Annapolis in February 1968, with zealot midshipmen studying and training and losing themselves in sports. . . while in Vietnam the Tet Offensive is smashing the US Special Forces. And most zealous of all is senior Bill Fogarty, going for the Marines, who rises an hour early to get in his running despite snow and ice, grieves over his buddies' deaths or cripplings, and has no patience with weakling plebe John Dean: Dean is perhaps the brightest student now at Annapolis but is too needle-shy to give blood. So, while Fogarty leans hard on Dean (forcing him to sleep nude on springs, to run before dawn), Webb presents a parallel conflict: Captain Ted Lenahan, well-decorated hero back from Vietnam and now Company Officer for Marines, is a believer in a non-regulation sort of leadership and is being run ragged by his immediate superior, Commander Mad Pratt--a supreme boor who writes Ted's fitness reports and controls his career. And thus, while Fogarty goes to a former classmate's funeral (""this boasting, jesting madman who would soon disappear inside a cold hole""), Lenahan visits a paralyzed classmate with a cupful of brain missing. Finally, then, Dean eventually runs over an icy seawall in the dark and emerges in everyone's eyes as a potential officer--but Fogarty's drill has made him fail a chemistry exam, and an investigation of that and of a food riot against Mad Pratt lead to Fogarty's expulsion and Lenahan's transfer back to Vietnam. Rather simple-minded and contrived--but a big improvement over Fields of Fire, with crisp detail on the Annapolis experience.