Mister Roberts (novel)

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Mister Roberts
First edition
Author Thomas Heggen
Illustrator Samuel Hanks Bryant
Country United States
Language English
Genre War novel
Publisher Houghton Mifflin
Publication date
Media type Hardcover
Pages 189
OCLC 51762498

Mister Roberts is a 1946 novel written by Thomas Heggen.


The title character, a Lieutenant Junior Grade naval officer, defends his crew against the petty tyranny of the ship's commanding officer during World War II. Nearly all action takes place on a backwater cargo ship,[1] the USS Reluctant that sails, as written in the 1948 play, "from apathy to tedium with occasional side trips to monotony and ennui."


Heggen based his novel on his experiences aboard the cargo ships USS Virgo (AKA-20) and USS Rotanin (AK-108), in the South West Pacific theatre of World War II. He had written a number of short stories, which he collected and merged into the novel.[2] It was subsequently adapted as a play circa 1948,[3] a 1955 feature film,[4] a 1965-66 television series, and a live 1984 television movie.[5] Heggen only enjoyed the initial success and profits of his creation, as his life ended in May 1949, by accident or suicide, just after turning 30.[2][6]

The character Mister Roberts was based on the Rotanin's Executive Officer, Donald House. Contrary to the story in the book, he was not killed in action, but continued as a career Naval officer until retirement, and lived until early 1998.[7]

Initially, Ensign Ralph (changed to "Frank" in the book) Pulver threatened to sue Heggen for using his actual name. Pulver was, in reality, an officer who took his Naval career very seriously. Pulver was still an active-duty officer at the time the book was published, and was concerned that having his name in the book and play might be detrimental to his career.


  1. ^ "Mister Roberts, Cargo Ship, USNS New Bedford", History, Sea bird adventure .
  2. ^ a b "The Wacky Ship of Mr. Roberts", Sea Classics (USS Virgo), January 1979 .
  3. ^ "Broadway play, circa 1948", Mister Roberts, Sea bird adventure .
  4. ^ "Feature film 1955", Mister Robert, Sea bird adventure .
  5. ^ "1984 remake, television movie", Mister Roberts, Sea bird adventure .
  6. ^ "TO Heggen, Author, Found Dead in Bath", The New York Times, May 20, 1949 .
  7. ^ High beam .