In the spring of 1940, Lt. j.g. Alan Ericsson is wondering what to request for his next assignment. World War II looms ahead for the US, as war resumes in Europe and the Germans roll over Norway, the Low Countries and France. He is serving in a desk job at the Newport Torpedo Station after a serious blunder upset his promising career in the submarine service. Also disappointing is that, at the advanced age of 28, his search has not found the right woman. Then a woman turns up whom he has admired for years, but who was previously engaged. Jennifer is then a civilian working for the navy.
That summer, as England narrowly avoids disaster in the Battle of Britain, the importance of aviation is established beyond doubt. By late summer Alan has made two big decisions: he proposes to Jennifer, she accepts, and he succeeds in transferring to naval aviation. Flight training takes him to new adventures, but far away from her, although she also soon leaves Newport for a position in naval intelligence in Washington DC.
When Alan finishes flight training in the late spring of 1941, they marry and they are happy that Alan is assigned to a carrier squadron based in Norfolk, close enough to get together on some weekends. By late summer they are on diverging tracks again: Jennifer transfers to Pearl Harbor and Alan goes off for carrier duty in the North Atlantic. Alan achieves his goal of being accepted into the close fraternity of carrier pilots by the time the ship returns to Norfolk in December.
Then the Japanese make their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. This sets off a frantic scramble to get on a war footing, including preparing the carrier to go to the Pacific, where Alan will probably be able to see Jennifer eventually. Overshadowing this is his anxiety about whether she was injured or killed in the attack, a question that might remain unanswered for weeks.
The story includes a careful description of the exciting events and technical progress of the time.