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Quote of the Day: November 28, 2011

William Halsey Liveblogs World War II: November 28, 1941

William Halsey:

U.S.S. ENTERPRISE: Battle Order Number One: At Sea:

  1. The ENTERPRISE is now operating under war conditions.
  2. At any time, day or night, we must be ready for instant action.
  3. Hostile submarines may be encountered.
  4. The importance of every officer and man being specially alert and vigilant while on watch at his battle station must be fully realized by all hands.
  5. The failure of one man to carry out his assigned task promptly, particularly the lookouts, those manning the batteries, and all those on watch on the deck, might result in great loss of life and even loss of the ship.
  6. The Captain is confident all hands will prove equal to any emergency that may develop.
  7. It is part of the tradition of our Navy that, when put to the test, all hands keep cool, keep their heads, and FIGHT.
  8. Steady nerves and stout hearts are needed now.

Captain, U.S. Navy

Approved: November 28, 1941.
Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy,
Commander Aircraft, Battle Force

Furthermore, the briefing officers announced, the Marine pilots would not be returning to Hawaii that night, as many had expected. Instead, they were being transported to Wake Island, their new station.

The consternation of the men and officers was considerable. Commander William Buckner, Halsey's Operations Officer, confronted Halsey immediately after the briefing: "Goddammit, Admiral, you can't start a private war of your own!" "I'll take [responsibility]. If anything gets in the way, we'll shoot first and argue afterwards," replied Halsey.

Halsey's instructions were to get the Marine pilots and their planes to Wake Island in complete secrecy, and he was determined to take whatever steps were necessary to accomplish the mission. This included destroying any snoopers detected by the force, before they could raise alarm. Having verified that no Allied shipping was expected on his course, Halsey assumed that if any vessels were encountered, they'd probably be Japanese, and they'd probably have hostile intentions. (Though none of the American commanders were aware of this, by 28 November, a powerful Japanese striking force had been at sea for two days, steaming east towards a point well north of Pearl Harbor.) The only chance his small force would have of defending itself, or alerting Pacific Fleet headquarters, would be to seize the initiative and attack before being attacked.