and compelling. Captain Mcvay himself is the one who inspired the crusade to clear him after his suicide in 1968. Hunter Scott is an ambitious 11-year old who brought the subject of the court marshal back into light. Throughout the story, he changes from a curious little boy to a teenager. Kimo Mcvay is the son of cap. Charles Mcvay and supports Hunter Scott on his way to Washington D.C. He is energetic yet serious. Representative Scarborough is a long time Mcvay supporter who aided Hunter Scott in his crusade. Finally, admiral Don Pilling, vice director of the U.S. navy is the man who opposes all of the protagonists that I have mentioned. He is described as calculating and adamant. Compared to the book Hatchet, everything in Left For Dead is very different. The style is factual and the characters are plainly described. The plot in Left For Dead is the classic story-rising actions-climax-resolution, whereas Hatchet builds and builds until the resolution in the end. My opinion on this book should have been very recognizable in the paragraphs above. Reading it was a pain and a chore, and I dislike it very much. I didn't actually enjoy anything except the recreation of the sinking, for everything else was unappealing, unexciting, and useless. What makes this book unique is its abundance of information. A good majority of the sentences have at least one fact or date in them. My advice to the author - don't leave out the story when writing. Without any entertainment, the reader could literally fall asleep while reading your book. I know this from experience. I would definitely not recommend this book to anyone else. In fact, I would advise against it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In Left for Dead, author Pete Nelson shows the reader in great detail everything Captain McVay and the men of the USS Indianapolis went through, from their missions in the Pacific Ocean, to the sinking and survival in the ocean for five days, to the court martial and later clearing of the captain¿s name. The stories about the men¿s experiences in the water were all vivid and captivating. It inspired me that a kid my own age can change history in a way grown men had been trying to do for fifty years in just five years. This book is graphic for young readers but is perfect for young adults that are interested in World War II history.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This, in my personal opinion, was one of the best books I've ever read! It really gave me a great insight as to what happened in the final hours of the Indianapolis's voyage and the occurances afterwards. If you area WWII fanatic like me, I suggest that you read this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
on the inndionapolis ship in 1945 during the world war 2 it was a good book to read, one of my favorite time periods there was attacking of Pearl Harbor,hunter scott, atomic bombs being delivered,life on the boat, attacking viliages, surviving in the ocean and many more it was a awesome book
Guest More than 1 year ago
Left for Dead is an excellent story about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. I was very surprised when I read about how fast the ship sunk. After the ship sunk; only about 350 men made it alive (although most were badly injured) off the ship. The author did an excellent job in describing the hell the surviving sailors had to go through while waiting for the Navy to send for help. It took the Navy 5 days until they accidentally found the sailors. A pilot was checking his antennae and glanced down to look at it out of his window when he spotted the survivors in the water. Many people blamed the captain for the sinking. The survivors, on the other hand, think otherwise.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is a little bit too expensive for my taste
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not put it down!!!!!!!!"""
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Coolest book ever
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The non - fiction novel Left for Dead by Pete Nelson with, a preference by Hunter Scott was a thrilling story set in the Pacific Ocean and Pensacola, Florida in 1945 and 2006. The story begins when an 11 year old boy named Hunter Scott saw a popular movie called JAWS. In one of the scenes when captain Quint and the other two guys are telling stories about each other, one man asked about the tattoo and Quint told the story all about the U.S.S. Indianapolis. Hunter was fascinated by it he decided he would use that subject for his history fair report. Hunter won for his school and got disqualified for having footnotes. In his research he discovered the captain; Captain McVay was accused guilty for the ship sinking. Hunter decided to interview the survivors and gets many stories all the same in different ways. Hunter put there stories into one giant story from the survivors point of view. In his story the ship is torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese sub. All the people who did not get severely injured by the torpedoes are forced to abandon ship. After several days a plane spots a few hundred men in the water, he got closer and called in more ships to help along with that he landed in the water and while skimming the surface he scooped up a few men from the water. Long after the last hundred men were rescued they went to court martial and Captain McVay was accused guilty for not making sure the "sos" was sent. From lots of hate mail from people who lost loved ones he committed suicide and shot himself. Later Hunter goes to try to clear the captain's name and finally he did it THE END. There are a few reasons I think were good about this book. One positive was while telling the story the author went into great detail. Another positive is when telling the story the author took the survivors stories and told the story a few times but from different peoples point of view. Lastly is that the book tells you a terrific story but also teaches about war and includes interesting facts about the ocean. There were also a few negatives about the story. One negative is that if you miss a few words (what I did) you get completely lost and have to reread. Another negative is the beginning is hard to follow because it switches back and fourth from1945 to 2006. Lastly a negative is the story acted like a broken record player and repeated some boring parts a lot. Those area few positives and negatives about the novel I read Left for Dead. The writing style of the author is very interesting. One writing style the author had was it was hard to follow. For example the story would switch back and fourth from1954 to 2006. Another writing style the author had was it is third person point of view. For example Hunter and the survivors narrated. Finally a last writing style the author had the author is very descriptive. For example "the thick black oil surrounded us." I would and would not recommend this book to people, here's the reasons why. I would recommend this book because it is very interesting and detailed. Another reason I would recommend it because it's about WW2 (World War Two). I would not recommend it to someone because at some points it is a slow read. Those are the reasons I would recommend and not recommend this book. There are a few novels that are similar to this novel. Two of them I have read myself. The two I have read are The sinking of the Bismark, and Iron Thunder. Another similar novel is The Bombing of
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The first 90 pages were very good. The rest of the book was finger pointing who was to blame for the sinking of the ship.
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I was forced to read it for a school assignment. If i wasnt forced to do a bunch of work along with it, i might have liked it more. Otherwise, i find the book to be dull but informative.
Amila Merdzanovic More than 1 year ago
It is so good i am reading it every day how good it is!
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Cavlizzy More than 1 year ago
This is TRUTH not Fiction! Which makes it even more horrible this occured. The Captain asked for help over and over BEFORE the incident, knowing it could happen. Then his good name was ruined. Many men died terrible deaths..... If not for the courage and determination of a young boy years later would this wrong not have been corrected for history's sake for the Captain. It is a book that is hard to put down once you get involved in the story.... and one you WON'T forget!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago