From: Toledo, Ohio
5 January 1942, Southeast of Shikoku, Japan
The boat was beginning to stink. There was just no other way to put it. The four weeks the Swordfish had been at sea would normally have led to a certain amount of staleness, but no laundry and no showers only meant it was reaching the level of putrid. Even though the seas had been rough of late, LT(jg) DJ Haskins looked forward to standing watch on the sub's bridge. At least for four hours every night, he could enjoy some fresh air. Of course that meant going back below decks at the end of his watch only meant the asault on his nasal passages was that much worse.
They had not run across a single Japanese ship for more than two weeks now. The men were getting tired and starting to snap at each other. The news of the war was not helping. Clark Field had fallen on Christmas Eve and Manila was being threatened. In the 29 days since Swordfish had departed Cavite almost the entire island of Luzon had been conquered. It seemed like the Japanese were unstopable.
DJ finished his watch and headed below. After a quick change he joined the rest of the officers for breakfast. As had been the case of late it was very quiet. LT Phelps glanced at LCDR Smith and cleared his throat.
“Mr. Haskins, you have family in San Diego?”
“Yes, sir. My mother and two sisters,” DJ replied wondering where the lieutenant was heading.
“You consider what will happen to them when the Japs invade? You heard what they did at Nanking, didn't you?”, Phelps said staring Dan directly in the eyes.
“Excuse me, sir?”, he replied as he felt himself stiffen.
“Well I'm just saying that with the way the Japs are moving right now, they will probably be on the West Coast by the Fourth of July”, Phelps said coldly. “Personally I'd have some concerns if my family was on the West Coast. If the Nips had their way with the Chinese girls, I'd shutter to think what they would do to our California beauties...”
“With all due respect, Sir, you are way out of line”, DJ blurted as he rose from his seat. “Yes, the Japs caught us with our pants down to start this war, but it is only a matter of time before we kick their butts all the way back to Tokyo! It will be over my dead body that any one of those yellow bastards so much as sets a foot on US soil. Quite frankly, SIR, I am surprised you of all people would be talking like this! The men on this boat need leadership not this defeatist crap.“
Phelps smiled a wry smile at DJ
“Exactly”, LCDR Smith interjected. “LT Phelps and I have both noticed the way some of you have been conducting yourselves over this past week, and if we noticed, you can be damn sure the crew has noticed! I not looking for a bunch of Pollyannas here, but I need to see ALL of you show some purpose and determination in everything you do. “ Every eye in the room was fixed on Smith now.
He continued, “No one ever said this war was going to be easy or quick. Its going to take a lot of hard work and grit. There will be set backs for sure, but that doesn't matter in the long run. What I need from each of you from this point forward is a singular focus on making this boat the best fleet sub in the US Navy. I don't really care what the news is from Luzon on anywhere else because that has no relevance on the operation of this vessel. If the enlisted men see this sort of focus on your part they will follow, trust me on that point. Do I make myself clear?”
“Aye, sir”, came the reply from each man in unison.
“Good. Now get back to work. Dismissed”, Smith said sternly.
The officers all stood and made their way out of the room. As he made his way to the door, DJ felt a hand on his shoulder.
“Lt Haskins, a word?”. LT Phelps said softly. Phelps waited for the room to clear before speaking.
“Look Dan, I am sorry for coming at you like that but I was almost sure I would get the reaction I wanted from you. Trust me, you did not disappoint me”, Phelps said with a smile.
Dj smiled as he said, “I get it lieutenant. The skipper is right: we have been walking around with our tails between our legs for at least a week. I am sure the crew has noticed it too. Just do me a favor”, DJ asked. “Next time you need to make a point, could you keep my mother and my sisters out of it?”
“No problem, Dan”, Phelps replied.
“One more thing sir. Any one ever tell you you're a sonofabitch”, DJ said with a cautious smille.
“All the time”, Phelps smiled back. “Most men just don't have the guts to say it to my face”
"We have met the enemy and they are ours" - Commodore O.H. Perry