Literature: Debt Of Honor

Debt of Honor is the seventh Jack Ryan book written by Tom Clancy. It is the eighth book chronologically, was published in 1994, and takes place around 1995.

Two years after stopping a nuclear war and leaving government service, Ryan is once again called to duty, this time by Bob Fowler's successor Roger Durling. Because the administration has failed to successfully deal with many global issues in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union, Ryan is appointed as Durling's National Security Advisor in order to set things right.

However, unknown to him and the rest of the world, a Japanese conglomerate owner, Raizo Yamata, plots to destroy the United States and turn Japan into a global superpower in its place. Conspiring with powerful military and political figures in India and China, Yamata aims to bring ruin to the United States now that the US military has been greatly downsized due to the diminishment of the Soviet armed forces.

Debt of Honor is notable for being the first Tom Clancy book in which the Russian Federation acts as an ally, rather than as the primary antagonist, and where the Soviet Union is not the primary nation-state antagonist. It also introduces the "Northern Resource Area" plot line, which would be continued up until The Bear And The Dragon.


This novel contains examples of:

  • Action Duo: Continuing the tradition begun in Clear and Present Danger, John Clark and Domingo Chavez perform operations under Ryan and the Foleys' direction, playing major roles both prior to the beginning of hostilities and after.
  • Back from the Dead: Invoked by Clark. "Portagee" Oreza, who was retconned as being an old friend of John Kelly, is taken completely by shock when Clark shows up at his house more than twenty years after his "death" in Without Remorse.
  • Brick Joke: Of a somewhat morbid kind. In Clear and Present Danger, when Ryan had to brief then-presidential candidate Bob Fowler on intelligence matters, his brutally honest way of presenting facts makes Fowler joke that Ryan should never enter into politics. Sometime after resigning his own presidency, Fowler advised President Durling to appoint Ryan as his National Security Adviser which eventually leads to Ryan being appointed Vice President and, after Durling's death, becoming President. Meaning Ryan will be the one to actually finish out the term Fowler was elected to.
  • Buzzing The Deck: Near the end of the novel, US B-1 bombers buzz an Indian aircraft carrier and her escorts at near-supersonic speeds, causing damage to their superstructures, as a warning and show of force to prevent their moves toward annexing Sri Lanka.
  • The Chessmaster: Yamata personally engineered the collapse of the US stock markets and the leaking of the rape case against Vice President Kealty, in a bid to attack the political center of the United States, as well as the attack on US Navy warships during a training exercise and construction of nuclear ballistic missiles in order to prevent retaliation against his later objectives.
  • Cool Plane: Numerous.
    • The Japanese E-767, an AWACS on steroids, is this for the Japanese. Not only is it superior to an E-3 in virtually all categories, it can actually direct missiles at targets for its fighters, effectively making it an airborne Aegis cruiser.
    • The F-22A "Rapier" makes its first debut in the novel as a prototype, with only four of them available for use.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Yamata effectively is this.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: A minor example, combined with a hint of Overprotective Dad and Like Father, Like Son. Chavez dates Clark's daughter, Patsy, starting in this novel, and while Clark doesn't actually object, he can't help but notice the similarities between Chavez and himself.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Debt of Honor is the first novel where the Russian Federation and United States start cooperating, both militarily and in espionage. The cooperation actually begins after all the ballistic launchers for both sides are destroyed, as a direct result of the previous novel.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Invoked in the death of Kimberly Norton, where drugs were used in her murder as a cover.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Inverted: real cars don't blow up in normal crashes, and the fact that this happened was a clue to a major safety defect in Japanese cars, which was one of the major driving factors behind the Trade Reform Act.
  • Feed the Mole
    • The US news outlets were used to this extent. The Japanese believed that they had completely crippled both Enterprise and John Stennis, but Stennis was still able to conduct operations after some repairs, so Ryan used the news outlets against Japan to make them think that they had no carriers available when in fact they still had one.
    • Also used against the Japanese during negotiations, where Chris Cook is tricked into giving the Japanese delegation false information that is used to place them at a tactical disadvantage for another US operation.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: George Winston, who would later play important roles in future novels, was first introduced in Debt of Honor. He was the one who sold his controlling interest in his mutual-funds institution, the Columbus Group, to Yamata, allowing the latter to make his attack on the US economy.
  • Hot Sub-on-Sub Action: Besides the Japanese surprise attacks, Debt of Honor is the second novel in which an Ohio-class boat is used as an offensive platform (albeit because Pac Fleet had been stripped down to minimal reserves due to the closing of the Cold War).
  • Humiliation Conga: More or less what happens to Torajiro Sato at the end of of the novel. Not only content with having the Americans win at the end of the book, Clancy subjects Sato to several consecutive traumatic experiences, all in more or less the same day. First he watches his brother drown when USS Tennessee plants two torpedoes in his Aegis destroyer, then he has to identify his son's body immediately after the Americans destroy most of Saipan's fighters, then he watches as Robby Jackson lands on the island to request a surrender, then he has to fly his retreating countrymen back to Japan, including Yamata, who has been arrested, and then he comes to the realization that flying passengers to and from a Japan that has lost its honor in a war is all that remains of the rest of his life. This ultimately culminates with Sato parking his 747 on top of Capitol Hill, with most of the United States government in it.
  • It's Personal
    • It's revealed at the beginning of the novel that Yamata's reason for starting a war with the United States was because he was orphaned during World War II when his family chose to commit suicide during the invasion of Saipan rather than be captured by the Marines.
    • Ron Jones says this of his motivation for fighting against Japan, as the son of his mentor when he was a sonarman aboard USS Dallas was aboard USS Asheville when it was sunk.
  • It Won't Turn Off: Inverted — a zaibatsu watching his television in his apartment in Japan can't change the channel because the laser being used by a Comanche to guide a missile into his room is using a frequency that causes the television to stay on a certain channel.
  • Japan Takes Over the World
  • Kavorka Man: Vice President Kealty, back when he was a Senator, to the point that he drugged and raped at least two of his aides, and only escapes conviction due to a combination of political maneuvering, expediency in a time of war, and what is strongly implied is falsified evidence.
  • Kicked Upstairs: At the end of the novel, Ryan gets nominated for Vice President as a gift from Durling, because he wants out of the government, and being VP means he can never be recalled to government service again. Naturally, that doesn't work quite as planned.
  • Leave Behind a Pistol: Subverted. Yamata, with his plans un-done, asks his arresters to give him some time alone first. However, Koga, now Prime Minister again, explicitly gave orders that he be taken alive so that he could not escape from his punishment.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Yamata and his fellow zaibatsu are the sponsors behind all of the ministers of the Japanese government, who largely act as puppets for them. In particular, Hirosho Goto, the Prime Minister who succeeds Koga, was chosen by Yamata mainly for his weaknesses so that he would be easy to manipulate.
  • Mnogo Nukes: Due to both the United States and Russia destroying all of their ballistic launchers, Japan had an opening where they had nuclear missiles while their enemies did not, facilitating a major plot point of the novel.
  • Moscow Centre: Portrayed as a cooperating element for the first time in this novel, as they help in facilitating Clark's operations in Japan.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • In the beginning of the novel, Jones quips to Mancuso that USS Chicago is currently in the Arctic Ocean tracking whales. In Red Storm Rising, Chicago was the boat commanded by Mancuso's Expy Dan McCafferty, who at one point asks his sonarman to report some anomalous contacts as they are traversing the Arctic Ocean on their way to conduct attacks on Soviet air bases... which turn out to be whales.
    • Later in the same book, Jones talks about his past experience in an exercise against the USS Moosbrugger at AUTEC in a conversation when talking about how to defeat the Prairie-Masker surface sound-masking system, and briefly mentions that Moosbrugger's helicopter pilot was giving Dallas's crew fits. In Red Storm Rising, Ed Morris's helicopter pilot on Reuben James, Jerry "the Hammer" O'Malley, was formerly the chopper pilot for Moosbrugger.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Mohammed Abdul Corp is effectively a stand-in for the Somalian warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Brett Hanson, Durling's Secretary of State, is made out to be one of these. It's said that, as a former businessman, he expected that nation-states would make deals on the same principles that corporations would. He acts as an Obstructive Bureaucrat to Ryan in many instances up until the main plot of the novel unfolds.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: President Durling, continuing his characterization from his last appearance. If Ryan can come up with a plan with a chance of working, Durling will almost always give it a green light.
  • Right Man in the Wrong Place
    • Ryan, effectively, is this due to his position as National Security Advisor. He took up the job only months prior to the action beginning, and as such was in the perfect place to orchestrate the war against Japan.
    • Clark is also this. Originally he entered Japan as part of a mission to re-activate Thistle, an old Japanese commercial intelligence spy ring, but once hostilities begin he and Chavez happen to be in the perfect place to conduct operations.
  • Take a Third Option: After Japan's initial attacks on the US, Ryan finds a way to sidestep all of the problems through clever Loophole Abuse and special operations maneuvering. As President Durling noted when he gave Jack some advice, "I fought in a war where the other side made the rules. It didn't work out very well."
  • This Is My Name on Foreign: In his cover as a Russian journalist, Clark attempts to pass himself off as a Russian using the name "Ivan Klerk". When it's pointed out to him that "Klerk" is an extremely uncommon name in Russia, he explains that his grandfather was an Englishman who emigrated to Russia in the '20s and Russified his name.
  • Twenty Fifth Amendment: With the death of Durling at the end of the novel and Ryan having been sworn in as Vice President only minutes before, Ryan becomes President of the United States at the setup for Executive Orders.
  • Vice President Who: Invoked by President Durling when he appoints Jack as his new vice president. He knows Ryan has no interesting in running for president and since there will be no major legislation he will have to cast the deciding vote for in the Senate, Ryan will be barely remembered. Of course, this is actually a gift for Jack since, after serving as VP, he can never be recalled to government service. Too bad it didn't work out that way.