This arti­cle is part 6 of 8 in the series War Plans

Satur­days around mil­i­tary bases are usu­al­ly busy with ser­vice per­son­nel hur­ry­ing away from those bases to find some rest and relax­ation in near­by towns or cities, relieved from their duties for a cou­ple of days, at least those able to get week­end passes.

But this was not a typ­i­cal Saturday and the bars and the­aters and USOs and broth­els were all devoid of their usu­al week­end crowds of uni­formed and civil­ian-clad sol­diers and sailors seek­ing a few hours of fun or a first-run movie.  The height­ened require­ments of base secu­ri­ty and the num­ber of ships and planes active­ly on duty demand­ed per­son­nel to keep them on sta­tion. The near­by towns’ streets were vir­tu­al­ly vacant, and local shop own­ers were all won­der­ing where their nor­mal week­end busi­ness was.

“Nothing from Washington so far this morn­ing, sir.” was the response from Lieutenant Commander Lowe to the admi­ral’s ques­tion as the two pre­pared to review any overnight mes­sages or oth­er com­mu­ni­ca­tion that might shed more light on the cur­rent situation.

“We have received a full report from Lieutenant Harriman, whose ship sank that unknown ves­sel inside the HDZ,” con­tin­ued Lowe.  “Guess you’ll be the first to hear if there’s going to be diplo­mat­ic blowup over that.”

“No doubt,” the admi­ral said reflec­tive­ly.  “And soon, I expect.”

“Anything more about those two picked up by shore patrol and the MPs?”

“Nothing on that front, either, sir.  But if you like, I’ll get in touch with my con­tact at the FBI office and see if I can stir up some news.”

“Yeah, you do that.  And check with Walt’s adju­tant, just to be sure we have all the bases cov­ered between us.”

“Aye, aye, sir.”

Lowe swiveled in place and briskly left the admi­ral’s office, soft­ly clos­ing the door behind him.

* * *

In the Crypt, Commander Layton was dis­play­ing high agi­ta­tion far out of char­ac­ter with his usu­al­ly calm demeanor.  The paper in his hand had just been plucked from the tran­scrib­ing machine and con­tained infor­ma­tion that he would have to relay to the admi­ral as quick­ly as pos­si­ble.  The mes­sage, which had been sent from Washington, cod­ed and on a secure cir­cuit was unequivocal. 


The com­man­der was stand­ing in front of the admi­ral’s desk, not quite at atten­tion, but respect­ful as the admi­ral read the mes­sage for the sec­ond time.

“Well, Commander, it cer­tain­ly looks like we’re going to be in a shoot­ing war any­time now.  I think we’ve done every­thing pos­si­ble to be secure and I appre­ci­ate you get­ting this to me so quick­ly.  Your peo­ple have done an excel­lent job keep­ing us all apprised of pos­si­ble ene­my inten­tions and even though they’ve changed their codes pret­ty often, you seem to be able to keep up with them pret­ty well.  Give your folks a “well done” for me.

“Oh, and send in Commander Lowe as you leave, please.”

“Yes sir.  Thank you, sir.”

One com­man­der left the office and short­ly anoth­er walked in.

“Lowe, we’ve just been noti­fied by Washington that things are like­ly to start break­ing real soon.  I think we’ve done all we can at this end to not be caught off guard.  Layton has made a pret­ty good guess — and I trust him implic­it­ly — that the ene­my car­ri­er group is like­ly to be approach­ing from the north.  That’s an area out­side nor­mal ship­ping lanes and they would be less like­ly to be spot­ted and report­ed.  I know our two car­ri­ers oper­at­ing are south and west, but we’ll have to get them re-rout­ed to the coor­di­nates that Layton has not­ed here.

“Also, increase our air patrols and con­cen­trate them with­in an arc between 270 degrees and 30 degrees.  That’s a pret­ty wide area and a lot of ocean, but we can’t leave any approach to chance in case their fleet moves out of the antic­i­pat­ed path.

“And get those extra patrols out immediately.”

“Aye, aye sir.”

Lowe turned and head­ed out quick­ly to dis­perse the admi­ral’s orders, espe­cial­ly those going to the air wing.

John and Ron were both annoyed at being called back to the flight line after such a short peri­od fol­low­ing their ear­li­er patrol.  Ron had been aroused from a peace­ful slum­ber at the bar­racks adja­cent to the ready room and John was engaged in anoth­er pok­er game, hav­ing slept off his tired­ness on the return trip from their pre­vi­ous patrol.  Both were now being trucked to their plane, along with their flight crew, and as they approached, they could see the fuel truck pulling away and the pro­pellers spin­ning as the ground crew had already received instruc­tions to make the plane ready for flight and to have the engines warmed and ready when the flight crew arrived.

The two pilots glanced at each oth­er as the truck neared.  They could not recall an urgency before that required that the engines be already turn­ing over when they arrived, except on those train­ing exer­cis­es when they had been timed on how long it took to get air­borne and every train­ing crew was try­ing to set a new record.

“Somebody must be in a godaw­ful hur­ry to get us in the air,” both pilots said almost simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, and the rest of the crew chuck­led at the fact that their two pilots seemed to always think the same thing at the same time, a good sign of intense training.

Indeed, time was run­ning out.

  • Chuck Witt

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

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