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A Boy at War

This is the story of Adam who is the “military son” of a proud American family. Adam’s father, Navy Lt. Pelko, has been assigned to the USS Arizona that has been stationed in Pearl Harbor on the shores of Hawaii. Adam is not a stranger to moving from city to city, however he finds it difficult to fit-in to this Asian and Hawaiian culture. Adam does manage to befriend Davi, a Japanese boy in his school. After Adam’s father discovers this friendship, he tells his son that associating with the Japanese at this time is not wise. Lt. Pelko goes on to tell Adam that whatever his son does reflects back on the family. Family image, respect, and honor are important within the Pelko household. However, Adam disobeys his father and continues to socialize with Davi. As Adam and Davi are enjoying a morning of fishing in Pearl Harbor, the area is attacked by Japanese fighter planes. Chapter 9 begins the high intensity action of the bombing.

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Class issues and racial tension are evident in this book as were they during the time period of the 30’s and 40’s. War creates paranoid feelings that cause humans to over-generalize feelings toward broad groups. At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, many Americans viewed Japanese-Americans as if they were “the enemy”. Once Adam experiences the attack on Pearl Harbor and his father’s ship, he starts to view his friend Davi as the enemy and pushes him into the water. A fight is not allowed to ensue as bullets begin to fly everywhere and an officer spots the boys and takes them away.

Adam is then thrown into the role of a soldier and assists the military in fighting the Japanese. However, Adam maintains that his mission is to return home to his family. When he does, Adam realizes that his father is away (most likely on the Arizona). After several days the family becomes worried that Lt. Pelko has been killed or missing in action. A letter does finally arrive stating that Adam’s father has been labeled missing in action. Adam’s family then is instructed to leave Hawaii to move onto a new phase of their lives. However, before Adam leaves he is able to reconcile his feelings toward Davi.