A first novel by a Naval Reserve officer covers what must be known territory-for he served aboard a destroyer- and his story of whose is the guilt for the peace-time loss of the Dobbs holds a sure nautical line. But imposing these characters on her death:- the self seeking, popular, Captain Rush; the warped -- but regulation-minded -- new captain, Karst; the unmilitary-minded gunnery officer, Lt. J.G. Byrnes (Beaver); and eventually an officer in the Formal Court of Inquiry after the sinking of the Dobbs -- involves an intricate measuring of their effects -- on each other, the discipline of the ship, and in the inquiry. Karst finds the Dobbs, which has had a proud record in the war, a sloppy, loose, disorganized command but his ""piss-poor psychology"" does not inspire the men to maintain his rule that ""in peacetime you train for disaster..."" Stateside or on Pacific maneuvers, Beaver, civilian officer and conditioned by Rush's previous, lax control, has little stamina to withstand Karst's 16 year old daughter or the charms of a Japanese shacking-up, the orders for VD prevention, the correctness of Karst's regulations. So that, with conflict between Beaver and Karst, when the carrier Wake sinks the Dobbs in a prescribed operation and 206 are dead, where is the blame? Lacking the taste of Mr. Roberts, attempting the maleness of The Caine Mutiny, this still packs a moral query that is unanswered. It does, too, lean heavily on sex.