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Today in Alternate History
Day in Alternate History Blog
The Final Countdown (Version 1.0)
by Amerigo Vespucci
"So you’re telling me there’s no way to get home, Mister Lasky?"
"Captain, given the storm we came through the first time, there’s no
guarantee we’d make it back alive, even if we could somehow recreate the storm
that brought us here — and we can’t. We’re stuck here."
Captain Matthew Yelland pondered this thought, moving his scarred, nail-less
fingers across the tabletop, brushing the photographs taken by the
reconnaissance aircraft earlier that day. Impossible photographs, ones that
showed a scene nearly forty years in the past. And yet they were real. Had to
be. The civilians below decks, the radio transmissions, and the dead marine
cooling in the sickbay’s morgue were all proof of that. The marine had been
killed by a Japanese pilot from Nagumo’s carriers. Admiral Chuichi Nagumo,
that was, commander of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.
December 7, 1941. They were only an hour away from midnight, the midnight that
began that day of infamy. He really didn’t have any choice, Captain Yelland
His decision made, he stood up. "Commander Owens," he said, addressing
one of the men around the table. "You are to escort Senator Chapman and
Miss … Scott, is it," he said after a quick question, "to Pearl
Harbour. Be back by 0500. I want my best man back on deck to lead the attack
against the Japanese." He said this in tones that brooked no argument, not
that anyone in the room would argue with someone with the toughness to survive
years of imprisonment in Hanoi.
But someone tried anyway. "Sir! We can’t interrupt history! If we change
things, there’s no telling…" Warren Lasky was quickly interrupted by
"Mister Lasky," he said in ice-cold tones, "we have already
changed history. You said it yourself when Senator Chapman arrived on deck. We
also have a duty to protect the people of the United States of America. I swore
an oath to protect the Constitution of the United States, and that Constitution
is about to come under attack. Though that oath was taken some time from now, I
believe it still holds, and I am going to do something about it."
He smoothed his uniform with his hands, and nodded to Commander Richard Owens.
"Dick, you’ve got a job to do. Make sure the warning gets to Pearl. I can’t
fire until the first bombs fall, but at least we can make sure they’re
ready." Owens nodded, saluted, and left the room, dispatching a crewman to
tell the helicopter crew to get ready.
The rest of the officers left the room, having been dismissed by Yelland. They
were eager to get their departments in order before the war began. One man
remained behind with Yelland — Warren Lasky, the civilian representative of
the Tideman corporation, a company that no longer existed, Yelland thought.
"Don’t look so disappointed, Mister Lasky," Yelland said. "You’ve
just become one of the most valuable people in the world."
"Captain, this is wrong. We shouldn’t be interfering in history."
"I’m not going to argue with you again," Yelland said, shaking his
head. "Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a broadcast to make."
Yelland departed, leaving Lasky alone in the compartment, staring at the
pictures of history made real.
"Sir, we’re ready," a technician told the captain. "When the
red light goes on, you’ll be live on closed-circuit television across the
Yelland smiled slightly. "I know how it works, son."
The technician returned the smile slightly, and went behind the camera. He
looked over at the Public Affairs Officer, Lt. (j.g.) Brooks, who nodded. The
red light went on.
"This is your captain," Yelland said, speaking into the camera.
"No doubt many of you have been confused and even scared after the events
of the last few hours. You have heard rumours of all kinds, and I’m here to
put to rest the scuttlebutt.
"You all remember, no doubt painfully, the storm through which we passed
less than 18 hours ago. No one aboard this ship knows exactly what that storm
was, where it came from, or how it started," Yelland fudged slightly. Lasky
had offered up several suggestions, most of which involved some sort of
electromagnetic anomaly or portal.
"What we do know is that the effect it had on us was nothing short of
incredible. You may have heard of twists or warps that affect time and space.
Apparently such things are real, and not just something from Star Trek."
Yelland smiled slightly, the smile going grim on his face.
"The amazing truth is that 18 hours ago, we were in 1980. We now find
ourselves in the world of December 6, 1941. In less than an hour, it will be
2400 hours, making it the seventh. I don’t need to tell you what that means.
"After consulting with senior officers and civilian specialists," he
glanced beyond the camera, where Lasky had wandered into the compartment.
"We have decided that although we may be in extraordinary circumstances,
this ship is first and foremost a fighting vessel of the United States Navy. Our
sworn duty is to defend the United States of America. I intend, with the help of
each and every one of you, to do just that. We are about to fight a battle that
occurred long before most of you were even born.
"We know what happened when Pearl Harbour was bombed." Lasky moved
closer to Yelland, carefully staying out of sight of the camera, but watching
the captain with amused interest. Lt. Brooks tried to pull Lasky back, but gave
up, seeing that he wasn’t in the way. Captain Yelland kept reading.
"I do not know by what intervention we have been given the chance to
prevent this terrible slaughter, but this time it will have a far different
ending. We will defeat and destroy the Japanese battle fleet currently
threatening Pearl Harbour. When the first bomb falls, we will be licensed to
destroy every Japanese aircraft, ship, submarine, and tugboat we can find. We
will not fail. We are going to take them on and whip them so badly the war won’t
even have a chance to get started. Keep all the philosophy for after the battle.
Right now, gentlemen, the Nimitz is at General Quarters."
The red light blinked off, and Captain Yelland relaxed. He had really worked
himself up for that one. Smiling, he looked up at Lasky, who had stepped out
from behind the camera. "So, Mister Lasky, what did you think of
Without a word, Warren Lasky pulled out a pistol and shot Captain Matthew
Yelland cleanly through the head.
Chapter 1: Taking Command
"He what!?" Commander Richard Owens had to shout to make himself
heard over the noise of the helicopter and the roar of wind through the open
doors of the Sea King.
"He shot the captain," the tinny voice repeated through the headset.
"What happened to Lasky?’
"Dead, sir. He was ranting and raving about changing history, or something
like that, then killed himself with the pistol he used to murder Captain Yelland."
There was silence over the channel as Owens thought about what this would do to
the attack … hell, to the Nimitz as a whole.
"So," he began slowly, still shouting, "has Commander Thurman
taken command yet?"
The voice over the radio — some enlisted radioman; Owens didn’t recall his
name at the moment — answered in the affirmative. "Yes, sir. He’s told
all senior officers to continue preparations for the attack against the
Japanese. As soon as you get back to the ship, we’ll begin the briefing for
the attack. Commander Thurman’s ordered a final recon of the Japanese fleet.
The flight’s just taking off now, sir."
Owens snorted. Thurman was the type of officer who would launch a reconnaissance
mission against a target they already knew everything about. He was cautious,
probably too cautious for this kind of fight. Owens had had that type of officer
in Vietnam. More often than not, they were the ones that got men killed, afraid
to commit too much, and so ended up not committing enough to complete the job.
"Copy that, Nimitz. We’re about ninety-five miles from Pearl right now.
After we drop off the senator and his secretary, we’ll RTB. Eight-One
His conversation with Nimitz over, Commander Owens left the cockpit and returned
to the cargo area of the helicopter. Senator Chapman and his secretary, Laurel,
were both shivering, clutching their arms to their chests in an attempt to avoid
the rush of air that flew through the open helicopter. It may have been Hawaii,
but it was still a night in December, and the rush of air did little to keep
them warm. Their borrowed flight suits couldn’t keep them warm in those sort
of conditions. Owens reached over to shut the hatch.
"Thank you," said Senator Chapman, gruffly. "I don’t understand
how this infernal contraption works, but I’d think that you future folks would’ve
designed something that wasn’t so damn loud!" He had to shout to be heard
over the noise of the helicopter and the ear protectors everyone wore. On
Senator Chapman, the ear protectors made him look like he was wearing enormous
beige plastic earmuffs.
Some of the concern he was feeling must’ve shown on his face, as Laurel
shouted, "What’s wrong, Commander?"
"It’s Captain Yelland…" Owens said hesitantly. "He’s
"Goddamn!" interjected Chapman.
Owens related what had happened to the two passengers in slow, halting
sentences. It was only now starting to sink in. Yelland had survived torture by
the Vietnamese, only to be murdered on his own ship, by an American they had all
trusted. Damnit, he thought. Yelland had the force of personality needed to
force anything through, especially when dealing with admirals who were stuck
behind a desk. Slyly showing his scars and a few tough words were all the
captain had needed to do to free up something the ship needed, whether it was
vital parts, or something else the ship needed.
Dick remembered their return to Norfolk after the Marine One disaster. Yelland’s
scarred hands and rough words were particularly stark against the polished
platitudes of the President. Damn Carter anyway. We wouldn’t have lost those
men if it weren’t for him, Owens thought. Well, at least they had a real
president now, someone who wouldn’t shy away from what needed to be done. Now,
if only Commander Thurman could handle things nearly as well as the captain had.
He checked his watch. It was nearly one-thirty.
Commander Dan Thurman was angry at the world. His captain had been killed, and
the bastard who shot him hadn’t even had the decency to wait around to let the
marines kill him. It would’ve been the least he could’ve done, and now the
whole ship was on edge, furious, but without a target to direct that anger on,
it was a very unstable situation.
He picked up the bridge microphone, sounding a tone throughout the ship.
"This is the skipper," he began. Heads turned throughout the ship at
the voice unfamiliar to most of them. "It is my duty to report…" he
paused for a moment, collecting his thoughts.
"It is my duty to report that Captain Yelland has been killed by a deranged
… sailor. The sailor turned his weapon upon himself after killing the captain.
This doesn’t change a thing. The Japanese are still out there. If we do not
prevent this attack, thousands of Americans will die. Captain Yelland was a
great man. Let’s win this one for him." Commander Thurman reset the
microphone in the holder with a click.
Silence fell across the ship as crewmen from the reactor spaces to the hangar
deck took in Thurman’s words. The reaction of one grizzled petty officer
summed up most of the crew’s reaction. "Goddamn. I knew Yelland for
years. That tough bastard could’ve taken on the Japanese himself. This guy…
I just don’t know." His crewmate nodded in agreement.
Back on the bridge, the new captain of the Nimitz was fielding questions from
virtually every department on the ship. "No, I don’t know what load outs
we’re going to need on the strike aircraft," he said to the officer on
the other end of the telephone. "No, I don’t know that either. Damnit, we’re
waiting for Owens to get back from Pearl. He’ll make the final decision on
what aircraft we’re using. That’s the CAG’s job. Besides, we’re still
waiting on the Prowler to get back with those photos. Even with infrared and
radar photos only, we’ll get the information we need. Now, anything else?
Good. Out." He slammed the phone down. The Officer of the Deck approached
"What is it, Lieutenant?" Thurman said, rubbing his temples.
"Sir, the reconnaissance Prowler has finished its photo run and is RTB. It’s
forty-five minutes out."
Thurman rubbed his chin as he received the news, dismissing the officer. He
turned on his heel and walked into the communications room. Behind him, the
bridge officers watched him go. "So, where’s Owens now?" the new
captain of the Nimitz asked to the radioman on duty.
"Sir, he’s less than five minutes out from Pearl. Once he drops off the
Senator, it’ll be about 75 minutes until he’s back on deck."
"Seaman, I know the top speed of the Sea King," Thurman said, coldly.
"Make sure Owens gets back as soon as possible. We need him to coordinate
this mission. It’s what Captain Yelland would’ve wanted."
He stormed out of the radio room, back to the bridge. Behind him, the radiomen
wondered what the hell was going on.
Aboard the helicopter, Owens was giving last-minute instructions to his two
passengers. "We’re going to set down on Hickam. I can’t stay with you
like we planned — we’re running out of time, and I do- … I need to plan
the mission. Be sure to warn Admiral Kimmel about —"
"Son," Senator Chapman interrupted, "after what I’ve been
through today, I don’t need any prompting about what to do. Those damn Japs
aren’t going to have an easy time of it." He smiled.
"You’ve got to convince Kimmel to put all bases on alert. The Japanese
aren’t going to be hitting only here. We’ve got to warn all commands. Here,
take my watch. If those flight suits and landing in a helicopter don’t
convince Pacific Command, this watch sure as hell will." He handed the
watch over. One of the new Casio calculator watches, it had a digital face and
was obviously far in advance of anything 1940s technology could build. Chapman
took the watch, holding it close to his face in the jostling helicopter and dim
light to examine it before putting it in his pocket.
"I only wish I could go with you. They need me back on the Nimitz."
"Don’t trust the new captain, eh, Commander?" Chapman snorted.
"I don’t think I’d do anything differently were I in your shoes.
Godspeed." He extended a hand, which Owens shook. The helicopter touched
down with a jolt. The helicopter’s crew chief threw open the door and the
Senator jumped out. His secretary made to follow, but stopped.
Putting a hand on Owens’s shoulder, she said in a quiet voice, "be
careful, Dick." She hurried after Chapman, who was moving toward a lighted
building on the airfield. Several soldiers with guns appeared at the doors of
the shack. Owens nodded to the pilot, who pulled the cyclic, and the helicopter
lifted off, heading flat-out, back to the Nimitz.
On the ground below them, Senator Chapman and Laurel reached the guard shack.
The marines on duty pulled their eyes off the departing helicopter long enough
to take notice them. "Who the hell are y’all," one asked, hesitantly
pointing his Garand toward the people in strange jumpsuits who had descended
from the … thing.
"Son, I’m Senator Samuel S. Chapman," one of them said
authoritatively. "Take me to your commander."
Chapter 2: Spreading the Word
Senator Chapman was getting impatient. It was taking too damn long to get to
Admiral Kimmel, even with his title clearing the way. First he and Laurel had to
convince those marines they weren’t invaders from Mars or another one of Wells’s
damn stunts. Then they’d had to work their way up through the layers of
command, waking up officers, convincing them, and moving on to the next level of
naval bureaucracy. It made Sam mad enough to chew nails and spit rivets,
preferably into the heads of those dolts who didn’t seem to grasp the
importance of this situation.
Along the way he’d sent Laurel to a hotel. She was only getting in the way,
even if she was a dandy with speechwriting. Besides, if there really was a
battle coming up… well, it was no place for a woman, that was for sure. Still,
it was taking time, hours of it. According to Owens’s watch — if that’s
what it was — it was almost six in the morning, and the sky was beginning to
brighten. At least he’d finally convinced someone high enough up to take him
to Kimmel, commander of all naval forces in the Pacific.
Kimmel was in his bathrobe when Chapman arrived, waking up for his dawn tee time
at the golf course. He stood up when Chapman entered the front door of his home,
escorted by a marine corporal. "Senator! So glad to see you, even if it is
a bit early in the —"
"Admiral, I don’t have time for small talk. The boat I was on was
brutally attacked by Japanese aircraft yesterday," Chapman said brusquely,
in rumpled clothes given to him by crewmen aboard the Nimitz. "Arthur
Bellman is dead, Admiral, killed by the Japanese."
"Arthur Bellman… My God," said Kimmel, stunned at the news. "He
was building the new P-38s for the Army." Kimmel shook himself, clearly
trying to get back to what the senator had said. "Are you sure it was
intentional? The Panay —"
"Admiral," said Chapman, interrupting, "this was no accident.
They came back to strafe my secretary and I in the water. Our cook was killed
then. We were picked up by one of your ships." Senator Chapman wasn’t
going to mention that ship’s name until he was asked it, something he knew
would come sooner or later, but which was to be avoided until the last moment.
"My God," Kimmel said again. "That would explain the clothing, at
least," he said, staring at the blue shirt, khaki pants, and black shoes
that Chapman wore over his enormous girth. "Japanese planes…,"
Kimmel thought aloud. "There must be a carrier nearby! But why? They know
we can beat them plane for plane. Their pilots and aircraft simply aren’t up
to par with ours… if they tried anything, we’d beat them down so fast, they
wouldn’t know what hit them," he concluded.
"Admiral," Chapman began, trying not to lose his temper, "they’ve
already tried something. They have attacked a United States Senator on the high
seas and killed American citizens! This is war!" Chapman shouted.
Kimmel paled. "Senator, I’m going to order a general alert for Pearl
Harbour. We’ll get Catalinas out there to find the Japanese carrier. They can’t
have gotten more than one this close to Pearl without our detecting them. This
all might just be a misunderstanding. If they really were up to something, we
would’ve heard something from Guam or the Philippines. Those would be the
first targets in an attack. I’ll make sure they get the warning, too."
Kimmel stood up from where he had joined Chapman in an adjacent chair to the one
the senator had settled in. "Now, if you’ll excuse me, sir, I must get
dressed. This is going to be a busy day, one way or another." He left the
room and walked upstairs, the stairs creaking with his weight.
He left his aide in his wake, scurrying to carry out Kimmel’s hurried orders.
Chapman remained sitting, thinking. Kimmel hadn’t asked the question that
Chapman couldn’t answer. He hadn’t asked which ship had rescued Chapman.
What luck, the senator thought. He suddenly stood. There would be a lot to do
before the Nimitz made her presence known. For that, he needed to send a
Aboard the Nimitz, Commander Owens was calming a riot. "All right, settle
down, everyone!" he yelled to the room full of Nimitz’s assembled pilots.
"You’re officers, not apes."
One pilot shouted back. "You’re asking us to act like apes! We’re not
going to let the Japs bomb us again!"
"You’re damn right, we’re not," answered Owens in a calm, even
tone. "The planes based out of Pearl will take down the first wave while we
blast the Japanese fleet to kingdom come."
"What planes in Pearl," another voice asked. "We could take down
the Japs and kill them all and not lose anyone!"
"What, and have another Vietnam?" asked Owens to the assembled pilots,
his amplified voice echoing off the false wooden walls of the biggest briefing
room on the Nimitz. The room quieted. "Because that’s what you’ll have
if we declare war on the Japanese. If we attack first, the people at home won’t
understand. Every man in this room," Owens jabbed his finger out at
individual pilots in the crowd, "will get the same reaction the older
pilots and I got when we came home from Vietnam. The Japanese have to strike
first. Senator Chapman’s down there in Pearl, telling Admiral Kimmel exactly
what’s coming their way. It won’t be the same. The Japanese are running into
a brick wall. We’re going to knife them in the back so they can’t do it
again." He paused, gauging the reaction of the flight-suited audience.
"And here’s how we’re going to do it," he continued, turning on
the overhead projector in the centre of the room. "Mike, hit the
Mike obliged, casting the room into darkness, except for the glow of the
projector, which displayed the latest radar image from the Hawkeye orbiting the
Japanese fleet. "Here’s our target. The First — and final — Japanese
expeditionary force." He pointed to individual ships within the picture,
pointing them out for the pilots. "Don’t worry about remembering all
these names," he said to the group. "You’ll all get recognition
photos to keep things straight."
Owens nodded to the Intruder pilots. "You A-6 jocks get the fun targets —
the two battleships and two heavy cruisers. No one’s every taken down a
battleship with a modern aircraft before. You boys get to be the first."
Someone — presumably one of the Intruder pilots — said, "Gee,
thanks." Owens smiled.
"I wouldn’t worry about it too much. You guys are going to get what few
Harpoons we’ve got. Those are tasked for the heavy cruisers. You’ll have
2,000 pound snakeyes for the battleships." His grin got wider. "Better
to have a bit of overkill than not enough to get the job done, right,
captain?" That was directed to Commander Thurman, who had wandered in and
was watching from the back.
The answer of "Damn straight!" came wafting through the darkness.
There were a few nervous laughs. Most of the pilots looked like they were
remembering Captain Yelland. Owens quickly returned to his briefing.
"Before the A-6 drivers go in, you Jolly Rogers will get your chance to
make the Japanese CAP very unhappy. We’re expecting nine Zeroes from each
carrier, for a total of 54. You’ll get a full loadout of Sparrows and
Sidewinders in addition to guns. It’s not much of a first combat test for our
Tomcats, but you shouldn’t have a problem. Just remember not to lose your drop
tanks. We can’t afford to replace them right now, and you shouldn’t need the
Owens nodded to his other Tomcat squadron. "You’ll be tasked with backup.
If something goes wrong, half of you will have Sidewinders, and the other half
will have Sparrows. We don’t know what’ll work on the crates the Japanese
are flying, so we’re going to play it safe the first time out. Watch our backs
and make sure nothing from that first wave bothers us while we’re cleaning
"And speaking of cleaning house…" Owens turned to the A-7 pilots
sitting to his right. "You all will be our street sweepers. You’ll be
tasked with taking out the Japanese carriers, destroyers, and transports. You’ll
have a mixed loadout of Mavericks and vanilla thousand-pound slicks. No
air-to-air stuff this time." There were groans at the last comment, but not
very many. The pilots were drooling about the possibility of sending six
Japanese carriers to the bottom. Better than Midway, it’d be.
"Your squadron commanders will be giving you more specific
instructions." He looked at the clock on the wall. "I have the time as
0601 hours. First cat shot is at 0700. Gentlemen, this day will live in infamy.
Let’s make sure it’s the Japanese who are saying it. Dismissed."
After answering a few questions from pilots, and after clearing the last of his
slides, he found himself face-to-face with Commander Thurman. "Very nice
briefing, Dick. Short and to the point. Not at all overkill." Said in a
dark bar and in a different tone, the words might’ve sparked a fight. Not
here. "I almost believed it."
"What do you mean, Dan?"
"That whole crock about Vietnam all over again. Even I know that Pearl
Harbour wasn’t — isn’t — going to be the only Japanese attack today. The
Brits are going to get hit, and so are our guys in the Philippines, Guam, and
Wake. There’d still be a war if we sent every Jap ship to the bottom before
they take off."
"Dan, it wouldn’t be our war!" Owens said, his waving hands
betraying his Italian ancestry. "Without the outcry over Pearl Harbour, it
might turn into another Vietnam. Yeah, there’ll still be a war. It wouldn’t
be nearly as popular, though."
"I just don’t like the idea of sacrificing our ships, our men in Pearl
just for some idea," said Thurman, back-pedalling in his argument.
"If I said I liked it, I’d be lying," agreed Owens. "It’s the
best of a bad situation. We’re doing the right thing here. If hundreds have to
die so thousands don’t have to, then so be it. Dan, I’ve got over 420 hours
over North Vietnam. I always believed that what we were doing mattered, that
losing my wingman was worth it … that it was all worth it when we won. You
know how that ended. We threw that war away. Let’s not do it here. We’ve got
to go in with the country behind us." Owens stared at Thurman, waiting for
"Commander," began Thurman, "There’s only one thing I can say
about that." He paused. "Good luck." He extended his hand for
Owens to shake. Owens took it, smiled, turned on his heel, and left the briefing
room, leaving Thurman behind to look at the pictures on the walls. Pictures of
the old world.
Chapter 3: The Camel's Back
"Admiral, you’re going to want to see this, sir." Admiral Kimmel
looked up from his desk to see a junior radioman holding a message in his
"Yes, son, what is it? I’m not sure this day could get any busier."
As he took the message, he found that wasn’t going to be the case. Walking
quickly past the startled radioman, he hurried into the adjacent map room.
"Gentlemen," he announced to the officers in the room, most of whom
looked up from the table-size map in the centre, "I’ve just received word
that the destroyer Ward has engaged and presumably sunk a submarine attempting
to enter the harbour." He turned to one of the seamen who were pushing
wooden markers around a table map of Hawaii, turning radio reports into a
"Where are our Catalinas now?"
"Sir," the seaman said, not looking up from where he was moving wooden
blocks with a long pole, "according to last reports, they’re only
sixty-five miles out. Five were scrambled at the first alert. One was down
because of a structural fault. Another squadron is just getting off the ground
now." The seaman looked up to see Kimmel staring at the map, an intent
expression on his face. "Sir," he added quickly, seeing who had been
asking the question.
Kimmel didn’t hear the added honorific. He was too busy staring at the map of
Hawaii, which had just been updated with a red marker. An enemy marker, right
next to the marker signifying the Ward. He turned to his aide, who had entered
the room with yet another of what had been a long string of messages since he
had come into the command building thirty minutes ago.
"Sir, General Short is reporting that he’s issued a low-level alert of
his own. He’s placed his squadrons at Wheeler and Bellows on B-5 alert, and
his bomber squadrons at Hickam on C-2 alert. He’s also placed the 86th
Observation Squadron at your disposal, sir, for use in tracking the Japanese
carrier." The aide read the information from the yellow sheet he carried.
When he looked up, he saw Kimmel, still lost in thought.
"Fine. Order the 86th to cover the sectors to the east and south. Our
Catalinas are already searching the north and west. If I were a Japanese
carrier, I’d want to keep my lines of retreat open. I’d be out there,"
Kimmel said, waving his hand at the sections of the map table north and west of
"When our squadrons report in, make sure we’ve got some aircraft over the
harbour at all times, rotating in and out." That was directed to his aide.
To another orderly, he said "Get General Short on the line. I know he’s
got some B-17s coming in from the mainland. Let’s give them an escort in. No
sense giving the Japs an easy target if they do try something." The orderly
saluted and left to fulfil Kimmel’s order, weaving in and out through the
increasing crowd in the room.
Word of Kimmel’s surprise alert had startled many of the officers that made up
that crowd from their beds on this Sunday morning, and it took time for them to
respond to the "Damn drill," as most of them said to their wives,
girlfriends, or lovers. Across the harbour, the sentiment was being echoed in
thousands of individual sailors’ minds. "Just another damn drill… why
Sunday?" Still, they did as they were told, rushing to general quarters
aboard ship, scrambling to fuel and arm aircraft on Ford Field, or just
scurrying back to base after a long night on the town. It wasn’t easy getting
a navy going from a cold start, but Kimmel’s order had gotten things moving.
At the Army bases, Schofield Barracks, Wheeler Field, Hickham Field, and Bellows
Field, activity was far more understated. General Short had gotten the word far
later than Kimmel, and his alert was far less wide-reaching. Most activity was
centred at Bellows, where Kimmel’s order to the 86th Observation squadron had
sent men scurrying for flight gear and fuelling lines. At Wheeler, the 19th,
46th, and 47th Pursuit squadrons grumbled as they slowly got ready, cursing the
damn alert and their friends who remained snugly in their beds.
In an office at Wheeler field, a phone rang, its clamour bursting the
concentration of the men playing chess. "Yes?" one said gruffly into
it, perturbed at having his game interrupted.
"Captain Richards? This is Private Lockard at Opana Point, sir. We’re
picking up a lot of aircraft on the gizmo."
Richards, unconcerned, pulled a clipboard off a nail on the wall. Looking at the
papers attached to it, he talked into the phone. "Nothing to worry about,
private. Flight of B-17s from California. I’ll pass it along. Someone higher
up might want to send a couple of fighters to escort them in. You boys better
stay on station for a while. General Short’s ordered an alert. Probably wants
a surprise readiness test. I’ll send up your relief."
He didn’t wait to hear the reply, but instead hung up the phone and walked out
of the office, on his way to the ready room. Someone would want to know about
In the command building, Admiral Kimmel was feeling a little more relaxed. Maybe
it was just the number of people around him, or the sense that the base was
waking up this morning, but he didn’t feel as alone anymore. Ships were
reporting ready all across the harbour, and Ford Island had twelve fighters in
the air. His Catalinas were winging their way north and west, and the Army
observation planes should be lifting off now, he thought, looking at his watch.
That’ll cover the south and east. His reverie was interrupted by a disruption
in the room. A signalman was sprinting across the room, paper held high in his
hand as he tried to weave his way through a clot of captains.
"Sir," he panted, handing the message to Kimmel. "Coconut Four
reports a large group of Japanese aircraft, heading towards Pearl. They’re
about a hundred miles out, sir." The section of the room near Kimmel fell
silent, only the murmur of distant conversation reaching his ears.
"Well, this is it," he heard himself say, almost as if from a point
outside his own body. "Commander Clarett, issue the order. Air raid Pearl
Harbour. This is not a drill."
Chapter 4: Back From the Future
"Echo lead, this is Spyglass."
"Spyglass, Echo lead, go ahead."
"Commander Owens, the Japanese are turning into the wind, sir."
Shit. It wasn’t said aloud, but Dick Owens’s silence over the open circuit
said it all. The Japanese weren’t supposed to launch their second wave for
another twenty minutes, but there they were, turning their ships into the wind.
The Nimitz was already having some effect on events, even before they launched
their weapons. The increasing number of transmissions being relayed from the CIC
aboard the Nimitz were proof of that. Even now, Owens was sure, the plotting
boards aboard the ship were filling up with grease pencil scratches indicating
aircraft movements across Oahu.
The Hawkeye needed an answer. "Ah… copy that, Spyglass. Let me get on the
horn with the Swordsmen."
VA-145, the "Swordsmen," was the Nimitz’s A-6 squadron. Normally
tasked with tanker support, Owens had decided that the Intruders’ large bomb
load would be helpful against the unknown quantity of the Japanese fast
battleships Hiei and Kirishima. They’d ensure that the entire Japanese
expeditionary force would be knocked out before they could send off a message to
Japan or any submarines that might be nearby. Surprise could double the Nimitz’s
striking power, but only if it was used properly.
To split the Japanese antiaircraft fire, Owens had directed the Swordsmen to
circle around the Japanese group in order to come in from the west while the
Tomcat squadrons came in from the south and the A-7s from the east. It would be
a coordinated strike, with the Tomcats killing the Japanese Zeroes while the
strike aircraft came in from opposite directions, "enveloping the arms of
an angry bear," as one Cold Warrior had put it when they were gaming the
scenario against a Soviet opponent.
But now, the Japanese had screwed it all up. They were preparing to launch the
second wave earlier than the records said, and Owens knew his fighters didn’t
have enough weapons to kill over 200 opposing aircraft in one strike. They’d
have to simply head straight in, and damn the antiaircraft. It’d still be
easier than Hanoi.
"Rapier lead, this is Echo lead." Owens’s voice crackled across the
"This is Rapier lead, go ahead."
"Tom, we’ve got a problem. The Japanese are preparing to launch the
"Yeah, kinda surprised us, too. We’ll be in radar range… well, now,
actually. We’re going to need to head straight in if we want to catch them on
"Copy that, Commander. Straight in it is. The skipper will be happy to hear
"That he would." Owens smiled tightly in his oxygen mask. "We’ll
be going to burner in three minutes to clear out the riff-raff. You’ve got the
plan after that. Echo lead out."
Owens changed frequencies to relay the bad news to the rest of the squadrons in
"Heading in, boss?" Owens’s radar-intercept officer asked from the
back seat of the Tomcat.
"You betcha. Hang on tight."
With that, Owens moved the throttle forward. The Tomcat shot forward, the rest
of the squadron following. Cruising several miles behind the Tomcats, the
Swordsmen were readying their Harpoons. Pilots and the bombardiers sitting next
to them worked in unison, targeting their missiles on the battleships and
cruisers of the Japanese Expeditionary Force.
There had only been twenty of the new weapons aboard the Nimitz, and sixteen
were loaded across the eight A-6Es and two KA-6Ds of the squadron. The KA-6Ds,
or dash-dees, were normally used as tankers, but for this, Owens wasn’t taking
any chances. The formation wasn’t going to need the extra fuel, but it might
need the extra weapons the dash-dees could provide. Their checks completed, the
bombardiers loosed their weapons.
Sixteen white streaks dropped from the Intruders, following the advancing
Tomcats. The missiles dropped toward the ocean, shrieking in their 600+ mph
fall. They levelled out at a bare twenty feet above the water, the cutting-edge
technology of the 1980s roaring to destroy the state-of-the-art technology of
Aboard the Japanese fleet, preparations for the launch of the second wave were
hurrying as quickly as possible. Crewmen rolled out fuel lines and rolled out
bomb carts to waiting aircraft. Propellers were turning, engines growling on the
Vals and Zeroes of the Japanese aerial armada. The pilots were confident as they
hurried to their planes, walking confidently along the steel decks of the
carriers. They knew they were the best in the world, the finest men the Imperial
Japanese Navy had to offer. So what if the Americans had blundered into the
first wave? Their puny squadron had been wiped from the sky, and the strike was
continuing on. The men of the carriers were confident that all that would change
would be their early return home.
That confidence was suddenly and irrevocably destroyed as the assembling pilots
saw dozens of explosions above their heads. Those explosions, signalling the
death of the 54 Zeros watching over the Japanese fleet, were the end results of
events 30,000 feet above. In the cockpits of the Tomcats high above, radios
crackled with cries of "Fox-Two, Fox-Three," and eventually
"Winchester," as some pilots blew through their eight missiles.
Damnit, Owens thought. Those missiles couldn’t be replaced, and a lot of the
younger pilots didn’t seem to understand it. They’d been trained to spend
ammo, not lives. There would always be another missile. Only in this case, there
wouldn’t be. Owens, after checking with individual aircraft, was gratified to
discover that many of his older pilots, those who had been through Vietnam and
supply shortages, had been somewhat less liberal with their missiles. Still,
they’d used nearly seventy missiles to down only 54 aircraft. He’d have to
work on that if he got the chance.
"Cease fire. Rogers are to return to the Nimitz for rearming. Aces are to
cover CAP for the Corsairs. Corsairs have the green light to knock the door
down." There were some complaints from the Tomcats of the Jolly Rogers, but
not many. After all, every man in the squadron had just become an ace. Owens’s
attention was soon grabbed by a flash of light below him. The Harpoons had
Aboard the Japanese fleet, sailors scurried back and forth beneath a rain of
aircraft parts and wreckage. Klaxons sounded on destroyers and carriers alike as
crewmen scrambled to try to rescue anyone who might have survived. Their
attentions were soon grabbed by an enormous explosion in the midst of the fleet.
Necks craned and heads snapped around, seeking the source of the noise that had
cut through the preparations for launch.
The Harpoons had arrived. Targeted among the battleships and cruisers of the
Japanese fleet, they had approached their targets at wave-top height at nearly
600 miles an hour. Upon reaching their targets, they executed a pop-up
manoeuvre, designed to avoid anti-missile fire, of which there was none here.
The Harpoons performed flawlessly, all sixteen missiles hitting their targets.
Two were targeted on the light cruiser Abukuma, and three each on the heavy
cruisers Tone and Chickuma and the battleships Hiei and Kirishima.
The Abukuma’s back was broken instantly, her bow and stern jack-knifing into
the air as her midsection sank beneath the waves. Fewer than a dozen of her crew
survived to be torn apart by the sharks that inhabited the area. The Tone and
Chickuma would fare little better. Targeted by 1,500 pounds of high explosive
each, they were blasted by triple explosions, their superstructure and exposed
turrets wrecked. Decks set alight, fires quickly spread to weapon magazines, and
secondary explosions began to wrack the ships. Hundreds of sailors, trapped
below decks, were doomed to a slow and painful death, as those who made it to
the deck made no attempt to fight the fires spreading throughout the ship,
instead choosing to save themselves. The Hiei and Kirishima fared best. Their
heavy armour was able to keep the triple five hundred-pound explosions from
penetrating to the ships’ magazines. One missile, exploding in the grated
stacks of the Hiei, blew out that ship’s boilers and left it dead in the
water. Despite the destruction of much of the battleships’ superstructure and
secondary armament, they remained a threat.
This wasn’t apparent to the Japanese, of course. Most sailors were too busy
staring at the towering column of smoke and flame left by the destruction of the
Abukuma to notice what was happening above them. Sailors aboard the carriers,
ordered by their officers to continue work on the second strike, had their
attention again taken from their work by a scream from above. It was the
Owens had devoted two squadrons of Corsairs — the Nimitz’s entire complement
— to the destruction of the six Japanese carriers. The 24 A7E Corsair IIs
carried six Maverick air-to-sea missiles each. The last thing most of the
Japanese sailors aboard the six carriers — the Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu, Soryu,
Shokaku, and Zuikaku — heard was an enormous roar as the twelve aircraft of
the VA-15 Valions launched their missiles.
Twelve missiles struck each carrier, one from each aircraft. Japanese fighters
waiting to take off were blown into the water, while others exploded in pools of
burning fuel and munitions. Two fighters that had managed to take off were
downed immediately by the orbiting Tomcats of the Black Aces while the Japanese
carriers burned, exploded, and melted into the ocean. The ships were blasted out
of the water by the initial force of the explosions, falling back into the sea
with an enormous splash that swamped one of the destroyers providing escort. The
ocean was set ablaze by the burning aviation fuel spread by the carriers, all
but the Shokaku sinking almost instantly. Nearly 15,000 Japanese sailors were
killed in the first seven minutes, incinerated aboard their ships or simply
atomised in the explosions.
The following A7 squadron, the Battering Rams, had no carriers left to kill. The
squadron commander, seeing the destruction wrought by VA-15, ordered his pilots
to target the remaining ships of the Japanese Force. Flak began to dot the sky
as the Japanese recovered from their shock. The gunners were determined to bring
down the devil-planes that had ravaged their fleet. The oilers Kenyo Maru,
Kokuyu Maru, and Nippon Maru were all struck by Mavericks, as were the
destroyers Kasumi, Arare, Kagero and Isokaze. The remaining Mavericks were
loosed upon the Hiei. All but the Hiei were sunk by the missiles. The Rams
headed for home, the last of their weapons expended and their mission
accomplished. It wasn’t over, yet.
Though the Intruders had been the first to attack the Japanese fleet, their role
wasn’t over just yet. As reports from the ever-present E2C Hawkeye, Spyglass,
came in to Owens, he realized that the Japanese battleships were still afloat
and presumably operational. Armed with thousand-pound bombs, they could still
make their presence known. But now they were flying into the arms of a warned
opponent, and they would pay the price.
Coming in at wave-top level, their targets were indistinct amidst the clouds of
burning fuel and debris and the more dangerous clouds of exploding anti-aircraft
fire. Still, they stayed on target, guided by their radar and targeting
computers locked into the targets painted by the radar. Around them, the Black
Aces used their Mavericks to attack the remaining Japanese destroyers. The
Tanikaze, Urakaze, Hamakaze, Akigumo, and Shiranui met their sister ships on the
ocean floor, courtesy of Tomcat Mavericks. The scene was one out of hell for the
pilots of Swordsmen squadron. Below them, the sea burned with oil and aviation
fuel spilled from destroyed carriers. To the left and right of them, explosions
marked the deaths of destroyers and oilers. Their funeral pyres blotted out the
horizon with their black smoke. Above them flew the Black Aces, ministers of
death for the Japanese sailors. And before them lay the Hiei and Kirishima,
spewing fire from their surviving antiaircraft mounts. Eventually, something had
to connect, despite the tremendous speed of the Intruders.
And so it did for Lieutenant Avery Jacobs, piloting the seventh A-6E of the
Rams. A lucky shot, one in a million, connected with the left wing of his
Intruder. It exploded, spinning the aircraft into a fatal fall. Neither he nor
his bombardier survived the impact with the burning sea.
Still the Intruders pressed on, successfully dropping their bombs and sending
the battleships into the fiery depths. The Rams flew on, one pilot short, but
leaving a sea of fire, debris, and floating corpses in their wake.
Chapter 5: Paying Respects
The Nimitz slowed to a halt as the flag was raised to half-mast. Virtually
the entire ship’s company was assembled on deck to pay final respects to their
former captain. Arranged in rows, the six thousand crewmen wore their best
whites. No one wanted to show anything less than the best for their captain —
he still might have been watching.
"Paaaaraaade Rest!" rang out across the deck, broadcast over the deck
loudspeakers. Twelve thousand shined black shoes rank on the deck.
It wasn’t anything special, simply done by the book, chapter twelve of the US
Navy’s book of regulations. The chaplain said a prayer as short and
unremarkable as the man himself. Only the crew’s respect for their former
captain and the men killed in the attack kept many of them from yawning in the
They snapped to attention as the pallbearers approached the edge of the deck.
There were six bodies to be interned — the captain, the three men killed by
the Japanese sailor, and the two men killed in the attack. The shrouded bodies
slid overboard, the screeching of gulls drowning out any other sounds on the
Commander Thurman gave the benediction, talking about all the great things each
man had done. "May God treasure and keep their immortal souls. And may we
ensure that their sacrifice will not be in vain. God, steel and protect us as
well as we fight on, in their names. Amen."
Shots rang out, clear and crisp, as the marine honour guard paid tribute to
their fallen comrades, friends, and commanding officer. Three volleys of seven
shots echoed across the ocean as the bugler began to play Taps. Before the
assembled crew, six flags were folded tightly, white-gloved marine hands
smoothing the flags’ fabric. The crew held their salutes until the final note
was played. A call of "dismissed" was heard, and slowly the assembled
crew returned below decks, each man’s thoughts hidden by a solemn expression.
"Who are we going to give the flags to?" asked Owens of Thurman,
something Thurman himself had been wondering.
"They’ve still got families, Dick. Hell, the captain’s probably still
alive somewhere in the ‘States." Both men paused as the thought of
handing over the captain’s memorial flag to the captain himself occurred to
"I’ll make sure someone in the family gets them," continued Thurman.
"We owe them that much. We owe the captain a lot more."
"Well," he said, looking out to sea. "We’d better get into
port. At least that Catalina found the remains of the Japanese fleet. We’d
have had a hard time convincing them we were genuine if they didn’t."
The Nimitz was escorted by several destroyers as she was manoeuvred into Pearl
Harbour. At first, the radioman hadn’t believed who they were, as always. That
changed once an Army reconnaissance flight had been allowed to overfly the
carrier and radio back to Pearl. Things moved quickly after that, with Kimmel
himself getting on the radio to talk to Thurman. Still, with all the chaos
caused by the Japanese attack, it was getting on towards sunset before the
Nimitz was allowed to approach the harbour.
Thurman had ordered the ASW helicopters out all day, but now they were on deck.
After a radio conference with Kimmel, it had been decided to play the situation
as quietly as possible. Obviously, the fact that a massive new carrier had
arrived in port would be impossible to hide. What Kimmel wanted to hide was the
true origins of the carrier. Thurman had agreed, and arranged to have all
aircraft below decks, and as much of the ship as possible covered with enormous
tarps. They couldn’t hide everything, but with the aircraft out of view, the
ship simply looked like what it was — an enormous, evidently advanced aircraft
As tugs nudged the Nimitz into a double berth vacated by the Nevada and Arizona,
the bridge crew looked at the scene around them with incredulity. It still
looked like Pearl Harbour, all right — but none of the ships in port were
familiar. Neither were the aircraft flying overhead, evidently on alert for
further attacks. It was incredible, Commander Thurman thought. They really were
in the past. "Dead stop. Away lines, rig ship for mooring." The
command was passed through the officer of the deck to the crewmen below who
threw mooring lines over the side. They’d had to be careful — this Pearl
Harbour wasn’t as suited for ships of the Nimitz’s draft or length. Thurman
shivered as he thought of the two battleships that had had to moor elsewhere in
the harbour to allow for the Nimitz’s thousand-foot length.
Thurman and crewmen around the Nimitz wondered at the black clouds of smoke
billowing from Ford and Wheeler Fields. Further down Battleship Row, fireboats
were still pouring water onto one of the ships in the line. The Oklahoma,
Thurman thought, but he couldn’t be sure. The harbour had been hit, even with
their warning, Thurman thought, regretting allowing Owens to convince him not to
intercept that first wave. Well, it was over and done now. Now they could get on
with the war.
Thurman’s command came back to him. Dead stop. "Sir, Admiral Kimmel is
requesting permission to come aboard." Lieutenant Perry seemed to be taking
their current situation far better than Thurman was feeling. "Permission
Granted. Ready the greeting party for the admiral. Non-essential crew are to
assemble on the hangar deck for review." Perry passed the word through the
ship’s communications system. "I’m heading below to greet the admiral.
Let me know if any situations arise."
Thurman returned Perry’s salute, and left the bridge, heading downward. When
he got there, he found a situation. The mooring points the Nimitz was attached
to weren’t connected to Ford Island, and the Nimitz usually relied on a
shore-borne ladder or riser assembly to allow people to board the ship. Neither
of that was present here, and Kimmel was waiting to board from his launch below.
Eventually, a ladder was lowered from the Nimitz, allowing Kimmel and his party
Thurman was there with the honour party, standing at attention. As he topped the
ladder, Kimmel started, but returned the salute. Nearby, a bosun’s pipes
whistled. "Admiral Kimmel, Commander, Pacific Fleet, arriving,"
announced a nearby petty officer.
Kimmel started a bit at the unexpected greeting and the sight of Commander
Thurman and the honour party standing there at attention. "Admiral Kimmel,
I’m Commander Thurman, sec — commander of the Nimitz. Welcome aboard,
Chapter 6: In their Wake
December 10, 1941
The tinny strains of "Anchors Aweigh" could be heard faintly through
the bridge windows as the Nimitz was nudged away from her resting place on
"Just wish we weren’t headed out so soon."
"I agree completely, Lieutenant," replied Commander Thurman, "But
when an admiral orders, we go."
"At least you got a souvenir, sir," said Lieutenant Perry, nodding at
the four-striped shoulderboards Thurman was wearing.
"It’s not official," Thurman said, smiling, "but it does feel…
different. Ahead slow."
"Ahead slow, aye." The command was relayed to the helmsman as the tugs
escorted Nimitz into the channel. It had been a fast three days.
Kimmel and Thurman had agreed that it was best to keep the Nimitz’s true
origins as much of a secret as possible for as long as possible. The newspapers
in Thurman’s stateroom bore that out. Flown in from the Mainland, the
headlines trumped the invasions of the Philippines, Guam, and Malaya, as well as
the President’s speech and the declaration of war.
Any mention of Pearl Harbour, if it was mentioned at all, said merely that the
Japanese had attacked the base, but that the attack had been beaten off with
heavy losses to the Japanese, thanks in part to the navy’s new carrier, which
had been fitting out near the islands. Casualties, as the report listed, were
mostly limited to aircrew who had died fighting off the Japanese attack, which
had been scattered and largely ineffective, damaging the Tennessee and
Pennsylvania, as well as damage scattered across the airfields of the island.
Kimmel had ordered the telegraph line between California and Oahu to be closely
monitored for anything about the Nimitz. Kimmel himself, after recovering from
his initial shock, had been remarkably accommodating, Thurman thought, once
again thinking of his new rank — well, potential new rank, at least. He hadn’t
believed the sinking of the Japanese carriers, of course — hadn’t even
believed that there were six of them out there, not until Owens had shown him
the gun-camera footage, and a Catalina had independently verified the vast
wreckage field that littered the ocean north of Pearl Harbour.
The folks in Washington must’ve thought he’d lost his mind, Thurman mused,
thinking of what their expression must’ve been like after reading Kimmel’s
message. That, coming on top of the attack on the Philippines and Guam, as well
as the air raids on Wake and the bombardment of Midway, would’ve been a hell
of a shock. Well, he thought, it was all in Owens’s hands now.
Kimmel had been recalled to Washington early on the 8th, and things had moved
quickly after that. He’d flown out on one of the Nimitz’s Greyhounds, along
with Owens — the best expert on WWII the ship had — and a whole load of
books and other things. They’d needed both the ship’s Greyhounds to carry
all the material to California, not to mention the people.
He remembered the near-riot that had broken out when he’d had to announce that
they couldn’t grant liberty for the crew — because of security concerns. The
situation had only been defused at great effort from Kimmel, who’d managed to
arrange the Army force from Schofield to cordon off a section of Honolulu for
use by the crew. The men had mostly taken it well, drinking and sleeping their
way through 48 hours of liberty. They’d needed the chance to get drunk and
stoned, as well as getting used to 1941. There’d been a couple of fights about
that — bartenders who wouldn’t serve black sailors. The sailor’s friends
had then proceeded to burn down most of the bar. Only the fact that the Army was
handling security had kept the situation from getting out of hand.
And then, on top of that, he’d lost a lot of his more experienced officers and
enlisted men. The four men from the Nimitz and were already in the navy had gone
to Washington with Owens, as had the Nimitz’s air boss. Commander Thompson,
the head of engineering, had gone along as well. Who knew what he’d be able to
do as a member of the Manhattan Project, Thurman thought. I just hope Owens can
keep a handle on everything that needs to be done.
In Washington, Owens was thinking the same things about Thurman. Well, there’s
not much I can do about it now, he mused, staring at the luxurious White House
carpet. After flying out of Pearl on the morning of the 8th, it had taken Owens
and Kimmel nearly a day and a half to reach Washington. They’d changed over
from the Nimitz’s C-2 Greyhound to a C-47 transport in California — the
Greyhounds didn’t have enough range, and there wasn’t the fuel to spare to
fly them all the way to the East Coast. They’d packed a few of the goodies
from the Nimitz along with them on the C-47 — books, tapes, a television, a
VCR, and one of the Apples taken from the rec room aboard the ship. The rest of
the stuff and the crew they’d taken stayed in California. The aviation staff
he’d taken off the Nimitz were supposed to be organizing an effort to produce
JP-5 and iron bombs. They’d need those if the Nimitz was going to stay a
warship, and not just be tied up at a quay somewhere to be taken apart for
But there was time to worry about that later. Here he was, in the White House,
for crying out loud! About to meet with the President! Sure, it wasn’t Nixon
or Ford, or hell, even Carter, but that made it all the better. He was about to
meet Franklin Delano Roosevelt, possibly the greatest president ever. He only
hoped his nervous excitement didn’t show through his expression.
An aide walked into the hallway where Kimmel and Owens were waiting, immaculate
in their dress blues. "Gentlemen, the President will see you now."
He walked them down the dark-carpeted and white-walled hall to a door flanked by
two Secret Service men. They didn’t have the tell-tale white earpieces they
had in Owens’s time, but their demeanour and cheap suits made it clear who
they were. One of them opened the door for Kimmel and Owens, who followed the
aide into the room.
The room was elegantly decorated, as virtually every such room in the White
House was. A large, ovoid table took up most of the room. Around it were seated
a virtual who’s who of the United States government and military. Secretary of
State Cordell Hull, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, Secretary of War
Stimson, Commander-in-Chief of the Army George C. Marshall, Secretary of the
Navy Frank Knox, Admiral King, the Chief of Naval Operations, Vannevar Bush,
chairman of the National Defense Research Council, and of course, President
Roosevelt, who sat in a chair at one of the ends of the table. "Come in,
gentlemen," he said genially, as the three men entered the room. "I’ve
been eager to meet the heroes of Pearl Harbour. Or, would I say, heroes-to
be," he added, smiling. "Please be seated."
Kimmel and Owens did so in the two empty chairs at the table. "Commander
Owens," Roosevelt began, once they were settled, "I’ve heard a lot
about you from Admiral Kimmel. I’ve seen the pictures of your ship — the
Nimitz … is that right?" Owens nodded. "Remarkable thing. Even more
remarkable are the things you’ve brought with you. I had a chance to look over
them last night. Mister Bush," he said, nodding to the NDRC head, "was
particularly impressed with your … computers. We’ve all been given copies of
your manuscript," he continued, laying a hand on a thick stack of papers on
the table in front of him. Everyone at the table had a similar stack, Owens
"It has been a great help for us to understand the years ahead,"
Roosevelt said in his raspy voice. "We might be far more worried about
events in the Philippines, for instance. I can assure you that the nation’s
hysteria about the Japanese does not extend to this room, thanks in large part
to your book here." The President sighed and folded his hands on the dark
tabletop. "The question remains how much of it we can use without
jeopardizing the source. Right now, fewer than a dozen men in the world — off
your ship, of course — know of this manuscript and about the Nimitz. The story
will break, that much is certain. We would prefer that it breaks as late as
possible, as that will allow us to fully utilize this resource. There are some
things we can do immediately, of course. Admiral King," the president said,
extending a hand towards the man, "will begin a campaign of unrestricted
submarine warfare against the Japanese, with special emphasis on cutting their
supply lines to the Philippines. We will not lose them again. And don’t worry
— we already know about the torpedoes. Those will be replaced shortly. When
the Nimitz returns from her mission to Wake Island, she will be part of a
mission to the Philippines."
His hands clenched into fists. "Once Japan surrenders, we will be able to
bring the full amount of our aid to bear on Europe. If I’m not mistaken,
Germany will be declaring war tomorrow. I have issued an order instructing the
Maritime Commission to begin convoys in American waters immediately." He
gestured to Vannevar Bush again. "Commander Owens, you will become the new
head of a special division under Vannevar’s new Office of Scientific Research
and Development. Your goal will be to integrate advanced technology into the
United States as quickly as possible. This will include the Uranium Committee,
which, if I am not mistaken, you are already familiar with." He smiled.
"Naturally, such a position would mandate a promotion. But if I’m not
mistaken, you have a lot of work ahead of you. I would like you and Vannevar to
begin work immediately. My Chief of Staff will direct both of you to a separate
room where you can begin your work."
He extended a hand that Owens shook across the table. Owens was then escorted
out of the room, along with Bush. As the door clicked closed behind them, the
real discussion began. "He seemed so … normal, began Admiral King."
"Don’t let that fool you, sir, Kimmel responded. Their ship and aircraft
are impossibly deadly. They sank over a dozen Japanese ships and destroyed
nearly three hundred aircraft for the loss of a single aircraft of their own.
The Nimitz is a powerful ally, but it must be watched closely. For all the
officers’ willingness to integrate with our navy, there are some problems.
They should be split up — for research purposes, if nothing else." The
discussion continued for several more hours.
Several blocks away, a certain senator was having a similar discussion with his
staff. "Gentlemen, this is an opportunity of unparalleled scope! We must
take advantage of it, or we will be left behind," exclaimed Senator Chapman
to a far-less opulently-appointed conference room.
"What do you suggest we do, Senator?" asked one of the men seated
around the table — a junior congressman from Arkansas, Chapman thought.
"What we must, John. The future texts we’ve managed to acquire show how
clearly the President’s policy of helping the Soviets hurt us later on, not to
mention giving the Republicans a stick to beat us with." He extended one
finger, pointing at no one in particular. "I’d encourage you all to study
this book very carefully. With the war on, there are going to be millions of
dollars to be made during this war, money that can be put toward future
campaigns. By controlling who gets what pieces of the Nimitz, we will control
who makes the most money. There is one other thing to consider." Chapman
took a deep breath — this one was going to be tough to sell.
"I strongly suggest we begin work on a ‘Civil Rights’ bill." The
eruption in the room was immediate and loud, particularly from the Senators from
Alabama, Georgia, and Texas.
"There’s no way in hell," roared one.
Chapman yelled for calm, pounding a fat fist on the fragile table, which
threatened to collapse under the punishment. "Gentlemen, please! Hear me
out! Right now, the Republicans dominate the Negro vote. They have done so since
the Civil War, and will continue — would have continued — to do so until the
1960s, when we took advantage."
"Damnit, Chapman, those Nigras won’t vote fur us!" exclaimed the
senator from Texas, as he stood up to leave.
"Jacob, if we don’t do it, the Republicans will." The statement came
out flat and quiet, but it stilled the maelstrom in the room all the same.
"They have the high ground with the Negroes right now. Already, some people
in my districts in Illinois have been clamouring for this. It’s nothing yet,
but it will grow, especially if the Republicans get behind this, and rest
assured — they will. They’re not going to lose the Negro vote twice. They’re
going to push for integration, at least in the military, hard. And any of us who
vote against it are going to be brandished as anti-American Jap lovers!"
Chapman’s voice rose to a pitch, pleading with the reluctant men to come to
his point of view.
"Ahm sorry, Chappie, but this won’t fly in mah district. Ah just cain’t
do it foah yuh." The man from Texas left the room, hat in hand. So did the
senators from Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama. Those who remained were
younger, more junior, or simply believed what Chapman had said. It should be
enough — enough to save the party from itself. And if not, well, there were
Chapter 7: According to Plan
December 16, 1941
The Nimitz was pitching and rolling in heavy seas east of Wake. High winds and
driving rain surrounded the ship and its escorts as they steamed slowly westward
in the crashing waves. Deckhands scrambled for footing on the slippery deck. All
aircraft were grounded, including the ASW helicopters — there was simply no
way a Japanese submarine could make a torpedo run in this weather. Besides, it
provided a good rest for pilots and aircraft that badly needed it. It wouldn’t
be much of one, though, not with the seas as high as they were. "Bit rough
for the boys in the destroyers, isn’t it, captain?"
The voice interrupted Thurman’s thoughts. "I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t
see you come up," Thurman said, saluting. Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher
waved the salute down.
"Don’t worry about it, captain. You’ve got a lot on your mind,"
the admiral said stepping up to the bridge windows with Captain Thurman.
"Probably more so than I do, unless I miss my guess." He chuckled.
"Hell, it’s going to be as tough for your men to adjust to our Navy as it
is for us to adjust to the Nimitz here. Tough for me, at least. Let alone the
command of a fleet, but a fleet led by a ship from forty years in the future. If
we didn’t have the intelligence you’ve given us, I’d be hesitant to go
anywhere near this island, and I’m sure Admiral Pye would feel the same."
He moved his hands behind his back, staring out at the white-foamed sea.
"Admiral Pye… wasn’t the most aggressive of people in our history,
sir," Thurman ventured cautiously.
"Well, having the battle line bombed and torpedoed out from under you will
do that, captain. We don’t have to worry about that here, fortunately, thanks
to you men," he said, slapping Thurman on the back. "There isn’t a
Japanese force … hell, any force in the world that can stop this ship, from
the pictures I’ve seen. Those heli… heli…"
"-copters, sir, Helicopters," Thurman supplied.
"Exactly! Those things are worth their weight in gold. The way they found
those two Japanese submarines was nothing short of magic. If we can duplicate
that technology, this war will be over even more quickly, and we can move on to
Europe. The British can’t seem to get a handle on that man Hitler. Hell, they
can’t even get a handle on the Japanese. Losing two battlecruisers like that…
without air cover," Fletcher shook his head. "Still, we can’t fault
them too much… we did get the shit kicked out of us at Cavite. I remember when
I was there —"
"Sirs? We’ve spotted Wake on the scope." The two officers returned
the radarman’s salute and followed him through the Nimitz’s corridors to the
Combat Information Centre, the heart of the Nimitz’s command and control
system. The information from radars, aircraft, and other sources were all
tirelessly combined into a report the ship’s captain — or in this case, the
fleet’s admiral — could use. It was the main reason Fletcher had chosen to
command from the Nimitz, rather than the Saratoga or one of the battleships.
Both men stared at the cathode screen, green light reflecting off their faces.
The horseshoe shape of Wake was clearly visible at the left edge. "How far
out are we?" The question had come from Fletcher.
"Admiral, we’re slightly over 300 miles out. Sir … I’m not picking up
any ships around the island. The Japanese aren’t there." Kimmel looked
puzzled, but Thurman explained.
"Sir, in our history, the Japanese admiral retreated before coming back
with heavy cruiser support from Kwajalein. We’ve got a week before they
arrive. We can at least stop the bomber raids that have been plaguing our guys
on the island." Kimmel nodded at that. Thurman continued. "The weather
is beginning to clear. In another hour we’ll want to launch the screening
helicopters. I’ll get a CAP up now." Fletcher nodded again. They walked
over to the plotting table, which was liberally coated with grease pencil
markings on its glass surface.
"We’ll want to get in a blocking position south of the island to
intercept any aircraft they send against Wake. Somewhere around here, I
think," he said, pointing at an area southeast of the island. "The
transports will head directly to Wake itself to offload the supplies and
reinforcements and to take on the wounded. We can detach one of the destroyer
squadrons to take ‘em home. I’m sure there are a lot of boys there who’ll
be happy to see Honolulu again, especially after the action they had."
"Well, Admiral, every man on the Nimitz is eager to do his part. We can
kill anything the Japanese throw at us, but we’re only one ship."
"Oh, don’t worry about it, Captain. We’ll knock the Japs back to Japan
and send them on to heaven without much worry. You got us rolling, but mark my
words — we’re going to win this war by Christmas.
The man had been horribly burned, Koga saw. Still, the man was far better off
than thousands of his comrades, who simply hadn’t returned from that dreadful
mission against the Americans. The surviving ships — three oilers and one
destroyer — were horribly overloaded and still several days from making port.
The Combined Fleet had ordered flying boats to rendezvous with the fleet… no,
it was less than a squadron now, thought the new commander of Japan’s Combined
It had come as a shock, the sudden death of Admiral Yamamoto. The news had been
broadcast to all corners of Japan, with a state funeral held for the man who had
promoted the Japanese Navy for so long, defending it from Army interests that
had fought its every expansion. The death was officially announced as a heart
attack, but that was only a cover, he had learned. Yamamoto had been forced to
take his own life in order to preserve what was left of the Navy’s prestige.
Even Koga himself showed how far the Navy had fallen in the eyes of Japan in
only two weeks. Koga had been in command of the Navy forces in China, working
closely with the Army to secure that country for the Emperor. Evidently the Army
not only thought highly of him, but also thought of him as someone who could be
controlled. Koga wasn’t sure to think about that. Damning with faint praise,
at best. At worst… well, there wouldn’t be much Navy to take over, not with
the loss of over half the Navy’s carriers in one battle.
And that wasn’t even taking into account the problem of the Americans! Those
devil-planes hadn’t shown up on any intelligence report anywhere, not before
they had appeared so suddenly and so deadly above the Expeditionary Force. The
planes were bad enough, but the rockets they fired… he had never heard of
anything like them.
Koga and his accompanying officers moved away from the gangplank where the
flying boat’s remaining passengers were disembarking. Only crew, now — the
few survivors from the fleet had already been taken to the hospital. The smell
of burnt flesh seemed to linger in the air as Koga walked to his limousine. He
had a meeting to attend.
On the drive from the naval base, the car passed through a city at war. The base
was busy, but after passing through the base’s gate, the scene changed. The
normal Tokyo crowds were there, but there were virtually no cars on the road.
The few young men on the streets were almost all wearing uniforms. The wave of
militarism had swept through Japan, collecting all the young men into the armed
forces. There were none left to be taken, except for those too young to serve.
After navigating the streets, his driver eventually arrived at his destination,
a building unremarkable save for the fact that it was made of stone, an unusual
feature in a city made largely of wooden buildings.
It was his first — and hopefully last — meeting with the Prime Minister and
the Cabinet. The Commander in Chief of the Combined Fleet did not usually
circulate in such high circles, the Navy being represented at cabinet meetings
by the naval minister, Shimada. He would be there to back up Koga, but he was
suffering the same problems as Koga — the Navy didn’t have the prestige to
compete with the Army, not after the Army’s successes in the Philippines,
Burma, Malaysia, and most recently Borneo. All the Navy had to show were a few
minor successes and two large failures — the defeats at Wake and Pearl
He was nervous as the meeting began. Prime Minister Tojo was presiding — he
had the ultimate say in matters, but rarely spoke, unless required to make a
decision. Sugjyami was there for the Army, as was Togo, representing foreign
affairs, Tojo’s deputy Kishi — the de facto chief of commerce and industry
— was present, as were representatives from the Interior Ministry, and more
Navy and Army representatives. The first question, of what had actually happened
in Hawaii, was expected.
"General," he began, "our carriers were attacked by a hitherto
unknown force of American aircraft. Our intelligence had no inkling the
Americans had anything so advanced — our fighters were utterly ineffective
against them. Despite being completely surprised…"
There were several hurrumphs from Army officials around the table at that.
"… we managed to bring down one of the attackers before the fleet was
"A single aircraft! Is that the best our illustrious Navy can do?" The
eruption came from the Army end of the table. Before it could escalate into a
full-scale shouting match, Koga answered the rhetorical question with an
"General, during our investigation of the wreckage of the American
aircraft, we uncovered several irregularities." He called for an aide, who
was waiting in the hall outside. The photographs brought by the aide were passed
around the room. The photographs themselves told the story, but Koga pressed on
anyways. "As you can see, the aircraft had some interesting
characteristics. A recovered panel indicates that the aircraft flew from the USS
Nimitz, a ship we have no record of at all. It is patently impossible that the
United States, a nation as open as any in the world, could keep the construction
of an aircraft carrier secret. Also recovered were fragments of materials with
which we are unfamiliar. After the samples were flown to Tokyo on the first
flying boat to rendezvous with the survivors, they were delivered to scientists
at the University. The scientists were unable to identify the samples. They are
unlike anything in nature — they are completely artificial."
Koga paused for questions — there were none. For once, the Army Generals were
too engrossed in the photographs and attached reports to come back with a smart
response. "The final vital pieces of information come from the recovered
pages of what appear to be a flight manual. Several independent translators went
over the pages, but the most striking information didn’t need to be
translated. The manual bore a date from the year 1979."
"What—" Koga pressed on through the interruption this time.
"All the factors: the inexplicable material, the unknown aircraft carrier,
the impossible aircraft, the ability of the Americans to even find our fleet,
let alone completely destroy it, and finally these extraordinary pages, all
point to one conclusion, as unlikely as it might be. These aircraft are from the
The room erupted in pandemonium, mostly from the Army end of the table. The Navy
men were quiet, having been briefed about it before. Accusations flew around the
room as Tojo clapped his hands once, bringing the room into stillness.
"What makes you believe that the Americans did not create this illusion to
hide their true capabilities?"
"Your Excellency," Koda began, "if this was faked, the war is
lost." Tojo’s eyebrows flew up behind circle-rimmed glasses. "If the
Americans can destroy an entire fleet with an illusion, then they would have no
problem destroying us all right now with their real weapons. The captain of the
surviving destroyer reported that our aircraft were destroyed with no American
aircraft in sight. Only when the Americans closed to bomb our battleships were
any shot down. Their rockets decimated our fleet, then their aircraft closed in
to deliver the final blow."
Tojo nodded at this. "And what would you suggest we do about these aircraft
… from the future?"
Koga took a deep breath. This was where he would be made or broken. "Your
Excellency, the mere fact that the entire fleet was not destroyed by rockets
must mean that the Americans have a limited supply of the weapons. If they are
from the future, they will not be able to create more weapons. If, however, my
colleagues in the Army are correct, and this is merely a cover to confuse us as
they deploy new weapons, they will soon produce more. Either way, our course is
clear. We must present the Americans with a fait accompli. Our Army has the
upper hand in Malaysia and China, and is beginning to take control of the Dutch
territories. No new weapons have been revealed in these areas. I will order our
surface forces to withdraw from more exposed bases to support the southward
movement of our Army. Air forces will attempt to hold the line against any
American incursions, while gaining intelligence about these new American
The Army generals were taken aback. It was the last thing they had expected, the
Navy seemingly completely kowtowing to their wishes, agreeing to a supporting
role while the Army would take all the glory in seizing the vital resources
needed for the survival of Japan.
"We in the Army agree with Admiral Koga’s suggestion," said Sugjyami.
They’d gladly agree to accept a mad Navy theory about aircraft from the future
if it would net the Army concrete, long-term prestige.
Koga only hoped he wasn’t mortgaging his future to satisfy the needs of the
present. Still, he had no choice. The Americans had forced his hand. He would
have to see about aircraft production. Perhaps there was some secret project
that could even the score in the air.
December 24, 1941
It had finally gotten out. Every newspaper in the United States was leading with
the story of the Nimitz and her crew from the future. The leak had come from
somewhere in Congress, but that was about as far as anyone knew. The reports
were short on details, at least, Owens thought as he read the New York Times’s
take on the news from Washington. There wasn’t any specific information about
the war … it was startlingly incomplete, almost as if someone had purposely
leaked only the basic facts. That wasn’t how leaks worked, Owens knew.
Watergate had taught the American public that when leaks sprang, they usually
brought the whole dam down with them.
At least the other war news was good. The Nimitz was still south of Wake,
waiting for an invasion that many people in Washington thought wouldn’t come,
future knowledge or not. All signs were pointing to the Japanese pulling inward,
probably in reaction to the loss of their six carriers. It wasn’t his concern,
though. Not anymore. He swore silently. He’d had to pull every string he had
to be assigned to the Nimitz, to a command where he’d get the chance to fly,
and now he’d lost it. Lost it, but gained so much more, the rational side of
his mind thought as he discarded the newspaper and reached for one of the
innumerable reports that were beginning to come into his office.
He was a real big shot in Washington now, head of the Q Branch — he himself
had selected the name, an homage to the James Bond Films — of the Office of
Scientific Research and Development. He was immediately below the head of OSRD,
Vannevar Bush, who was in turn directly below President Roosevelt. And part of
his position, he got to read thrilling reports like these.
The report was from the recently-promoted Gen. Leslie Groves, the new head of
Project Mercury, the effort to develop the atomic bomb. The name itself was a
piece of misdirection. If his manuscript or some other book from the Nimitz
somehow made it to the public or even to the Axis, the name wouldn’t be a
tip-off to the project. OSRD was working on a Manhattan Project too, but that
one would be a deception plan, stocked with second-rate physicists and people
like Klaus Fuchs, those they knew were spies. True to fast-moving form, Groves
had decided on three sites for Mercury — all were different from the sites
chosen for their history’s Manhattan Project. A site in Wisconsin on Lake
Michigan in place of Hanford, Arco, Idaho, in place of Oak Ridge, and Steamboat
Springs, Colorado, in place of Los Alamos.
Owens thought about that. He’d been to Steamboat once, on a skiing trip. The
weather hadn’t been much different than what was outside his window right now,
snow pattering down in the dark evening. He sighed. It was Christmas Eve, and he
didn’t have anyone to spend it with. The faint sounds of carollers came
through the window… they actually still did that here, he thought. He’d
always imagined that had been a Hollywood affectation, something that had only
existed in Victorian England or the minds of some director. There was an
underpinning of fear somehow, though. The National Christmas Tree would normally
be lit up on the Ellipse, as would trees across the city — not this year. The
President had declared a national blackout, and Christmas trees were one of the
first things to go dark, his own included. He sighed again, and turned back to
his desk. He paused and picked up his phone.
"Operator, could I get a line out, please?" He obviously wasn’t the
only one working tonight. There were clicking noises as the operator plugged in
the right cable, transferring him to a local operator.
"Operator," he said once the call was connected, "could I please
have … Pennsylvania six-five thousand?" Connecting through an operator
had been a novelty, but it had soon become everyday, particularly when there
were bigger concerns out there.
The phone on the other end rang faintly, the noise interrupted by crackles of
static. It was only a few hundred miles, but the phone system wasn’t up to par
yet. "Hello?" came the sleepy answer from the other end.
Owens paused. "Is Mrs. Angela Owens there, please? My name is Commander
Richard Owens. I…. I’m from the aircraft carrier Nimitz."
"The ship from the future?" The female voice on the other end was
fully awake now. "This is her," she said quickly, in answer to the
"Yes, the ship from the future. Ma’am, I don’t know how to say
this," he began slowly. "I’m your son."
"Home Plate, this is Ace Lead."
"Home Plate, go ahead."
"Nimitz, we’re picking up twenty more Jap bogies Wake-bound. Requesting
permission to engage."
"Aces are clear to engage. Rock ‘em." With the command from their
leader, the twelve Tomcats of the Black Aces took down the twenty incoming
Japanese bombers with a flick of their wrists. The only losses were 21 missiles
— one had failed to track. Still, the attack generated harsh discussion aboard
the Nimitz, whose crew and commander were growing impatient at the lack of
action. They’d beaten off several Japanese bombing raids with no casualties.
Over 150 Japanese aircraft had been downed, 150 new flags added to the squadron
kill boards in the ready rooms on the Nimitz, and yet the air crews were uneasy.
Aircraft were nice, to be sure, but they were no challenge. It was easier than
shooting drones, as one pilot had put it. They wanted to make another strike on
the Japanese fleet, and their captain agreed.
"Admiral, I’d like to request permission to launch a strike on the
Japanese base on Kwajalein."
Admiral Kimmel pursed his lips. He had grown more comfortable aboard the Nimitz
in the two and a half weeks since they’d left Pearl. So too had the men aboard
the other ships in the fleet. They’d been running boats and tours, acclimating
both the Nimitz’s crew and the crews of the contemporary ships to the new
circumstances. A few of the Saratoga’s airmen had been given fly-along trips
in the Nimitz’s EA-6B Prowlers, electronic warfare aircraft that lacked a
mission, the Japanese not mounting even the simplest of radars. It was a
goodwill gesture, and by and large it worked, defusing the jealousy the Saratoga’s
airmen might have otherwise felt towards the Nimitz.
"Captain, you’ve requested permission to do so nearly every day since we
arrived on station. What’s changed that I should grant you your request?"
Thurman swallowed. He didn’t like sitting still, but he liked confronting a
superior even less. "Sir, we have seen neither hide nor hair of any
Japanese surface elements. According to our history, they were supposed to
arrive at Wake yesterday. We haven’t even picked them up on radar, something
we should’ve done several days ago. There’s one other thing." Kimmel
perked up at this. "When the Japanese didn’t show up on schedule, I
ordered a photoreconnaissance mission over the atoll last night. These are the
results," he said, handing over a folder of pictures.
"These were taken last night," he asked rhetorically. "Incredibly
good quality for night pictures. These were verified?"
"Yes, sir. We flew the duty Hawkeye to the edge of radar coverage. It didn’t
pick up anything besides that destroyer. Nothing at sea, either." He paused
while Kimmel flipped through the pictures. "According to our analysts, it
looks like that destroyer suffered a major engineering fault. That would explain
the boats tied up alongside."
When Kimmel didn’t answer, Thurman went on. "I’d like to run an
eight-ship strike — six Tomcats and two Intruder tankers. We’ll arm four
with 2000-pound Walleyes — television-guided bombs, sir. The other two will
have air-to-air weapons, in case the Japanese have some aircraft up."
Kimmel looked up as Thurman finished. "Is that all?"
"Well," he began, shuffling the photographs in a neat pile,
"under the circumstances, I think there’s only one option. We’ll radio
Pearl Harbour with our intentions. If they give the green light, you can launch.
Until then, get ready."
It took several hours to get in contact and receive a reply from Pearl Harbour,
and the Nimitz was just finishing mid-shift when the reply came. It wasn’t
exactly what Thurman had expected.
"Captain, we’ve been ordered back to Pearl Harbour," Kimmel began
abruptly. "I’ve been given permission to launch the strike and any
further ones at my discretion before heading back to Pearl at best speed. Let’s
give the Japanese a nice send off." He paused for a moment, his hand on the
bridge’s hatch coaming.
"Incidentally, you’d better tell your aircrews to be prepared to be
detached from the Nimitz. Sounds like a mission to relieve the Philippines is in
order, but we’re not the only ones who need help."
January 9, 1942
The din was tremendous. Senator Samuel S. Chapman was almost bowled over by the
solid wave of noise — noise from welders, grinders, power tools, drill
presses, machines of all kinds, and of course the din of men yelling to be
heard. Chapman wondered how anyone could work in the racket. It was a far cry
from the quiet corridors of Washington, but these factories and others like them
would count almost as much for the war effort. His mission was to make sure this
factory and the company that owned it — the Bellman Aircraft Company — kept
running and kept producing for the state of Illinois. If the factory kept
producing, churning out aircraft and incidentally employing over 5,000 workers,
then he was doing his job.
It was good to see that Bellman had acted on his information, Chapman thought,
catching sight of the man he was there to meet. Artie Wright, the chief engineer
— and now CEO of Bellman Aircraft. It was a damn shame, he thought, that
Bellman himself couldn’t be there. The fucking Japs were to blame for that, of
course. If they had just left them alone, continued on with their mission and
ignored their little cabin cruiser, he’d be alive today, gruff and in charge
of the company, ready to start churning out planes to fight the Japs, those
bastards. Wright… he was an unknown. He’d been chief engineer when Bellman
was killed, and had been appointed CEO by the company’s board of directors.
Still, he seemed to be a hard worker, judging from the way he was directing the
construction of the aircraft that was taking up the centre of the production
Eventually, Wright noticed Chapman standing on the floor, hands over ears. He
guided them both to a side office, well-insulated against the sounds and sparks
of construction. Chapman welcomed that quiet. His ears were aching. "It’s
a pleasure to finally meet you, mister Wright. Art Bellman always spoke highly
of your work," he said.
"Well, thanks," came the answer. Wright was young, Chapman saw, and
probably inexperienced. He looked nervous, shuffling his feet on the concrete
floor of the wood-panelled office.
"I’m pretty parched… you don’t happen to have anything to drink in
this kettledrum, do you?" Chapman wanted to make the kid at ease. Despite
his youth, he still was the one making the important decisions.
"Of course, Senator Chapman. Here, let me take your coat." He took the
coat, setting it on a brass hook, and fixed a drink from the bottles on the
sideboard as Chapman settled into one of the office’s comfortable chairs.
"Here you are. I’ve been told that you’re a scotch man." He handed
over a glass of the brown liquid, and after a sip Chapman found it to be
surprisingly good, and said so.
"It’s something Art left behind. He always told me to keep only the best.
It’s tough to believe he’s gone," Wright said, looking at a picture of
Bellman hanging on the wall.
"He was a good man," Chapman said. "Now it’s our job to make
sure that his work wasn’t in vain." Wright took a seat at the office’s
desk, looking rather like a child in his father’s office chair, Chapman
"I see you’ve been working on the information I sent."
Wright nodded. "It’s really quite incredible stuff. The government’s
just started releasing some of the future information, and none of it comes
anywhere near the detail of the documents you sent. One of the men from the
office of Future Affairs is supposed to come by tomorrow to give us a briefing
on it. I imagine that he’ll probably ask us to do what we’re doing now —
start working on a high-speed jet interceptor. Thanks to the head start you’ve
given us, we’ll be in the competition, if not at the top."
"How is the project going? I saw you working on it on the floor, but I’m
no engineer," Chapman bowdlerized. He did have extensive experience with
aircraft, thanks to his position on the Armed Services Appropriations Committee.
He’d become quite the expert at rooting out which Army and Navy projects were
so much hot air.
"Tremendously," Wright answered. "In less than a month, we’ve
managed to begin work on a design. Obviously we’ve been helped out by your
information, but a lot of credit should go to our engineers. We’ve been
working non-stop on this since the beginning. This aircraft is going to out-fly
everything else in the sky." The smile that had crept across his face when
he talked about the design faded somewhat. "We’ve been having some
problems, though. The biggest one’s been the fact that we don’t have an
engine that can do what we want. General Electric has one, but it doesn’t give
anywhere near the thrust we need. The British have a fairly good design, but
they’ve been reluctant to help us out without a firm government-backed
project. Until we get that engine, we can’t really get where we want on
finalizing the airframe. And until we get the airframe, we can’t start setting
up a production line. For now, we’re just helping Curtis produce the
Chapman frowned, but nodded. "I’ll see what I can do. I imagine that the
OFA will be working with you to get you what you need. As to setting up the
production lines, that will be done here in Decatur?"
Wright answered the dangerous question as carefully as he could. "I can’t
make any commitments yet… the factory we’re building now is scheduled to
produce P-40s, but we’re deliberately holding off on installing equipment so
we can switch to the new fighter as easily as possible. Beyond that, I can’t
tell you. It’s already getting tough to find new workers — we’re having to
hire folks below our normal standards, but we’ll have to make do."
"I really hope you can get that factory working as quickly as possible. My
sources of future information are somewhat tenuous… they could cut off at any
time," Chapman said, tracing a finger around the rim of the glass. He
looked back up at Wright. "Incidentally, what are your policies on colored
Wright blinked at the sudden change in questioning. "I’ve never had a
problem with them… we’ve got a few doing trucking and working as janitors,
if that’s what you’re asking. Why do you ask?"
"In the future books, have you read about the 1960s?" Wright nodded,
still unclear about what Chapman was leading to. "Have you read anything
beyond the aircraft of that decade?" Wright’s nod stopped, and he shook
his head, smiling.
"Not really… we’ve been so busy trying to capitalize on the stuff you’ve
given us. I gave the books a once-over, but really haven’t had the time to sit
down and read them."
"The reason I asked you these questions is because there’s a good chance
that in the next few months, there’s a good chance that Congress will pass
something akin to the Civil Rights legislation that was passed — or is would
have passed… never mind — up in the 1960s." Chapman stood up and began
pacing, ice rattling in his now-empty drinking glass. "This law will make
it illegal to discriminate against an individual on the basis of his skin
colour. Colored men will be allowed to take any job they want, and if an
employer fires or refuses to hire an individual based on his colour, he can be
prosecuted under the law. What good is it to be fighting for the freedom of
Europe if we cannot guarantee the freedoms of every American here at home? Any
Congressman who votes against this legislation will be voting against America.
They will be voting against freedom and for Nazi and Japanese tyranny. We cannot
let that stand." Chapman stopped, his finger up in the air, staring at some
indiscriminate point in space.
"That’s a very pretty speech, Senator, but it’s wasted on me."
Wright stood from behind the desk — his desk, now that Bellman was gone —
and extended a hand. "You’ve got our support no matter what. The
information you’ve given the company is worth that."
Chapman smiled and took the hand in his own, shaking it firmly. "Thank you,
Artie. Your company will always have a friend in Washington."
Chapman climbed back into his chauffeured car with an intent expression on his
face. That was another one down…. It would be a long strip back to Chicago and
the final stop on his trip to earn the support of his constituents. One small
piece at a time he was locking up those vital votes.
Votes were the furthest thing from the minds of the men gathered in the bunker
beneath the city, capital of a continent-spanning empire. The fact that it was a
continent-spanning empire was small comfort when they considered the reason for
the meeting — the war with America.
The Fuhrer was giving another one of his lengthy speeches, talking about the
subhumans of the Soviet Union and the need to crush them as quickly as possible
in the spring’s campaign in southern Russia, seizing the vital oil fields of
Baku. The decision was made, added to a list of orders that included an
escalation of the submarine campaign against the American east coast.
"One final note. As of late, American newspapers have been proclaiming the
arrival of a ship from the future, the USS Nimitz, if these reports are to be
believed, has sunk six Japanese carriers and shot down over —"
"Yes, yes, we have all read these reports." The Fuhrer was obviously
impatient. "These reports," he threw the newspaper down on the table,
"are clearly propaganda from that cripple Jew Roosevelt. The Japanese
report of ‘devil planes’ are clearly the simple reaction of an inferior race
to Nordic pilots. Still, they are disturbing. Aircraft that fly without
propellers can only mean that the Americans have mastered jet aircraft. We
cannot allow this to happen without a response! Germany is superior! Our
programs must be accelerated! Rocket and jet aircraft will sweep American and
British aircraft from the skies while our panzers roll eastward!"
On that note, the meeting broke up. Several men remained behind to talk quietly.
"These reports of new American aircraft are disturbing, yes, but I’m even
more concerned about this section about a super bomb. According to the
translation of the newspaper articles we received through Lisbon, two such bombs
would have destroyed Japan in 1945. Speer, do we have such a project of our own?
This is too critical to not be covered." The remaining discussion went far
into the night.
Chapter 10: Politics as Usual
February 4, 1942
The White House hadn’t changed. Well, at least not that much. The stubby
snouts of antiaircraft guns sprouted from the White House lawn, and olive drab
dominated, rather than the blue and grey of civilian suits. Still, the White
House was the White House, and even from the future books, it seemed that it
would always remain so. Its white paint was dimmed by the early-morning
twilight. It had a mystical air about it that you never got used to no matter
how many times you visited. It was a sign of the "enduring America" as
the radio liked to put it. Still, Senator Chapman thought, it would’ve been
nicer to have come to the building on his own accord. A summons from President
Roosevelt tended not to be good news. Far better that he be the one dictating
It really could be anything, he thought as he was ushered through security. The
Secret Service were far more attentive and thorough than they’d been before
the war, and the machine-gun emplacements at the entrance had been quite a
shock. When he’d come to Washington after the arrival of the Nimitz, there
hadn’t been anything like that, and there certainly had been no machine-gun
emplacements on the Chicago streets, either. That had been before German and
Japanese submarines had started sinking ships right and left, too.
The public’s initial shock at the Japanese attack had faded, replaced with a
sense that the war was finally here — that it was time to buckle down and
fight. The news of the Nimitz had made people believe the war was as good as
won. The history of the future had given them confidence — something that was
double-edged. Confidence was good, but too much made people work less hard than
they might have otherwise. As the weeks dragged on with only news of Axis
successes, that confidence had begun to fade. Still, it was far higher than it
would’ve been otherwise.
Ironically, that made his job all the harder. Without a belief that Germany and
Japan could really hurt America, there wasn’t as strong a justification for
Chapman’s Civil Rights bill. And he’d need all the help he could get. Maybe
that was what this was about… or it could’ve been about the Nimitz, the
results of the ARCADIA Conference with Churchill, or any of a dozen other
things. He’d find out soon enough.
Despite his senatorial rank, he still had to wait. He sat stewing in the
blue-carpeted hallway, staring at the worn white wooden moulding on the walls.
Truman had supervised a renovation of the White House, but there was no way
Roosevelt would be moving that up, not with the war going on, not by a long
shot. "Senator Chapman?" He looked up. One of Roosevelt’s ubiquitous
aides had appeared, seemingly from thin air. "The President will see you
now, sir. If you’ll follow me, please."
They were heading to the Oval Office, Chapman thought. That probably wasn’t a
good sign. Roosevelt liked to do his friendlier talks in the larger sitting
rooms of the White House, creating a feel like he tried to achieve with his
Fireside Chats broadcast across the country. The Oval Office was for work or for
intimidating a visitor, impressing them with the entire weight of the U.S.
Government. It wouldn’t work on him. Chapman had been there before. He’d
been impressed only with how small and stuffy the office had been. Nothing
befitting the leader of one of the most important nations on earth. Hell, his
office was probably bigger. The aide guided him through a door that turned out
to be set into the wall of the Oval Office. He had to wait as Admiral King and
General Marshall left the Office through the door. Roosevelt sat behind his
desk, head hunched down over a stack of papers. He handed one over to the aide,
then turned his attention to Chapman. "Senator Chapman! Please, take a
seat." Roosevelt waved to one of the high-back chairs that faced the desk
that was the centrepiece of the room.
"Care for any coffee?" He gestured to the black steward to had entered
from another door in the back of the office. Chapman took a china cup from the
steward’s gleaming silver tray. He noticed that the steward had a gleam in his
eye and a slight smile as he served Chapman. Appropriate, Chapman thought. That
man probably knew more than most of Washington about Chapman’s Civil Rights
bill, and was obviously happy about what Chapman was trying to do for his black
friends and family.
Roosevelt filled the time with small talk, obviously trying to put Chapman at
ease. It didn’t work — the obfuscation only made the senator even more
suspicious about what Roosevelt had in mind. Finally, he got to the point.
"Senator, I have a favour to ask you."
"A favour?" That was a surprise. Presidents commanded… they didn’t
ask favours unless it was in their best interest. Sure, he was a Senator, but
the President was the one in charge. With a war on, a President could do far
more than he could in times of peace, and mere Senators were sometimes cast
aside. Favours could be refused. Orders… couldn’t, at least not without
Roosevelt set his coffee cup down on the desk. "I’ve been watching your
attempt at Civil Rights legislation for some time now. You’ve been busy,
canvassing the country’s elite, looking for support. You want to bring the
nation together to fight the Japanese and Germans, but I am afraid you may be
tearing it apart. Our southern friends have resolved to fight your bill tooth
and nail once it’s brought to the table. The United States cannot afford to be
divided over this legislation, not when there is fighting to be done. I would
request that you delay introducing your bill until after the war is over. Then,
we would have the time and wherewithal to fight this lesser war."
So that’s what Roosevelt wanted. It made sense. Roosevelt didn’t want
something that would distract from the war effort and split his support. The
southern members of the party were dead-set against the bill, and it could have
lasting effects in the prosecution of the war. It would also split Roosevelt’s
support when Election Day rolled around in November and two years from now. He
was really afraid of the Republicans, Chapman realized. What did they have that
could hurt someone with as much support as Roosevelt?
Chapman realized that the President was waiting for an answer. "Mister
President, I must respectfully disagree. If we delay, Republican Senators will
propose similar legislation first. If we vote against it to avoid splitting the
party, we will lose the Negro vote forever. Eventually the southerners will
forget. Colored voters will not. We cannot afford to lose this opportunity. It
would mean crippling future campaigns. I cannot in good conscience sacrifice the
future health of the party for short-term political gain."
"Samuel," the President was using his first name now, trying to make a
heartfelt appeal. "This isn’t about political gain. This is about the
health of the country! We simply cannot afford to split the nation over this
with a war on. It could mean the deaths of thousands of Americans at the hands
of the Japanese and Nazi tyrants!"
"I disagree." Chapman’s tone was cold and flat when compared to
Roosevelt’s impassioned plea. "The nation will be behind the war as much
as it was before. We can do more than one thing at a time." That last was
said with a grim smile.
"Well, I can see your feet are set in stone on this. Can you at least delay
introducing your bill for one more month? The extra time will allow our resupply
operation to the Philippines to be completed, taking us out of this time of
crisis. In return for your willingness to sacrifice your interests for America,
I will throw the full weight of my office behind this bill. With luck, we may be
able to get it through committee and voted on before too much conflict."
Chapman didn’t think that likely, but he wasn’t going to pass up an offer of
Presidential support, even if it meant waiting a month. If the rescue operation
was successful, it would hurt the idea that the bill was needed to bring the war
to a successful end, but that would be balanced by the support of the President.
"Thank you for your kind offer of support, Mister President. For the good
of the country, I accept."
There wasn’t much more to discuss after that, and the meeting finished up on a
not-quite cordial note. Chapman disagreed with the way the President had handled
Churchill at the ARCADIA conference. The British leader seemed to have gotten
the better end of the bargain, proving the future books correct at his
capability as a leader. An entire squadron of the Nimitz’s aircraft, complete
access to the new designs being created, and post-war colonial concessions were
a high price to pay for British approval of the Japan-first strategy. It should’ve
been agreed upon without giving away so much — the mere fact that the Nimitz
was in the Pacific should’ve been enough. Still, Chapman allowed, when a war
was on your doorstep, you were more concerned about it than the one on the next
street over. At least the United Nations agreement had gone off as the history
books said it would.
When he returned to his office in the Senate Office Building, he found the place
in a state of uproar. The entire building was buzzing, even more so than was
usual in the crowded corridors. When he finally managed to corner one of his
staffers, the man simply handed over that morning’s Washington Post. Chapman
hadn’t had time to read it, as was his routine, due to his early-morning
meeting with the President. The enormous headline leapt out at his eyes.
"Soviet Spy Ring Broken in Washington." The subhead was even more
shocking: "Vice-President Wallace implicated in spy scandal." His
first thought was for the November elections. It certainly wouldn't be politics
as usual anymore.
February 4, 1942
West of Pearl Harbour, Hawaii
Thank God, thought Commander Thurman. The Nimitz was finally at sea again, a dog’s
bone of white foam curling around her prow as she steamed west, away from the
safety of Pearl and towards the battle that was sure to be ahead. He snorted. It
had been the least-safe safety he’d ever been a part of. Between the riots in
Honolulu, the splitting of the Nimitz’s air group, and the practical
dismemberment of the ship, it was a relief to get away from harbour, even if the
voyage might be a one-way trip.
Well, the odds of that happening were pretty low, Thurman allowed. Sure, they
had lost nearly a quarter of the Nimitz’s complement of aircraft, but the
remaining 57 planes still constituted the most powerful strike force on the face
of the earth. If they had the fuel to fly the aircraft, of course. Only the fact
that so many aircraft had been transferred kept the fuel situation from becoming
critical. This mission would probably exhaust the ship’s original stock of
JP-5. A substitute was being produced, but it’d take time for the California
refinery to shift to large-scale production, and that didn’t even take into
account getting the fuel loaded onto a tanker and shipping it across a thousand
miles of submarine-infested ocean.
The splitting of the squadrons had been natural, of course. It was simply too
dangerous, the power of the Nimitz notwithstanding, to keep all the aircraft on
the ship. Wasteful, too. Now the various F-14s, A-7s and A-6s were being looked
at by the best aircraft engineers in the United States and Great Britain. He
hadn’t liked the fact that he’d be losing a whole squadron of aircraft,
pilots, mechanics and spare parts to mere political concerns, but it was
understandable. Churchill had demanded something in exchange for accepting a
Japan-first campaign, and those aircraft were only part of a deal that included
complete access to the Office of Future Affairs. The loss of those aircraft, on
top of those lost to the aircraft designers, would hurt when it came time to
launch strikes against the Japanese ships that were sure to try to intercept
them before they reached the Philippines.
It was ironic, he thought. Those twelve aircraft made up one of the most
advanced squadrons in the world, and they were going to be shipped across the
Atlantic on freighters. The image brought a smile to his face. The fuel
situation was simply that bad. The A-7s had been flown to California using fuel
from the Nimitz. They’d been loaded onto trains for the shipment east, then
presumably onto British ships for the trip east. The mechanics and what spare
parts they could — had been ordered to give — were flown to California on
the tireless C-2 Greyhounds. God help us if those planes give out, Thurman
thought. They flew higher and faster than any Japanese fighter aircraft, and
thus were far safer for critical transports than the clunky C-47s flown by the
Army Air Corps.
The aircraft were far from the only things that had been taken from the Nimitz,
of course. Everything from Sea Sparrow missile launchers to the CIWS cannons to
the Nimitz’s rec room VCRs had been thrown onto aircraft and flown to
California for transfer to the Office of Future Affairs. Thurman hoped Owens
appreciated everything that had been taken. Every bit of the Nimitz that was
shipped out made the ship that much less capable in combat. There had been
plenty of time to get everything important. Missiles and munitions had been
shipped out along microwaves and television cameras. He just hoped the Nimitz
would get the chance to enjoy the fruits of the seeds it was planting with these
He hadn’t been told much more than he needed to know — the 1940s Navy was
far more regimented than the version found in the 1980s — but Owens had been
nice enough to let him know where some of the stuff was going. Missiles to a
would-be White Sands for work with Goddard. If there was any American who could
make something of those missiles and rockets, that was the guy. He just hoped
something would come from it before they sent in the nukes. It’d be nice to
have a monopoly on those, and if the folks in Washington kept their heads, it’d
stay an American monopoly for a good long time. No way the Soviets were going to
get the bomb so easy this time around, he thought fiercely. His thoughts quickly
turned back to the sadder aspects of their month in Pearl.
They hadn’t only lost weapons and planes, of course. The Navy, in its infinite
wisdom, had transferred nearly a third of the Nimitz’s 6,000-man crew to other
ships, Washington, or the Office of Future Affairs. It made a certain kind of
sense, he had to admit. That didn’t mean he had to like it. It would be tough
to take advantage of the Nimitz’s knowledge if the men who carried it were all
killed in battle, as improbable as that might seem.
The men who had been transferred fell into two categories — crewmen
unessential to the ship’s fighting operation and crew whose knowledge was more
useful ashore in the States than onboard ship. Men ranging from the ship’s
doctor to most of the ship’s cooks to various assistant radar and radiomen had
all been transferred to bases and places across the United States and the
Pacific Fleet. No one that the ship couldn’t do without, of course. The
admirals in Washington weren’t that stupid. But they had stopped just short.
Departments like Engineering had been stripped almost bare, something that made
him particularly uncomfortable. No one wants to take chances with nuclear
reactors, even ones as good-tempered as the ones on the Nimitz.
It was just another thing he’d have to watch out for, among all the others.
The new crewmen at least obeyed orders well. That was something modern sailors
hadn’t always done — an after-effect of the Vietnam syndrome that had
affected every branch of the U.S. Military. It made the Honolulu riots possible…
well, that was his theory, at least. The failure to follow orders, the racism of
the ‘40s sailors, the loss of their friends to commands across the Pacific —
the situation had boiled over more than once over the last month. He was almost
glad to get rid of the troublemakers from the Nimitz. Even if they had to be
replaced by the forties.
Heh. That nickname had spread throughout the ship, as had the countervailing
term "eighties" for the sailors from the Nimitz. The forties were
pretty good men, all things considered. Just like having ROTC students aboard…
but there usually weren’t 2,000 of them at a time.
He sighed. There were times he almost wished he were in Owens’s shoes. Almost,
he thought, staring out at the fleet steaming westward in the sunrise. This was
something you couldn’t get behind a desk in Washington. It was dangerous,
sure, but it was worth it. Definitely.
To Volume II