"I am completely smitten with the Lunch with Books patrons...who welcomed me like a long-lost cousin. It takes two to have a successful reading: an enthusiastic presenter and an engaged audience, and boy did the stars align for us." -Marie Manilla, Still Life with Plums

"Lunch With Books is an outstanding program -- one of the best in the country." -NPR Journalist Matthew Algeo, The President is a Sick Man

"With a new book in hand, I’ve visited a lot of libraries lately, and I think the Ohio County Public Library is my all-time favorite. People are kind and welcoming, and deeply appreciate a visiting writer." -Jaimy Gordon, Lord of Misrule (National Book Award)

“I wanted the book launch to be at Lunch With Books because it is the best library book program in West Virginia and because Wheeling and the Wheeling area was centrally involved in so many of the firsts in West Virginia sports.” –Bob Barnett, Hillside Fields: A History of Sports in West Virginia

This blog is being discontinued.

This blog is being discontinued.
Please visit: www.ohiocountylibrary.org/calendar

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Survivor's Story

Lunch With Books was very honored to host Wheeling resident and distinguished WWII veteran Paul McGinnis last Tuesday, September 25th. A large audience of 53 people assembled to hear a harrowing and touching story of survival.

Mr. McGinnis began his service as a signalman aboard the USS Indianapolis in 1944. During his time on board the heavy cruiser, he witnessed and barely dodged a Kamikaze attack that took the lives of 9 men. In 1945 the Indianapolis delivered to the island of Tinian the parts for the atomic bomb later detonated over Hiroshima, Japan. Soon after the delivery, the Indianapolis was struck by Japanese torpedoes and sunk. With great sadness, Mr. McGinnis described the agonized screams of the men burned alive in a horrific oil fire. Alone in the water after abandoning ship, Mr. McGinnis watched the Indianapolis rise vertically to stand straight up above the sea, bow forward, before slipping beneath the waves. With great emotion, Mr. McGinnis described the horrible fate he imagined for those men trapped on board as the pressure of the sea's depths crushed the ship with them still inside.

After joining a group of survivors in the water, Mr. McGinnis said he did his best to improve morale by singing marching songs he learned at the University of Illinois where he had been trained as a signalman. At one point, Mr. McGinnis encountered a sailor named Fred Kouski from Bridgeport Ohio who had been badly burned during the attack. Mr. Kouski later died at sea.

Although the Indianapolis incident is infamous as one of the worst documented examples of mass shark attack, not all of the survivors encountered sharks. In fact Mr. McGinnis was very happy to report that he was one of the men who actually never saw a shark while in the water. He did, however, hear the horrifying screams of other men as they fought off attack.

As the days went by, the men began to suffer greatly from dehydration. Mr. McGinnis described dreaming about drinking iced tea and lemonade, which he said always tasted salty. This led him to believe that he may have unconsciously drunk some salt water, a hazardous activity that caused many of the men to hallucinate badly, and eventually killed them. Mr. McGinnis also described the cyclical suffering he experienced from being burned by the sun reflecting off the mirrorlike surface of the sea during the day, then being chilled to the bone in the icy waters at night.

By the time the men were rescued, groups of survivors stretched 13 miles across the surface of the ocean. Mr. McGinnis described how men were strapped to the wings of one of the rescue planes to keep them safe from shark attack until rescue ships could arrive. As the rescue began, a plane dropped a can of water near Mr McGinnis. He was unable to reach it in time and watched it sink to the bottom of the ocean. The same plane then circled and dropped another can of water in the exact same spot, an improbable bit of sharpshooting that Mr. McGinnis called a "miracle". He was able to retreive the can and drink the water, which he said probably saved his life. He later felt guilty for not sharing the water.
Mr. McGinnis concluded by describing the long fight by the Indianapolis survivors to clear the name of their Captain Charles McVay, who was blamed for the tragedy. The efforts of the crew were finally rewarded as the U.S. Congress finally exonerated McVay in 2000.

While 1197 men served aboard the Indianapolis, only 317 emerged from the ocean still alive, a fact which still causes a great deal of sadness for Paul McGinnis.

When asked by an audience member if he had been on the ocean since, Mr McGinnis allowed that he had waded into the surf, but that cruises aboard ships are not for him. In response to another audience question, Mr.McGinnis said that he joined the navy at the tender age of 17 and that when the Indianapolis was sunk, he was only 19 years of age.

Mr. McGinnis received a standing ovation from the Lunch With Books audience.

Mr. McGinnis's full story, along with the stories on many other survivors of the Indianapolis, can be found in the book Only 317 Survived.
Paul McGinnis listens to a question from an audience member.

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Top Ten Lunch With Books Programs

Program; Presenter; Attendance; Date

1. SAENGERFEST; Eintracht German Singing Society; 200; 07-17-10

2. A Lucky Child; Auschwitz Survivor Judge Thomas Buergenthal; 198; 03-04-11

3. Fashion Show; Civil War 150; 194; 11-20-11

4. Ruanaidh; Art Rooney, Jr. and Jim O'Brien; 168; 06-15-10

5. Follow the River; James Alexander Thom; 160; 06-05-08

6. Warwood Memories; 157; 12-18-12

7. The Quiet Man Pub Reading; 150; 08-30-12

8. Wheeling Then and Now; Sean Duffy; 146; 09-07-10

9. Bloch Brother Tobacco; Stuart Bloch; 131; 04-27-10

10. Reasons to Believe; Dr. Scott Hahn; 126; 08-21-07

Book Discussion Groups

The Ohio County Public Library facilitates book discussion groups for both young adults and adults. Currently, the OCPL offers two adult groups, which meet on the first Monday and third Thursday of each month.

In addition to its own growing collection, the OCPL has access to the book discussion collection of the West Virginia Library Commission.

To join or form a book discussion group, or for more information, please call 304-232-0244.

Meeting of the Minds Philosophy Group

The Meeting of the Minds Philosophic Inquiry Forum is facilitated by David Weimer. The group meets virtually every Tuesday at 6 PM. Call the library for meeting room locations.

For more information, visit www.firstknowthyself.org/m&mphilosophy.htm or contact group organizer, David Weimer, at 740 526-0985 or by email at dwwweimer@comcast.net..