From: Oregon, USA
December 17, 1941
Aboard USS Gridley
Location: Pearl Harbor
Attached to: TF 406
Mission: Air combat
Ship's Status: No damage
Fuel: 525 (100%)
Orders: Escort Enterprise into the South Pacific
Captain Stickney had his new orders. They were to remain with Enterprise and accompany the carrier into the South Pacific. What he knew of Halsey's orders was vague. "Guard against Japanese intrusion into the New Guinea-New Caledonia-Fiji barrier" was all they said. He imagined there might be more to it than that, but nothing more specific had trickled down to his level.
One item of more than casual interest to Stickney was that these orders had come from a new commander. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz had replaced Admiral Kimmel the day before they reached Pearl Harbor. Stickney knew little about Nimitz - he had been commander of the Bureau of Navigation prior to this assignment - but what he had heard had been mostly positive. Still, Stickney was inclined to reserve judgment on the new commander of the Pacific Fleet. He was already keenly aware that there was a big difference between commanding in peacetime and commanding in war.
The task force would leave tonight. With them would go similar task forces built around Lexington and Saratoga. With the cruisers and tin cans assigned to escort Saratoga there would be almost no seaworthy capital ships left at Pearl.
To be sure, there would be a lot of damaged ships remaining. Maryland, with the bottom of her hull exposed to the Hawaiian sun, was a total loss. West Virginia and Oklahoma were technically sunk but might be refloated and repaired some time in the future. The other battleships would all be out of action for at least a year. Also out of action were light cruisers Helena and St. Louis and heavy cruiser Minneapolis. The big cruiser had suffered a magazine explosion during the second attack and her number two turret had ended up at the bottom of the harbor. It had taken heroic action by her crew to keep the rest of the ship from joining it there.
Reports said that two destroyers, two minesweepers, and a converted minelayer had been sunk along with Maryland. Stickney had visited the captain of one of the destroyers, Lieutenant Commander Ralph, in the hospital. Ralph was an old friend and he had suffered burns and shrapnel wounds during the futile fight to save his ship, destroyer Schley. Stickney had tried to cheer Ralph up as best he could but his friend had been pretty depressed over the loss of his ship and some of his crew.
Speaking of crew...Stickney turned to the stack of paperwork on his desk. They were taking on almost two dozen new crew today, filling spots vitally needed for a destroyer on a wartime footing. His exec was taking care of most of it but Stickney still wanted to see all the files. These were going to be his men, after all. All were experienced sailors; he hoped to integrate them smoothly into what was already a tight-knit, effective crew.
Bill Bonderman found Gridley in her berth, loading cases of food. He nipped up the utilitarian metal gangway between a case of beans and a case of dried eggs and quickly located the OOD, a slightly plump junior lieutenant. He saluted smartly.
"Radioman First Class Bonderman reporting aboard, sir," he said.
"Welcome aboard," said the lieutenant cheerfully. "You from Oklahoma?"
"Texas sir," drawled Bonderman.
"Texas, huh?," said the lieutenant. "Got an uncle in Amarillo, you sound kind of like him. Radioman? You'll be one of Lieutenant Coszyk's, then. He's communications officer." He turned to a nearby sailor. "Reedy! This one's fresh. Take him below and get him squared away, would you?" Bonderman left his indignation at being mistaken for an Oklahoman unvoiced.
"Sure thing," said a short, stocky fellow with a bristly shock of short brown hair. "Right this way," he said to Bonderman.
"Welcome aboard," said the sailor as he led Bonderman aft. "Jake Reedy."
"Bill Bonderman," said Bonderman. He looked around at the ship. It bristled with weapons but still seemed awfully small.
"Where are we getting you from?" Reedy asked him.
"West Virginia," said Bonderman laconically. Reedy quirked an eyebrow.
"Oh yeah?" he said. "From the looks of that ship you're lucky to be in one piece."
"Yep," agreed Bonderman. He did not elaborate. Reedy led him into the aft deckhouse and down a narrow stair.
"All the bunkrooms are aft," Reedy explained as they went down a companionway. "The divisions all have their own."
"I'm a radioman," said Bonderman.
"Okay, communications bunks in here," said Reedy. He poked his head through a doorway and looked around, then stepped aside to let Bonderman enter. "There should still be a bunk and a locker or two, I know they've been short a couple of men. We start squeezing in many more people, though, we're going to have to start getting creative."
"I'm obliged," said Bonderman, stepping inside. Reedy grinned.
"Nothing to it," he said. "Welcome aboard. Get your stuff squared away and I'll take you to find Steubens, he's the exec. He's okay."
"What's the captain like?" asked Bonderman.
"The Old Man? He's a terror if you cross him but if you keep your nose clean you're all right. Knows his stuff, that's for sure."
Reedy introduced Bonderman to a couple of men in the bunk room and they welcomed him aboard and showed him an empty locker. Bonderman began to relax a little. There was an air to a taut ship, a well-run ship, that an experienced sailor could discern almost immediately, and this ship had it. It showed in the little things, like how the bunkroom was squared away.
"First things first," said Reedy when Bonderman was ready. "The heads, and the galley. Right this way, your tour of USS Gridley is about to begin..." Reedy led off and Bonderman followed. Like it or not, he was home.