Adam’s father and his crew died when the battleship Arizona sank during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. To his horror, Adam witnessed the sinking. In fact, he and two of his buddies were actually out in the harbor near the Arizona when it exploded and sank. The concussive wave from the huge sinking ship dumped Adam and his buddies from their rowboat right into Pear Harbor.
At age seventeen, Adam wants to join the war effort. He feels it is the honorable thing to do to avenge his father’s death. Since he is not eighteen, he cannot join the Marines because his mother will not sign waiver papers. Cleverly, Adam tells his mother he wants to visit his grandfather’s farm on the East Coast because he is bored to death with life in Bakersfield, California.
Adam has little difficulty persuading his grandfather, a World War I veteran who has lost an arm, to sign for him. Within a very short time, Adam is in the Marines facing all the physical and mental duress imposed on his mind and body by his training. Adam refuses to drop out. He believes officers who tell him "the training will keep you alive in combat."
As a Marine graduate in the spring of 1945, Adam finds himself shipboard heading for the island of Okinawa, a last major Japanese stronghold before Japan itself. Strangely, his entire outfit lands from their LST without gunfire, yet Adam can hear and feel the formidable rumbling of distant guns and explosions at both ends of the island.
Sergeant Rosenthal leads Adam’s platoon over several hills toward the battlefront. Adam cannot believe the carnage he witnesses: dead bodies thrown askew, body parts lying about as if they were the dismembered segments of mannequins; and everywhere, destroyed vehicles either blown apart or burning and smoking.