The crew of the USS George Dewey braves storms and enemy gunfire near the end of the Korean War in this first in Tennent’s series.
Friends Jim Taylor and Mike Shannon, newly commissioned line officers in the U.S. Navy Reserve, receive assignments as America takes the offensive to undermine North Korea’s stall tactics regarding the cease-fire agreement. Taylor’s love of sailing quickly gets him appointed forward observer, one who leads missions in whaleboats to scout targets on Korean soil. Meanwhile, both he and Shannon undergo rigorous training aboard the destroyer, while Taylor must contend with a lieutenant who’s taken a rather strong dislike to him. The author’s wartime novel quickly sets a fraught mood. It opens with the two friends anticipating a week off; instead they’re sent immediately to their station. Scenes on the Dewey are often anxiety-inducing, particularly the few times that the ship is attacked. Much of the story is told from the perspective of Taylor, whose adjustments to the constantly pitching sea can be a welcome relief from the tension of the ship. He continually bumps his head on girders while trying to get to his bunk on the first night, occasionally toppling, and even lodges a knee and ankle under pipes so he’ll stop rolling and be able to sleep. Taylor forces himself to use nautical terms, which helps readers unfamiliar with the jargon. Dramatic conflict comes mostly in the form of Haigal, an officer who hassles Taylor. Not surprisingly, there’s little female presence. But the few women who appear, including the matriarch of a family aboard a junk (a boat used, in this case, for fishing) and a table of Navy nurses at a club, add nothing to the plot, as they’re all nameless. The most exhilarating sequences involve Taylor in action, as he and his crew elude patrol boats and dodge mines. But even back on the destroyer, Taylor, Shannon and the rest face stressful episodes such as a typhoon and the dreaded hang fire—when a discharged gun doesn’t fire, leaving a projectile that could explode at any moment.
Less harrowing than the usual war novel but equally gripping.