Chapters 1 and 2 Summary

Eleven-year-old Phillip Enright lives on the Dutch island of Curacao, just off the coast of Venezuela. In 1939 his father, an expert in refineries and gasoline production, was summoned to work in Curacao for the war effort. Phillip’s mother, a nervous woman, was very unhappy about the family’s move to the island from their home in Virginia. It is now February 1942, and German submarines have just attacked the refinery on the nearby island of Aruba. Although his mother warns him to stay close to home in the aftermath of the attack, Phillip is caught up in the excitement following the event and goes down to the shore with his Dutch best friend, Henrik van Boven.

The boys first visit the old fort by the water, where they often play. They are surprised and somewhat sobered to find the facility manned by “real soldiers with rifles and machine guns” who chase them away. Phillip and Henrik then go to the Queen Emma pontoon bridge, where it is uncharacteristically quiet—the native schooners are all tied to the docks, and the Black men who work there are not laughing and shouting the way they usually do. An army officer arrives in a truck and asks the people on the bridge to leave. The boys are frightened by the eerie emptiness of the sea and return to their homes in Scharloo.

Phillip’s mother has an angry, emotional outburst when she learns that he disobeyed her and went to the shore in hopes of seeing a submarine. In contrast, when Phillip’s father returns home from work, he speaks openly and reasonably with his son about the attack and the possibility that there might be others. When Phillip asks why the men on the island do not go out and fight the enemy, his father replies gravely that they do not have the weapons with which to defend themselves.

That night, Phillip hears his parents arguing. His mother wants to take Phillip to Norfolk immediately, where she believes they will be safe, but his father insists...

(The entire section is 578 words.)