From: Oregon, USA
June 26, 1943
Attached to: TF 36
Mission: Surface Combat
System Damage: 2
Float Damage: 0
Orders: Proceed to Truk
Captain Ishii boards Isuzu and exchanges salutes with the officer of the deck. Forward he can see a missing section of rail and buckled deck plates, legacies of the mine the light cruiser struck. Men swarm over the area, making what repairs they can.
A petty officer takes Ishii to Captain Yoshimura’s cabin. Ishii knocks. After a moment he hears a muffled acknowledgement, so he opens the door and enters.
Yoshimura is seated at his desk. His cap is off and his jacket is open, and Ishii is dismayed by his appearance. There are deep shadows under his eyes and his face looks lined and old. He looks up as Ishii approaches and salutes, then waves Hibiki’s captain into a seat.
“Thank you for coming, Ishii,” he says.
“Of course, sir,” Ishii says. He was ordered to report, of course, and had no choice at all, but he appreciates a commander who maintains the illusion of free will.
“I have new orders,” says Yoshimura, gesturing vaguely at some papers in front of him. “I am to take what is left of my command to Truk. We will depart tomorrow morning.”
“Yes sir,” says Ishii. “Hibiki will be ready.”
“Of that I have no doubt,” says Yoshimura. “I will keep my flag here aboard Isuzu, but I will have to rely on you to get us there safely. Yours is the only undamaged ship left.” Ishii cannot miss the note of bitterness in Yoshimura’s voice.
“What are our orders once we reach Truk, sir?” Yoshimura shrugs.
“The task force will be disbanded,” says Yoshimura. “Isuzu and Tachikaze will begin repairs, and your ship will receive new orders.” He pauses. “I have been ordered back to Japan. I think, however, that I am expected to make a longer voyage than that.” Ishii, alarmed, does not mistake Yoshimura’s meaning.
“Sir,” he says earnestly, “you must not talk like that. This will be a long war. Japan will need every man, especially every experienced officer. There will other days, other chances.” Yoshimura looks up and meets Ishii’s eyes for the first time. His face is filled with pain.
“Three ships lost yesterday,” he says. “And how many men? Four or five hundred dead?”
"Surely not that many,” Ishii says. “Namikaze did reach safety, after all.” Word had reached Rabaul in the morning that Namikaze had, against all odds, survived two more torpedo hits long enough to reach Gasmata. There the destroyer had settled in the shallows, her decks awash. A ship was en route to retrieve her crew.
“Yes,” says Yoshimura softly, “that is true.” He gazes at something far away for a moment, then brings his attention back to Ishii with an obvious effort. “I appreciate your words, Captain. Go prepare your ship. We will sail at 0630 tomorrow morning.”
“Yes sir,” Ishii says. He salutes and leaves, closing the cabin door quietly behind him. His thoughts as he returns to Hibiki are troubled.
< Message edited by Cuttlefish -- 11/2/2007 2:06:03 AM >