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War begins as calculated risk and becomes the commitment of two men to a battered hulk in Robb White's latest documentary-drama. It's 1942 and the destroyer Caron is off the Solomons. Aboard against his will is Kelsey Devereux, seaman second class who was slated to go to OCS; mama had already ordered his uniforms and he is forced to display them on deck, whereupon he is dubbed ""Admiral."" And then an enemy plane crashes against the superstructure; Kelsey calls ""Abandon ship"" and does; when he is fished out, all hands consider him a deserter. For a long time he has the worst of everything, with special attention from a sadistic bully, Ruddy, and his gang. Simultaneously the ship is completely disabled off Guadal-canal by a Japanese torpedo and the Captain does the unprecedented: he offers each man the choice of leaving the ship or remaining on board for the long, slow drift--fifty days is the estimate--to Australia. Most, including Kelsey, stay. Now it's salt water showers and k-rations and tedium. In small and large ways, Kelsey emerges as a man; when he knocks out the invincible Ruddy in desperate self-defense, he is a man to look up to. And in small and large ways, the Captain and Kelsey draw closer, a relationship that is confirmed when the two find themselves on board alone after the ship passes an Australian island, and sealed with the presentation of lieutenant's bars--the Captain's own--to Kelsey. This last is almost maudlin, and the denouement is almost melodrama, but the hard core of carefully established character prevails: being who they are, this is how they might be. With a quick hook and a steady pull, divided between concern for the ship and concern for the men, this should go as well as its predecessors.

Pub Date: Aug. 18th, 1967
Publisher: Doubleday