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AWAY ALL BOATS

AWAY ALL BOATS (1954). Kenneth Dodson (1907–1999) wrote Away
All Boats, perhaps the best novel on amphibious warfare, at the personal
encouragement and friendship of poet Carl Sandburg.* Sandburg, who had
seen letters Dodson wrote home to his wife from the Pacific during World
War II, was intrigued by their descriptive quality.
The detail of boats, rigging, debarkation beachmasters, and kamikazes
found in Away All Boats is authentic. The protagonist of the novel closely
mirrors Dodson, a former merchant mariner who is not entirely happy about
having given up his lucrative maritime profession but who grows to love his
ship and its crew. The fictional U.S.S. Belinda, like the U.S.S. Pierce (Dodson’s ship), participates in most of the major landings of the Central Pacific
drive toward Japan and undergoes trouble with its unbalanced skipper, Captain Hawks. Hawks has the ship’s carpenter build him a personal sailboat
with lumber meant for the ship’s boats and sails it with red sails through
the fleet in the sunsets of Pacific anchorages, just as Dodson’s own captain
had done. In the crisis the captain dies, but the ship survives a kamikaze hit
due to the expertise of the protagonist.
The novel succeeds largely because the author knows his material. The
book focuses on the small stories of dozens of humble individuals and follows them to the end of the war as they become an expert amphibious crew.
A film adaptation in 1956 starred Jeff Chandler.