[Review] Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic

Publisher and Publication Date: Simon & Schuster. July 10, 2018.
Genre: Nonfiction. History. Naval history. World War II.
Pages: 578.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of World War II history.
Rating: Excellent.

Link for the book @ Simon and Schuster.

Link for the book @ Amazon. At this time, this book is included in Kindle Unlimited. The hardcover is $12.31.

Goodreads author page for Lynn Vincent.

Goodreads author page for Sara Vladic.

Lynn Vincent is a U.S. Navy Veteran, and the author of several history books.

Sara Vladic is a documentary film maker, and a leading expert on the history of the USS Indianapolis.


From the opening line: “She was born from soil as American as the men who sailed her.”
This is one of the best opening lines I’ve read!

The USS Indianapolis was christened in 1932 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

It was a Portland-Class Heavy Cruiser.

The USS Indianapolis in the final days of World War II had transported a secret that was hoped to end the war. Soon after delivering the secret, the ship is hit with two torpedoes from a Japanese submarine. It sank. Most of the men, both Navy and Marine, were able to get off the ship before it sank. Only 316 survived after five nights and four days in the Philippine Sea.

Indianapolis tells the entire story of the ship and its military men. From the time it was built and christened, to the sinking and survival of the men, the aftermath of those who survived the rescue, the trial of the captain, and the investigation and perseverance to exonerate him.

My Thoughts:

I have a personal connection to the story.

A woman who my mother was friends with starting in 1942 when they both worked at the Houston, TX Telephone Company as switchboard operators, her husband either died on the Indianapolis or in the water. She does not want to know the details of his death. They were childhood friends who fell in love, and they married in 1944. Thelma was a widow at age 18.

It’s been a few years ago, but on Memorial Day, I was scrolling through Facebook and came upon information about the USS Indianapolis group. They have a goal to have a photograph of every Navy and Marine Veteran who was on the Indianapolis. I contacted Thelma, and she and her daughters put together pictures and information to send the Indianapolis group. It was planned to fly a flag in honor of her husband at their memorial museum. Thelma was presented with a flag. This is the first time she had been presented with a flag after his death.

I feel humbled that I was able to help Thelma connect with this group and honor her husband.

There was no funeral for him. There was nothing but a couple of telegrams for her to read.

I don’t know if these are the right words to use, but there is a sense of comfort, dignity, and peace for her in this act.

Thelma is still living at age 96. She later married and had children, but she did not forget her first love, and possibly her great love.

My Thoughts of the book:

This is the second book I’ve read about the story of the USS Indianapolis. The first book is In Harm’s Way by Doug Stanton.

Indianapolis is a difficult book to read. I knew what happened. But there is such a feeling of sadness and loss. But also, a feeling of…. I’m at a loss for words.

After reading the last page. I closed the book and sat in my chair for a long time. It is overwhelming what these brave men endured.

They too at times are at a loss for words. The horrors they saw are unspeakable, but as best they can, they try and give their testimony of what happened.

Much of this book is a survivor record of the events that unfolded. How they felt. What they saw. And also looking at the event in retrospect.

Vincent and Vladic form the structure of how the book is laid out. They share the background information. For example, the history of the ship. The battles it had taken part in. The recording of the survivor’s accounts.

The Bibliography is 65 pages in length.

The book is heavily researched by the writing team.

Before the prologue, there is a two-page spread of the USS Indianapolis. It is a diagram or map showing all the areas of the ship.

65 photographs are included. Most are in black and white.

The story also includes information from the perspective and memory of the Japanese commanding officer on the submarine, Mochitsura Hashimoto.

This is a must-read book if you are a military reader, Veteran, or a person who reads World War II history.


[Review] Pearl Harbor: From Infamy to Greatness by Craig Nelson

Publisher and Publication Date: Scribner. 2016.
Genre: Nonfiction. History. War literature.
Pages: 545.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Public library.
Audience: Readers of World War II, Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941, and the war in the Pacific.
Rating: Excellent.

This is the first book in 2023 I’ve given 5 stars for excellent.

Link for the book at Amazon.


On Sunday, December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii.

Their primary focus was at Pearl Harbor; however, they attacked other airfields on the island, and they even attacked civilians who were in their path. There were two attack waves of planes. The attack lasted about two hours. The planes caring torpedoes inflicted heavy damage to the ships. Several ships were tied to each other and at dry dock. The Japanese had wanted to attack and destroy the aircraft carriers, but they were out at sea. There were 96 ships at Pearl Harbor during the attack.

Pearl Harbor is a chronological detail history of the attack, Imperial Japan, the building up of the Great Pacific War/World War II, America’s response before and after the attack, and eyewitness stories.

The total death count is at 2,403. Most of the deaths were from the USS Arizona.

My Thoughts:

This is a second read for me. I read this book for the first time in 2018. I’d actually forgotten that I’d read it. The book is a library copy.

I’m currently on a nonfiction reading kick. I have several nonfiction books that I’m juggling. Not all of them are war related. Some are poetry books. One is a history of various articles that were published in the 1960s in the New York Magazine. I just finished reading In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, a nonfiction novel.

The following is a copy of the first review with new updates from the second read.

I have many thoughts, and most of them are emotions without adequate words.

I love this book, and several reasons are listed below.

To begin with, there are two strong points about this book.

  1. Craig Nelson lets the history and eyewitness stories support the book.
  2. It is a strong testament to the courageous American military men and women.

Further reasons why this is an excellent book:

3. Pearl Harbor gives a close-up examination of Imperial Japan. Their mindset, aggressive actions against other countries, and preparations for the Pearl Harbor attack. The rape and murderous rampage in China are shocking to me. They were swept up in a frenzy of evil. One of the Japanese men remarked, “It was almost like being addicted to murder.”
4. How Americans perceived the Japanese, as well as how the Japanese perceived Americans are shared.
5. The island of Oahu, Hawaii. It was a peaceful, relaxed type atmosphere. On the day of the attack, it was a beautiful day. It was believed to be a safe paradise.
6. The process of the attacks on the island are carefully and chronologically shown. Beginning at Wheeler Field, Schofield Barracks, and followed by Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Bellows Field, Ewa Marine Core Station, Hickam Air Force Base, Ford Island, and the Pearl Harbor U.S. Naval Base.
7. Pearl Harbor is filled with eyewitness stories from men and women (military and civilian), including those who were children during the attack, both Americans and Japanese.
8. A nurse remarked she was at the new Hickam Field Hospital. It had been open three weeks. There were six nurses. They did not have all the mattresses yet to cover the beds. They gave the wounded morphine, not much else could be done in many cases.
9. Craig Nelson organizes the ships according to the events of their attack; sharing the damage, loss of life, and those that were wounded.
10. Statistics are shared of the wounded and dead on each ship.
11. Many courageous stories of survivors are shared.
12. Stories of those who worked in the clean-up crews and rebuilding of the ships.
13. The USS Nevada almost made it out of Pearl Harbor. They ran aground rather than blocking the entrance of the harbor which is what the Japanese had hoped for.
14. How President Roosevelt handled hearing the news. His words and behavior are given.
15. After the attack, the Doolittle Raid; and in brief, the Pacific War and the Japanese surrender.
16. The book ends with a closure on the people that were written about in the book. What happened to these men after the war. A list is given of those who received the Medal of Honor. A final chapter is on controversies surrounding the event.
17. When I finished the book, it was the day after Memorial Day (2018.) Books like Pearl Harbor are a vivid reminder of the true meaning of Memorial Day. I’ve read quotes on Facebook pertaining to the holiday-to remember why we have this special day. Pearl Harbor is a testament to American military men and women who gave courageously and sacrificially for American freedom.

[Review] A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France by Caroline Moorehead

Publisher and Publication Date: HarperCollins Publishers. 2011.
Genre: Nonfiction. History. World War II. France. Holocaust. Women and literature.
Pages: 374.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Public library.
Audience: Readers of history, World War II, French Resistance, and the Holocaust.
Rating: Very good.

Goodreads page for Caroline Moorehead.

Link @ Amazon.


A Train in Winter is the story of French women, from all walks of life, who were arrested and jailed in France in 1942 by the work of the Nazis and the French who were collaborators. This is also the year of the Jewish round-up in France. In January 1943, they were sent by train to Auschwitz, Birkenau. Later in the war, the women were split up and sent to other camps. For example, Ravensbruck and Mauthausen.

These women had been a part of the Resistance in France. Many of them were members of the Communist Party. Most of the women had husbands and lovers who were in the Resistance. Some were swept up in the arrests because of their affiliation.

There were 230 French women who arrived at Birkenau. Most of the women died of dysentery, disease, abuse, starvation, and execution.

My Thoughts:

This is the first nonfiction history book I’ve read specifically about the French women involved (in some way) in the Resistance during World War II. They were political prisoners.

An important thing to note about this book is it does not focus on one woman or a few women. It is a broad look at many women. When reading a book with a long list of people, the book can come across as a fact-based book. There are brief personal stories included, not lengthy stories, but brief, and these bring a personal intimate look at several of the women. In some instances, it was a mother and daughter who were arrested. In some instances, the women had young children or were pregnant. In showing a large sweeping group of women, I see a fuller picture of the Nazi’s brutality against not just a few people but a huge group of those who stood in their way. I know this in theory. I realize the depth in a book like this.

One of the women prisoners is a psychiatrist. The area she worked in brought her in to contact with Joseph Mengele, the German physician who did medical experiments at Auschwitz. She gave witness to horrendous acts.

The horrific acts against them are emotional and provocative.

One of the most important chapters is at the end. The after-effects of trauma inflicted on the women. How they were not able to articulate what had happened. Its effect on their personal lives after the war.

There is a follow-up chapter addressing those Nazi’s who brutalized them after the war ended.

[Review] On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery by Robert M. Poole

Publisher and Publication Date: Walker Books. 2009.
Genre: Nonfiction. American history. American military history.
Pages: 368.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Public library.
Audience: Readers of American history and American wars since the Civil War.
Rating: Excellent.

19 black and white photographs.

A two-page spread of a map of the cemetery.

Link for the book @ Amazon.


Robert Poole begins On Hallowed Ground with describing a typical day at the cemetery in 2005. Funeral work is from early morning until evening. There are visitors to a particular grave or visitors to tour the grounds. Background noise from the freeway and airport is heard.

The Prologue holds one of the most memorable lines I’ve read. “It was a beautiful day for a funeral. The last of the season’s cherry blossoms drifted on a cool breeze, which carried the scent of cut grass and wet stone over Arlington National Cemetery.” Page 1.

The first soldiers were buried here in May of 1864. Within a month, the cemetery was established as a resting place for the American military veterans who die.

The grounds of the cemetery were created on the site of Robert E. Lee’s plantation and home. Mrs. Lee’s previous garden area is where the Civil War officers are buried. The plantation and home were actually apart of 3 properties that were given to Mrs. Lee after the death of her father. The home is still standing at the cemetery. Civil War veterans are buried around it.

On Hallowed Ground begins with the days leading up to the Civil War and concludes with the military history and of those being buried in 2005 (those who died during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.)

My Thoughts:

This is an outstanding book. I cannot speak highly enough. It is not merely a book about the history of Arlington National Cemetery itself but is a broad look at the history of American wars from the Civil War through to 2005. It shares interesting stories I’d not heard before. For example, former President John F. Kennedy visited and toured the former Lee home in early 1963. He made a remark that became true at his death. It shares American ideology throughout the generations in regard to wars and in regard to the culture and society in those times. It shares how the Civil War has been viewed through the generations. It shares how America honors its war dead.

On Hallowed Ground is not a historical book that shares information only. It is an emotional, meaningful, respectful, honorable, and memorable story of American veterans.

This book is not a book of political slant. I fell it is honoring and respectful.

Further Thoughts:

  1. I’d not read until now, about Robert E. Lee and his family. I learned how he viewed and treated slaves. I learned how he wrestled with what to do about his role in the days before the war began. I learned how his wife did not have a clue about what had happened to their previous home and property after she left until shortly before her death. I learned how their son persevered to have closure on the previously owned property. I did not know before reading this book Mrs. Lee was related to George Washington.
  2. When the cemetery began it covered 200 acres. In 2005, the cemetery covered 624 acres with room to bury the war dead until 2060.
  3. Decoration Day began in 1868 with the former Confederate soldiers not allowed to attend. It became a national holiday, known as Memorial Day in 1888.
  4. I love how so much information is given in the book, yet it does not feel rushed to tell its story. The book has a good reading pace.
  5. I’ve not read a book about former President Wilson until reading a bit of information in this book in regard to World War I.
  6. The distinct and honorable role of Tomb Guards at the Tomb of the Unknowns is an important chapter for me. Before, I’d not know what their various duties were.
  7. There are several personal and moving stories from those who were eyewitnesses of the plane that crashed into the Pentagon, those who have loved ones buried at Arlington, and those whom it took many years to be identified for burial.
  8. Two of the most emotional stories is the mother and father who take their lawn chairs and sit beside the grave of their son who died in Iraq. They talk to him as if he is able to respond. They want to be near their beloved son. Another story is a soldier who was on the casket team at JFK’s burial, he has a follow-up story.

This book is personal for me. My grandfather served in World War I in France. My father served in Europe during WWII. He was in the Army. Dad was a D-Day Veteran and a Battle of the Bulge Veteran. He also served stateside during the Korean War in the Air Force. My brothers were in the Navy. Bobby is considered a Vietnam Veteran. My nephew served in the Navy during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. My son served in the Army. He was deployed to Iraq twice. And my paternal grandmother’s grandfather served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He enlisted in Mississippi. There have been a few stories passed down from him.

[Review] Half Notes from Berlin by B V Glants

Publisher and Publication Date: Anchor Media. October 4, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction. Young adult historical fiction.
Pages: 256.
Format: E-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and B. V. Glants. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Historical fiction readers with an interest in Holocaust stories, and those who read young adult fiction.
Rating: Very good.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Link for the book @ Barnes and Noble.

About the Author:

B.V. Glants was born in Soviet Ukraine and immigrated with his family to suburban New Jersey when he was ten years old. Raised on family stories ranging from his grandparents’ fight for survival in WW2 to his parents’ confrontations with Soviet antisemitism, he now lives in Silicon Valley with his wife and daughter.

B.V. Glants is a lay leader at a Jewish day school, a Wexner Heritage Program member, and a technology entrepreneur, most recently having cofounded Tonic Health (sold to R1, NASDAQ:RCM) and Turnkey Labs. That hasn’t stopped him from earning an MFA at California College of the Arts and attending writers’ conferences at Squaw and Sewanee. He writes historical fiction from a Jewish perspective, focusing on how major historical events challenge and transform the lives of everyday families. Half Notes from Berlin is his first published novel.


Berlin, Germany. 1933.

Hans believes he and his family are safe from persecution.

Then, he discovers his family’s dirty secret: his maternal grandparents were Jews who converted to Christianity.

Driven by the desire to understand who he is and whether his mother’s blood is tainted, Hans befriends Rebecca, the only Jewish girl he knows. Perhaps if Jewish blood isn’t evil, his mother will be ok.

To be a Jew in Hitler’s Germany is dangerous.

But to fall in love with one is unthinkable.

Desperate to keep both his family’s true heritage and his love for Rebecca a secret, Hans attempts to navigate this terrifying new world. He’s disconsolate when his Jewish mother is kicked out of the Berlin Conservatory. He’s disgusted by his Aryan father’s aims to acquire a Jewish business on the cheap.

Worst, he must watch helplessly as his classmates target Rebecca with increasing violence and malice.

But when his school announces it will expel Jewish students, Hans is determined to fight for Rebecca — and the lives and souls of his family.

“…[a] beautifully written historical debut explores themes of identity and resistance…their gripping stories will stick with readers long after the last page.” –BookLife Reviews – Editors Choice

“A mesmerizing novel, moving and intelligent.”–Kirkus Reviews

This is the link for the Kirkus Review: Half Notes from Berlin.

My Thoughts:

I’m excited to share my thoughts about this story for two reasons:

  1. This is a first published story for Glants. I love to discover new authors. I love to read a first published story.
  2. This is a favorite genre.

I want to first share a few thoughts about the genre and the summary that’s been given. The book is presented as a historical fiction story, and the summary that’s given is brief or vague.

When I am browsing books there are several factors, I want to have clear information about. Half Notes from Berlin is a historical fiction story, but it is also young adult fiction and a coming-of-age story. Not all readers of historical fiction want to read those other two types of books. I happen to love all three genres.

I also enjoy having a strong summary to read. It is the summary that sets the tone as to what I can expect. It is a prompt and a teasing and a setting of the stage for the full story.

Kirkus Reviews gives a strong summary of the book, and you can read it at this link: Kirkus Reviews.

I have come to expect that when I read historical fiction there is almost always a reflecting back from the narrator of the story. Often there are dual time periods. This is a form or structure in a story that I dislike. I don’t mind reflecting back-what I don’t like is the back and forth, and back and forth between the dual time periods. I love it that Half Notes from Berlin stayed in the past (with brief thoughts from the man who is telling the story), AND it stayed in a short period of time, the spring of 1933. This pivotal and significant period of time in the life of a 15-year-old young man. It is during this time period that changed the course of his life.

One of the best points of this story is I felt engaged because of the main character, the 15-year-old young man named Hans. He is exactly how I’d imagine a young man of his age to be. In his interests, vulnerabilities, stubbornness, and rebellion. He has strengths and weaknesses. He has a vision of what his life is and what it can become. He is a lone child of parents who are at odds and unhappy. His parents do not work together as a team. As a result, his grandparents are a source of stability. Yet, all of the adults have failed to be honest with him.

Hans has a group of boys he hangs around with in school. He joins a youth choir with the help of a female classmate who is an assertive kind of girl.

Hitler’s influence and ideology has seeped or poured into the youth groups or movements of Germany. Hans is unsure of the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, he has a building interest in another girl in his class. He is drawn to her, I feel, because she is different. There is something remarkable about her. She is vulnerable; however, she is strong. She is a Jew. The growing hate and abuse escalate among the other classmates towards her.

The story has several inner and outer conflicts that pull me along because I have to know what will happen.

I am glad the story is over a period of several weeks in the spring of 1933. This gave time to examine closely the various events and impact of the people.

I wish the story had allowed Hans’ mother’s character to develop more. She is a character with much more going on in her mind and past life. There is a revealing of some things of her past, but I am left wanting to hear her voice-her thoughts.