1973. The skies over Vietnam have finally gone silent. America has pulled out and the war is over. But for Lt. Jake Grafton, USN, fresh from two combat cruises and a harrowing shoot-down over Laos, the personal battle is just beginning.
His country has not welcomed him home with open arms, but with closed minds and closed fists. When his girlfriend's father called him a murderer, Jake walked away. But when a stranger in a bar challenged his honour, the man was not so lucky - the guy landed in the hospital. Jake landed in jail. And now Grafton's commander, who bailed him out, has devised the perfect punishment: an eight-month mission teaching jarheads - Marines - the nuances of carrier aviation.
The Marines may be made of tempered steel and brass balls, but taking off and landing from a slippery flight deck, on a choppy sea, in pitch-black, there is no margin for error - or for animosity. And men like Marine Captain Flap Le Beau, Grafton's bombardier/navigator, have a real gift for pushing Jake's buttons.
But he's going to have to learn to live with him, as now they must fly together in the same cockpit, and make the split-second decisions which will insure that, tonight, their fellow pilots don't raise a glass to them