One of the facets of the novel is the journey made by a USAF meteorological officer stationed in Iceland when the Soviets decided to invade. Lt. Mike Edwards as described in the book is a scholarly looking weatherman for the base he works at. Although nerdy looking, he was a quickly liked by his comrades for his humorous outlook and no-nonsense approach to life. When the Russians attacked he and three other marines were forced to retreat and execute partisan activities against the invading force.
Armed with light weapons and a satellite radio, they began their trek from Keflavik airbase pondering on how best to hamper their enemies with what little they had. The invaders already quelled most of the armed resistance in the country and had the edge in numbers and equipment. Their best contribution would be in the form of real time intelligence to their allies. Their first goal was to reach a hill a couple of kilometers from the fallen base where they could establish communications and find out what was going on.
The marines Edwards was teamed up with did not know him very well since they were from different services but they passed judgment on him based on his bookish features. Priding themselves with their physical prowess (the USMC has one of the toughest training programs) they strove to exhaust their pencil pushing officer into the ground.
Mike matched them stride for stride much to the surprise of the hardened soldiers. Through flat terrain and mountainous crags, he kept up with their pace, never slacking, never complaining. In one of their layovers, the sergeant he was with asked him how he could keep up. Mike simply answered that he used to run the marathon foe the Air Force Academy in Colorado. After that the marines treated him with a newfound respect stemming from embarrassment at having misjudged their leader.
Another important event in their journey was meeting Vigdis Augustdottir, a local who lived in an isolated farm with her parents. The group came across her in their trek when a squad of garrison soldiers decided to cure their boredom by raping and pillaging the farm she lived in. This was another surprise for the marines when they immediately found out what was going on. Edwards usually an easygoing guy who avoided confrontation with the enemy immediately gave orders to fan out and engage with minimal casualties. The encounter was short and ugly. All of the Soviets had to be eliminated to prevent them from reporting back and both of Vigdis parents were killed by the Russians. They had no choice but to take the girl with them as survivors would most likely be questioned and dumped the dead soldiers to make it look like an accident.
Vigdis provided them with comfort though not at first. As an attempted rape victim, the Americans tried their best to keep her mind away from what had happened by keeping the strenuous pace previous to the meeting. Ever mindful of their fragile companion, they each took turns looking out for her and responded to her little cries for help.
On and on they trekked without a goal. They just did what they were told by the person on the other end of the radio. Go to this hill and report on the number and type of Soviet aircraft taking off and landing. Get to coordinated positions to verify destruction of target by bombers. Keep out of sight and reestablish contact at prescribed time. These were just some of the things they were ordered to do while walking between 15-20 kilometers a day and kept in the dark on their ultimate goal.
The physical journey of this small group might have seemed insignificant but hiking almost 200 miles through enemy territory while surviving off the land is no small feat. Given a less significant task, some people might have folded and gone their own way to await the outcome without doing their share. The information this group provided paved the way for the retaking of Iceland which is a critical point of the G-I-UK line.
It is s an array of sonar sensors which allows tracking and early warning of submarines trying to enter the Atlantic and hamper the shipping lanes into Europe. Without this supplies and arms could not be ferried into mainland Europe where the center of the conflict was being waged. The symbolism of a hard journey in order to attain ones goals although not yet clear was beautifully captured.
It also provided a personal and lighter perspective on the war which was being waged. The beautiful and accurate descriptions of the Icelandic landscape and relationships of the group gave meaning to what they were fighting for in the book. Like a corner jigsaw piece, the role of Mike Edwards and his group was essential in painting the big picture. Through their trials and travels, they added another piece to the whole by sending data to allied command which could be utilized in driving the Russians back.