Dyer writes of his experience on the carrier with a mix of awe, a child-like worshipfulness, elitism, and sardonicism. A fan of flight and model airplanes since his childhood, here he is in his fifties, finally invited on a huge aircraft carrier, where he insists he has to have a cabin to himself only to discover it’s located virtually under the flight deck where the pounding of planes landing threatens to deprive him of all sleep. And then he complains about the food. He constantly refers to the photographer who accompanied him as “the snapper,” but we get no sense at all of who the “snapper” is, nor his feelings about the adventure.
There’s not much to do “after work” on an aircraft carrier, at least in Dyer’s very limited perspective. Days are long, fourteen hours is the usual, and the balance of awake time is often spent studying. Alcohol and personal affection are prohibited, so, he would have us believe, one is left with little to do but indulge in dominos. “The reality is that a carrier is as crowded as a Bombay slum, with an aircraft factory—the hangar bay—in the middle. The hangar bay is the largest internal space on the boat. It’s absolutely enormous—and barely big enough for everything going on there.”
The title, “Another Great Day at Sea,” is from the Captain’s daily exhortation to the crew. It was a constantly repeated refrain, although Dyer wonders what the Captain might have intoned had they been in the middle of a North Atlantic storm.
Unable, not permitted, to go anywhere on the ship on his own, ostensibly for his own safety’s sake, one wonders just how accurate a view Dyer got of this modern marvel with the capacity to rain down death and destruction almost anywhere on the planet. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by the religiosity displayed by the officers who all enjoyed the certitude that comes from hyper-religious belief and super-patriotism. Probably a prerequisite for the job.
But at the same time, Dyer is a very good listener and he extracts some revealing personal stories from his interviews with crew members. Of course, these must never be taken as generalizations given that the George Bush carries more than 5,000 men, that’s twice the size of my closest town. Still, I very much enjoyed the book since I’m just as besotted by technology as is Dyer.
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