I realize some of this book is based on fact but most of its content is good fiction thanks to some very good story lines by the author. I have always been a WWII buff so I was anxious to read this new twist that includes a disastrous event that actually took place during the war involving our own military men. You have to realize that during WWII race relations were strained in many parts of the United States. With the military telling the various branches of those serving our nation that there had to be integration, not segregation, that produced a powder keg within all ranks of those serving in our military. While many of us today still see some of that division between Negroes and whites, it was much worse in wartime since trust had to be there to survive the enemy as well as those in your own branch of service.
Max Collins, writing under the pseudonym of Patrick Culhane, tells a very believable tale that takes place as a new ship is preparing to take on a new crew of officers and enlisted men. This ship, the fictional merchant ship dubbed the USS Liberty Hill, was built to haul ammunition wherever needed in the Pacific area. The “Fantail Four” as they called themselves made a pact to try to go to serve their nation together on the same ship since these four men had been together during much of their lives, singing and playing together.
Peter Maxwell was the leader of the four that consisted of Vince Rosetti, Richard Driscoll, Ben Connor, and himself. The opening for a post on this new ship was posted and the four applied for it and were selected. They, along with several other white officers, had a huge letdown when they discovered that the entire non-commissioned crew consisted of Negroes. The adjustment is very hard and some adjusted and some could not, for both whites and colored. They trained together with Pete Maxwell leading the integration as far as most would allow it to go. This was new in the lives of all involved.
When returning from their trial run one day they witnessed a huge explosion occurring at the docks where their ship was headed and they didn’t know if it was a Japanese attack on the mainland or what it was. Several docks and ships were blown away and many men were killed and injured. This event did occur in actuality and the reader feels as though they are in the middle of this horrific action without fighting an actual enemy. The ship eventually went to another dock and the very unpopular ships commander placed the other white officers in charge of loading the ship with ammunition while he took off for some “dentist work!”
Everyone was scared to load the shipment of ammunition of all types and sizes knowing what had occurred when the explosion devastated the area. They did load the ship and while in that process the crew got to trust each other a bit more but that trust only went so far. They became part of a convoy to their destination but a storm and foul weather slowed them down. To top it all off, the ship had mechanical problems that slowed them up more. Amid Japanese airplanes strafing and bombing them, the men on board had a difficult time keeping themselves safe.
When a murder occurred on the ship during their voyage to their island destination, the investigation was run by Pete working with one of the Negro men that had been a detective with the Chicago Police Department. When only the crew and officers are on board a sailing ship, someone on board HAS to be the murderer. The story stays very mysterious and plausible. Red Sky in Morning is a great read with many twists the reader will not expect. I will not go any farther in this review but you must purchase this book to read all the exciting action.