Upon entering the navy my mother was very uneasy. Having gone through the trauma of my brother's life at sea serving in the navy during World War II, she realized that life at sea even in peacetime involves risk—subsequent ship operations in the Straits of Taiwan in 1958 proved her right.
My naval life at sea was fraught with a host of serious shipboard accidents that included loss of life, a man washed overboard, a collision with an aircraft carrier, and a near-death accident. In another incident our captain, who had spent a life at sea, took seriously ill at sea and had to be transferred to a destroyer for fast passage to Pearl Harbor.
As I approached the end of my term, I agonized over whether to leave the navy or to make a career of life at sea. Would a navy career be challenging enough? Was I willing to accept all the risks associated with a "life at sea" career?
The artillery shellings during the Taiwan Strait Crisis had given us a taste of military engagement. I came away from that experience asking myself if I had seen enough of life at sea. Did I possess the warrior spirit? Was a life at sea what I really wanted? The dangerous but unrelated shipboard accidents whetted that curiosity, too. Even in those non-combative situations we experienced death and destruction. These deliberations would greatly affect my later choice between spending a life at sea and reverting to civilian life.
White Sails explores the reasons for the final decision, but apart from the decision, having served is one of the proudest things I have done in my life.