The Caine Mutiny

The Caine Mutiny is the 1951 Pulitzer Prize–winning novel by Herman Wouk. The novel grew out of Wouk's personal experiences aboard a destroyer-minesweeper in the Pacific Theater in World War II. Among its themes, it deals with the moral and ethical decisions made at sea by ship captains. The mutiny of the title is legalistic, not violent, and takes place during Typhoon Cobra, in December 1944. The court-martial that results provides the dramatic climax to the plot.

The Caine Mutiny
First edition cover
AuthorHerman Wouk
Cover artistJohn Hull[1]
Publication date
March 19, 1951[2]
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Preceded byCity Boy: The Adventures of Herbie Bookbinder (1948) 
Followed byMarjorie Morningstar (1955) 

Plot summary

USS Billingsley (DD-293)
A Clemson-class destroyer. Caine would have looked like this, but with the rearmost funnel removed.

The story is told through the eyes of Willis Seward "Willie" Keith, an affluent, callow young man, making a poor living as a nightclub piano player, who signs up for midshipman school with the United States Navy to avoid being drafted into the United States Army during World War II. The novel describes the tribulations he endures because of inner conflicts over his relationship with his domineering mother and with May Wynn, a beautiful red-haired nightclub singer, the daughter of Italian immigrants. After barely surviving a series of misadventures that earn him the highest number of demerits in his midshipman's class, he is commissioned as an ensign and assigned to the destroyer minesweeper USS Caine, an obsolete warship converted from a World War I-era destroyer.

Willie, with a low opinion of the ways of the Navy, misses his ship when it leaves on a combat assignment, and rather than catch up with it, ducks his duties to play piano for an admiral who has taken a shine to him. He has second thoughts after reading a last letter from his father, who has died of melanoma, but soon forgets his guilt in the round of parties at the admiral's house. Eventually, he reports aboard Caine. Although the ship has successfully carried out its combat missions in Willie's absence, the ensign immediately disapproves of its decaying condition and slovenly crew, which he attributes to a slackness of discipline by the ship's longtime captain, Lieutenant Commander William De Vriess.

Willie's lackadaisical attitude toward what he considers menial duties brings about a humiliating clash with De Vriess when Willie forgets to decode a communications message which serves notice that De Vriess will soon be relieved. While Willie is still pouting over his punishment, De Vriess is relieved by Lieutenant Commander Philip Francis Queeg, a strong, by-the-book figure, whom Willie at first believes to be just what the rusty Caine and its rough-necked crew needs. But Queeg has never handled a ship like this before, and he soon makes errors, to which he is unwilling to admit. Caine is sent to San Francisco for an overhaul, in an admiral's hope that the captain will make further mistakes someplace else. Before the ship departs, Queeg browbeats his officers into selling their liquor rations to him. In a breach of regulations, Queeg smuggles the liquor off the ship, and when it is lost, blackmails Willie into paying for it. Willie sees May on leave, and after sleeping with her, decides he has no future with a woman of a lower social class. He resolves to let the relationship die by not replying to her letters.

As Caine begins its missions under his command, Queeg loses the respect of the crew and loyalty of the wardroom through a series of incidents. Tensions aboard the ship cause Queeg to isolate himself from the other officers, who snub him as unworthy, believing him an oppressive coward. Queeg is dubbed "Old Yellowstain" by the officers following the invasion of Kwajalein. Ordered to escort low-lying landing craft to their line of departure, Caine instead drops a yellow dye marker to mark the spot, and hastily leaves the battle area.

Communications officer Lieutenant Thomas Keefer, an intellectual and initially a sympathetic character, plants the suggestion that Queeg might be mentally ill in the mind of Caine's executive officer, Lieutenant Stephen Maryk. He steers Maryk to "Section 184" of the Navy Regulations, according to which a subordinate can relieve a commanding officer in extraordinary circumstances.

Maryk keeps a secret log of Queeg's eccentric behavior and decides to bring it to the attention of Admiral Halsey, commanding the Third Fleet. Keefer reluctantly supports Maryk, then gets cold feet and backs out, warning Maryk that his actions will be seen as mutiny. Soon after, Caine is caught in the path of a typhoon, an ordeal that sinks three destroyers, both in the book and in the actual typhoon of December 1944. At the height of the storm, Queeg's paralysis of action convinces Maryk that he must relieve the captain of command to prevent the loss of the ship. Willie Keith, as Officer of the Deck, supports the decision. Maryk turns Caine into the wind and rides out the storm.

Maryk is tried by court-martial for "conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline" instead of "making a mutiny". Willie and Stilwell, the enlisted helmsman during the typhoon, are to be tried depending on the outcome of Maryk's trial. In the courtroom, Keefer distances himself from any responsibility for the relief. Lieutenant Barney Greenwald, a naval aviator who was an attorney in civilian life, is appointed to represent Maryk. His opinion, after the captain was found to be sane by three Navy psychiatrists, is that Maryk was legally unjustified in relieving Queeg. Despite his own disgust with Maryk's and Willie's actions, Greenwald decides to take the case after deducing Keefer's role.

During the trial, Greenwald unrelentingly cross-examines Queeg until he is overcome by the stress. Greenwald's tactic of attacking Queeg results in Maryk's acquittal and the dropping of charges against Willie. Maryk, who had aspired to a career in the regular navy, is later sent to command a Landing Craft Infantry, a humiliation which ends his naval career ambitions, while Queeg is transferred to a naval supply depot in Iowa.

At a party celebrating both the acquittal and Keefer's success at selling his novel to a publisher, an intoxicated Greenwald calls Keefer a coward. He tells the gathering that he feels ashamed of having destroyed Queeg on the stand because Queeg did the necessary duty of guarding America in the peacetime Navy, which people like Keefer saw as beneath them. Greenwald asserts that men like Queeg kept Greenwald's Jewish mother from being "melted down into a bar of soap" by the Nazis. Greenwald had to "torpedo Queeg" because "the wrong man was on trial"—that it was Keefer, not Maryk, who was "the true author of 'The Caine Mutiny'". Greenwald throws a glass of "the yellow wine" in Keefer's face, thereby bringing the term "Old Yellowstain" full circle back to the novelist.

Willie returns to Caine in the last days of the Okinawa campaign as its executive officer. Keefer is now the captain, and his behavior as captain is similar to Queeg's. Caine is struck by a kamikaze, an event in which Willie discovers that he has matured into a naval officer. Keefer panics and orders the ship abandoned, but Willie remains aboard and rescues the situation.

Keefer is sent home after the war ends, ashamed of his cowardly behavior during the kamikaze attack. Keefer's brother Roland had died saving his ship from a kamikaze fire. Willie becomes the last captain of Caine. He receives a Bronze Star Medal for his actions following the kamikaze—and a letter of reprimand for his part in unlawfully relieving Queeg. The findings of the court-martial have been overturned after a review by higher authority. Willie agrees in retrospect that the relief was unjustified and probably unnecessary.

Willie keeps Caine afloat during another typhoon and brings it back to Bayonne, New Jersey, for decommissioning after the end of the war. On reflection, he decides to ask May (now a blonde and using her real name of Marie Minotti) to marry him. However, this will not be as easy as he once thought, as she is now the girlfriend of a popular bandleader, for whom she is the vocalist. The book ends with Willie and May's situation unresolved, but Willie determined to convince May to become his wife.

Historical background

Wouk himself served during World War II aboard two destroyer-minesweepers converted from World War I-era Clemson-class destroyers, USS Zane being the first and USS Southard being the second. (Wouk uses the latter name for one of his characters in the novel, Captain Randolph Patterson Southard. In an allusion to history professor Jacques Barzun of his alma mater, Columbia University, Wouk also has Queeg refer to a previous assignment he had on a ship named Barzun.)

USS Caine is a fictional depiction of a DMS (destroyer-minesweeper) conversion. The Clemson class was named for Midshipman Henry A. Clemson, lost at sea on 8 December 1846 during the Mexican war, when the brig USS Somers capsized off Vera Cruz in a sudden squall while chasing a blockade runner. In November 1842 Somers was the scene of the only recorded conspiracy to mutiny in U.S. Naval history when three members of the crew—a midshipman, a boatswain's mate, and a seaman—were clapped in irons and subsequently hanged for planning a takeover of the vessel.

Many of the incidents and plot details are autobiographical. Like both Keefer and Willie, Wouk rose through the ship's wardroom of Zane from assistant communications officer to first lieutenant, and then was executive officer of Southard, recommended to captain the ship home to the United States at the end of the war before it was beached at Okinawa in a typhoon.


The Caine Mutiny reached the top of the New York Times best seller list on August 12, 1951, after 17 weeks on the list, replacing From Here to Eternity.[3] It remained atop the list for 33 weeks until March 30, 1952, when it was replaced by My Cousin Rachel.[4] It moved back to first place on May 25, 1952, and remained another 15 weeks, before being supplanted by The Silver Chalice, and last appeared on August 23, 1953, after 122 weeks on the list.[5]


In 1954 Columbia Pictures released the film The Caine Mutiny starring Humphrey Bogart as Queeg in a widely acclaimed performance[6] that earned him the third and final Academy Award nomination of his career.

After the novel's success, Wouk adapted the court-martial sequence into a full-length, two-act Broadway play, The Caine Mutiny Court Martial. Directed by Charles Laughton, it was a success on the stage in 1954, opening five months before the release of the film and starring Lloyd Nolan as Queeg, John Hodiak as Maryk, and Henry Fonda as Greenwald. It has been revived twice on Broadway, and was presented on television live in 1955, and in 1988 as a made-for-television film.

The stage script was translated into Chinese in 1988 by Ying Ruocheng, a famous Chinese actor, director, playwright and Vice Minister of Culture. At Ying's invitation, Charlton Heston directed the translated play in a successful run at the Beijing People's Art Theatre, opening on October 18, 1988.[7] The play was revived in 2006, again under Heston, and has been revived there twice more (2009, 2012) since his death.

See also


  1. ^ Modern first editions - a set on Flickr
  2. ^ "Books Published Today". The New York Times: 24. March 19, 1951.
  3. ^ New York Times best seller list of August 12, 1951
  4. ^ New York Times best seller list of March 30, 1952
  5. ^ New York Times best seller list of August 23, 1953
  6. ^ "Filmsite Movie Review: The Caine Mutiny". Filmsite. Tim Dirks. Retrieved March 30, 2013.
  7. ^ "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial (Chinese Version)".

External links

27th Academy Awards

The 27th Academy Awards honored the best films released in 1954. The Best Picture winner, On the Waterfront, was produced by Sam Spiegel and directed by Elia Kazan. It had twelve nominations and eight wins, matching two other films, Gone with the Wind (1939) and From Here to Eternity (1953), though those each had thirteen nominations.

On the Waterfront was the third film to receive five acting nominations, and the first to receive three in the Best Supporting Actor category. A "rematch" occurred in the category of Best Actor between Marlon Brando and Humphrey Bogart following Bogart's upset victory three years earlier. In a surprise win (Bing Crosby was the favored nominee), Brando received his first Oscar for his performance in On the Waterfront, which is now seen as one of the most justified upsets in Oscar history. The win was a culmination of four consecutive Best Actor nominations for Brando (starting with A Streetcar Named Desire in 1951), a record that remains unmatched to this day.

Grace Kelly won Best Actress for The Country Girl in another upset. Judy Garland, who was heavily favored to win Best Actress for the movie A Star Is Born, could not attend the ceremony as she had only recently given birth to her third child. Cameras were set up in her room so she could express her thanks in the likely case of her winning. Groucho Marx later sent her a telegram expressing that her loss was "the biggest robbery since Brink's."Dorothy Dandridge became the first African American actress to receive a nomination for Best Actress.

8th British Academy Film Awards

The 8th British Film Awards, given by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in 1955, honored the best films of 1954.

Arthur Franz

Arthur Sofield Franz (February 29, 1920 – June 17, 2006) was an American B-movie and television actor, whose most notable feature film role was as Lieutenant, Junior Grade, H. Paynter Jr. in The Caine Mutiny (1954).

Destroyer minesweeper

"Destroyer minesweeper" was a designation given by the United States Navy to a series of destroyers that were converted into high-speed ocean-going minesweepers for service during World War II. The hull classification symbol for this type of ship was "DMS." Forty-two ships were so converted, beginning with USS Dorsey (DD-117), converted to DMS-1 in late 1940, and ending with USS Earle (DD-635), converted to DMS-42 in mid 1945. The type is now obsolete, its function having been taken over by purpose-built ships, designated as "minesweeper (high-speed)" with the hull classification symbol MMD.

The original ships were obsolete four-stack destroyers built during and after World War I with usable power plants; they were nicknamed "four-pipers" on account of having the four stacks. The number 4 boiler, fourth stack, and torpedo tubes were removed, depth charge racks repositioned forward from the stern and angled outboard, and the stern modified to support sweep gear: davits, winch, paravanes, and kites. Two 60-kilowatt turbo-generators replaced the three original 25-kilowatt generators to improve capability for sweeping magnetic and acoustic mines.

Conversion of the initial seventeen ships was completed in October and November of 1940, and included eight Wickes-class and nine Clemson-class destroyers. An additional Wickes-class destroyer was converted in 1941. The 24 later ships in the series were Gleaves-class destroyers built during the war. The fictional USS Caine, from Herman Wouk's novel The Caine Mutiny, was itself a converted Gleaves-class ship.

Don Dubbins

Donald George Dubbins (June 28, 1928 – August 17, 1991) was an American actor of film and television who in his early career usually played younger military roles, particularly in such classic pictures as From Here to Eternity (1953) and The Caine Mutiny (1954).

Edward Dmytryk

Edward Dmytryk (September 4, 1908 – July 1, 1999) was a Canadian-born American film director. He was known for his 1940s noir films and received an Oscar nomination for Best Director for Crossfire (1947). In 1947, he was named as one of the Hollywood Ten, a group of blacklisted film industry professionals who refused to testify to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in their investigations during the McCarthy-era 'Red scare'. They all served time in prison for contempt of Congress. In 1951, however, Dmytryk did testify to HUAC and rehabilitated his career. First hired again by independent producer Stanley Kramer in 1952, Dmytryk is likely best known for directing The Caine Mutiny (1954), a critical and commercial success. The second-highest grossing film of the year, it was nominated for Best Picture and several other awards at the 1955 Oscars. Dmytryk was nominated for a Directors Guild Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures.

Ford Star Jubilee

For other TV series sponsored by Ford Motor Company, see Ford Television Theatre, Ford Startime, Ford Festival, and The Ford Show.Ford Star Jubilee is an American anthology series that aired once a month on Saturday nights on CBS at 9:00 P.M., E.S.T. from the fall of 1955 to the fall of 1956 (With a summer hiatus). The series was approximately 90 minutes long, broadcast in black-and-white and color, and was typically telecast live. Ford Star Jubilee was sponsored by the Ford Motor Company.

Harry Ackerman

Harry Stephen Ackerman (November 17, 1912 - February 3, 1991) was a prolific producer in American television and is credited with creating or co-creating a total of twenty-one television series, seven of which were at one time being broadcast simultaneously. Some of the sitcoms in which he was involved in production during the 1950s and 1960s are also among the most popular American shows in the early history of the “small screen”, such as Father Knows Best, Dennis the Menace, Leave It to Beaver, Hazel, Bewitched, The Flying Nun, and Gidget.

Ackerman was known in the entertainment industry as the “dean of television comedy”, although he was instrumental too in developing many dramatic classics and documentaries, such as The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, The Day Lincoln Was Shot, and The 20th Century.

Herman Wouk

Herman Wouk (; born May 27, 1915) is an American author. His 1951 novel The Caine Mutiny won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His other works include The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, historical novels about World War II, and non-fiction such as This Is My God, a popular explanation of Judaism from a Modern Orthodox perspective, written for Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. His books have been translated into 27 languages. The Washington Post called Wouk, who cherishes his privacy, "the reclusive dean of American historical novelists." Historians, novelists, publishers, and critics who gathered at the Library of Congress in 1995 to mark Wouk's 80th birthday described him as an American Tolstoy.

I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me

"I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me" is a 1926 popular song composed by Jimmy McHugh, with lyrics by Clarence Gaskill.More than 20 recordings were made of "I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me" in the 16 years following its publication. Early recordings included Roger Wolfe Kahn and His Orchestra (1926), Louis Armstrong (1930), Nat Gonella (1932), Earl Hines (1932), Artie Shaw (1938), Teddy Wilson (1938), and Ella Fitzgerald (1941).It is sung twice by Claudia Drake in Edgar G. Ulmer's low-budget film noir classic Detour (1945); it is also featured in The Caine Mutiny (1954). in the 1967 film Thoroughly Modern Millie it is sung by an uncredited male vocalist on the gramophone.

Jonathan Hogan

Jonathan Hogan (born June 13, 1951) is an American actor.

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Hogan made his New York City stage debut in the off-Broadway Circle Repertory Company's highly successful production of The Hot l Baltimore. He remained with the company for Fifth of July (for which he composed the incidental music), Balm in Gilead (sharing a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Ensemble Acting), Burn This, and As Is, all of which eventually transferred to Broadway. The last garnered him Drama Desk and Tony Award nominations as Best Actor in a Play. Additional Broadway credits include Comedians, The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, and The Homecoming.

Hogan's television credits include stints on the soap operas The Doctors, Ryan's Hope, As the World Turns, and One Life to Live and appearances on L.A. Law, Quantum Leap, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Trial by Jury, the original Law & Order, in which he has been a guest star four times, and House of Cards.

Katherine Warren

Katherine Warren (July 12, 1905 – July 17, 1965) was an American film and television actress. She is best known for her roles in the 1949 film All the King's Men, the 1951 film The Prowler, and the 1954 film The Caine Mutiny.

Sharks and Little Fish

Sharks and Little Fish is a novel written by German author Wolfgang Ott. First published in 1954, it is based on the author's own experiences as a young submariner. The story centers on a sailor called Teichmann, a cynical young man, thrown at the age of seventeen into the horror and cruelty of submarine warfare in World War II."A German counterpart to The Caine Mutiny" - Frederic Morton.

Stanley Roberts (screenwriter)

Stanley Roberts (1916–1982) was an American screenwriter.

He was nominated for an Academy Award for the film The Caine Mutiny in the category of Best Adapted Screenplay.

The Caine Mutiny (film)

The Caine Mutiny is a 1954 American film. A fictional Navy drama set in the Pacific during World War II, it was directed by Edward Dmytryk and produced by Stanley Kramer, and stars Humphrey Bogart, José Ferrer, Van Johnson, and Fred MacMurray. The film is based on The Caine Mutiny, the 1951 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel written by Herman Wouk. It depicts the events on board a fictitious World War II U.S. Navy minesweeper and a subsequent court-martial for mutiny.

The film received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Bogart), Best Supporting Actor (Tom Tully), Best Screenplay, Best Sound Recording, Best Film Editing and Best Dramatic Score (Max Steiner). Dmytryk was also nominated for a Directors Guild Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures. It was the second highest-grossing film in the United States in 1954.

The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial

The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial is a two-act play, of the courtroom drama type, that was dramatized for the stage by Herman Wouk, which he adapted from his own novel, The Caine Mutiny.

Wouk's novel covered a long stretch of time aboard the USS Caine, a Navy destroyer minesweeper in the Pacific. It begins with Willis Keith's assignment to the Caine, chronicles the mismanagement of the ship under Philip Francis Queeg, explains how Steve Maryk relieved Queeg of command, gives an account of Maryk's court-martial, and describes the aftermath of the mutiny for all involved.

The play covers only the court-martial itself. Like jurors at a trial, the audience knows only what various witnesses tell of the events on the Caine.

The Canine Mutiny

"The Canine Mutiny" is the twentieth episode of The Simpsons' eighth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on April 13, 1997. It was written by Ron Hauge and directed by Dominic Polcino. Bart applies for a credit card and goes on a spending spree when it arrives, including an expensive trained dog called 'Laddie'. It guest stars voice actor Frank Welker as Laddie, a parody of Lassie. The episode's title references the novel The Caine Mutiny.

The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 1952

This is a list of adult fiction books that topped The New York Times Fiction Best Seller list in 1952.

They Rode West

They Rode West is a 1954 Technicolor Western film directed by Phil Karlson. It reunites the stars of The Caine Mutiny, Robert Francis and May Wynn. Based on the story Wood Hawk by Leo Katcher, it was filmed at the Corriganville movie ranch.


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