This arti­cle is part 3 of 8 in the series War Plans

“Walt, just check­ing in to see how your prepa­ra­tions are going.”

The admi­ral was speak­ing on the phone with his Army coun­ter­part, a call which had just been con­nect­ed by the admi­ral’s adju­tant, Lieutenant Commander Lowe.

“I think every­thing’s as ready as it can be right now, Ed, con­sid­er­ing what we know at this point.  I’ve ordered radar to be on alert around the clock and all ground secu­ri­ty forces are in place.  There’s a good bit of grum­bling amongst the enlist­ed since lib­er­ty has been dras­ti­cal­ly cur­tailed, but the NCOs are deal­ing with it.

“I have also been informed that the FBI is round­ing up a good many nation­als who have been under sur­veil­lance for a long time.  They’re try­ing to be as dis­creet as pos­si­ble so that the round-up does­n’t raise too many alarms, and the embassy is under close scruti­ny.  The Feds are ready to move in quick­ly and secure the place if nec­es­sary.  For right now, they’re play­ing it pret­ty close to their chests so there won’t be a tip-off that we’re into their diplo­mat­ic codes.  Some of the guys that the FBI picked up were active­ly pho­tograph­ing mil­i­tary facil­i­ties and some were even sketch­ing loca­tions of all your ships in harbor.”

“Holy cow, Walt, these guys seem to have infil­trat­ed every­where.  Even Navy secu­ri­ty has picked up a few of these peo­ple and they’re safe­ly tucked away in the brig right now.

“Our peo­ple in the Crypt are inun­dat­ed with mes­sages and the vol­ume is cer­tain­ly being turned up.  It real­ly looks like some­thing is going to break pret­ty soon.”

“I agree.  I assume you’re still get­ting cur­rent updates from Washington; they seem to be break­ing some of the codes that our guys aren’t work­ing on.”

“Yeah, some­thing comes through every few hours.  At least, by being able to com­bine their work with our own, we’re get­ting a bet­ter pic­ture of inten­tions.  Thank God for good com­mu­ni­ca­tions and peo­ple smart enough to see the over­all picture.”

“Right.  Okay, stay in touch.  Looks like we’re both going to be sleep­ing on the office couch tonight.”

As the admi­ral placed the phone hand­set in its cra­dle, his office door opened and the adju­tant entered with paper in his hand.

“Sir, one of our ships patrolling just out­side the har­bor defense zone has report­ed what they believe to be a sub­ma­rine about to enter the zone.  They know their orders are to assume any subs oper­at­ing there to be ene­my, but they’re exer­cis­ing extra cau­tion and ask­ing for directions.”

“Tell them the cur­rent orders are cor­rect.  All our subs are either in har­bor or account­ed for and none of them are oper­at­ing in that area.  Let the cap­tain know he’s autho­rized to sink, dam­age, or cap­ture that sub at his dis­cre­tion. Also, repeat the order about hos­tile con­tacts to all oper­at­ing ships.  There should be no fur­ther rea­son to con­tact head­quar­ters for con­fir­ma­tion.  The only ships we have oper­at­ing are sur­face units and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of them should pose no problems.

“Oh, and I assume the anti-sub nets at the har­bor entrance are in place?”

“Absolutely, sir.  The nets are only opened and closed imme­di­ate­ly after the entry or depar­ture of ships from the harbor.”

“Good, see to it…and right away.”

“Sir.”

As the adju­tant left the office and pulled the door closed behind him, the admi­ral ran his fin­gers through his rapid­ly gray­ing hair as he often did when con­front­ed with a puzzle.

‘I wish I had a bet­ter pic­ture of what’s hap­pen­ing every­where,’ he mused to him­self.  ‘I sure as hell hope I haven’t over­looked something.’

The klax­on had already sound­ed “gen­er­al quar­ters” as the perky lit­tle ship laid on steam and, “tak­ing the bone in her teeth,” charged off in the direc­tion of the sub sight­ing.  Contact had nev­er been lost with the sub, even while await­ing a response from head­quar­ters, but now it was time to let the boat run­ning below the sur­face know that its pres­ence was not a secret.

The return mes­sage from the admi­ral had been hasti­ly relayed to the ship’s cap­tain on the bridge and he quick­ly palmed the address sys­tem hand­set as he pre­pared to speak to the crew of the ship.

“This is the Captain.  We’ve been ordered to make con­tact with a sub­ma­rine about to enter the har­bor defense zone.  We’ll cap­ture it if we can or sink it if we must.  I can’t tell you what all this means right now.  It may be the begin­ning of a shoot­ing war.  Just do what you’ve been trained to do and trust in your ship­mates.  That is all.”

Cutting through low waves and cre­at­ing bow waves reflect­ing its thir­ty-knot speed, sailors on the fan­tail quick­ly read­ied the depth charges that would be flung over­board once a sol­id con­tact with the sub was made.

The cap­tain was hop­ing that the sub­sur­face explo­sions would only dam­age the abil­i­ty of the sub to remain sub­merged and force it to the sur­face.  He was still har­bor­ing doubts that this sub had hos­tile inten­tions and, if it turned out to be friend­ly, unin­jured crew­men in a dam­aged ves­sel would require a lot less explain­ing than a drowned sub and a dead crew.

  • Chuck Witt

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

Series Navigation« War Plans: chap­ter 2War Plans: chap­ter 5 »