Although World War II seemed so far away from the Enright's West Indian home in the Theodore Taylor novel, The Cay, Curacao was threatened by the possibility of German U-boat attacks because of the oil production facility on the island. The Germans had attacked "the big Labo oil refinery on Aruba" as early as February 1942. Tankers filled with crude from the neighboring Venezuelan oil fields and bound for the Allied war effort had also been torpedoed. Because of the prospective oil production, the Dutch West Indies had been targeted for German attacks.
In addition to the U-boat threat to oil tankers, there was a distinct chance that the island itself may be attacked from sea or from air bombardment. There was also a fear that the island might be invaded by German soldiers as well.
By the governor's orders, not a light could shine anywhere on the whole island (at night).
There was also the possibility that the island would run out of fresh water, since most drinking water was imported by American or English tankers "in ballast, and then it was distilled again so we could drink it." Fresh food also became scarce since Chinese crewmen aboard the local sailing schooners had refused to work.