The terrible, quiet tragedy of humanity abandoned for conformity to the letter of the law evolves from this skillful portrait of men at war. The Captain, in rank a lieutenant in the Naval Reserve, commanded an boat in the Pacific theatre of World War II. Challenging, demanding his understanding were the explosive personal conflicts of his men-Officer Gil, sensitive, thrown by his need of love to Esprito of doubtful reputation; engineer Swett, attempting sabotage in resentment of discipline; loyal Mac; Buck, a capable egro, who wanted only the promised promotion the Navy never gave him; Major Forbes of the , whose rescue from death by the Captain was refused by the Commander; and an assortment of good, bad, lonely and tired men. It is the Captain who makes adjustments -- cutting in Naval orders; taking on forbidden operations to save men under fire; and trying esperately to keep open the channel between military expediency and human needs. But like all liberals with a conscience, he fails to satisfy the mores of the militarist, and is discharged from his duty. Of individual integrity and mass efficiency, this the sad balance sheet.