This book is the second in W.E.B. Griffin’s series, “The Corps.” As the second book in a long series, much of what Call to Arms does is to set up things that will happen in later books.
At the beginning of the book, a commando-type group called the Raiders is being set up in the US Marine Corps under Lt. Col Evans Carlson who had “friends in high places.” Some important officers in the USMC believe the creation of the Raiders will harm the Corps as a whole and they want someone to gather evidence that Carlson is crazy. 2nd Lieutenant Kenneth “Killer” McCoy is sent to California to perform this mission. Once there, he comes to believe in Carlson’s vision for the Raiders. McCoy is a main character in this series. He was an enlisted Marine in China before the start of WWII and has managed to work his way up to become an officer. He comes from a very humble background.
McCoy and Ernestine “Ernie” Sage are in love. Sage is very rich, as is her friend Malcolm “Pick” Pickering who is going to be starting flight training in the USMC. Pickering introduced McCoy and Sage in the previous book in this series. Sage eventually goes out to California to live with McCoy (who will not marry her as he fears that she will be widowed) while he is with the Raiders.
When Pickering gets to Pensacola, FL to begin flight training, he meets Martha Sayre Culhane. She is the daughter of an admiral and is already a war widow as her Marine fighter pilot husband was killed at Wake Island. Pickering falls in love with her, but his love is not returned. However, at the very end of the book, it appears that they might get together. This is not very important for this book, but it will be important in later books.
McCoy gets Ernie Zimmermann, a sergeant who was with him in China before the war, to be included in the Raiders as well. Later, McCoy finds out that his own brother, Thomas McCoy, has been forced into the Raiders as an alternative to being jailed for beating up a Shore Patrol officer. Again, this will become more important in later books.
Major Edward Banning had been in China as McCoy’s superior officer. Soon after Pearl Harbor, had been blinded in the Philippines and was evacuated. His blindness passed and he is now in New York City convalescing where meets Carolyn Spencer Howell, who is a librarian but is independently wealthy because of a divorce settlement. They meet while Banning is trying to find information about his wife’s ability to travel. She was a stateless Russian living in Shanghai and Banning had to leave her behind when he was ordered out of China. Banning is sent to California to see if Carlson suspects that he is being spied upon. He is sent because the Commandant of the Marine Corps has found out about the spying ordered by his subordinates and is livid about it. Banning and his story will continue to be important in later books.
Toward the end of the book, the Raiders conduct a raid on Japanese-held Makin Island in the Gilberts. McCoy acquits himself admirably, sustaining a minor wound in the process. On return to Pearl Harbor, Carlson informs McCoy that McCoy has been ordered out of the Raiders. In doing so, he makes it clear that he has known all along that McCoy was sent to spy on him.