The conversation between Brinker and his father reveals their very different attitudes toward World War II. Mr. Hadley sees the war as an opportunity for young men to prove themselves, to establish a war record full of daring feats that will serve them well in the future by impressing others. He speaks of the war as offering excitement and a chance to serve one's country. The more danger the better, he suggests, because the boys largely will be judged by how much action they saw in battle. He tells Gene and Finny that he is jealous of their getting to go to the war; he remembers his own war experience fondly.
Brinker's attitude toward the war is entirely different. He fears it tremendously and has tried to find a way to serve that keeps him out of danger. His latest plan is to join the Coast Guard, an idea that his father does not find acceptable at all. Brinker feels bitter about the pressure he father exerts on him and expresses it to Gene after Mr. Hadley leaves:
I'm enlisting . . . I'm going to "serve" as he puts it, I may even get killed. But I'll be damned if I'll have that Nathan Hale attitude of his about it. It's all that World War I malarkey that gets me. They're all children about that war, did you never notice? . . . It gives me a pain, personally. I'm not any kind of hero, and neither are you. And neither is the old man, and he never was, and I don't care what he says he almost did at Chateau-Thierry.
Brinker blames his father's generation for starting the war that he and Gene will have to fight.