This arti­cle is part 1 of 8 in the series War Plans

The admi­ral was choos­ing his words very delib­er­ate­ly as he addressed the com­man­ders and cap­tains seat­ed and stand­ing around the room.  The admi­ral’s office was not designed to accom­mo­date so many and they were squeezed in as com­fort­ably as pos­si­ble.  Extra chairs had been gath­ered from oth­er near­by offices to pro­vide seat­ing for the over­flow crowd.

The admi­ral, a non-smok­er, had not indi­cat­ed that the smok­ing lamp was lit, so at least the air in the room, though some­what stale due to the crowd­ing, was not oppres­sive with smoke.

Among those who were seat­ed, some were lean­ing for­ward in their chairs as if strain­ing to fath­om each word being uttered by the admiral.

Those stand­ing stood stat­ue-still, some with arms crossed or legs crossed try­ing to find a com­fort­able posi­tion, some lean­ing slight­ly on the backs of the chairs in front of them.

“Gentlemen, accord­ing to inter­cept­ed mes­sages which our code break­ers have been able to deci­pher and addi­tion­al mes­sages from Washington, there are strong indi­ca­tions that the ene­my may be poised to strike with­in the next few days.

“Unfortunately, their choice of tar­gets is not yet clear, but this com­mand is going to go on high alert until we know the exact tar­get or until diplo­mat­ic nego­ti­a­tions tak­ing place in Washington have worked to fore­stall any hostilities.

“Starting today, I want every ship, includ­ing the subs, to be pre­pared to get to sea and out of the har­bor in the short­est time possible. 

“That means that boil­ers will be stoked and online at all times.

“I know this means expend­ing a vast amount of fuel, but the waste of fuel is less impor­tant than the pos­si­bil­i­ty of los­ing ships and men.  The fuel depots have already been alert­ed to keep fuel pro­vi­sion­ing a top priority.

“Further, I want all ships rotat­ed out to sea so that the max­i­mum num­ber in har­bor at any one time will be no more than can exit the har­bor in four hours after an alert.

“Any subs found oper­at­ing in the Harbor Defense Zone will be fired on with­out hes­i­ta­tion.  Our own subs will enter and exit the zone on the sur­face only, so make no mis­take, any oth­ers found oper­at­ing below the sur­face will not be ours.

“As I receive addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion from Washington or our own code break­ers, I will trans­mit it to you along with any addi­tion­al instruc­tions at that time.

“For now, it will not be nec­es­sary to main­tain gen­er­al quar­ters, but I sug­gest that each of you keep your train­ing going and work to trim response time as much as pos­si­ble.  There will undoubt­ed­ly be some grous­ing from the crews as shore leave is going to be dras­ti­cal­ly cur­tailed until this cri­sis is resolved.  I’ll leave it up to each of you as to how to deal with crew morale, but keep the pres­sure on.

“I am prepar­ing lists of the ships and the peri­ods when they will be rotat­ed and that infor­ma­tion will be sent to all of you with­in the next few hours.  In the mean­time, begin by see­ing to it that your ships are ful­ly fueled at all times and that you have a full com­ple­ment of ammu­ni­tion for all onboard weapons.

“I know you prob­a­bly have a lot of ques­tions, but for now that’s about all I can offer except to tell you that this is not a drill.  Keep on your toes.

“That’s all.  Dismissed.”

As the offi­cers depart­ed the office, mur­mur­ing amongst them­selves the thoughts which had built up dur­ing the con­fer­ence, a sim­i­lar meet­ing was tak­ing place sev­er­al miles away in the con­fer­ence room of the area’s ground forces com­mand­ing gen­er­al with offi­cers as low-ranked as major fill­ing all the avail­able seats. Fortunately, the gen­er­al’s con­fer­ence room was larg­er than the admi­ral’s office so the com­fort lev­el was some­what high­er here.  Also, the gen­er­al, a casu­al smok­er, had grant­ed smok­ing per­mis­sion to those present and inter­mit­tent clouds of cig­a­rette smoke waft­ed through the room, gen­tly stirred by fans spaced about.

“Gentlemen, I’m sor­ry you got such short notice for this meet­ing.  I’m sure that you’re won­der­ing why such an urgent meet­ing and I’ll ask that you hold any ques­tions until I fin­ish my remarks.

“The Navy is going on high alert.  And so are we.  Our com­mands have reli­able infor­ma­tion that we should pre­pare to expe­ri­ence hos­til­i­ties in a very short peri­od of time and, con­sid­er­ing the ene­my’s past actions, there is like­ly to be no warn­ing of a first strike.

“There is also a high like­li­hood of sab­o­tage from locals who are known to have been work­ing with the ene­my for a very long time, keep­ing track of all our facil­i­ties and maneu­vers and the num­ber of ships, planes, and ground forces, so we will have to be on guard against that as well as air attack.  Fortunately, those sus­pect­ed of being ene­my agents are being watched over by the FBI and will soon be under arrest if events unfold to hostilities.

“Therefore, I want to see every plane on every field dis­persed into revet­ments or hang­ers or in the air.  We will have to increase aer­i­al sur­veil­lance so I am going to order round-the-clock recon­nais­sance in con­junc­tion with that of the Navy, out to a four hun­dred mile radius.

“As for poten­tial sab­o­tage, see that your junior offi­cers and NCOs are ful­ly aware of the seri­ous­ness of the sit­u­a­tion and every man who is on guard duty has a full under­stand­ing that this sit­u­a­tion requires increased dili­gence.  Also, triple the num­ber of guard posts and see that each one has two guards on duty at all times.  Guard posts can be allowed fifty per­cent alert sta­tus, but this dou­bling of guards at each post should pre­clude any lack of coverage.

“All things con­sid­ered, it is unlike­ly that we will have to deal with ene­my ground forces in the ini­tial stages of any hos­til­i­ties, so our main job is going to be pro­tec­tion of our air capa­bil­i­ty and the fuel depots.

“Since there is not suf­fi­cient data yet to estab­lish a def­i­nite date for some­thing to hap­pen, I can’t tell you right now how long these height­ened mea­sures may remain in effect.  Regardless of how long it lasts, don’t let your guard down; we must be primed for action no mat­ter when it comes.

“Arsenals will be open when you return to your com­mands. Issue orders that every gun posi­tion is ful­ly stocked with ammu­ni­tion, and keep those arse­nals avail­able for re-sup­ply as necessary.

“Planes not being active­ly ser­viced are to be fueled and to have their weapons ful­ly armed.  Air crews are here­by con­fined to base and should be ready to scram­ble on fif­teen min­utes’ notice.


As could be expect­ed, sev­er­al offi­cers attempt­ed to speak at once, but the resul­tant noise quick­ly set­tled down as the men began to take turns and some ques­tions were asked before anoth­er could mouth the same query.

The gen­er­al con­tin­ued the meet­ing until he felt con­fi­dent that all ques­tions had been answered, at least with the infor­ma­tion he cur­rent­ly had in hand, and each offi­cer filed from the room to return to his com­mand and com­mence giv­ing out the orders that would fil­ter down through the ranks and set sev­er­al thou­sand men about the task of ready­ing for unfore­seen events, about to occur who-knows-when and from what­ev­er quarter.

  • Chuck Witt

    Chuck is a retired archi­tect, a for­mer news­pa­per colum­nist, and a life­long res­i­dent of Winchester.

Series NavigationWar Plans: chap­ter 2 »