This arti­cle is part 7 of 8 in the series War Plans

A huge amount of activ­i­ty had already tak­en place in the hours before noon that Saturday.

And now, just before noon, the FBI, backed up by a large cadre of local police as well as numer­ous ser­vice per­son­nel from both the Army and Navy, were force­ful­ly enter­ing the embassy.

Power to the embassy had been cut only moments before by the local util­i­ty com­pa­ny, fol­low­ing orders from the FBI.  This was to assure that there was no pow­er to oper­ate trans­mit­ting radios or code machines so that notice of the attack could not imme­di­ate­ly be sent from the embassy back to its home country.

While the police were most­ly armed with hand­guns and an occa­sion­al shot­gun, both the FBI and mil­i­tary per­son­nel were tot­ing a large num­ber of auto­mat­ic weapons.  The pres­ence of a huge amount of fire­pow­er was a good way to intim­i­date people.

As soon as they had entered the embassy, which was vir­tu­al­ly unguard­ed any­way, FBI per­son­nel fanned out through­out the build­ing.  Their aim was to secure as many code machines, code books, and oth­er mate­ri­als as pos­si­ble, to make a case of espionage.

Silby and Cowden were among the first group to enter the build­ing.  Their des­ig­nat­ed task was to round up all the embassy staff and to keep them under guard until the raid was com­plet­ed.  The round-up would include the two indi­vid­u­als who had shown up on the pho­tographs tak­en by Silby a cou­ple of days before; indi­vid­u­als who had been rec­og­nized as being for­eign agents, pre­vi­ous­ly deport­ed and now most like­ly to engage in fur­ther dirty work.

It was these two men, plus infor­ma­tion com­ing from Washington, that had prompt­ed the local FBI to com­mence the oper­a­tion and it was pulled off with a high degree of pre­ci­sion despite hav­ing only been launched a few hours before.  All the mem­bers of the raid­ing par­ty had per­formed their assigned tasks flaw­less­ly.  Despite the flaw­less per­for­mance, Silby was still har­bor­ing doubts about whether all this was legal.

Everyone knew that the ene­my, once it was not hear­ing from its embassy, would know that some­thing was up and that they would imme­di­ate­ly change their diplo­mat­ic codes.  But hav­ing their cod­ing machines would pro­vide the U.S. with a valu­able tool to con­tin­ue to read their mail because the machines were an inte­gral link with the man­ner in which the codes were made and sent.

The big recon­nais­sance air­craft was approach­ing four hun­dred miles from base and John and Ron were both busy han­dling the plane and con­stant­ly glanc­ing from each side try­ing to main­tain vig­i­lance despite their deep-seat­ed feel­ings that this was just anoth­er rou­tine patrol.

Suddenly, Ron almost screamed into his throat mike, “Holy crap, look at that!,” was all he could get out before a cho­rus of “What’s” and “Where’s” echoed back through his headset.

“There, at one o’clock.  On the surface!”

As most of the crew strained to see the area indi­cat­ed, the inter­com was again filled with excla­ma­tions of sur­prise.  Below, part­ly obscured by scud­ding clouds, moved a large group of ships, pin­point­ed by the wakes being left behind on a light­ly-tossed sea.

“Okay,” the pilot was speak­ing and try­ing to present a calm demeanor, “we’re going low­er.  Try to get a good count and type of ships down there.  We aren’t sup­posed to have any ships oper­at­ing in this area and this is what we’ve been look­ing for.  As soon as we can get a count and their course, we’ll have to get a report back as quick as we can.  I can already see car­ri­ers in that group.  We’ll have to get out of here in a hur­ry before they can send up interception.

“Andy,” he was speak­ing over the plane’s inter­com to the radioman, “get the radio cranked up and alert base that we’re going to be send­ing fur­ther information.”

“Yessir,” came a spir­it­ed and some­what ner­vous response.

The plane began a slow turn­ing descent to get clear of the clouds and to find a place where the entire array of ships below could be observed.

After the few min­utes that seemed like an eter­ni­ty, the pilot pulled the plane into a climb and head­ed for a dense cloud bank as he poured on the horse­pow­er to head back to base.  This was obvi­ous­ly no place for an unarmed plane, with the amount of fire­pow­er below and the loom­ing prospect of inter­cep­tor air­craft being sent aloft.

As the plane winged its way home, the radioman was busy ham­mer­ing out his mes­sage in Morse code, alert­ing head­quar­ters that a fleet con­tain­ing six air­craft car­ri­ers and a host of sup­port ships along with a pro­tec­tive screen of oth­er types had been sight­ed and was head­ed in almost the same direc­tion as the plane was now.

Back at base, the sergeant busi­ly writ­ing down the mes­sage he was receiv­ing was begin­ning to sweat, some­what inhibit­ing his writ­ing as beads of sweat dripped onto the paper in front of him.  The duty offi­cer, a lieu­tenant, was peer­ing over his shoul­der and read­ing the mate­r­i­al as quick­ly as it was placed on the paper and he, too, began to per­spire as he real­ized the import of what he was seeing.

It was near­ly impos­si­ble for him to remain still, anx­ious to snatch the paper and rush off to deliv­er it to his supe­ri­or.  He knew this one would be going straight up to the General and to the Admiral.

“Jesus,” he mut­tered, try­ing to tele­path­i­cal­ly hur­ry up the sergeant fran­ti­cal­ly writ­ing away in front of him.

  • Chuck Witt

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

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