If you didn’t play poker, and if you weren’t heaving and moaning with seasickness, there really wasn’t much to do but stare out at the slate-gray waters of theAtlantic Ocean, at the line of ships in the convoy that seemed to stretch endlessly toward the horizon.

Remembering all those lectures he’d sat through inOfficerCandidateSchoolon the importance of discipline and structure, Second Lieutenant Freed had tried to get the men in his squad to daily PT. The 12 men would have none of it: Four were honestly too seasick to get out of their crowded berths, and the rest were reluctant, uncooperative, and just plain uninterested.

By Day Three of sailing, Moe’s CO, Major John Stafford, gently suggested that this wasn’t the time for these activities. “Let them goof off a little, Freed. Plenty of time inEnglandto whip them into shape.” He looked at his junior officer, fresh out of OCS and clearly determined to be a leader of men. “Let the guys get to know you a little more, and you get to know them.

“You’re about the only officer in the whole outfit who isn’t green about the gills, Freed.” he added. “How do you do it?”

Moe laughed. “I guess it happens when you grow up next to the ocean.”

“Lucky man. Enjoy your pleasure cruise.”

The next day Moe censored some of his men’s letters and reread a technical manual. In honor of Luigi he’d decided to improve his Italian, and he spent a few hours wrestling with Dante’s Inferno in the original.

Before Moe’s departure Reb Leibush had urged him to join an unusual and fairly new program called daf yomi, which, he said, had been becoming more and more popular inEuropeuntil the Germans had declared war on Yidden and Yiddishkeit. To his surprise, Moe had found that he enjoyed the fast-paced learning in the small, one-volume Gemara (four amudim to a page!) that he took with him everywhere. The daf took him another two hours — and then all that was left to do was to stand over the guardrail, watch the waves, and think.

As he gazed at the dark waters and the foamy white wake of the ship in front of them, Moe finally stopped replaying his final farewell to his father. Papa, Annie and Abe, the hotel, Coney, everything in his past seemed to be fading like the morning mist over the sea. There was only now — this overcrowded ship, and later — when he would meet the war face-to-face.

How would he act when he was finally in battle? He remembered Harry’s words — you are one strong and brave soldier — and treasured them. He stared at the sky and imagined floating through it, a parachute on his back, a machine gun strapped to his chest. There would be Germans down there, waiting, with their flak and their grenades and their tanks and their burp guns all spewing death to the Americans. Death to the Jew. Would he be afraid? Or would he lead his men with courage and confidence?