Convoy PQ 17, a ragtag assortment of converted merchant vessels with an ineffective naval escort assigned to deliver lend-lease arms to Russia in 1942, introduces us to a different brand of heroism from that of Shapiro's Screaming Eagles (p. 986, J-320). Much in the manner of his Air Raid--Pearl Harbor! (1971) Taylor splices together a documentary overview of tangled communications, faulty intelligence, and cold-blooded risk-cutting: in the mistaken belief that the German battleship Tirpitz was in the area, naval brass ordered the convoy scattered, allowing the helpless tubs to be picked off by enemy bombs and torpedos. Some crews went down fighting while others decided to ""sit out"" the war in isolated harbors. Taylor zeros in on the unprepossessing courage of Ensign Carroway, a newly mustered South Carolinian who referred to himself (in a diary excerpted here) as the ""Great American Chicken,"" stepped forward to volunteer for a commando raid against a Nazi-held radio station, and was hugely relieved to find that the Russians had done the job for him. The saga explains why SNAFU became a useful addition to military vocabularies, and with the rhetoric of invincibility stripped away, the individual dramas of men like Ensign Carroway take on a significance that a whole platoon of Screaming Eagles couldn't claim.