One way that the war is affecting Phillip's life is that the war is what brought his family to Curacao in the first place. His father was brought to the island in order to help maximize the output of a refinery for the Royal Dutch Shell company, so the entire family came with him. As the war escalates, the presence of the German submarines causes Phillip's mother and father to make the decision that Phillip and his mother will leave the island and return to the United States. The third way that the war affects Phillip's life is that the ship he is traveling on to return to the United States is torpedoed by a German submarine. This is the event that forces Phillip and Timothy onto the tiny cay for the rest of the book.