Douglas Roberts, first lieutenant of the U.S.S. Reluctant. A born leader, he is sensitive, perceptive, and idealistic. Desiring battle action, he has nevertheless heroically adjusted himself to the dull routine of a supply ship. He is worshiped by the crew, almost worshiped by his fellow officers, and hated by the captain, who fears him and yet refuses to transfer him to another ship. He finally gets his transfer but is ironically killed while drinking coffee in a wardroom when a kamikaze plane hits his destroyer.
Captain Morton, skipper of the Reluctant. He is officious, childish, and unreasonable, and he is thoroughly disliked or hated by his entire crew. His hatred of Mr. Roberts is closely related to his recognition and envy of Roberts’ superior intelligence and ability.
Ensign Keith, a former college boy and recently commissioned Bostonian who learns quickly the comparative unimportance of Navy rules and regulations aboard the Reluctant.
David Bookser, a seaman, the spiritual type who manages to get himself a beautiful woman while on shore leave, to the amazement and admiration of his shipmates.
Ensign Pulver, a healthy young officer who not only hates Captain Morton but delights in plotting against him. After getting news of Mr. Roberts’ death, Pulver tosses all of Captain Morton’s beloved palm trees over the ship’s side.
Doc, the ship’s doctor, a plump, balding, contradictory, unpredictable little man, sometimes highly regarded and sometimes despised by his patients.
Frank Thompson, a radio man whose baby dies and who vainly seeks permission to fly to the United States for the funeral.
Chief Dowdy, a close friend of Mr. Roberts.
Red Stevens, a recently married seaman who nearly kills another seaman for cruelly ribbing him about his wife’s hypothetical infidelities during his absence.
Miss Williamson and
Miss Girard, two Navy nurses.