Better known for his Horatio Hornblower tales, Forester also wrote this series of short stories about the US destroyer Boon set in the Pacific during WWII. Forester is an odd sort of adventure writer, he always seems more at home with the unassuming fellow who does his duty quietly in a very decent, English sort of way. I am particularly fascinated by Forester’s attention to the role of supply and the men who get supplies where they need to be. It’s a subject close to me, for my mother served as a supply clerk in the WAVES in 1944-45 and later worked as a civilian employee of the navy in the supply department.
Quite frankly supply departments are not terribly dramatic. Supply issues get rather more interesting when they involve unloading thousands of gallons of gasoline while being bombed by the Japanese. But that is really Forester’s drawback. While he’s excellent at depicting the quiet, unassuming fellows, who keep the machine running even in the midst of disaster, one seeks in vain for a sense that sometimes things just won’t work. I occasionally found myself yearning for a character to snap under pressure. Or a hint that landing the gasoline is not enough. That war is about pointless death and waste. But that is antithetical to the style of heroism Forester strives to depict, the quiet, unassuming execution of the plan, until the job is done. It’s not a bad sort of heroism, I think a lot of people got through the war that way. God bless ‘em.