after which she was patterned. And on the seventh day of December in 1941 she was
carrying out a Sunday routine of rest and leisure for the crew, without a hint of
those hectic days to come---days that would take her to Tokyo with Doolittle’s
B-25’s on her first mission of war---days that were to terminate just ten months
later in a flaming death in the Battle of Santa Cruz.
On the quarterdeck I was on watch as Junior Officer of
the Deck from noon until 1600. It should have been a quiet Sunday watch.
While I was checking aboard a delivery of butter for the
general mess from a local dairy, I saw one of the ship’s communication officers come
scurrying down the lasser from the island structure and approach the Officer of the
Deck with a dispatch board. He seemed to display unusual alacrity in delivering his
message. The Officer of the Deck read the brief message two or three times and then
showed it to me. It was from the Secretary of the Navy and was terse:
A I R R A I D O N
P E A R L H A R B O R .
T H I S I S
N O T A D R I L L .
As terse as that. War was here. The executive Officer
bustled up to give us special instructions---all hands were to wear uniforms ashore
at all times, all officers aboard were to wear sidearms until further notice, the
gangway watch was alerted for possible acts of sabotage.
My own thoughts raced---but, strangely enough, I seemed
to find one saving feature in the terrible reality of war in our time: war with
Japan meant that we would surely be sent