From: Toledo, Ohio
Special thanks to Thane who pointed out to me that Emily's letter about internment would have far reaching effects.
14 June 1942, Suva, Fiji
LT(jg) Hank Tyler is not assigned to fly today. He is in the squadrons “Operations Hut” helping CDR Underwood with some of the administrative duties. Never a fan of paperwork, Hank would normally try to find some way to get out of such duty. The Commander is about overwhelmed though, and it hardly seems fair that he and the XO would have to bear this burden all alone. Afterall, they also have flight duties on top of all of the “clerical” duties.
He barely notices the two men that entered the hut that asked to speak with Underwood alone. They disappear into his office for about five minutes. Hank cannot hear what they are discussing, but their hushed tones suggest that it is something they don't want everybody in the room to know about. The door opens and Underwood steps out with a look of concern on his face.
“Lieutenant Tyler, can we have a word with you,” he says.
Tyler stands and walks to the Commander's office. He doesn't know what is up, but suddenly a sense of foreboding comes over him
“Lieutenant, this is CDR Mowery and LT McElroy,” Underwood says. “they are from Naval Intelligence and need to ask you some questions.”
With that Underwood leaves the room closing the door behind him
“Have a seat, Lieutenant,” Mowery says. “An issue has arisen, and we need your cooperation on the matter.”
“Anything I can do , Sir,” Tyler says matter of factly. The Commander's pleasant demeanor does not fool him for a moment. This is a serious man who only troubles himself with serious matters. Hank can tell that just by the way he speaks.
“You know a woman named Emily Stebbins, correct?” Mowery says
“Yes, Sir,” Tyler answers. “I guess you could say we are dating though the geographical constraints do put a damper on it.”
“How long have you known Miss Stebbins,” Mowery asks.
Tyler pauses for a moment. At first it is just to do the math in his head, but he also is taking time to process why these two Intelligence weanies are so interested in Emily.
“Well, Sir,” he says slowly, “it has been just under five months since we met. We started dating while the squadron was based at San Franciso.”
“Yes, we are well aware of that, Lieutenant,” the Commander says almost not waiting for the answer.
“If you already knew that, why did you ask the question?” Tyler says.
“I wanted to see what you would say,” he responds. “When you first met Miss Stebbins, did you approach her or did she approach you?”
“I approached her,” Tyler says. “It was at a dance at the Whitcomb Hotel. If I may ask, Sir, why are you so interested in my girlfriend?”
“I think you better leave the questions to us, Lieutenant,” Mowery says sternly. “Let's just say we are concerned about her loyalty. She has been engaged in some questionable activities that may suggest she has Pro-Japanese sympathies.”
For four years Hank had reigned in his rebellious streak. It was the price he had to pay to first become a pilot in the Navy and then maintaining his qualification. This, however, was too much. These pukes from the Intelliegnece Office were accusing Emily, his girl, of being a traitor! He rose from his seat with fire in his eyes.
“Listen here, you sonofabitch!” he says glaring straight into Mowery's eyes. “If you think I am gonna sit here and let you bad mouth Emily, you are full of it!”
With that the door swings open and CDR Underwood rushes in. He grabs Hank by his shirt and slams him back down into the chair.
“Sit down, Lieutenant!” he says. “Gentlemen, a moment with my officer if you would.”
The two men sense that Underwood was not making a request and they leave the room. Mowery keeps his eyes fixed on Tyler as he steps through the door.
“Now you are going to listen to me and you are going to listen good,” Underwood says with no level of compromise in his words. “These men have the ability to take you from this room right now, no questions asked. They can not only strip you of your wings but also make your life a living hell. I am sure you have no doubts about your girlfriend's loyalty to the country, but I might point out that you barely know her. I don't know what this is all about, but I do know one thing: you are going to sit here and answer their questions calmly and professionally. If you fail to do so, I will ground you and send you back to the States myself. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, Sir,” Hank says in a beaten tone.
Mowery and McElroy return to the room and the interview begins again. They ask him dozens of questions about Emily: had she ever mentioned lack of support for the War, did she ever ask him to read pro-Japanese materials, does she associate with Japanese people, and on and on. The continue to grill Hank for over an hour. No matter how many times Tyler protests and assures them of Emily's loyalty, they do not seem to be satisfied. Finally, they run out of questions. They dismiss Hank and he walks out of the office and straight out the door. He walks down to the beach and just stares at the waves. Feelings of doubt and confusion fill his mind, but they are overwhelmed by another emotion: rage. He has no idea what this is all about, but he is going to find out.
What Tyler does not know is that on this day in Olean, New York, two grim faced men enter the Olean Savings and Trust building asking to speak with Mr. Tyler. Hank's father is grilled for over half an hour about a girl he has never met.
"We have met the enemy and they are ours" - Commodore O.H. Perry