General Edward Cummings
General Edward Cummings, the commander of an American division attempting to subdue Japanese troops on the fictitious Pacific island of Anopopei. Cummings is a West Pointer, a career soldier who is convinced that the United States is destined to become the next imperial power and that the Army, which will play a major role in the coming years, can be his path to the power he needs. A latent homosexual, Cummings is fanatical about neatness and cleanliness. He selects Lieutenant Hearn as his aide and instructs the younger man and treats him favorably until Hearn, in a deliberate act, violates Cummings’ phobia about cleanliness. When the campaign stalls, Cummings decides to send a small platoon to reconnoiter a possible way to take the Japanese force from the rear, and he exiles Hearn by giving him command of the platoon. Cummings’ division finally wins the campaign, before the platoon has completed its mission, but it is a hollow victory and he receives little credit.
Lieutenant Robert Hearn
Lieutenant Robert Hearn, the Harvard-educated son of a successful businessman. He has drifted since graduation, working as a union organizer and finding plenty of women but still looking for meaning in his life. He argues with Cummings and tries to reject what Cummings stands for, but he finds that he is being bent to Cummings’ will by the combination of favoritism and discipline that Cummings employs. Deliberately offending Cummings, he is relieved to be assigned to command the I and R (Intelligence and Reconnaissance) platoon on its dangerous mission. He is killed in ambush before the mission is completed.
Staff Sergeant Sam Croft
Staff Sergeant Sam Croft, a tough Texan who rules the I and R platoon until Hearn is assigned to it. He has grown up in the hard life of small-town West Texas and found his greatest joys in hunting and in fighting. He killed his first man while on strike-breaking duty with the National Guard and...
(The entire section is 825 words.)