"Situation quiet; the Captain's
been put away for the night."
It was not a mutiny in the old-time sense, of course, with flashing of cutlasses, a captain in chains, and desperate sailors turning outlaws. After all, it happened in 1944 in the United States Navy. But the court on inquiry recommended trial for mutiny, and the episode became known as "the Caine mutiny" throughout the service.
The 1951 Pulitzer-Prize winner for Literature, The Caine Mutiny
was written by Herman Wouk. He adapted the novel into a play, "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial", which opened shortly before a film version of the novel, also titled The Caine Mutiny
, was released in 1954 starring Humphrey Bogart
, José Ferrer, Van Johnson, and Fred MacMurray.
A young sailor, Ens. Keith, graduates from Officer Candidate school and is immediately assigned to the destroyer-minesweeper Caine
. Its first CO, Commander DeVriess, is uncouth and sloppy, but also an effective and well-respected commander. When he receives a promotion, he is replaced by the mercurial Lt. Cmdr. Queeg
, a strict and unreasonably demanding man.
The story follows the Caine's
tour of duty through the Pacific Theatre of World War II
. During its voyage, Queeg gradually loses the respect of his crew through various instances of incompetence, bullying, paranoia, and perceived cowardice. After he becomes so obsessed with a missing quart of strawberries that he begins to ignore his other duties, some of his officers begin to suspect that he is insane.
Everything comes to a head when the Caine
is caught in a typhoon, during which Queeg becomes paralyzed by indecision. His second-in-command, Lt. Maryk, relieves him, citing mental illness, and brings the ship safely through the storm. Such an extreme act must be justified if Maryk (and Keith, who, as officer of the watch, supported him) is not to be found guilty of mutiny.
The next part of the book deals with Maryk's trial. His defender, Lt. Greenwald, chooses to focus more on Queeg's actions than on Maryk's, eventually causing Queeg to break down on the stand. Maryk is acquitted (and Keith is never charged), but his and Queeg's naval careers are effectively over.
Keith returns to the Caine
, where he serves as Executive Officer. When the ship is struck by a Kamikaze off Okinawa, he keeps his head and saves her and most of her crew when the current commander, Keefer (who was instrumental in Queeg's downfall) panics and jumps overboard. Instead of being repaired, the Caine
is ordered to New York for decommissioning. As the officer assigned to take her home, Keith has the bittersweet honor of being the last captain of the Caine
's character has since become
a model for The Neidermeyer
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