Q&A with Doug Stanton, Author of In Harm’s Way

Posted on Might 18, 2022

We sat down with writer Doug Stanton to debate his not too long ago re-issued e-book In Hurt’s Method, which tells the story of America’s worst naval catastrophe throughout World Warfare II—and of the heroism of the lads who, in opposition to all odds, survived. The re-issued model of the e-book features a entire new chapter of beforehand unreported historical past of the USS Indianapolis, disclosing the expertise of Black sailors aboard, the invention of the ship by Paul Allen in 2017, and extra. Learn on for our dialog with Doug.

In Hurt’s Method required intensive analysis. Did you do any touring or go to any thrilling locations whereas researching the e-book?

Doug: I visited survivors of their houses across the nation and sat with them at their kitchen desk to ask about their experiences—how did they survive, and the way do they really feel it affected their lives? Almost each one of many survivors was fairly adamant that after getting out of the water, they’d by no means had a nasty day. It’s shocking to fulfill somebody who says this and means it. And but on the similar time carries this consciousness quietly by their lives. I attended the reunions of the survivors the place extra relationships got here to life, as new individuals joined the group, lastly deciding later in life that it could be a good suggestion to be reunited with outdated shipmates. Why? As a result of even to have served on the ship, whose battle expertise was intensive within the conflict—to have survived even that might have been sufficient to fill life—however to even have survived the sinking, after which to have by no means been ready to talk about it with anybody after the survivors scattered throughout America after the rescue, these experiences all left many unanswered questions for the crew. Writing the e-book, and speaking with crew and households, was additionally then a solution to discover info that’d been misplaced.

How lengthy did it take you to place this e-book collectively?

Doug: I met the survivors in July 1999 at an annual reunion and wrote a protracted reported story for Males’s Journal, with no intention of writing a e-book. It was an sudden challenge. As I reported the story, the extra I acquired to know the survivors and their households, the extra I started to mirror, and to ask the lads themselves to mirror, on what surviving such an ordeal meant, the extra I noticed this story as one about citizenship: “Who we’re when nobody is wanting? How will we act? How are we to behave towards each other when the chips are down? What’s heroism, small “h,” as these people would by no means name themselves heroes?” A hero, I got here to grasp, was somebody who did the suitable factor when nobody was wanting—particularly when nobody was wanting. Small acts, monumental penalties. That’s what I used to be interested by as much as the purpose when In Hurt’s Method was revealed in Might 2001, and in some methods I’ve been interested by these issues ever since.

What’s your favourite historical past e-book? Is historical past your style of selection or do you like different sorts of books?

Doug: I’m a fan of writers like Erik Larson and Hampton Sides with regards to narrative nonfiction, and of espionage and crime writers like Mick Herron and Tana French. Carl Hiassen, Yaa Gyasi, Adriana Trigiani, and Anna Quindlen too for irony, perception, discovery, humor, good cheer—the attributes might go on. The poems of Louise Glück and Elizabeth Bishop are favorites. Poetry is the purest type of speech somebody as soon as mentioned, and narrative historical past ought to attempt to seize the voice saying the story it most must utter. As a author, listening is the primary necessary act. Sustained listening. “Who’re we in relation to at least one one other?”

What attracted you to the story of the USS Indianapolis?

Doug: After I got here to the story, it had been written about as a authorized drama a couple of court-martial. After I requested the crew how they’d survived the sinking, and once they began to talk, I noticed that they’d by no means totally instructed the human story of the ordeal—that past the authorized drama, there was an existential one inside lots of them. Questions like, “How had this affected me? And once I mirror on how I virtually didn’t survive, how does this have an effect on how I dwell my life?” After all, thousands and thousands of women and men—within the armed providers, and households again residence—confronted such daunting questions throughout the conflict. The story of the USS Indianapolis, nevertheless, over the five-day ordeal of its sinking and the rescue of its crew, compresses a lot of life into such a short while interval that it gives a solution to discover concepts and themes inside small moments—at occasions, dramatic and terrifying ones to make certain. Listed below are atypical individuals thrust into extraordinary circumstances. We surprise—or a minimum of I puzzled, “How are we like them, and the way are we totally different? What does their expertise inform me about resilience, the capability for empathy for one more’s plight?”

And on a “historic” stage, the story of USS Indianapolis retains providing discoveries—the ship’s remaining resting place was positioned throughout an epic search by a crew organized by Paul Allen in 2017. Different voices and tales are nonetheless coming to gentle—we’re listening to untold tales that have to be heard, such because the expertise of Black sailors aboard the ship. Twenty years after the publication of In Hurt’s Method, I needed to replace the story and provides a dramatic glimpse of a few of the tales we are able to count on to listen to extra of, from the individuals finest capable of inform them. Rather a lot has occurred in twenty years, and the brand new writing and reporting brings us ahead. It’s within the new pages of this new version.

What do you admire essentially the most concerning the survivors you interviewed? Did something, particularly, stand out to you about their accounts of the incident?

Doug: One of many admirable traits among the many crew is their lifelong sense of camaraderie, that it doesn’t matter what stroll of life, they proceed to stroll alongside the story of this ship with one another. As I look again, I’m additionally conscious of the braveness it took for them to reveal their tales when assembly somebody like me, who asks, “How did you survive this?” Answering that may imply speaking about belongings you haven’t talked about, even together with your closest pals or household, and but so many answered with such grace and humility. I bear in mind sitting in the lounge of survivor Invoice Drayton in Florida, and having this proud man inform me his story—no bravado, simply the expertise as he’d lived it. The US Navy at one level adopted In Hurt’s Method as required studying on its listing for officers, and I believe that was as a result of it’s a narrative about management, perseverance, and self-discipline. It’s about doing the suitable factor—or a minimum of making an attempt the suitable factor—on the most troublesome second. I used to be privileged to listen to a person like Invoice Drayton speak, first for these causes, after which grateful that his speaking allowed different members of his household an opportunity to study a few of what he’d lived by.

©Brian Confer

Doug Stanton is a #1 New York Instances bestselling writer whose writing has appeared in EsquireThe New York InstancesTIMEThe Washington Submit, and different nationwide publications. The bestselling In Hurt’s Method was included within the US Navy’s required studying listing for naval officers. His e-book Horse Troopers is the idea for the film 12 Sturdy, starring Chris Hemsworth. Stanton lectures nationally and has appeared on nationwide TV and radio. He and Anne Stanton supplied an preliminary donation for the publication of Solely 316 Survived, and based a scholarship program benefiting grandchildren of the USS Indianapolis crew.

Tags: Doug Stanton, In Hurt’s Method, Naval Historical past, USS Indianapolis, WWII