Victor “Pug” Henry
Victor “Pug” Henry, a career U.S. Navy officer. A short, physically fit man in his late forties, slightly graying, Henry has aspirations of becoming an admiral, perhaps even chief of naval operations. He is a family man, though relations with his wife sometimes are strained. He takes an active interest in the lives of his three children. On the way to his post as naval attaché in Berlin, he meets the Tudsburys, father and daughter, leading to his developing a fondness for Pamela Tudsbury. His assignment in Berlin and the patronage of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt give him the opportunity to meet Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill and to be present in Europe at the outbreak of World War II. Visiting Great Britain shortly thereafter, he finds himself taken along as an observer on a bombing run over Berlin. After completing his assignment in Berlin and returning to Washington, D.C., Henry carries out several important missions for the president. He is present at Roosevelt’s historic meeting with Churchill in the North Atlantic and is posted to Moscow, where he meets Joseph Stalin. Throughout, Henry repeatedly attempts to get assigned to sea duty; he is granted his wish, only to reach Pearl Harbor the day after the Japanese raid that sinks the battleship he was to have commanded.
Rhoda Henry, a Navy wife approaching fifty and still attractive. She is growing tired of the demands placed on the wife of a career officer and is suffering from a middle-age depression. Rhoda accompanies her husband to Berlin, where she meets Palmer Kirby, with whom she ultimately has an affair after the Henrys return to Washington. She attempts to hold the family together despite her own transgressions, keeping her infidelity a secret. She establishes a fine household in Washington that serves as a home for Victor Henry and the three children when they are not off serving abroad or working away from Washington.
Natalie Jastrow, a research assistant for her uncle, Aaron Jastrow, a noted historian. A lissome woman of thirty who has renounced her Jewish ancestry, she led a wild life before settling down with her uncle in Siena, Italy. Initially devoted to Leslie Slote, she gradually falls in love with Byron Henry. With Byron, she visits Slote in Warsaw and witnesses German atrocities there, but she has difficulty convincing her uncle to leave Italy. Separated from Byron, who has gone to submarine school in the United States, she finally begins a trek toward freedom, but the Germans block her way. She manages to meet Byron in Lisbon. They marry there but are quickly separated again. Natalie, now pregnant, tries even more earnestly to get her uncle to leave Italy, but nothing is successful. After giving birth to Louis Henry, she makes further attempts to evade the grasp of the Germans. She is caught in Axis-occupied territory when the United States enters the war.
Byron Henry, a handsome, red-haired young man in his mid-twenties, unsure of his goals in life but ultimately pressed into military service just as the United States enters the worldwide conflict. Openly rebelling against his father, Byron travels to Europe to pursue a career in art. He secures a job as secretary to Aaron Jastrow and falls in love with coworker Natalie Jastrow. Even though he and Natalie see the horrors of Hitler’s invasion of Poland, he is unable to persuade her to leave her uncle as World War II breaks out in Europe. They both go to Warren Henry’s wedding in Florida, but Natalie returns to Siena when Byron goes to submarine school. Byron manages to be reunited with Natalie in Lisbon, where his submarine docks briefly, and the two are married. The war separates them again, however, and Byron goes to the Pacific theater to serve aboard a submarine there.
Pamela Tudsbury, a personal assistant to her father, Alistair Tudsbury. A woman approaching thirty, of decent figure and wholesome if not stunning beauty, she has devoted her life to aiding her father in promoting British nationalism through his newspaper and radio work. She accompanies him on worldwide trips and meets Victor Henry aboard a ship bound for Berlin. She also travels with her father to the United States, Germany, Russia, and the Far East, crossing paths with Henry. She is captivated by the older man and falls deeply in love with him. She is present with Victor at the bombing of London and is with her father in Singapore when the Japanese invade and capture it.
Aaron Jastrow, a prominent American Jew and an internationally known historian. Nearly sixty-five years old, Jastrow has...