/ Language: English / Genre:literature_history


W Griffin

Griffin, W.E.B.


THE CORPS is respectfully dedicated to the memory of Second Lieutenant Drew James Barrett, III, USMC Company K, 3d Battalion, 26th Marines Born Denver, Colorado, 3 January 1945 Died Quang Nam Province, Republic of Vietnam, 27 February 1969 and Major Alfred Lee Butler, III, USMC Headquarters 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit Born Washington, D.C., 4 September 1950 Died Beirut, Lebanon, 8 February 1984 "Semper Fi!" And to the memory of Donald L. Schomp A Marine fighter pilot who became a legendary U.S. Army Master Aviator RIP 9 April 1989



Henderson Field

Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands

0515 Hours 11 October 1942

First Lieutenant William Charles Dunn, USMCR, glanced up at the Pagoda through the scarred Plexiglas windshield of his battered, mud-splattered, bullet-holed Grumman F4F4 Wildcat. The Henderson Field control tower didn't look like a pagoda, but Dunn had never heard the Japanese-built, three-story frame building called anything else.

A tanned, bare-chested Marine stepped onto the narrow balcony of the Pagoda, pointed his signal lamp at the Wildcat on the threshold of the runway, and flashed Dunn a green.

Captain Bruce Strongheart, fearless commanding officer of the Fighting Aces Squadron, carefully adjusted his silk scarf and then nodded curtly to Sergeant Archie O'Malley, his happy-go-lucky, faithful crew chief O'Malley saluted crisply, and Captain Strongheart returned it just as crisply. Then, adjusting his goggles over his steel-blue eyes, his chin set firmly, not a hair of his mustache out of place, he pushed the throttle forward. His Spad soared off the runway into the blue. Captain Strongheart hoped that today was the day he would finally meet the Blue Baron in mortal aerial combat. The Blue Baron, Baron Eric von Hassenfeffer, was the greatest of all German aces. With a little bit of luck, he would shoot down the Blue Baron (in a fair fight, of course) and be back at the aerodrome in time to share a champagne luncheon with Nurse Helen Nightingale.

Dunn was twenty-one years old. He hadn't shaved in two days, or had a shower in three. He was wearing: a sweat-stained cloth flight helmet, with the strap unbuckled and the goggles resting on his forehead; an oil- and sweat-stained cotton Suit, Flying, Tropical Climates; a T-shirt with a torn collar; a pair of boxer shorts held in place with a safety pin (the elastic band had long ago collapsed); ankle-high boots known as "boondockers"; and a.45 Colt automatic in a shoulder holster.

Dunn, who was (Acting) Commanding Officer of USMC Fighter Squadron VMF-229, looked around to check whether all of his subordinates had made it out of the revetments to the taxi strip, or to the runway. There was a Wildcat on the runway, sitting almost parallel with him (First Lieutenant Ted Knowles, who had arrived from Espiritu Santo four days before). Five more Wildcats were on the taxiway.

Seven in all, representing one hundred percent of the available aircraft of VMF-229, were prepared to soar off into the wild blue. According to the table of organization and equipment, VMF-229 should have had fourteen F4F4s.

Dunn then looked at his faithful crew chief, Corporal Anthony Florentino, USMC-three weeks older than he was. Florentino had developed the annoying habit of crossing the taxiway and standing at the side of the runway to bid his commanding officer farewell. When Dunn's eyes caught his, he smiled and made a thumbs-up gesture.

I wish to Christ he wouldn't do that.

Tony Florentino had large expressive eyes; it wasn't hard for Dunn to see what he was thinking: This time the Lieutenant's not coming back.

He's not questioning my flying skill, Dunn was aware, but he knows the laws of probability. Of the original sixteen pilots who came to Guadalcanal with VMF-229, only two are left-me and the Skipper, Captain Charles M. Galloway. Of the twenty-two replacement pilots flown in from Espiritu Santo, only nine remain.

You can't reasonably expect to go up day after day after day and expect to survive-not against enemies who not only outnumber you, but are flying, with far greater experience, the Zero, a fighter plane that is faster and more agile than the Wildcat.

Dunn glanced at Ted Knowles and nodded, signaling that he was about to take off. Then he looked at Tony Florentino again and made an OK sign with his left hand. After that he took the brakes off and pushed the throttle forward. .

For Christ's sake, Tony, please don't do that Catholic crossing-your-self-in-the-presence-of-death crap until Fm out of sight.

Lieutenant Dunn, glancing back, saw that Lieutenant Knowles was beginning his takeoff roll. Then he saw Corporal Florentino crossing himself.

He dropped his eyes to the manifold pressure gauge. He was pulling about thirty inches. The airspeed indicator jumped to life, showing an indicated sixty knots. He was pulling just over forty inches of manifold pressure when he felt the Wildcat lift into the air.

He took his right hand from the stick and grabbed the stick with the left. Then he put his free hand on the landing-gear crank to his right and started to wind it up. It took twenty-eight turns. The last dozen or so, as the wheels moved into their final stowed position, were hard turns. When he was finished, he was sweating.

Dunn put his right hand back on the stick and headed out over the water. In the corner of his eye, he saw Knowles slightly behind him.

When he was clear of the beach, he reached down and grabbed, in turn, each of the four charging handles for the.50 caliber Browning machine guns (these were mounted two to a wing). He reached up and flipped the protective cover from the GUNS master switch, then pulled on the stick-mounted trigger switch.

All guns fired. He was not surprised. VMF-229 had the best mechanics at Henderson. And these were under the supervision of Technical Sergeant Big Steve Oblensky, who'd been a Flying Sergeant when Bill Dunn was in kindergarten. Another Old Breed Marine, Gunnery Sergeant Ernie Zimmerman, took care of the weapons. Dunn was convinced that Zimmerman knew more about Browning machine guns than Mr. Browning did.

But he would not have been surprised either if there had been a hang-up... or two hang-ups, or four. This was the Cactus Air Force (from the code name in the Operations Order) of Guadalcanal, located on a tropical island where the humidity was suffocating, the mud pools were vast, and the population of insects of all sizes was awesome. Their airplanes were in large part made up of parts from other (crashed, bombed, or shot down) airplanes, and were subjected to daily stresses beyond the imaginations of their designers and builders. Flying them was more an art than a science. That anything worked at all was a minor miracle.

Reasonably sure that by now the rest of the flight was airborne, Dunn picked up his microphone and pressed the switch.

"Check your guns," he ordered. "Then check in."

It was not the correct radio procedure. Marine flight instructors back in the States would not have been pleased. Neither, for that matter, would commanding officers back at Ewa in Hawaii, or probably even at Espiritu Santo. But there was no one here to complain. Those addressed knew who was speaking, and what was required of them.

In the next few minutes, one by one, they checked in.

"Two, Skipper, I'm OK."

That was Knowles, on his wing. "Seven, Sir, weaponry operable."

One of the new kids, thought twenty-one-year-old Bill Dunn, yet to be corrupted by our shamefully informal behavior.

"Three, Skipper."

"Six, OK."

"Five, Skipper."

There was a minute of silence. Dunn reached for his microphone.


"I've got three of them working."

"You want to abort? And try to catch up?"

"I'll go with three."

"Form on me, keep your eyes open," Dunn ordered. "And for Christ's sake watch your fuel!"

There was no response.

VMF-229 formed loosely on its commanding officer and proceeded in a northwest direction, climbing steadily. At 12,000 feet, Dunn got on the mike again.

"Oxygen time," he ordered.


1125 Hours 11 October 1942

Lieutenant Colonel Clyde W. Dawkins, USMC, Commanding Officer, Marine Air Group 21, set out to confer with the (acting) commanding officer of VMF-229. Dawkins was a career Marine out of Annapolis-a tanned, wiry man of thirty-five who somehow managed to look halfway crisp and military even in his sweat-soaked Suit, Flying, Tropical Climates.

He found Lieutenant Dunn engaged in his personal toilette. Dunn was standing naked under a fifty-five-gallon drum set up on two-by-fours behind the squadron office, a sandbag-walled tent. Water dribbling from holes punched in the bottom of what had been an Avgas fuel drum was not very efficiently rinsing soap from his body. Dunn's eyes were tightly closed; there was soap in them, and he was rubbing them with his knuckles.

Dunn was small and slight, five feet six or so, not more than 140 pounds; he had little body hair.

He's just a kid, Dawkins thought.

Six months before, the idea of a twenty-one-year-old not a year out of Pensacola even serving as an acting squadron commander would have seemed absurd to him.

But six months ago was before Midway, where this skinny blond kid had shot down two Japanese airplanes and then made it back home with a shot-out canopy and a face full of Plexiglas shards and metal fragments. And before Guadalcanal, where he had shot down five more Japanese.

The regulations were clear: Command of an organization was vested in the senior officer present for duty. And Bill Dunn was by no means the senior first lieutenant present for duty in VMF-229. He should not be carried on the books as executive officer (though in fact he was), much less should he have assumed command during the temporary absence of Captain Charles M. Galloway, USMCR.

But he was the best man available, not only in terms of flying skill, but as a leader. Dawkins had agreed with Galloway when the question had come up; fuck the regulations, Dunn's the best man.

This was the second time Dunn had assumed command of VMF-229. Six weeks before, Galloway had been shot down and presumed lost. When he heard the news, tears ran shamelessly down Dunn's cheeks. But the next morning, he led VMF-229 back into the air without complaining. If any doubt at all about the kid's ability to command VMF-229 had come up, Dawkins would have relieved him. But he did fine.

Meanwhile, Galloway's luck held... that time. A Patrol Torpedo boat plucked him from the sea, and he returned to duty. And then six days ago, on orders from Washington, Galloway went off on some mission that was both supersecret and-Dawkins inferred-superdangerous. It was entirely likely that he would not come back from it.

And so Dawkins was glad he had the skinny little hairless boy with the soap in his eyes to command VMF-229. He didn't look like one, but Lieutenant Bill Dunn was a fine Marine, a born leader, a warrior.

Dunn held his face up to the water dribbling from the fifty-five-gallon drum, then stepped to the side and wiped his face with a dirty towel. When he opened his eyes, he saw Colonel Dawkins.

"Be right with you, Skipper," he said.

"Take your time," Dawkins said.

Dunn pulled on a T-shirt and shorts. These didn't look appreciably cleaner than the ones he'd removed and tossed on a pile of sandbags. Then he pulled on a fresh flight suit. After that, he sat on the pile of sandbags and slipped on socks, then stuck his feet in his boondockers. Finally, he put the.45 in its shoulder holster across his chest.

When he was finished dressing, he looked at Dawkins.

"What happened to Knowles?" Dawkins asked.

"He got on the horn and said he was low on fuel, so I sent him back. Him and two others who were getting low themselves. We still had thirty, thirty-five minutes' fuel remaining."

"He almost made it," Dawkins said.

"Oblensky saw it. He told me he tried to stretch his dead-engine glide and didn't make it."

Technical Sergeant Oblensky had been a flying sergeant when Colonel Dawkins had been a second lieutenant. His professional opinion of the cause of the crash was at least as valid as anyone else's Dawkins could think of. He hadn't questioned it.

"He should have put it in the water," Dawkins said.

"He was trying to save the plane," Dunn said.

"What do we call it, 'pilot error'?"

"How about 'command failure'? I should have checked to make sure he wasn't running on the fumes."

"It wasn't your fault, Bill," Dawkins said.

Dunn met his eyes, but didn't respond directly.

"How is he?" Dunn asked. "That's why you're here, isn't it?"

"He died about five minutes ago."

"Shit! When I was over there, they told me they thought he would."

"They did everything they could for him."


"What kind of shape are you in, Bill?"

"Me personally, or the squadron?"

"You personally, first, and then the squadron."

"Except for wishing Charley Galloway was here and not off Christ only knows where, playing whatever game he's playing, I'm all right."

"I'm sure it's not a game," Dawkins said, a hint of reproof in his voice. "That mission came right from Washington."

Dunn didn't reply.

"You're doing a fine job as squadron commander," Dawkins said.

"Squadron commanders write the next of kin," Dunn said. "I'm getting goddamned sick of that."

"I'll write Knowles's family. What is it, wife or parents?"

"He got married at P'Cola the day he graduated," Dunn said. "And heard last week that she's knocked up." He pressed his lips together, bitterly. "Sorry. That she's in the family way."

"I'll write her, Bill."

"No. I killed him. I'll write her."

"Damn it! You didn't kill him. He knew what the fuel gauge is for."

"And I should have known that he wouldn't turn back until he was ordered to turn back," Dunn said. "Which I would have done had I done my job and checked on his fuel."

"I'm not going to debate with you, Mr. Dunn," Dawkins said coldly, breaking the vow he made on the way from the hospital to VMF-229 to overlook Bill Dunn's habit of saying exactly what was on his mind, without regard to the niceties of military protocol.

"I will write Mrs. Knowles," Dunn said. "And since I am a coward, I will tell her that the father of her unborn child died doing his duty."

"You never know when to shut up, do you?" Dawkins flared. But he was immediately sorry for it.

Dunn met his eyes again, yet didn't reply.

"Nothing happened this morning?" Dawkins went on quickly. "You saw nothing up there?"

Dunn shook his head "no." "Dawn Patrol was a failure," he went on. "The Blue Baron declined the opportunity for a chivalrous duel in the sky."

Dawkins chuckled.

"I used to read Flying Aces too, when I was a kid," he said. "Who are you? Lieutenant Jack Carter?"

"Captain Bruce Strongheart," Dunn said with a smile. "Right now I'm getting dressed to have a champagne lunch with Nurse Nightingale."

"That wasn't her name," Dawkins said. "It was... Knight. Helen Knight."

"You did read Flying Aces, didn't you?" Dunn said, smiling.

"Yeah," Dawkins said. "I always wondered if Jack Carter ever got in her pants."

"I always thought she had the hots for Captain Strongheart. Beautiful women seldom screw the nice guy."

"Is that the voice of experience talking?"

"Unfortunately," Dunn said.

"They'll be back," Dawkins said, suddenly getting back to the here and now. "I wouldn't be surprised if in force. How's your squadron?"

"After Knowles, I'm down to five operational aircraft. By now, they should be refueled and rearmed. Tail number 107 is down with a bad engine. I don't think it will be ready anytime soon; maybe, just maybe, by tomorrow. Oblensky is switching engines. There are two in the bone-yard he thinks he may be able to use."

"What happened to the engine?"

"Well, not only was it way overtime, but it really started to blow oil. I listened to it. I don't think it would make it off the runway. I redlined it for engine replacement."

"They keep promising us airplanes."

"They promised me I would travel to exotic places and implied I would get laid a lot," Dunn said. "I don't trust them anymore."

"I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt," Dawkins answered. "I believe they're trying." His mouth curled into a small smile. "You don't think Guadalcanal is 'exotic'?"

"I was young then, Skipper. I didn't know the difference between 'exotic' and 'erotic' "

Dawkins touched his arm. "You better get something to eat."

"The minute I start to eat, the goddamned radar will go off."

"Probably," Dawkins said.

This, Dawkins thought, is where I'm supposed to say something reassuring. Or better, inspiring. Hell of a note that a MAG commander can't think of a goddamn thing reassuring or inspiring to say to one of his squadron commanders.

He thought of something:

"When Galloway comes back, I'll lay three to one he comes with stuff to drink."

"If he comes back," Dunn said. "What odds are you offering about that?"

"He'll be back, Bill," Dawkins said, hoping his voice carried more conviction than he felt.



FROM: MAG-21 1750 11OCT42





A. EIGHT (8) F4F4 VF-5

B. FIFTEEN (15) F4F4 VMF-121

C. SIX (6) F4F4 VMF-223

D. FIVE(5)F4F4VMF-224

E. FIVE (5) F4F4 VMF-229































Henderson Field Guadalcanal,

Solomon Islands

0615 Hours 12 October 1942

As the Douglas R4D (the Navy/Marine Corps version of the twin-engine Douglas DC-3) turned smoothly onto its final approach, the pilot, who had been both carefully scanning the sky and taking a careful look at the airfield itself, suddenly put his left hand on the control wheel and gestured with his right to the copilot to relinquish control.

The lanky and (like nearly everyone else in that part of the world) tanned pilot of the R4D was twenty-eight-year old Captain Charles M. Galloway, USMCR-known to his subordinates as either "The Skipper" or "The Old Man."

The copilot was a twenty-two-year-old Marine Corps second lieutenant whose name was Malcolm S. Pickering. Everyone called him "Pick."

As Pick Pickering took his feet off the rudder pedals, he took his left hand from the wheel and held both hands up in front of him, fingers extended, a gesture indicating, You've got it.

I didn't have to take it away from him, Charley Galloway thought as he moved his hand to the throttle quadrant. His many other flaws notwithstanding, Pickering is a first-rate pilot. More than that, he's that rare creature, a natural pilot.

So why did I take it away from him? Because no pilot believes any other pilot can fly as well as he can? Or because I am functioning as a responsible commander, aware that high on the long list of critically short materiel of war on Guadalcanal are R4D airplanes. And consequently I am obliged to do whatever I can to make sure nobody dumps one of them?

He glanced over at Pickering to see if he could detect any signs on his face of a bruised ego. There were none.

Is that because he accepts the unquestioned right of pilots-in-command to fly the airplane, and that copilots can drive only at the pleasure of the pilot?

Or because he is a fighter pilot, and doesn't give a damn who flies an aerial truck, all aerial truck drivers being inferior to all fighter pilots?

Galloway made a last-second minor correction to line up with the center of the runway, then flared perfectly and touched down smoothly. The runway was rough. The landing roll took them past the Pagoda, the Japanese-built control tower, and then past the graveyard. There the hulks of shot-up, crashed, burned, and otherwise irreparably damaged airplanes waited until usable parts could be salvaged from them to keep other planes flying.

Where, Galloway thought, Pickering can see the pile of crushed and burned aluminum that used to be the Grumman Wildcat, his buddy, First Lieutenant Dick Stecker, dumped on landing... and almost literally broke every bone in his body.

Galloway carefully braked the aircraft to a stop, then turned it around and started to taxi back down the runway.

"You still want to turn your wings in for a rifle?" Galloway asked.

Pickering turned to look at him.

He didn't reply at first, taking so long that Galloway was suddenly worried what his answer might be.

"I was upset," Pickering said, meeting his eyes, "when I saw Stecker crash. If I can, I'd like to take back what I said then."

"Done," Galloway said, nodding his head. "It was never said."

"I did say it, Skipper," Pickering answered softly. "But I want to take it back."

"Pickering, they're short of R4D pilots. I'm an R4D IP"-an Instructor Pilot, with the authority to classify another pilot as competent to fly an R4D. "As far as I'm concerned, you're checked out in one of these. I'm sure there'd be a billet for you on Espiritu Santo."

"If that's my option, Captain," Pickering said, "then I will take the rifle. I'm a fighter pilot."

"It takes as much balls to fly this as it does a Wildcat," Galloway said.

"More. These things don't get to shoot back," Pickering said.

Galloway chuckled, then said, "Just to make sure you understand: I wasn't trying to get rid of you."

Pickering met his eyes again for a long moment.

"Thank you, Sir," he said.


Corporal Robert F. Easterbrook, USMCR, was nineteen years old, five feet ten inches tall, and weighed 132 pounds (he'd weighed 146 when he came ashore on Guadalcanal two months and two days earlier). And he was pink skinned-thus perhaps understandably known to his peers as "Easterbunny." Easterbrook was sitting in the shade of the Henderson Field control tower, the Pagoda, when the weird R4D came in for a landing. It had normal landing gears, with wheels; but attached to all that was what looked like large skis. None of the other Marine and Navy R4Ds that flew into Henderson were so equipped.

"Holy shit!" he said to himself, and he thought: That damned thing is back! I've got to get pictures of that sonofabitch.

Twelve months before, Corporal Easterbrook had been a freshman at the University of Missouri, enrolled in courses known informally as "Pre-Journalism.''

It had been his intention then to work hard and attain a high enough undergraduate grade-point average to ensure his acceptance into the University of Missouri Graduate School of Journalism. Later, with a Missouri J School diploma behind him, he could get his foot on the first rung of the ladder leading to a career as a photojournalist (or at least he'd hoped so):

He would have to start out on a small weekly somewhere and work himself up to a daily paper. Later-much later-after acquiring enough experience, he might be able to find employment on a national magazine... maybe Collier's or the Saturday Evening Post, or maybe even Look. It was too much to hope that he would ever see his work in Life or Time-at least before he was old, say thirty or thirty-five. As the unquestioned best of their genre, these two magazines published only the work of the very finest photojournalists in the world.

On December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Bobby Easterbrook had gone down to the post office and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve for the Duration of the War Plus Six Months. He now regarded that as the dumbest one fucking thing he had ever done in his life,

Even though his photographic images had appeared in the past two months not only within the pages, but on the covers, of Look and Time and several dozen major newspapers, that success had not caused him to modify his belief that enlisting in The Crotch was the dumbest one fucking thing he had ever done in his life.

In fact, he'd concluded that the price of his photojournalistic success and minor fame-he'd been given credit a couple of times, USMC PHOTOGRAPH BY CPL R. F. EASTERBROOK, USMC COMBAT CORRESPONDENT-Was going to be very high. Specifically, he was going to get killed.

There was reason to support this belief. Of the seven combat correspondents who had made the invasion, two were dead and three had been badly wounded.

In June 1942, the horror of boot camp at Parris Island still a fresh and painful memory, the Easterbunny had been a clerk in a supply room at the Marine Base at Quantico, Virginia.

He'd got that job after telling a personnel clerk that he had worked for the Conner Courier. That was true. During his last two years of high school, he'd worked afternoons and as long as it took on Fridays to get the Courier out.

When he talked with the personnel clerk, he implied that he'd been a reporter/photographer for the Conner Courier. That was not exactly true. Ninety-five percent of the photographic and editorial work on the Conner Courier (weekly, circ. 11,200) was performed by the owner and his wife. But Mr. Greene had shown Bobby how to work the Courier's Speed Graphic camera, and how to develop its sheet film, and how to print from the resultant negatives.

Still, the only words he wrote that actually appeared in print were classified ads taken over the telephone, and rewrites of Miss Harriet Comb's "Social Notes." Miss Combs knew everything and everyone worth knowing in Conner County, but she had some difficulty writing any of it down for publication. Complete sentences were not one of her journalistic strengths.

The personnel corporal appeared bored hearing about the Easter-bunny's journalistic career... until it occurred to him to ask if Private Easterbrook could type. "Sure."

That pleased the corporal. The Corps did not at the moment need journalists, he told Private Easterbrook, but he would make note of that talent-a "secondary specialty"-on his records. What The Corps did need was people who could type. Private Easterbrook was given a typing test, and then a "primary specialty" classification of clerk/typist.

Becoming a clerk/typist at least got him out of being a rifleman, Private Easterbrook reasoned-his burning desire to personally avenge Pearl Harbor having diminished to the point of extinction while he was at Parris Island.

He'd been kind of looking forward to a Marine Corps career as a supply man-with a little bit of luck, maybe eventually he'd make supply sergeant-when, out of the clear blue sky, at four o'clock one afternoon, he'd been told to pack his seabag and clear the company. He was being sent overseas. It wasn't until he was en route to Wellington, N.Z., aboard a U.S. Navy Martin Mariner, a huge, four-engine seaplane headed for Pearl Harbor, that he was able to begin to sort out what was happening to him.

He learned then that the Marine Corps had formed a team of still and motion picture photographers recruited from Hollywood and the wire services. They were to cover the invasion of a yet unspecified Japanese-occupied island. Just before they were scheduled to depart for the Pacific, one of the still photographers had broken his arm. Somehow Easterbrook's name-more precisely, his "secondary specialty"-had come to the attention of those seeking an immediate replacement for the sergeant with the broken arm. And he had been ordered to San Diego.

The team was under the command of former Hollywood press agent Jake Dillon-now Major Dillon, USMCR, a pretty good guy in Easterbrook's view. Genuinely sorry that the Easterbunny was not able to take the ordinary five-day leave prior to overseas movement, Major Dillon had thrown him a bone in the form of corporal's stripes.

Aboard the attack transport, the eight-man team (nine, counting Major Dillon) learned the names of the islands they were invading: Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Gavutu, in the Solomons. No one else had ever heard of them before, either.

Major Dillon and Staff Sergeant Marv Kaplan, a Hollywood cinematographer Dillon had recruited, went in with the 1st Raider Battalion, in the first wave of landing craft to attack Tulagi. At about the same time, Corporal Easterbrook landed with the 1st Marine Parachute Battalion on Gavutu, two miles away.

The Marine parachutists didn't come in by air. They landed from the sea and fought as infantry, suffering ten percent casualties. After Gavutu was secured, the Easterbunny went to Tulagi. There Major Dillon handed him Staff Sergeant Kaplan's EyeMo 16mm motion picture camera and announced tersely that Kaplan had been evacuated after taking two rounds in his legs, and that Easterbrook was now a Still and Motion Picture Combat Correspondent.

He also relieved Easterbrook of the film he had shot on Gavutu. One of the pictures he took there-of a Marine paratrooper firing a Browning Automatic Rifle with blood running down his chest-was published nationwide.

Three days later, he crossed the channel with Dillon to Lunga Point on Guadalcanal, where the bulk of the First Marines had landed. There they learned that one of the two officers and two of the six enlisted combat correspondents had been wounded.

Shortly afterward, Dillon left Guadalcanal to personally carry the exposed still and motion film to Washington. Easterbrook hadn't heard news of him since then, though there was some scuttlebutt that he'd been seen on the island a couple of days ago. But the Easterbunny discredited that. If Dillon was on Guadalcanal again, he certainly would have made an effort to see who was left of the original team. That meant Lieutenant Graves, Technical Sergeant Petersen, and Corporal Easterbrook. In the two months since the invasion, everybody else had been killed or seriously wounded.

Looking at those numbers, Bobby Easterbrook had concluded a month or so ago that it was clearly not a question of if he would get hit, but when, and how seriously. He had further concluded that when he did get hit, he'd probably be hit bad. Although it had been close more times than he liked to remember, so far he hadn't been scratched. The odds would certainly catch up with him.

All the same, since getting hit was beyond his control, he didn't dwell on it. Or tried not to dwell on it.... He kept imagining three, four, five-something like that-scenes where he'd get it. Sometimes, he could keep one or another of these out of his mind for as much as an hour.

He looked again at the weird R4D, glad at the moment for the diversion. "Holy shit!" he said again.

When the airplane first came to Henderson, he asked Technical Sergeant Big Steve Oblensky about it. The maintenance sergeant of VMF-229 was usually a pretty good guy; but that time Oblensky's face got hard and his eyes got cold, and he told him to butt the fuck out; if The Corps wanted to tell him about the airplane, they would send him a letter.

The Easterbunny pushed himself to his feet as the weird R4D, its unusual landing gear extended, turned on its final approach. He shot a quick glance at the sky, then held his hand out and studied the back of it. He'd come ashore with a Weston exposure meter, but that was long gone.

He set the exposure and shutter speed on his Leica 35mm camera to fl1 at 1/100th second. He'd also come ashore with a Speed Graphic 4 x 5-inch view camera, but that too was long gone.

He shrugged his shoulder to seat the strap of his Thompson.45 ACP caliber submachine gun, so it wouldn't fall off, and took two exposures of the R4D as it landed and rolled past the Pagoda, and then another as it taxied back to it.

As he walked toward the aircraft, he noticed Big Steve Oblensky driving up in a jeep. Jeeps, like everything else on Guadalcanal, were in short supply. How Oblensky managed to get one-more mysteriously, how he managed to keep it-could only be explained by placing Oblensky in that category of Marine known as The Old Breed-i.e., pre-war Marines with twenty years or more of service. They operated by their own rules.

For instance, Bobby Easterbrook had taken at least a hundred photos of Old Breed Marines wearing wide-brimmed felt campaign hats in lieu of the prescribed steel helmet. None of the brass, apparently, felt it worthwhile to comment on the headgear, some of which the Easterbunny was sure was older than he was.

Another sergeant was in the jeep with Oblensky, a gunnery sergeant, a short, barrel-chested man in his late twenties; another Old Breed Marine, even though he was wearing a steel helmet. Oblensky was coverless (in The Corps, the Easterbunny had learned, headgear of all types was called a "cover") and bare-chested, except for a.45 ACP in an aviator's shoulder holster.

"Why don't you go someplace, Easterbunny, and do something useful?" Technical Sergeant Oblensky greeted him.

"Let me do my job, Sergeant, OK?"

Three months ago, I would never have dreamed of talking to a sergeant like that.

"You know this feather merchant, Ernie?" Technical Sergeant Oblensky inquired.

"Seen him around."

"Easterbunny, say hello to Gunny Zimmerman."


"What do you say, kid?"

"Except that he keeps showing up where he ain't wanted, the Easter-bunny's not as much of a candy-ass as he looks."

I have just been paid a compliment; or what for Big Steve Oblensky is as close to a compliment as I could hope for.

The rear door of the R4D started to open. Bobby Easterbrook put the Leica to his eye and waited for a shot.

First man out was a second lieutenant, whom the Easterbunny recognized as one of the VMF-229 Wildcat pilots. He was wearing a tropical-weight flight suit. It was sweat stained, but it looked clean. Even new.

That's unusual, the Easterbunny thought. But what's really unusual is that an R4D like this is being flown by pilots from VMF-229, which is a fighter squadron. Why?

Neither of the Old Breed sergeants in the jeep saluted, although the gunny did get out of the jeep.

"We got some stuff for the squadron," the Second Lieutenant said. "Get it out of sight before somebody sees it."

That put Oblensky into action. He started the jeep's engine and quickly backed it up to the airplane door. He took a sheet of canvas, the remnants of a tent, from the floor of the jeep, set it aside, and then climbed into the airplane. A moment later, he started handing crates to Zimmerman.

Very quickly, the jeep was loaded-overloaded-with crates of food. One, now leaking blood, was marked BEEF, FOR STEAKS 100 LBS KEEP FROZEN. And there were four cases of quart bottles of Australian beer and two cases of whiskey.

Oblensky and Zimmerman covered all this with the sheet of canvas, and then Oblensky got behind the wheel and drove quickly away.

Another officer, this one a first lieutenant, climbed down from the cargo door of the airplane; and he was immediately followed by a buck sergeant. They were wearing khakis, and web belts with holstered pistols, and both had Thompson submachine guns slung from their shoulders.

Gunny Zimmerman walked up and saluted. The Easterbunny got a shot of that, too. When the Lieutenant heard the click of the shutter, he turned to give him a dirty look with cold eyes.

Fuck you, Lieutenant. When you've been here a couple of days, you'll understand this isn't Parris Island, and we don't do much saluting around here.

The Lieutenant returned Gunny Zimmerman's salute, and then shook his hand.

"Still alive, Ernie?" the Lieutenant asked.

"So far," Gunny Zimmerman replied.

"Say hello to George Hart," the Lieutenant said, and then turned to the sergeant. "Zimmerman and I were in the 4th Marines, in Shanghai, before the war."

"Gunny," Sergeant Hart said, shaking hands.

"You were in on this?" Zimmerman asked, with a nod in the direction of the weird airplane.

"I couldn't think of a way to get out of it," Sergeant Hart said.

The Lieutenant chuckled.

"I volunteered him, Ernie," he said.

"You do that to people," the gunny said. "Lots of people think you're dangerous."

"Dangerous is something of an understatement, Gunny," Sergeant Hart said.

The Lieutenant put up both hands in a mock gesture of surrender.

I read this lieutenant wrong. If he was a prick, like I thought, he wouldn't let either of them talk like that to him. And what's this "4th Marines in Shanghai before the war " business? He doesn't look old enough to have been anywhere before the war.

Now a major climbed down the ladder from the airplane. He was dressed in khakis like the Lieutenant, and he was wearing a pistol. The Easterbunny took his picture, too, and got another dirty look from cold eyes.

And then Major Jake Dillon climbed down. He was also in khakis, but he carried a Thompson, not a pistol; and he smiled when he saw him.

"Jake," the first Major said, and pointed to Corporal Easterbrook.

"Give me that film, Easterbrook," Major Dillon ordered.

The Easterbunny rewound the film into the cassette, then opened the Leica, took it out, and handed it to Major Dillon. Dillon surprised him by pulling the film from the cassette, exposing it, ruining it.

"This we don't want pictures of," Dillon said conversationally, then asked, "Where'd you get the Leica?"

"It's Sergeant Lomax's," Easterbrook replied. "It was Sergeant Lomax's. Lieutenant Hale took it when he got killed, and I took it from Hale when he got killed."

Major Dillon nodded.

"There's some 35mm film, color and black-and-white, in an insulated container on there," he went on, gesturing toward the airplane. "And some more film, and some other stuff. Take what you think you're going to need, and then give the rest to the Division's public relations people."

"Aye, aye, Sir."

"I want to talk to you, to everybody, but not right now. Where do you usually hang out?"

"With VMF-229, Sir."

"OK. See if you can locate the others, and don't get far away."

"Aye, aye, Sir."

Technical Sergeant Big Steve Oblensky came up in the now empty jeep.

Another face appeared in the door of the R4D. It was another one the Easterbunny recognized, the skipper of VMF-229, Captain Charles Galloway.

"Ski," he ordered, "take these officers to the Division CP, and then come back. There's stuff in here to be unloaded, and I want this serviced as soon as you can."

"Aye, aye, Sir," Tech Sergeant Oblensky said.

The two Majors and the Lieutenant with the cold eyes climbed into the jeep and it drove away.

Captain Galloway looked at Easterbrook, then asked conversationally (it was not, in other words, an order), "You doing anything important, Easterbunny, or can you lend us a hand unloading the airplane?"

"Aye, aye, Sir."

"You, too, Hart," Galloway said.

Captain Galloway and the other VMF-229 pilot, the Second Lieutenant, started to unload the airplane. His name, the Easterbunny now remembered, was Pickering.




First Marine Division


0655 Hours 12 October 1942

When the jeep driven by Technical Sergeant Big Steve Oblensky drove up, Major General Alexander Archer Vandegrift was about to climb into his own jeep.

Vandegrift, the commanding general of the First Marine Division, and as such the senior American on Guadalcanal, was a tall, distinguished-looking man just starting to develop jowls. He was wearing mussed and sweat-stained utilities, boondockers, a steel helmet, and had a web belt with a holstered.45 1911A1 Colt pistol around his waist.

The three officers in the jeep stepped out quickly, and one by one rendered a salute. Vandegrift, who had placed his hand on the windshield of his jeep and was about to lift himself up, paused a moment until they were through saluting, then returned it. Then, almost visibly making up his mind not to get in his jeep and to delay whatever he intended to do, he walked toward them.

"Oblensky," General Vandegrift ordered conversationally, "get a helmet. Wear it."

"Aye, aye, Sir," Technical Sergeant Oblensky replied.

"Hello, Dillon."

"Good morning, Sir."

"Your operation go OK?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Can I interpret that to mean we can count on that team of Coast-watchers?"

"Yes, Sir. They're operational, with a new radio and a spare."

"And the men that were there?"

"Exhaustion and malnutrition, Sir. But they'll be all right."

"Is that what you wanted to see me about?"

"Yes, Sir. And Major Banning hoped you would have time for him."

Vandegrift looked closely and curiously at Major Edward J. Banning, concluding that there was something familiar about the stocky, erect officer, and that also suggested he was a professional. He offered his hand.

"I have the feeling we've met, Major. Is that so?"

"Yes, Sir. When you were in Shanghai before the war."

"Right," Vandegrift said, remembering: "You were the intelligence officer of the Fourth Marines, right?"

"Yes, Sir."

"What can I do for you, Major?"

"Sir, I'm here at the direction of General Pickering. Is there someplace... ?"

"We can go inside," Vandegrift said.

"Sir, you're not going to need me for this, are you?" the Lieutenant asked.

"No," Major Banning replied.

"I'd like to go see my brother," the Lieutenant said. "Go ahead," Banning said.

"Where is your brother, Lieutenant?" Vandegrift asked.

"With the 1st Raider Battalion, Sir."

"My driver will take you," Vandegrift said. "But you can't keep the jeep."

"Thank you, Sir. No problem, I can get back on my own."

The Lieutenant saluted, and walked toward the jeep. Vandegrift gestured toward his command post, then led the others inside to what passed, in the circumstances, for his private office.

A sheet of tentage hung much like a shower curtain provided what privacy there was. Inside the curtained area was a U.S. Army Field Desk, a four-foot-square plywood box with interior shelves and compartments; its front opened to form a writing surface. It sat on a wooden crate with Japanese markings.

"One of your officers, Dillon?" Vandegrift asked as he pulled the canvas in place and waved them into two folding wooden chairs. He was obviously referring to the Lieutenant he'd just lent his jeep to. "I heard about Lieutenant Hale being killed. I thought there would be a replacement for him."

"One of General Pickering's officers, Sir," Banning replied.

"That's Killer McCoy, General," Major Dillon said.

"That's Killer McCoy?" Vandegrift replied, surprised. "I would have expected someone more on the order of Sergeant Oblensky."

"That's the Killer, Sir," Dillon said.

"I wish I'd known who he was," Vandegrift said. "I could have saved him a trip to the Raiders."

"Sir?" Banning asked, obviously concerned.

"If his brother is who I think he is, he was flown out of here the day before yesterday," Vandegrift said. When he saw the looks on their faces, he hastily added: "In near-perfect health. I'm surprised you don't know, Dillon. Sergeant Thomas J. McCoy was ordered back to the States by the Director of Public Affairs. They seem to think he can boost enlistments and sell war bonds. The press is calling him 'Machine Gun McCoy.' "

"I'd heard about that, Sir. It just slipped my mind."

"I could understand Sergeant McCoy being called 'Killer,' " Vandegrift said, shaking his head in a mixture of surprise and amusement. "Not only did I recommend him for the Navy Cross, for what he did on Edson's Ridge with his machine gun, but he's built like a tank and looks like he can chew nails. But that young man..."

"In his case, Sir, the Killer's looks can be deceiving," Banning said.

"What's he doing here?"

"I don't know how familiar you are with the Buka Operation, General?"

"The Marines operating the Buka Coastwatcher station were at the end of their rope, and you went in and replaced them?"

"Yes, Sir," Banning said. "McCoy set up the Buka operation for General Pickering. And went in with it. He went ashore from the sub before the plane got there. That was his second rubber-boat landing. He was on the Raider raid on Makin."

"He gets around, apparently," Vandegrift said, and then asked, "What's he going to do here?"

"He's returning to the States, Sir, via Espiritu Santo."

Vandegrift nodded, then, ending the casual conversation, said, "You say General Pickering sent you to see me, Major?"

"Yes, Sir," Banning said, then turned to Major Dillon. "Jake, will you excuse us, please?"

Dillon nodded, then pushed the canvas aside and left them alone. General Vandegrift looked at Banning.

Banning took a sheet of flimsy paper from his shirt pocket and handed it to the General.



























General Vandegrift read the message, looked at Banning, then read the message again.

"Very interesting," he said. When Banning didn't reply, Vandegrift added, "Are you going to tell me what this is all about, Banning?"

Banning looked uncomfortable.

"Sir, I think it's right there. I don't like to speculate...."

"Speculate," Vandegrift ordered, softly but sharply.

"Sir, is the General aware of General Pickering's mission when he was here before?"

"You mean, here on Guadalcanal? Or in the Pacific?"

"In the Pacific, Sir."

"It was bandied about that Pickering was Frank Knox's personal spy."

"Sir, it is my understanding that General Pickering was dispatched to the Pacific to obtain for Secretary Knox information that Secretary Knox felt he was not getting through standard Navy channels."

"You're a regular, Banning," Vandegrift said. "I shouldn't have to tell you about going out of channels." He paused. "About my personal repugnance to going out of channels."

"Sir, may I speak frankly?"

"I expect you to, Major."

"Sir, with respect, you don't have any choice. I am here at the direction of the Secretary of the Navy. I respectfully suggest, Sir, that if the Secretary of the Navy elects to move outside the established chain of command, he has that prerogative."

"Would you say, then, Major, that the contents of this message are not known to the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific?"

"I would be very surprised if it was, Sir."

"And the reference..." Vandegrift said, then paused and looked at the message again, "... the reference to their confidence in my discretion, and yours, means that we are not expected to tell them about it?"

"I would put that interpretation on that, Sir," Banning said.

"When this comes out, Banning, as it inevitably will, my superiors will conclude that I went over their heads. I would draw the same conclusion."

"Sir, I can only respectfully repeat that we have received an order from the Secretary of the Navy."

"In which I see the hand of Fleming Pickering," Vandegrift said. "I think this was Pickering's idea, not Mr. Knox's."

Banning didn't reply for a moment. There was no doubt in his mind that the whole thing was Fleming Pickering's idea. For one thing, the Secretary of the Navy almost certainly had no idea who one obscure major named Edward Banning was.

"Sir, I respectfully suggest-"

"I know," Vandegrift interrupted him. "It doesn't matter whose idea it was, Knox has signed on to it. Right? And we have our orders, right?"

"Yes, Sir," Banning said, uncomfortably.

"The reference..." Vandegrift began, and again stopped to look at the message in his hand, "... to 'all intelligence available to you and your staff.' I presume that includes MAGIC intercepts?"

"Sir," Banning said, now very uncomfortable. "I'm not at liberty..."

"Pickering was here, as you know. I know about MAGIC."


Vandegrift held up his hand, shutting him off, and then went on, "... and thus I should have known better than to put that question to you. Consider it withdrawn."

Banning was visibly relieved.

"General," he said, "I have access to certain intelligence information, the source of which I am not at liberty to disclose. More important, not compromising this source of intelligence is of such importance-"

Vandegrift held up his hand again, silencing him. Banning stopped and waited as Vandegrift visibly chose the words he would now use.

"Let's go off at a tangent," he said. "The last time I was in Washington, I had a private talk with General Forrest. Perhaps he was out of school and shouldn't have told me this, but we're very old friends, and I flatter myself to think he trusts my discretion...."

Jesus Christ, did Forrest tell him about MAGIC? I find that hard to believe!

Major General Horace W. T. Forrest was Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2 (Intelligence), of The Marine Corps.

"Anyway, General Forrest told me a story about the British being in possession of a coding machine..."

The Enigma machine. I can't believe Forrest told him about that, either.

"... which permitted them to decode certain German codes..."

I'll be damned, he did!

"... and that one of the German messages intercepted and decoded was the order from Berlin to the Luftwaffe to destroy Coventry," Vandegrift went on. "Which posed to Prime Minister Churchill the difficult question, 'Do I order the Royal Air Force to prepare to defend Coventry? Which will probably save Coventry, and a large number of human lives, civilian lives. But which will also certainly let the Germans know we have access to their encoded material. Or do I let them destroy Coventry and preserve the secret that we are reading their top-secret operational orders?' "

"I'm familiar with the story, Sir."

"Yes, I thought you might be," Vandegrift said. "Coventry, you will recall, was leveled by the Luftwaffe, with a terrible loss of life. I presume the English are still reading German operational orders, and that the Germans do not suspect that they are."

"Yes, Sir."

"I believe Churchill made the correct decision. Do I make my point, Major?"

"Yes, Sir."

"I will not inquire into the source of your intelligence, nor will I act upon anything you tell me."

"Yes, Sir," Banning said.

"Go on, please, Major," Vandegrift said.

"Lieutenant General Harukichi Hyakutaka has assumed command of Japanese operations on Guadalcanal," Banning said.

Hyakutaka commanded the Japanese Seventeenth Army.

Vandegrift looked surprised.

"I was about to say, I know that. But you mean he's here, don't you? Physically present on Guadalcanal?"

"Yes, Sir. He arrived 9 October."

"He's a good man," Vandegrift said, almost to himself. It was not an opinion of Hyakutaka's character. Rather, it was one professional officer's judgment of the professional skill of another.

"Sir, would it be a waste of your time if I recapped the situation as I understand it?"

"No," Vandegrift said. "Go ahead."

"It is our belief, Sir, that until very recently, neither the Japanese Imperial General Staff itself, nor the Army General Staff, nor the Japanese Navy, has taken seriously our position on Guadalcanal. This is almost certainly because of a nearly incredible lack of communication between their Army and their Navy. For example, Sir, we have learned that until we landed, the Japanese Army was not aware that their Navy was building an airfield here."

"That's hard to believe," Vandegrift said. "But on the other hand, sometimes our Army doesn't talk to our Navy, either."

"As bad as that gets, Sir, it's nothing like the Japanese," Banning said. "Neither, Sir, was the Japanese Army made aware of the extent of Japanese Navy losses at Midway, not until about two weeks ago. Because they presumed that their Naval losses there were negligible, the Japanese Army concluded that we would not be able to launch any sort of counter-offensive until the latter half of 1943."

"And then we landed here," Vandegrift said.

"Yes, Sir. And even when we did, they were unwilling or unable to believe that it was anything more than a large-scale raid. The Makin Island raid times ten, or times twenty, so to speak. This misconception was reinforced when Admiral Fletcher elected to withdraw the invasion fleet earlier than was anticipated."

"Admiral Fletcher," Vandegrift said evenly, "apparently believed that he could not justify the loss of his ships in a Japanese counterattack."

"The Japanese interpretation, Sir, was that following the Battle of Savo Island, and our loss of the cruisers Vincennes and Quincy-"

"And the Australian Canberra..."

"-and the Canberra, that the Marines were abandoned here."

"There were people here who thought the same thing," Vandegrift said.

"Yes, Sir," Banning said. "General Pickering among them."

"Go on, Banning."

"And then Japanese intelligence, as reported to and accepted by the Imperial General Staff, was faulty," Banning said. "Remarkably so. Their estimate of Marines ashore was two thousand men, for instance. And they claimed our morale was low, and that deserters were attempting to escape to Tulagi."

"Really?" Vandegrift asked. "I hadn't heard that."

"Based, apparently, on this flawed intelligence, the IJGS made the decision that recapture of Guadalcanal would not be difficult. And because the airfield would be of value to them when they completed it, they decided that the recapture should be undertaken without delay. Initially, in other words, they didn't consider the possibility that we had the capability to make the airfield operational."

"I find it hard to accept they could be so inept," Vandegrift said.

"Yes, Sir, so did we. But that, beyond question, seems to be the case. In any event, at that point, General Hyakutaka was given responsibility for the recapture of Guadalcanal. He decided that six thousand troops would be necessary to do so, and that he could assemble such a force from his assets without hurting Japanese operations on New Guinea and elsewhere.

"He then dispatched an advance force, approximately a thousand men under Colonel Ichiki Kiyono, which landed here on 18 August at Taivu. Again, presumably because of the intelligence which reported your forces as two thousand men, with low morale, and attempting to escape to Tulagi, Kiyono launched his attack along the Ilu River...."

"And Kiyono's force was annihilated," Vandegrift said.

"Yes, Sir. Which caused the Japanese to do some second thinking. The Army and the Navy, at that point, Sir, were not admitting to one another the extent of their own losses. Nor-presuming either had learned them-the strength of the First Marine Division or the capabilities of Henderson Field.

"Their next step was greater reinforcement of their troops here. By the end of August, they had landed approximately six thousand men under Major General Kiyotake Kawaguchi. At the same time, finally, they realized that they could not logistically support both their operations here and in New Guinea. IJGS radioed General Horii, who had almost reached Port Moresby, and ordered him to halt his advance and dig in. Troops and materiel intended for Papua were ordered redirected here. It was at about this point, Sir, that they gave evidence of a much changed attitude toward Guadalcanal. It was phrased in several ways, but in essence, they concluded that 'Guadalcanal has now become the pivotal point of operational guidance.' "

Vandegrift grunted.

"General Kawaguchi's orders were to reconnoiter your positions, to determine whether with his existing forces he could break through them, capture Henderson Field, and ultimately push you into the sea. Or whether the attack should be delayed until he had additional troops and materiel. He elected to attack, possibly still relying on erroneous data about your strength, or possibly because he had come to believe what General Hyakutaka had been saying for some time, and thus the risk was justified."

"Excuse me?" Vandegrift asked.

"In September, Sir, we broke an intercept from General Hyakutaka to the 17th Army, in which he said, 'The operation to surround and recapture Guadalcanal will truly decide the fate of the control of the entire Pacific.' At that time, Sir, that line of thinking was almost heretical."

"Well, he's right," Vandegrift said. "And now he's here, and in command."

"Yes, Sir. In any event, Kawaguchi attacked what we now call 'Bloody Ridge.' "

"And, by the skin of our teeth, of Merritt Edson's teeth, of the Raider and Parachutists' teeth, we held," Vandegrift said. "Your Lieutenant McCoy's brother stood up with an air-cooled.30 caliber Browning in his hands and killed thirty-odd Japanese. And he was by no means the only Marine who did more than anyone could reasonably, or unreasonably, expect of them."

"Yes, Sir. We've heard. They may have to rewrite the hymn."


"From the Halls of Montezuma to the hills of Bloody Ridge."

"Now that's heresy, Major," Vandegrift said. "But maybe we'll need another verse." He smiled at Banning, then went on: "I'm glad we've talked, you and I. It's cleared my mind about several things." He paused. "You people have really been doing your homework, haven't you?"

Banning didn't reply.

"I don't suppose you know-or if you know, that you can tell me-what Hyakutaka's plans are now?"

"I believe that is why I was sent here, Sir, to tell you what we think, and to get your evaluation of that for General Pickering."

Vandegrift looked at him, waiting.

"It is our belief, Sir, that as soon as General Hyakutaka has ashore what he considers to be an adequate force, he intends to launch an attack on your lines with the objective of taking Henderson Field. We believe that the attack will be three-pronged, from the west and south. The 2nd Division, under Major General Maruyama, will attack from the south, in concert with troops under Major General Sumiyoshi Tadashi attacking from the west. The combined fleet will stand offshore in support, and to turn away any of our reinforcements."

"How soon is this going to happen?"

"I have no idea, Sir. But I think it is significant that General Hyakutaka is physically present."

"And we are supposed to hold? Does anyone really think we can,

with what we have?"

"General Harmon does not, Sir. He has been pressing very hard to

get you reinforced in every way."

Major General Millard Harmon, USA, was a member of Admiral Fletcher's staff, his ground force expert.

Vandegrift was silent a moment.

"I will give you specifics for your report to General Pickering, Major, because I think he expects them. But what they add up to is that unless we get significant reinforcements, ground and air, we are going to reach the point where even extraordinary courage will be overwhelmed by fatigue and malnutrition."

"The Army's 164th Infantry has sailed, Sir, to reinforce you. They should be here shortly."

"That I'd heard," Vandegrift said. "But one regiment is not going to be enough."

"Yes, Sir."

"Get yourself a cup of coffee. I want to organize my thinking for General Pickering on paper." "Aye, aye, Sir."


The Presidential Apartment

The White House

Washington, D.C. [

0830 Hours 12 October 1942

"Frank," the President of the United States began, but interrupted himself to fit a cigarette into a long silver-and-ivory holder and to wait until a black, white-jacketed Navy steward had produced a silver Ronson table lighter.

The Honorable Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy, a dignified, modestly portly gentleman wearing pince-nez spectacles, raised his eyes to the President and waited, his jaws moving slowly as he masticated an unexpectedly stringy piece of ham.

They were taking breakfast alone, at a small table in a sitting room opening onto Pennsylvania Avenue. Roosevelt was wearing a silk dressing gown over a white shirt open at the collar. Knox was wearing a banker's gray pin-striped suit.

"Frank," the President resumed, "just between you, me, and the lamppost, would you say that Bill Donovan is paranoid?" William J. Donovan, a World War I hero, a law school classmate of Roosevelt's, and a very successful Wall Street lawyer, had been recruited by Roosevelt to head the Office of Information. This later evolved into the Office of Strategic Services, and ultimately into the Central Intelligence Agency.

"I respectfully decline to answer, Mr. President," Knox said, straight-faced, "on the grounds that any answer I might give to that question would certainly incriminate me."

Roosevelt chuckled.

"He came to see me last night. First, I got the to-be-expected complaints about Edgar getting in his way."

The reference was clearly to J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Hoover, who jealously guarded the prerogatives of the FBI, saw in Donovan's intelligence-gathering mission a threat to his conviction that the FBI had primary responsibility for intelligence and counterintelligence operations in the Western Hemisphere.

"Far be it from me, Mr. President," Knox said, alluding to that sore point, "to suggest to you that you may not have made the delineation of their respective responsibilities crystal clear."

Roosevelt chuckled again, gestured to the steward that he would like more coffee, and then asked innocently, "Frank, have you never considered that two heads are better than one?"

"Even two granite heads?" Knox asked.

"Even two granite heads," Roosevelt said. "And then, after a rather emotional summation of his position vis-a-vis Edgar, Bill dropped his oh-so-subtle venom in the direction of Douglas MacArthur."

"Oh? What did MacArthur do to him?"

"The worst possible thing he could do to Bill," Roosevelt replied. "He's ignoring him."

"I don't quite follow you, Mr. President."

"Bill sent a team to Australia. And there they are sitting, with very little to do. For it has been made perfectly clear to them that they are considered interlopers, and that MacArthur intends to ignore them. Donovan's top man can't even get an audience with the Supreme Commander."

"I don't see, Mr. President, where this has anything to do with me. MacArthur doesn't work for me."

"I sometimes wonder if Douglas understands that he works for me, either. I suspect he believes the next man up in his chain of command is God," Roosevelt said. "But that isn't the point. Donovan believes that MacArthur has been poisoned regarding both him personally, and the Office of Strategic Services generally-"

"The what?" Knox interrupted.

"The Office of Strategic Services. We have renamed the Office of Information. Didn't you hear?"

"I heard something about it," Knox said, and then picked up his coffee cup.

"As I was saying," Roosevelt went on. "Donovan believes that the reason his people are being snubbed is that when Fleming Pickering was over there, he whispered unkind slanders in the porches of Douglas Mac Arthur's ear. And General Pickering does work for you."

"I don't believe that Pickering would do that kind of thing," Knox said, after a moment.

"I would rather not believe it myself," Roosevelt said. "But I thought you could tell me what the friction is between Donovan and Pickering."

Knox took another sip of his coffee before replying.

"I'm tempted to be flip and say it's simply a case of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. There was some bad feeling between them before the war. Donovan represented Pickering's shipping company in a maritime case. Pickering thought Donovan's bill was out of line, and told him so in somewhat pungent terms."

"I hadn't heard that," Roosevelt said.

"And then Donovan tried to recruit Pickering for the Office of Information. Pickering assumed, and I think reasonably, that he was being asked to become one of the Twelve Disciples." When formed, the mission of the Office of Information was to analyze intelligence gathered by all U.S. intelligence agencies. Ultimately, data would be reviewed by a panel of twelve men, the Disciples, drawn from the upper echelons of American business, science, and academia, who would then recommend the use to be made of the intelligence gathered.

Knox looked at his coffee cup but decided not to take another sip. "When he got to Washington," he resumed, "Donovan kept Pickering cooling his heels waiting to see him for a couple of hours, and then informed him that he would be working under one of the Disciples. This man just happened to be a New York banker with whom Pickering had crossed swords in the past."

"So there's more than one monumental ego involved?"

"I rather sympathized with Pickering about that," Knox said. "Pickering himself is a remarkable man. I understand why he turned Donovan down. He believed he would be of greater value running his shipping company-Pacific and Far East Shipping is, as you know, enormous-than as a second-level bureaucrat here."

"And then you recruited him?"

"Yes. And as you know, he did one hell of a job for me."

"In the process enraging two of every three admirals in the Navy," Roosevelt said softly.

"I sent him to the Pacific to get information I was not getting via the Annapolis Protection Society," Knox said. "He did what I asked him to do. And he's doing a good job now."

"Donovan says that he cannot get the men he needs from The Marine Corps, because Pickering is the man who must approve the transfers."

"And Marine Corps personnel officers have complained to the Commandant that Pickering is sending to Donovan too many good officers that The Marine Corps needs," Knox replied.

"You don't think Pickering whispered slanders in MacArthur's ear when he was over there?"

"He doesn't whisper slanders," Knox said. "Flem Pickering doesn't stab you in the back, he stabs you in the front. The first time I met him, he told me I should have resigned after Pearl Harbor."

Roosevelt's eyebrows went up. But he seemed more amused than shocked or outraged.

"Was that before or after you recruited him?" he asked, with a smile.

"Before. But, to be as objective as I can, I think it is altogether possible that when he and MacArthur were together, Bill Donovan's name came up. If that happened, and if MacArthur asked about him, Pickering would surely have given his unvarnished opinion of Donovan; that opinion would not be very flattering."

"Donovan wants his head," Roosevelt said.

"I would protest that in the strongest possible terms, Mr. President. And I would further suggest, present personalities aside, that giving in to Donovan on something like this would set a very bad precedent."

"Frank, I like Fleming Pickering. We have something in common, you know. Both of us have sons over there, actually fighting this war. And I am aware that the Commander-in-Chief tells Bill Donovan what to do, not the reverse."

Knox looked at him. "But?"

"I would like to get Pickering out of sight for a few weeks. Is he up to travel?"

"If you asked him, he would gladly go. But he was badly wounded, and he had a bad bout with malaria. Where do you want me to send him?"

"Let's decide that after we decide what shape he's in. Are you free for lunch?"

"I'm at your call, Mr. President."

"You, Richardson Fowler, Admiral Leahy, and General Pickering. If nothing else, presuming he doesn't have a wiretap in this room, Bill Donovan could really presume we've called Pickering on the carpet, couldn't he?"

Knox didn't reply. He gestured to the steward for more coffee.


The Foster Lafayette Hotel

Washington, D.C.

1150 Hours 12 October 1942

It had suddenly begun to rain, hard, as the 1940 Buick Limited convertible sedan passed the Hotel Washington and continued down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White House.

"This goddamn town has the worst weather in the world," the driver, alone in the car, observed aloud.

He was a tall, distinguished-looking man in his early forties, wearing a superbly tailored United States Marine Corps brigadier general's uniform.

He passed the White House, made a right turn, then a U-turn, and pulled up before the marquee of the Foster Lafayette Hotel, arguably the most luxurious hotel in the capital. Beyond question, it was the most expensive.

The ornately uniformed doorman pulled open the passenger-side door.

"Your choice," Brigadier General Fleming Pickering said, "you park this or loan me your umbrella."

"I think the Senator's going with you, General," the doorman said, with a smile.

At that moment, Senator Richardson K. Fowler (R., Cal.), a tall, silver-haired, regal-looking sixty-two-year-old, appeared at the car and slipped into the passenger seat. He had been waiting for the Buick to appear, standing just inside the lobby, looking out through the plate glass next to the bellboy-attended revolving door.

"You made good time, Flem," he said.

The doorman closed the door after him.

"Let's have it," Pickering replied curtly.

"Let's have what?"

"You said, quote, 'as soon as possible.' "

"We're having lunch with the President and Frank Knox," Fowler said. "And, I think, Admiral Leahy."

"That's all?" Pickering asked suspiciously.

"Most people in this town would be all aflutter at the prospect of a private luncheon with the President, his Chief of Staff, and the Secretary of the Navy," Fowler began, and then saw something in Pickering's eyes. "What did you think it was, Flem?"

"You know damned well what I thought it was," Pickering said.

"Pick's going to be all right, Flem," Fowler said gently. "He's a Pickering. Pickerings walk through raindrops."

The last time General Pickering heard, his only son, Second Lieutenant Malcolm S. "Pick" Pickering, USMCR, was flying an F4F4 Wildcat off Henderson Field on Guadalcanal.

"Get out," Pickering said. "Open the door."

"We're due at the White House in twenty minutes," Fowler said, looking at his watch.

"That's plenty of time," Pickering said. "It's right across the street. All I want is a quick drink." He met Fowler's eyes, and confessed, "I've been frightened sick ever since you called. You sonofabitch. You should have told me that it was lunch with Roosevelt."

"I'm sorry, Flem," Fowler said, genuinely contrite.

Fowler opened his door, and Pickering slid across the seat to follow him.

"Don't bury it," Pickering said to the doorman, who hurried back to the car. "We'll be out in a minute."

The doorman walked around the front of the Buick, got in, and drove it fifteen yards. He parked it by a sign proclaiming, NO PARKING AT ANY TIME, then walked back to his post.

General Pickering was always well treated by the staff of the Foster Lafayette. For one thing, he occupied a five-room suite on the sixth floor, adjacent to Senator Fowler's somewhat larger suite. More important, Pickering's wife, Patricia, was the only child of Andrew Foster, the owner of the Foster Lafayette and forty-one other Foster hotels.

Inside the lobby, Fowler turned to Pickering and asked, "You want to go upstairs?"

In reply, Pickering pointed toward the door of the Oak Grill. There a line of people waited behind the maitre d'hotel's lectern and a velvet rope for their turn to enter the smaller and more exclusive of the Lafayette's two restaurants.

Fowler shrugged and followed Pickering.

The maitre d'hotel saw them coming. Smiling as he unhooked the velvet rope, he greeted them:

"General, Senator, your table is ready."

That was not the unvarnished truth. The Oak Grill customarily placed brass RESERVED signs on a few tables more than were actually reserved. Such tables were required for those people who came without reservations and were too important to stand in line. Before General Pickering had taken up residence in the Lafayette, Senator Fowler's name had headed the list of those who got tables before anyone else, reservation or no. Now Fleming Pickering's name was at the top.

A waiter appeared before Pickering and Fowler had time to slide onto the leather-cushioned banquette seats.

"Luncheon, gentlemen?"

"No, thank you," Pickering said. "What we need desperately is a quick drink."

"Don't bring the bottle," Senator Fowler said.

The management of the Oak Grill was aware that when General Pickering asked for a drink, he was actually requesting a glass, a bowl of ice, a pitcher of water, and a bottle of Famous Grouse scotch. Two of these, from the General's private stock, were kept out of sight under the bar.

The waiter looked to Pickering for guidance.

"Just the drinks, please," Pickering ordered. When the waiter was gone he added, "I really hadn't planned to get plastered."

"There are those, you know, who would be reluctant to show up across the street reeking of booze."

"You don't say?"

"And, you know, most general officers ride in the backseat, beside their aides, while their sergeant drives."

"My aide and my sergeant have more important things to do," Pickering said, and then added, "Speaking of which..."

He took a thin sheet of paper from the left bellows pocket of his tunic and handed it to Fowler.














Senator Fowler read it and handed it back to Pickering.

"Aside from recognizing the somewhat grandiose title Douglas MacArthur has given himself, I haven't the foggiest idea what I just read," he said. "But are you supposed to carry something marked 'Secret' around in your pocket so casually?"

Pickering looked at him and smiled.

"Watch this," he said.

He crumpled the sheet of paper and put it in the ashtray. Then he took a gold Dunhill lighter from his pocket, got it working, and touched the flame to the crumpled paper. There was a flash of light, and the paper disappeared in a small cloud of white smoke.

"Christ!" Fowler said, surprised.

Heads elsewhere in the Oak Grill turned, startled by the light.

"They treat it chemically somehow," Pickering said, pleased. "The coal on a cigarette will set it off. You don't need a flame."

"How clever," Fowler said drolly as the waiter delivered the drinks. He picked up his and raised it. "To Pick, Flem. May God protect him."

Pickering met his eyes and then touched glasses.

"That came in a moment before you called," he said. "We put a couple of Marines-precisely, I put a couple of Marines-onto an island called Buka, not far from the Japanese base at Rabaul. The Australians left people behind when the Japanese occupied it-"

"You put somebody onto a Japanese-occupied island?" Fowler interrupted.

Pickering nodded. "They call these people Coastwatchers. They have radios, and provide our people with early warning of Japanese movement, air and ship. This fellow's radio went out, so we sent him a new one, a Hallicrafters-"

" 'You' or 'we,' which?" Fowler interrupted again.

"Me," Pickering said. "I asked a couple of Marines to volunteer to parachute onto Buka with a new radio. Then I found out that the Australians were infected with the British notion that no sacrifice is too great for King and Country..."

"Meaning what?"

"That they were going to leave my Marines there until they were either killed by the Japanese or died of disease or starvation. Goddamn them!"

"So you got them out? The greyhound and the pups? That's what they meant?"

Pickering nodded. "We replaced them. Took the first Marines out and sent some others in. I was worried about it; it was a hairy operation. And the moment after the courier handed me Banning's message and I could exhale, I got your 'come as soon as possible' message. I thought that Pick... I thought the other shoe had dropped. I stuffed that in my pocket without thinking."

"Pick, like his old man, will walk between raindrops," Fowler said. "To quote myself."

Pickering looked at him for a moment, then raised his glass.

"I could use another one of these."

"No," Fowler said, then repeated it. "No, Flem."

Pickering shrugged.

Fowler's 1941 Cadillac limousine was at the curb when they came out of the lobby.

"I gather it's beneath the dignity of a United States senator to arrive at the White House in anything less than a limousine?" Pickering asked as he started to get in.

"It is beneath this United States senator's dignity to call upon the President soaked to the skin," Fowler replied. "They would make you park your car yourself if you drove over there. And, you may have noticed, it's raining."

Pickering didn't reply.

"How are you, Fred?" he cheerfully asked Fowler's chauffeur.

"Just fine, General, thank you."

The limousine was stopped at the gate. Before passing them onto the White House grounds, a muscular man in a snap-brim hat and a rain-soaked trench coat scanned their personal identification, then checked their names against a list on a clipboard.

A Marine sergeant opened the limousine door when they stopped under the White House portico, then saluted when Pickering got out.

Pickering returned the salute. "How are you, Sergeant?" he asked.

The sergeant seemed surprised at being spoken to. "Just fine, Sir."

A White House butler opened the door as they approached it.

"Senator, General. If you'll follow me, please?"

He took them via an elevator to the second floor, where another muscular man in civilian clothing examined them carefully before stepping aside.

The butler knocked at a double door, then opened it without waiting for an order.

"Mr. President," he announced, "Senator Fowler and General Pickering."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt rolled his wheelchair toward the door.

"My two favorite members of the loyal opposition," he said, beaming. "Thank you for coming."

"Mr. President," Fowler and Pickering said, almost in unison.

"Fleming, how are you?" Roosevelt asked as he offered his hand.

"Very well, thank you, Sir."

Pickering thought he detected an inflection in the President's voice that made it a real question, not a pro forma one. There came immediate proof.

"Malaria's all cleared up?" the President pursued. "Your wounds have healed?"

"I'm in fine shape, Sir."

"Then I can safely offer you a drink? Without invoking the rage of the Navy's surgeon general?"

"It is never safe to offer General Pickering a drink, Mr. President," Senator Fowler said.

"Well, I think I'll just take the chance, anyway," Roosevelt said.

A black steward in a white jacket appeared carrying a tray with two glasses on it.

"Frank and I started without you," Roosevelt said, spinning the wheelchair around and rolling it into the next room. Fowler and Pickering followed him.

As they entered, Knox rose from one of two matching leather armchairs. He had a drink in his hand. Admiral William D. Leahy rose from the other chair. He was a tall, lanky, sad-faced man whose title was Chief of Staff of the President. There was a coffee cup on the table beside him.

The men shook hands.

"How are you, General?" Admiral Leahy asked, and again Pickering sensed it was a real, rather than pro forma, question.

"I'm very well, thank you, Admiral," Pickering said.

"I already asked him, Admiral," Roosevelt said. "We apparently have standing before us a tribute to the efficacy of military medicine. As badly as he was wounded, as sick as he was with malaria, I am awed." He turned to Pickering, Knox, and Fowler, smiled, and went on: "The Admiral and I have had our schedule changed. You will be spared taking lunch with us."

"I'm sorry to hear that, Mr. President," Senator Fowler said.

"Oh, no you're not," Roosevelt said. "With me gone, you three political crustaceans can sit here in my apartment and say unkind things about me."

There was the expected dutiful laughter.

"I hear laughter but no denials," Roosevelt said. "But before I leave you, I'd like to ask a favor of you, Fleming."

"Anything within my power, Mr. President," Pickering said.

"Could you find it in your heart to make peace with Bill Donovan?"

Is that what this is all about? Did that sonofabitch actually go to the President of the United States to complain about me?

"I wasn't aware that Mr. Donovan was displeased with me, Mr. President."

"It has come to his attention that you said unkind things about him to our friend Douglas MacArthur," Roosevelt said.

"Mr. President," Pickering said, softly but firmly, "to the best of my recollection, I have never discussed Mr. Donovan with General MacArthur."

Frank Knox coughed.

"Then tell me this, Fleming," the President said. "If I asked you to say something nice to Douglas MacArthur about Bill Donovan, would you?"

"I'm not sure I understand you, Mr. President."

"Frank will explain everything," Roosevelt said. "And when you see Douglas, give him my very best regards, won't you?"

The President rolled himself away before Pickering could say another word.




Solomon Islands

0450 Hours 13 October 1942

Major Jack (NMI) Stecker, USMCR, commanding officer of 2nd Battalion, Fifth Marines, woke at the first hint of morning light. He was a large, tall, straight-backed man who could look like a Marine even in sweat-soaked utilities-as the Commanding General of the 1st Marine Division recently noted privately to his Sergeant Major. The rest of the Division, including himself, the General went on to observe, looked like AWOLs from the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Major Stecker had been sleeping on a steel bed and mattress, formerly the property of the Imperial Japanese Army. A wooden crate served as Stecker's bedside table; it once contained canned smoked oysters intended for the Japanese garrison on Guadalcanal.

The "tabletop" held a Coleman lantern; a flashlight; an empty can of Planter's peanuts converted to an ashtray; a package of Chesterfield cigarettes; a Zippo lighter; and a U.S. Pistol, Caliber.45 ACP, Model 1911, with the hammer in the cocked position and the safety on.

On waking, Major Stecker sat up and reached for the pistol. He removed the magazine, worked the action to eject the chambered cartridge, and then loaded it back into the magazine. He let the slide go forward, lowered the hammer by pulling the trigger, and then reinserted the magazine into the pistol.

It was one thing, in Major Stecker's judgment, to have a pistol in the cocked and locked position when there was a good chance you might need it in a hurry, and quite another to carry a weapon that way when you were walking around wide awake.

Before retiring, he had removed his high-topped shoes-called boondockers- and his socks. Now he pulled on a fresh pair of socks-fresh in the sense that he had rinsed them, if not actually washed them in soap and water-and then the boondockers, carefully double-knotting their laces so they would not come undone. When he was satisfied with that, he slipped the Colt into its holster and then buckled his pistol belt around his waist.

He pushed aside the shelter-half that separated his sleeping quarters from the Battalion Command Post.

The Battalion S-3 (Plans and Training) Sergeant, who was sitting on a folding chair (Japanese) next to a folding table (Japanese) on which sat a Field Desk (U.S. Army), started to get to his feet. Stecker waved him back to his chair.

"Good morning, Sir."

"Good morning," Stecker said with a smile, then walked out of the CP and relieved himself against a palm tree. He went back into the CP, picked up a five-gallon water can, and poured from it two inches of water into a washbasin-a steel helmet inverted in a rough wooden frame.

He moved to his bedside table and reached inside for his toilet kit, a battered leather bag with mold growing green around the zipper. He lifted out shaving cream and a Gillette razor. Then he went back to the helmet washbasin, wet his face, and shaved himself as well as he could using a pocket-size, polished-metal mirror. He had come ashore with a small glass mirror, but the concussion from an incoming Japanese mortar round had shattered it.

He carried the helmet outside, tossed the water away, and returned to his bedside table. He reached inside for a towel, then wiped the vestiges of the shaving cream from his face.

His morning toilette completed, he picked up a U.S. Rifle, Caliber.30-06, M1 that was beside his bed (one of the few M1s on Guadalcanal). It had a leather strap, and the strap had two spare eight-round clips attached to it.

The M1 rifle (called the Garand, after its inventor) was viewed by most Marines as a Mickey Mouse piece of shit, inferior in every way to the U.S. Rifle, Caliber. 30-06, M1903 (called the Springfield, after the U.S. Army Arsenal where it was manufactured). Every Marine had been trained with a Springfield at either Parris Island or San Diego.

Major Stecker disagreed. In his professional judgment, the Garand was the finest military rifle yet developed.

Before the war, as Sergeant Major Stecker, he participated in the testing of the weapon at the Army's Infantry Center at Fort Benning, Georgia. And he concluded then that if he ever had to go to war again, he would arm himself with the Garand. Not only was it at least as accurate as the Springfield, but it was self-loading. You could fire the eight cartridges in its en bloc clip as fast as you could pull the trigger. And then, when the clip was empty, the weapon automatically ejected it and left the action open for the rapid insertion of a fresh one. The Marine Corps' beloved Springfield required the manipulation of its bolt after each shot, and its magazine held only five cartridges.

Although there were in those days fewer than two hundred Garands in Marine Corps stocks, it had not been difficult for the sergeant major of the U.S. Marine Corps Schools at Quantico, Virginia, to arrange to have one assigned to him. For one thing, he was the power behind the U.S. Marine Corps Rifle Team, and for another, sergeants major of the pre-war Marine Corps generally got whatever they thought they needed, no questions asked.

When Sergeant Major Stecker was called to active duty as a Captain, USMC Reserve, he briefly considered turning the Garand in.... He decided against it. If he turned the Garand in, he reasoned, it would almost certainly spend the war in a rifle rack at Quantico. If he kept it, the odds were that it would be put to its intended use-bringing accurate fire to bear upon the enemy.

By the time the 1st Marine Division reached the South Pacific, Jack (NMI) Stecker was a major.... He had in no way changed his opinion about the Garand rifle-far to the contrary. Although there were few in the 1st Marines who felt safe teasing Major Stecker about anything, three or four brave souls felt bold enough to tease him about his rifle. The last man to do it was Brigadier General Lewis T. Harris, the Assistant Division Commander. They were then on the transport en route to Guadalcanal.

General Harris was a second lieutenant in France in 1917 at the time Sergeant Stecker, then nineteen, earned the Medal of Honor. And they had remained friends since. General Harris, for instance, was the man who talked Stecker into accepting a reserve commission in the first place. And it was Harris who later arranged his promotion to major and his being given command of Second of the Fifth-against a good deal of pressure from the regular officer corps, who believed that while there was a place for commissioned ex-enlisted men in the wartime Corps, it was not in positions of command.

On the transport, General Harris looked at Stecker and observed solemnly: "I'm willing to close my eyes to officers who prefer to carry a rifle in addition to the prescribed arm," which was the.45 Colt pistol, "but I'm having trouble overlooking an officer who arms himself with a Mickey Mouse piece that will probably fall apart the first time it's fired."

Stecker raised his eyes to meet the General's. "May the Major respectfully suggest that the General go fuck himself?"

They were alone in the General's cabin, and they went back together a long way. The General laughed and offered Stecker another sample of what the bottle's label described as prescription mouthwash.

The comments about Jack (NMI) Stecker's Mickey Mouse rifle died out after the 2nd Battalion of the Fifth Marines went ashore on Tulagi (at about the same time the bulk of the Division was going ashore on Guadalcanal, twenty miles away). The word spread that the 2nd Battalion's commanding officer, standing in the open and firing offhand, had put rounds in the heads of two Japanese two hundred yards away.

Jack Stecker put his helmet on his head and slung the Garand over his shoulder.

"I'm going to have a look around," he said to the G-3 sergeant.

The field telephone rang as he crossed the room. As Stecker reached the entrance, the G-3 sergeant called his name. When Stecker turned, he held out the telephone to him.

Stecker took the telephone, pushed the butterfly switch, and spoke his name.

"Yes, Sir," he said, and then "No, Sir," and then "Thank you, Sir, I'll be waiting."

He handed the telephone back to the sergeant.

"The look around will have to wait. I'm having breakfast with The General. He's sending his jeep for me."

There were several general officers on the island of Guadalcanal, but The General was Major General Alexander Archer Vandegrift, who commanded the First Marine Division.

"Whatever it is, Sir," the G-3 sergeant said, "we didn't do it."

"I don't think The General would believe that, Sergeant, whatever it is," Stecker said, and walked out of the command post.


The 1st and 3rd Battalions of the Fifth Marines, First Marine Division, had come ashore near Lunga Point on Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands, on 7 August. Simultaneously, the 1st Marine Raider Battalion and the 2nd Battalion of the Fifth Marines had landed on Tulagi Island, twenty miles away; and the 1st Marine Parachute Battalion on the tiny island of Gavutu, two miles from Tulagi.

This operation was less the first American counterattack against the Japanese-since that would have meant the establishment on Guadalcanal of a force that could reasonably be expected to overwhelm the Japanese there-than an act of desperation.

From a variety of sources, Intelligence had learned that the Japanese would in the near future complete the construction of an airfield near Lunga Point on the north side of the island. If it became operational, Japanese aircraft would dominate the area: New Guinea would almost certainly fall. And an invasion of Australia would become likely.

On the other hand, if the Japanese airfield were to fall into American hands, the situation would be reversed. For American aircraft could then strike at Japanese shipping lanes, and at Japanese bases, especially those at Rabaul, on the island of New Britain. A Japanese invasion of Australia would be rendered impossible, all of New Guinea could be retaken, and the first step would be made on what publicists were already calling "The March to Japan."

General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander, South West Pacific Ocean Area, and Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief, Pacific, very seldom agreed on anything; but they agreed on this: that the risks involved in taking Guadalcanal had to be accepted. And so the decision to go ahead with the attack was made.

The First Division was by then in New Zealand, having been told it would not be sent into combat until early in 1943. Nevertheless, it was given the task. It was transported to Guadalcanal and Tulagi/Gavutu in a Naval Task Force commanded by Vice Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher.

The initial amphibious invasion, on Friday, 7 August 1942, went better than anyone thought possible. Although the 1st Marine Parachute Battalion on Gavutu was almost literally decimated, both Gavutu and Tulagi fell swiftly and with relatively few American casualties. And there was little effective resistance as the Marines went ashore on Guadalcanal.

But then Admiral Fletcher decided that he could not risk the loss of his fleet by remaining off the Guadalcanal beachhead. His thinking was perhaps colored by the awesome losses the Navy had suffered at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. And so he assumed-not completely without reason-that the Japanese would launch a massive attack on his ships as soon as they realized what was happening.

Admiral Fletcher summoned General Vandegrift to the command ship USS McCawley on Saturday, 8 August. There he informed him that he intended to withdraw from Guadalcanal starting at three the next afternoon.

Vandegrift argued that he could have the Japanese airfield ready to take American fighters within forty-eight hours, and that he desperately needed the men, and especially the supplies, still aboard the transports. He argued in vain.

The next morning, Sunday, 9 August, Fletcher's fears seemed to be confirmed. In what became known as the Battle of Savo Island, the U.S. Navy took another whipping: the cruisers USS Vincennes and USS Quincy were both sunk within an hour. The Australian cruiser HMAS Canberra was set on fire, and then torpedoed and sunk by an American submarine to save it from capture. A third American cruiser, USS Astoria, was sunk at noon.

At 1500 that afternoon, ten transports, one cruiser, four destroyers, and a minesweeper of the invasion fleet left the beachhead for Noumea. At 1830, the rest of ships sailed away. On board were a vast stock of weapons and equipment, including all the heavy artillery and virtually all of the engineer equipment, plus rations, ammunition, and personnel.

If it had not been for captured stocks of Japanese rations, the Marines would have starved. If it had not been for captured Japanese trucks, bulldozers, and other engineer equipment (and American ingenuity in making them run) the airfield could not have been completed.

And it was not a question of if the Japanese would launch a major counterattack to throw the Marines back into the sea, but when.

In Jack Stecker's view, the next few days were going to be a close thing for the Marines on Guadalcanal. For a number of reasons. For one, he had been a longtime observer of the Japanese military. Before the war, he did a tour with the 4th Marines in Shanghai, where he soon realized that the Japanese were not small, trollish men wearing thick glasses whom the United States could defeat with one hand tied behind them; that they were in fact well trained, well disciplined, and well armed.

And so Stecker was not at all surprised after the war started to see the Japanese winning victory after victory. What surprised him was how long it was taking them to mount a massive counterattack on Guadalcanal. Control of the Guadalcanal airfield (now named Henderson Field, after a Marine Aviator who had been killed in the Battle of Midway) was as important to them as it was to the Americans. And unlike the Americans, the Japanese had enormous resources of ships, aircraft, and men to throw into a counterattack.

For instance, when the American invasion fleet sailed off into the sunset, it carried with it the heavy (155mm) artillery of the First Marine Division. That meant the Japanese could bombard the airfield and Marine positions with their heavy artillery, without fear of counterbattery fire from the Americans, whose most powerful cannon was the 105mm howitzer.

And meanwhile, Guadalcanal was a tropical island, infested with malaria and a long list of other debilitating tropical diseases. These weakened the physical strength of the Marines from the moment they landed. That situation, made worse by short rations and the strain of heat and humidity, could easily get desperate. Already Stecker's Marines were sick and exhausted.

As for the reason they were on the island in the first place, Henderson Field was operational and a second auxiliary airstrip had been bulldozed not far away, yet there had been no massive buildup of American air power. As soon as aircraft were flown in, they entered combat. Although Japanese losses were much heavier than American, the attrition of U.S. warplanes seemed to Stecker to have overwhelmed available reinforcements.

Stecker had a personal interest in Marine Aviation. His son, a Marine Aviator on VFM-229, had barely survived a crash landing in an F4F4 Wildcat. He had left the island a high-priority medical evacuee, covered in plaster and bandages. Despite all the painkilling narcotics the doctors thought he could handle, he was moaning in agony.

The prognosis was, eventually, full recovery. Stecker had his doubts.

A mud-splattered jeep came up to him.

"Major Stecker?" the driver asked.

The driver looked to be fifteen, Stecker thought, and was certainly no older than eighteen.

"Right," Stecker said, and got in the front seat.

"Sorry to be late, Sir. I got stuck in the mud."

Late? What does he mean, "late"? How long have I been standing there?

"It happens," Stecker said.


There was no General's Mess. Instead there was was a plank table under a canvas fly, set with three places. Each place held a china plate and a china mug ("borrowed," Stecker was sure, from the transport), and was laid out with the flatware that came with a mess kit: a knife, a fork, and a large spoon. Stecker wondered why the mess cook hadn't "borrowed" some better tableware. But then it occurred to him that somewhere in the hold of one of the ships that sailed off into the sunset the day after they landed there was a crate marked HQ CO OFFICER'S MESS filled with some decent plates and flatware.

He stood at the end of the table and waited for the Division Commander to arrive.

Vandegrift appeared a minute later, trailed by Brigadier General Lucky Lew Harris, who was shorter and stockier than his superior. Vandegrift was wearing utilities; Harris wore mussed and sweat-stained khakis.

Stecker came to attention.

"Good morning, Sir."

"Good morning, Jack."

"General," Stecker said, nodding to Harris.

"Colonel," Harris said.

Christ, Lew's going over the edge, too. He called me "Colonel"; he, of all people knows better than that.

A mess cook appeared. He was trying, without much success, to look as neat and crisp as a cook-for-a-general should look. He carried a stainless-steel pitcher and a can of condensed milk. He put the pitcher and the can of condensed milk on the table. And then he opened the can by piercing the top in two places with a K-Bar knife.

"Thank you," General Vandegrift said. "I can use some coffee."

"Sir, I can give you powdered eggs and bacon, or corned beef."

"Corned beef for me, please," General Vandegrift said. He picked up the coffee pitcher and poured coffee for himself and the others.

"Please be seated, gentlemen," the General said.

Stecker and Harris sat down. The cook looked at them. Both nodded. The General had ordered corned beef; they would have corned beef.

The General raised his eyes to the cook.

"Is there any of the Japanese orange segments?"

"Yes, Sir. I was going to bring you some, Sir."

Vandegrift nodded.

"Thank God for the Japanese," Vandegrift said. He turned to look at Stecker.

"I suppose if you had something unusual to report, Jack, you would have already said what it is."

"Fairly quiet night, Sir."

Vandegrift nodded.

"Jack, we got a radio about a week ago asking us to recommend outstanding people for promotion. Officers and enlisted. We're going to have to staff entire divisions, and apparently someone at Eighth and I thinks the cadre should be people who have been in combat." (Headquarters, USMC, is at Eighth and I Streets in Washington, D.C.)

"Yes, Sir. I agree. Are you asking me for recommendations, Sir?"

"I wasn't, but go ahead."

"Sir, I have an outstanding company commander in mind, Joe Fortin, and my G-3 sergeant is really a first-class Marine. Are you talking about direct commissions, Sir?"

"Before you leave," Vandegrift said, not replying directly, "give those names to General Harris."

"Aye, aye, Sir."

"What Eighth and I wanted, Jack, was the names of field-grade officers, for promotion"-majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels- "and staff NCOs for either direct commissions or for Officer Candidate School." (Staff NCOs were enlisted men of the three senior grades.)

"Yes, Sir."

He already told me that. And he's certainly not asking me to offer my opinion of field-grade officers. If I'm not the junior major on this island, I don't know who is. What's he leading up to?

"A couple of names came immediately to mind, and we fired off a radio," General Vandegrift went on. "And for once Eighth and I did something in less than sixty days."

"Yes, Sir?"

The cook arrived with a plate of corned beef hash and three coffee cups, each of which held several spoonfuls of canned orange segments, courtesy of the Imperial Japanese Army.

He served the corned beef hash, left, and returned with another plate, this one holding bread that had apparently been "toasted" in a frying pan.

"General, we don't have any jam except plum," the cook said, laying a plate of jam on the table.

"Plum will be fine, thank you," General Vandegrift said.

General Harris spread his toast with the jam, and took a bite.

"This must be American," he said. "It's awful."

"Did you send for a photographer, Lew?" General Vandegrift asked.

"Yes, Sir. He's standing by."

"Well, let's get him in here and get this over with."

"Aye, aye, Sir," General Harris said. He rose and walked out from under the canvas fly, returning a minute later with a Marine in sweat-stained, tattered utilities. He had a shoulder holster holding a.45 Colt across his chest, a Thompson submachine gun hanging from his right shoulder, and a musette bag slung over the left. He carried a small 35mm Leica camera.

"Good morning," General Vandegrift said.

"Good morning, Sir," Corporal Easterbrook replied.

"Will you stand up, please, Jack?" Vandegrift said as he got to his feet.

Now what the hell?

"You want to take off those major's leaves, please, Jack?" Vandegrift said.


"You heard the General, Colonel, take off those major's leaves," General Harris said.

I don't believe this.

"Pursuant to directions from the Commandant of the Marine Corps, I announce that Major Jack (NMI) Stecker, USMCR, is promoted Lieutenant Colonel, USMCR, effective this date," General Vandegrift said. "How do you want to do this, Corporal? Me pinning on the insignia, or shaking Colonel Stecker's hand?"

"I'd like one of each, Sir," Corporal Easterbrook said.

"Very well, one of each," General Vandegrift said.

When they shook hands, General Vandegrift met Lieutenant Colonel Stecker's eyes for the first time. "Congratulations, Jack. The promotion is well deserved."

"Jesus!" Stecker blurted.

"I would hate to think that your first act as a lieutenant colonel was to question a general officer's recommendation," Vandegrift said. Then he looked at Corporal Easterbrook. "Is this all right, Corporal?"

"Colonel, if you would look this way, please?" Easterbrook said. When Stecker did that, he tripped the shutter.


The Beach

Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands

0805 Hours 13 October 1942

Lieutenant Colonel Jack (NMI) Stecker was standing out of the way, on the highest ground (an undisturbed dune) he could find, watching the lines of landing craft moving between the beach and the transports standing offshore.

They were being reinforced.

After they waded the last few yards ashore, soldiers of the 164th Infantry Regiment were being formed up on the beach by their noncoms to be marched inland. At first, General Vandegrift had said at breakfast, these men would not be placed in the line as a unit. Rather, they were to be distributed among the Marine units already there; for they were desperately needed as reinforcements. At the same time, the Marines could guide them through their first experience under fire.

They're not going to be much help, he thought. They're not even soldiers, but National Guardsmen. Still, it's a regiment of armed men, presumably in better physical shape than anyone here.

And armed with the Garand. Goddamn it! Why is The Marine Corps at the bottom of the list when it comes to good equipment?

As the soldiers in their clean fatigue uniforms waited to move inland, Marines in their torn and soiled dungarees came down to the beach to do business with them. Word had quickly spread that the soldiers had come well supplied with Hershey bars and other pogie bait. Though the Marines had no Hershey bars or other pogie bait, they did have various souvenirs: Japanese helmets, pistols, flags, and the like. In a spirit of interservice cooperation, they would be willing to barter these things for Hershey bars.

Stecker smiled. He was aware that at least fifty percent of the highly desirable Japanese battle flags being bartered had been turned out by bearded, bare-chested Marine Corps seamstresses on captured Japanese sewing machines.

"Good morning, Sir," a lieutenant said, startling Stecker. He turned and saw a young officer in utilities and boondockers, armed with only a.45 hanging from a belt holster. He was wearing a soft brimmed cap, not a steel helmet.

The Lieutenant saluted. Stecker returned it.

The utilities are clean. He doesn't look like he's hungry or suffering from malaria. Therefore, he probably just got here. Maybe with these ships, they're sending us a few individual replacements. He will learn soon enough to get a rifle to go with that pistol. And a helmet. But it's not my job to tell him.

"Look at all the dogfaces with Garands," the Lieutenant said. "Boy, the Army is dumb. They don't know the Garand is a Mickey Mouse piece of shit."

Well, I can't let that pass.

"Lieutenant, for your general fund of military knowledge, the Garand-"

Lieutenant Colonel Stecker stopped. The Lieutenant was smiling at him.

Hell, I know him. From where?

"Ken McCoy, Colonel," the Lieutenant said. "They told me I could probably find you here."

"Killer McCoy," Stecker said, remembering. "I'll be damned. I didn't expect to see you here." He put his hand out. "And I'm sorry, you don't like to be called 'Killer,' do you?"

Stecker remembered the first time he met McCoy. Before the war. He was then Sergeant Major Stecker of the Marine Corps base at Quantico, Virginia. McCoy was a corporal, a China Marine just back from the 4th Marines in Shanghai. He was reporting in to the Officer Candidate School.

Almost all officer candidates were nice young men just out of college. But as a test-for which few Marines, including Sergeant Major Stecker, had high hopes-a small number of really outstanding enlisted Marines were to be given a chance for a commission. It was a bright opportunity for these young men. So Stecker was surprised, when he first met him, that McCoy was not wildly eager to become an officer and a gentleman.

Soon after that, he found out that McCoy was in OCS largely because the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, of the Marine Corps had let it be known that The Corps should put bars on McCoy's twenty-one-year-old shoulders as soon as possible.

McCoy had an unusual flair for languages: He was fluent in several kinds of Chinese and Japanese and several European languages.

That wasn't all he had a flair for.

While his sources didn't have all the details, Stecker learned that McCoy was known in China as "Killer" McCoy-not for his success with the ladies, but because of two incidents where men had died. In one, three Italian Marines of the International Garrison attacked him; he killed two with his Fairbairn knife and seriously injured the third. In the second, he was in the interior of China on an intelligence-gathering mission, when "bandits" attacked his convoy (the "bandits" were actually in the employ of the Japanese secret police, the Kempe Tai). Firing Thompson submachine guns, McCoy and another Marine killed twenty-two of the "bandits."

At Quantico, the lieutenants-to-be were trained on the Garand. When it came to Sergeant Major Stecker's attention that Officer Candidate McCoy had not qualified when firing for record, he went down to have a look; for McCoy should have qualified. And so there had to be a reason why he didn't. And Stecker found it: him. He was an officer who knew McCoy in China.... What was that sonofabitch's name? Macklin. Lieutenant R. B. Macklin.... Macklin had something against Candidate McCoy; and it was more than just the generally held belief that commissioning enlisted men without college degrees would be the ruination of the officer corps.

Macklin actively disliked McCoy... more than that, he despised him. A small measure of his hostility could be gleaned at the bar of the officers' club, where from time to time he passed the word that "Killer" McCoy was so called with good reason. He did not belong at Quantico about to be officially decreed an officer and a gentleman; he belonged in the Portsmouth Naval Prison.

Sergeant Major Stecker had no trouble finding two ex-China Marines who told him more about Lieutenant Macklin than he would like to know:

In China, in order to cover his own responsibility for a failed operation, Macklin tried to lay the blame on Corporal McCoy. The 4th Marines' Intelligence Officer, Captain Ed Banning (Stecker remembered him as a good officer and a good Marine), investigated, found Macklin to be a liar, and wrote an efficiency report on him that would have seen him booted out of The Corps had it not been for the war. Instead, he wound up at Quantico.

... where the sonofabitch was determined to get McCoy kicked out of OCS. One of his first steps was to see that McCoy didn't qualify on the range. And if that wasn't enough, he was also writing McCoy up for inefficiency, for a bad attitude, and for violations of regulations he hadn't committed.

And he actually went into the pits to personally score McCoy's bull's-eyes as Maggie's drawers. Then I got in the act, and refired McCoy for record. The second time, with me calling his shots through a spotter scope, he scored High Expert. And that night all those disqualifying reports mysteriously vanished from his file.

Candidate McCoy graduated with his class and was commissioned. And then he dropped out of sight. Stecker heard that he was working for G-2 in Washington; but later he heard that McCoy had been with the 2nd Raider Battalion on the Makin Island raid.

I wonder whatever happened to that sonofabitch Macklin?

"Congratulations on your promotion," Colonel," McCoy said, without responding to the apology for being called "Killer."

"I'm still in shock," Stecker confessed. "It just happened. How did you find out?"

"General Vandegrift told me," McCoy said. "He also told me what happened to your son. I was sorry to hear that."

"What were you doing with the General?" Stecker wondered aloud. Lieutenants seldom hold conversations with general officers, much less obtain personal data from them about field-grade officers.

"I'm on my way to the States," McCoy said. "I was told to see if my boss can do anything for him in the States."

"Your boss is?"

"General Pickering."

"What have you been doing here?"

"We replaced the Coastwatcher detachment on Buka," McCoy said matter-of-factly.

Stecker had heard about that operation; and he was not surprised to hear that McCoy was involved, or that he was working for Fleming Pickering. "It went off all right, I guess?" Colonel Stecker asked.

"It went so smoothly, it scared me. Colonel-"

"I'm going to have trouble getting used to that title," Stecker interrupted.

"It took a while, but I'm now used to being called 'lieutenant,' " McCoy said. "I never thought that would happen. They wouldn't have promoted you if they didn't think you could handle it."

"Or unless they've reached the bottom of the barrel so far as officers are concerned. One or the other."

"What I started to say was that I'm going home via Pearl. Pick Pickering asked me to go by the Naval Hospital to see your son. I thought maybe you'd want me to tell him something, or..."

"I expect they're doing all they can for him," Stecker said. "You could tell him... Tell him you saw me, and that I'm proud of him."

"Yes, Sir."

Colonel Stecker was aware that he had just done something he rarely did, let his emotions show.

"What can I do for you, McCoy?" he asked.

"That's my question, Sir. General Pickering told me to look you up and see what he could do for you. Or what I could."

"That's very kind of the General..." Stecker said, and then paused. "We were in France together, in the last war, did you know that?"

"Yes, Sir."

"I was a buck sergeant, and he was a corporal. We were as close as Pick and my son Dick are."

"Yes, Sir. He told me."

"So please tell him, McCoy, that I appreciate the gesture, but I can't think of a damned thing I need."

"Aye, aye, Sir."

"When are you going to Pearl?"

"We were supposed to go today, but when the R4D pilots came in from Espiritu Santo, they found something wrong with the airplane. They're fixing it now, so I guess in the morning."

Stecker put out his hand.

"It was good to see you, McCoy. And thank you. But now I have to get back to my battalion."

"Could I tag along with you, Sir?"

"Why would you want to do that?"

"I feel like a feather merchant just hanging around waiting to be flown out of here," McCoy said simply. "Maybe I could be useful."

"I don't think anyone thinks of you as a feather merchant, McCoy," Stecker said. "But come along, if you like."



Henderson Field

0930 Hours 13 October 1942

"Well, look who's come home," First Lieutenant William C. Dunn, USMCR, said to First Lieutenant Malcolm S. Pickering, USMCR. When he walked into the tent, Dunn found Pickering sitting on his bunk.

Pickering reached around and picked up from the bunk a small cloth bundle tied with string. With both hands, he shot it like a basketball at Dunn.

"Don't say I never gave you anything," Pickering said.

The package was heavier than it looked; Dunn almost dropped it.

"Bribery of superior officers is encouraged," Dunn said. "What is it?"

"Royal Australian Air Force Rompers and booze," Pickering said.

"From Port Moresby."

Dunn took a K-Bar knife from a sheath and slit the cord. Then he carefully removed a pair of quart bottles of Johnny Walker scotch from the two cotton flying suits they were wrapped in and put them in the Japanese shipping crate that served as his bedside table.

"Thanks, Pick," Dunn said.

"I figured even an unreconstructed Rebel like you would rather drink scotch than not drink at all," Pick said.

"Kicking the gift horse right in the teeth, what I really need is underpants," Dunn said. "I don't suppose there's..."

"Shit, I didn't even think of skivvies," Pickering said. "When I saw the booze and the flight suits..."

"All contributions gratefully received," Dunn said. He proved it by stripping out of the sweat-soaked flight suit he was wearing; and then, standing naked except for his held-together-with-a-safety-pin shorts, he began tearing off the labels from one of the flying suits.

He looked at Pickering.

"So tell me all about the great secret mission."

"Not much to tell. It went like clockwork."

"Where did you learn to fly an R4D?"

"On the way to New Guinea," Pick replied.

Dunn looked at him curiously, then saw he was serious.

"Then how come... ?"

"I was about to go over the edge," Pick said. "Galloway saw it and took me along, just to work the radios, to get me out of here."

"Because of Dick Stecker?" Dunn asked quietly.

"I was about to turn in my wings of gold for a rifle," Pick said.

"Same thing happened yesterday as happened to Dick. Or nearly the same thing. Ted Knowles ran out of gas and crashed. Did you get to meet him before you left?"

Pickering shook his head, no.

"He was making a dead-stick approach. According to Oblensky, he tried to stretch his glide and didn't make it. He rolled it end over end. When I went to see him, all you could see was gauze."

"Did he come through it?"

Dunn shook his head, no. "Nice guy. My fault. I didn't check the flight about remaining fuel, and he didn't want to look like he was anything less than a heroic Marine Aviator, so he tried to fly it on the fumes."

"That's not your fault," Pickering said.

"So Colonel Dawkins says," Dunn said as he started pulling on the new flight suit. "Personally, your notion about turning in the wings for a rifle seems tempting."

"You don't mean that."

"I don't know if I do or not," Dunn said. "Galloway talked you out of it?"

"No. I talked myself out of it. I'd make a lousy platoon leader. And so would you. But we do know how to fly airplanes. Ye old round pegs in ye olde round holes, so to speak."

Dunn zipped the zipper of the new flying suit up and down, and admired himself.

"Thanks, Pick," he said, and started to transfer the contents of the discarded flying suit into the new one.

Captain Charles M. Galloway entered the tent. He saw Dunn's new RAAF flight suit.

"Where'd you get that?"

"They had many too many flight suits at Moresby," Pickering said. "They probably won't even miss the ones I stole."

"And what if you have to go back there?"

"What if I don't?" Pickering replied.

Galloway shook his head in resignation.

"Oblensky redlined the R4D for a fuel-transfer pump," Galloway said. "They're going to have to fly it up from Espiritu Santo. It'll be tomorrow before your pal The Killer and his friends can leave, in other words."

"His pal 'The Killer'?" Dunn said. "That sounds interesting."

"He's a very interesting guy, as a matter of fact," Galloway said, and then looked directly at Pickering. "You feel up to flying?" he asked. When there was no immediate response, he went on: "The Skipper wants a search of the Southeast."

"And you volunteered me?"

"I volunteered me," Galloway said. "You want to go along with me? Or do you want to go to Espiritu Santo?"

"I told you on the airplane I'm a fighter pilot, not a truck driver," Pickering said. "Or are you having second thoughts?"

"Just checking, Mr. Pickering, just checking. Five minutes."

He turned and left the tent.

"What was that 'do you want to go to Espiritu Santo' remark about?" Dunn asked.

"We had some time to kill in Port Moresby. Galloway put me in the left seat of the R4D and I shot a dozen touch-and-goes. Since he is an R4D IP, he signed me off on it. I am now officially a dual-engine-qualified Naval Aviator checked out in the R4D. They're easy to fly; a very forgiving airplane."

"That's not what I asked, Pick."

"He said I could go to Espiritu Santo and fly R4Ds for them, if I wanted."

"I think I would have gone."

"You weren't listening, Mr. Dunn, Sir. I am a fighter pilot, Sir, not a truck driver," Pickering said, and pushed himself off the bunk and walked out of the tent.


28,000 Feet above Savo Island

Solomon Islands

1135 Hours 13 October 1942

Pick Pickering was more than a little embarrassed when he saw that he was flying just off Charley Galloway's right wing. He was supposed to be at least a hundred feet to his rear and a hundred feet above him.

You have been woolgathering, again, Pickering! he thought.

That put him back in boarding school: Mr. Whatsisname, the shriveled little guy with the bow ties and the ragged-sleeved tweed jackets, used to bring him back to the here and now by slamming a book on his desk. Obviously guilty as charged, presuming one understood that woolgathering meant not paying attention, daydreaming.

But what the hell was woolgathering? Where did that come from? You cut the wool off live, kicking sheep. If you didn't pay attention to what you were doing, you 'd either lose your fingers or the sheep.

He was cold. Despite the horsehide Jacket, Leather, Aviators, with the fur collar up and snapped in place, and the fine calfskin Gloves, Aviators, it was cold at 28,000 feet. And the cold was made worse because the sweat-soaked flight suit was still moist and clammy.

The oxygen mask irritated his face-he needed a shave-and the oxygen itself seemed colder than normal.

When he glanced again at Galloway, he saw that Galloway, his features hidden behind his oxygen mask, was looking at him.

You have been caught woolgathering, Mr. Pickering. You will be chastised for not paying attention and for not being where you are supposed to be.

Both of Galloway's hands, held palm upward, appeared in the canopy.

Christ, he thinks I crept up to him on purpose, to subtly remind him we are running a little low on fuel: Perhaps, Captain, Sir, you will consider returning to the base before we have to swim back?

Or perhaps I should try to stretch the glide of a dead-stick landing, and do an end-over-end down the runway like Dick and that guy of Dunn's that I didn't know?

A gesture of helplessness, of futility, the palms-up business. The Japanese having elected not to come out and fight, or at least not to come out where we can see them.

Pickering held up both of his hands in the same gesture. Galloway's left hand disappeared from sight, presumably to return to the stick. His right gloved hand, index finger extended, signaled that they should start their descent. Pickering nodded, exaggeratedly, signaling his understanding.

Galloway's Wildcat's nose dropped a couple of degrees and he entered a wide, shallow descending turn. Pickering retarded his throttle, so that as he followed him he would be on Galloway's wing, where he knew Galloway expected him to be.

That lasted almost precisely two minutes, Captain Galloway being highly skilled in making very accurate, two-minute 360-degree turns.

Or, for that matter, one-minute 360-degree turns. Or, for that matter, any-time, any-degree turns. The sonofabitch can really fly an airplane.

Oh, shit! Where did they come from?

There were airplanes down there, a lot of airplanes, Kates and Vals. A dozen of each.

Kates were Nakajima B5N1 torpedo bombers, single-engine, low-wing monoplanes. They could carry bombs or torpedoes. Now obviously bombs, since you can't torpedo an airfield.

Vals were Aichi D3A1 Navy Type 99 carrier bombers, probably not today flying off a carrier, but from the Japanese base at Rabaul. Vals had fixed landing gear, the wheels covered with pants. They looked old-fashioned, but they were good, tough airplanes.

How the hell could we have missed them?

And where Kates and Vals are found, so almost certainly there are Zeroes.

Where the hell are the Zeroes? Above us, for Christ's sake?

Pickering touched the throttle and started to pull alongside Galloway again, but that didn't happen. Galloway came out of the turn and pushed the nose of his Wildcat down.

Pickering followed him. His eyes dropped to the instrument panel and he made the calculation mentally.

I have thirty, thirty-five minutes' fuel remaining. Galloway probably has another five minutes over that; he can coax extra minutes of fuel from an engine. Cut that time considerably by running it at full throttle, or Emergency Military Power.

We're going to have time for one pass, that's all. Knock down what we can in one pass and then head for the barn.

Where the hell is the rest of the Cactus Air Force? They were supposed to take off at 11:15. Earlier, obviously, if there had been a warning from Buka, or from another Coastwatcher station, or even from the radar. As close as these Japanese are to Henderson, they should have spotted them with the radar.

Jesus Christ! Did we break our ass to make sure Buka stayed on the air and now something has happened to them?

An alert Kate tail gunner spotted them and opened fire. His tracers made an arc in the air before they burned out.

At too great a distance, you stupid bastard!

But as they grew closer, they came in range, and other tail gunners opened fire. And now the tracers were closer and there were a hell of a lot more of them.

Pickering depressed the trigger on the stick.

Jesus Christ, what's the matter with me, I'm not even close to him?

He edged back on the stick, and then again.

The tracer stream moved into the fuselage of the Kate, just forward of the horizontal stabilizer, and then, as if with a mind of its own, seemed to walk up the fuselage toward the engine.

There goes a piece of the cowling!

And then smoke suddenly appeared, and the Kate fell off to the left. Before it flashed out of sight, the smoke burst into an orange glow.

Got him! Where the hell is Galloway?

He saw Galloway already below the formation of Kates, almost into the formation of Vals. There was a Zero on his tail, gaining rapidly as Galloway decreased the angle of his dive.


Pickering grabbed the microphone.

"Charley, behind you!"

Pickering threw the stick to the left and shoved the throttle to FULL EMERGENCY POWER. It didn't seem to be working; it took forever to get behind the Zero, and by then he was firing at Galloway.

Pickering depressed his trigger.

Galloway turned sharply to the right, increasing the angle of his dive.

The Zero, trying to follow him, flew into Pickering's tracer stream. He came apart.

There was smoke coming from Galloway's engine.

Oh, shit! No!

Galloway continued his dive toward the sea. Pickering followed him.

The Cactus Air Force-whatever airplanes could get into the air- appeared, climbing toward the Japanese.

Too goddamn late!

The Japanese were over Henderson.

Galloway's engine was no longer smoking.

Jesus Christ, what did he do, shut it down?

Pickering looked behind him. He could see bombs falling from the Vals.

Galloway was almost on the deck.

Oh, shit, he's going in!

Galloway leveled off at no more than 200 feet over the sea and began a straight-in approach to Henderson.

As Pickering started to level off to follow him, he saw bombs landing on the dirt fighter strip. He looked at his gas gauge. He had five, six minutes remaining.

He moved the landing-gear switch to LOWER and pulled the Wildcat up sharply. The crank spun furiously as gravity pulled the gear down.

Twenty seconds later, his wheels touched down. Five seconds later, he felt the Wildcat lurch to the right.

Oh, not that! God, I don't want to die that way!

It straightened out a little, and then he went off the runway into a section of pierced steel planking and spun around, once, twice... The gear collapsed in the turns. The propeller hit the dirt, and the engine screamed and stopped.

Am I still moving?

No. This sonofabitch isn't going anywhere....

He unfastened his harness and scrambled as quickly as he could out of the cockpit. He ran twenty-five yards and then threw himself down on the ground, waiting for the Wildcat to explode.

It didn't.

There were explosions, but those were bombs landing on the airfield.

He raised his head to look at the field. There was a huge orange glow and dense black smoke. The Japanese had put at least one bomb in the fuel dump.

He saw a jeep coming across the field to him through the smoke and the detonations of the Japanese bombs.

It slid to a stop beside him. A Corpsman jumped out.

"You OK?" the Corpsman asked.

"I'm fine," Pickering replied.

The Corpsman lay down beside him.

"I think we're better staying where we are," he said matter-of-factly. "Look at that fucking gasoline burn!"

















3. VMF-229 LOSSES:















Henderson Field

1330 Hours 13 October 1942

"You had a blowout is what it looks like, Mr. Pickering," Technical Sergeant Oblensky said.

They were in a maintenance revetment, an area large enough to hold two Wildcats. It was bordered on three sides by sandbag walls. Sheets of canvas, once part of wall tents, had been hung over it to provide some relief from the heat of the sun, and from the rain. "A blowout?" Pickering asked bitterly.

"If I had to guess, I'd guess you run into a bent-up piece of pierced steel planking. But maybe a piece of bomb casing or something."

"Jesus Christ!"

"Put you out of control. And then the gear collapsed. It won't handle that kind of stress, like that. You're lucky it wasn't worse."

"The airplane's totaled, right?"

"Yeah. Not only the gear. When that went, there was structural damage, hard to fix. And then the engine was sudden-stop. Probably not even worth trying to rebuild, even if we had the stuff to do it with. I'll pull the guns and the radios and the instruments and whatever else I can out of it and have it dragged to the boneyard."

"How many aircraft does that leave us with?" "Three. Plus I think I can fix what Captain Galloway was flying. He lost an oil line, but he shut it right down, maybe before it had a chance to lock up. I'll have to see."

Galloway at that moment walked in.

"I blew a tire," Pickering said.

"Blew the shit out of it," Oblensky confirmed. "Have a look."

"Thank you, Mr. Pickering," Galloway said.

"Thank me for what?"

"You know for what. I couldn't have gotten away from that Zero."

"You were doing all right," Pickering said.

"When I say 'thank you,' you say 'you're welcome.' "

Pickering met his eyes. "You're welcome, Skipper."

"I just saw Colonel Dawkins. There were witnesses to both of yours. Both confirmed. What does that make, seven?"

"Eight. I'll confirm yours. I saw it go down."

"They confirmed that, too," Galloway said, and turned to Oblensky. "Did you have a chance to look at that engine?"

"I'm going to pull an oil line from this," Oblensky said, gesturing at Pickering's F4F4, "and put it on yours and then run it up and see what happens. You said you shut it down right away."

"I don't want anyone flying it but me, understand?"

"If I didn't think it was safe, I wouldn't let anybody fly it."

"Just say 'aye, aye, sir,' for Christ's sake, Steve," Galloway said.

"What happens now, Skipper?" Pickering asked.

"What you do now is run down all your friends-they're scattered all over-and bring them here. As soon as the runways are fixed, they're flying the B17s off to Espiritu Santo. They can go with them."

"What about the R4D?"

"It took a hundred-pound bomb through the wing. It didn't explode, but that airplane's not going anywhere. Mr. Pickering will need your jeep, Steve."

"It was over by the AvGas dump when that went up," Oblensky said. "No jeep, Skipper."

"Well, Mr. Pickering, you said you were thinking of joining the infantry. The infantry walks, so that should be no problem for you."

For a moment Lieutenant Pickering looked as if he was about to say something obscene. But he thought about it, and what he said was, "Aye, aye, Sir."



Henderson Field

1535 Hours 13 October 1942

When Captain Charles M. Galloway Walked in, Majors Ed Banning and Jake Dillon, Lieutenant Ken McCoy, Sergeant George Hart, and Corporal Robert F. Easterbrook were sitting on the bunks and wooden crates of the Bachelor Officers' Quarters-a tent with sandbag walls. Galloway was trailed by Lieutenant Bill Dunn.

Galloway looked at Banning.

"Major, the B-17s can't get off today. That last raid cratered the runway again."

There had been a second Japanese bombing attack at 1350, a dozen or so Kates and slightly fewer Zeroes.

"I saw fighters take off," Banning replied. It was a question, not a challenge.

"You saw two fighters get off," Galloway replied. "Joe Foss and somebody else. They took a hell of a chance; dodged the craters and debris."

"I saw one Japanese plane go down," Major Dillon said.

"Foss again," Galloway said. "He got a Zero. But that was all the damage we did."

"What the hell happened to the Coastwatchers?" McCoy asked.

Galloway looked at him. He had not yet got a fix on this semilegendary Marine. A lot of what he'd heard about Killer McCoy had to be bullshit, yet he'd also noticed that Major Ed Banning (a good professional Marine, in his view) treated McCoy with serious respect.

"According to what I heard, McCoy, there was a transmission delay between Pearl Harbor and here. You know what atmospherics are?"

McCoy nodded. Galloway noticed that the nod was all he got, not a "Yes, Sir."

"Well, we monitor Coastwatcher radio. Sometimes we can hear them, sometimes we can't. This time we couldn't. So the warning had to go through CINCPAC radio at Pearl" (Commander-In- Chief, Pacific headquarters at Pearl Harbor, T.H.). "There was a delay in them getting through to here. They said atmospherics. We were refueling our fighters when we finally got the warning. By that time the Japanese were over the field."

"Buka's operational, Ken," Banning said. "These things happen."

"So what happens now?" Dillon said.

"The Seventeens can't dodge runway craters. And they don't think they can fill them before it gets dark. So the Seventeens will have to wait until first light. You'll leave then."

"Unless the Japs come back again," Dillon said.

"Unless the Japs come back again," Galloway parroted. "I'm sorry, it's out of my control."

"If the Seventeens can't get off in the morning, is there any other way I can get to Espiritu Santo?" Banning asked.

Interesting question, Galloway thought. He doesn't want out of here to save his skin. If he did, he wouldn't talk openly about going the way he just did. And why did he ask how I can get to Espiritu,' not "we" ? What business does he alone have to take care of?

Galloway seemed to be reading his mind.

"Galloway, I'm going to have to claim a priority to get to Espiritu, if it comes to that."

"There will probably-almost certainly-be an R4D, or several of them, who will try to land here at first light. Bringing AvGas in. They carry as many wounded as they can when they leave."

"If it comes down to that, and the B-17s aren't flying..." Banning said, "... what I was hoping was maybe catching a ride in an SPD or a TBF."

The Douglas SPD-3 "Dauntless" was a single-engine, low-wing monoplane, two-place dive-bomber. It was powered by a Pratt and Whitney 1000-horsepower R-1820-52 engine. The Grumman TBF "Avenger" was a three-place, single-engine, low-wing monoplane torpedo bomber, powered by a 1700-horsepower Wright R-2600-8 "Cyclone" engine. Both aircraft were used by both the U.S. Navy and the USMC.

"I'll ask," Galloway answered, "but I don't think that's going to happen."

"I wouldn't ask if it wasn't necessary," Banning said.

Galloway was now uncomfortable.

"Dunn's found some cots for you to sleep on. But we lost our jeep, so they'll have to be carried. How about you, Sergeant?" he asked, and looked at George Hart. "And you, Easterbunny?"

Corporal Easterbrook looked unhappy.

"You have something else to do?" Galloway said.

"Captain, if I'm going to spend the night with the Raiders," Easterbrook said. "I'm going to have to start up there now."

"Go ahead, Easterbrook," Lieutenant McCoy said. "We can carry our own cots. We only look like feather merchants."

He was talking to me, goddamn it, not you, McCoy, Galloway thought. And then he wondered why that made him so angry.

"Thank you, Sir," Easterbrook said, and left the tent.

"I wasn't picking on him, McCoy," Galloway heard himself say. "He's a pretty good kid. I try to keep an eye out for him."

"Somebody should," McCoy said. "He's about to go over the edge."

"Meaning what, McCoy?" Dillon broke in, an inch short of unpleasantly.

"Meaning he's about to go over the edge. Did you see him during the last raid? Take a good look at his eyes."

"Oh, bullshit!" Dillon flared. "Nobody likes to get bombed. He's a Marine, for Christ's sake."

"He's a Marine about to go over the edge," McCoy said.

"You're a fucking expert, are you?" Dillon said, now unabashedly unpleasant. "You have a lot of experience in that area?"

"Yes, Jake," Banning said, calmly but firmly, "he does. In the Philippines, for example."

"You were in the Philippines?" Bill Dunn blurted. "How did you get out?"

"Like I hope to get out of here tomorrow," McCoy replied. "On a B-17." He stood up. "Come on, George, you and I will go carry cots for these field-grade feather merchants."

Banning laughed, and stood up.

"To hell with you, McCoy, I won't let you get away with that. Off your ass, Jake. If I can carry my own cot, so can you."

Dillon, not moving, looked up at Banning.

"Off your ass, Jake," Banning repeated. His tone was conversational, but there was no mistaking it for a friendly suggestion. It was an order.











































Henderson Field

"Colonel," Captain Samuel M. Davidson, U.S. Army Air Corps, said to Lieutenant Colonel Clyde W. Dawkins, "I'm not sure I like this. As a matter of fact, the more I think about it, I don't like it at all."

"You don't have any choice in the matter, Sam," Dawkins said. "These people are going with you, period."

"Who the hell are they?"

"Two majors, a lieutenant, and a sergeant. I told you."

"I told my people they're going out with us."

"I'll find something constructive for them to do," Dawkins said. And just as soon as I can find space for them, I'll get them out of here."

"And what if... ?" He paused a moment and then began again: "I really don't mean to sound insubordinate, but the first obligation of an officer is to take care of his men. What if I simply say 'with all respect, Sir, no'?"

"I said no way, Sam. I was shown a set of orders on White House stationery, signed by Admiral Leahy, the President's Chief of Staff. To repeat myself, you don't have any choice in the matter."

"How did they get here?"

"In an R4D. It took a bomb through the wing."

"The one with that funny landing gear?"

Dawkins nodded.

"You want to tell me what that was all about? It looked like skis."

"Sorry, Sam. I couldn't tell you if I knew, and I don't. I really don't. But if it makes you feel any better, I was in the Division Command Post, and I saw General Vandegrift shake one of the Major's hands and thank him. They're not tourists."

There was a loud, frightening crash, a long one, along with the scream of timbers being ripped apart.

"What the hell was that?" Captain Davidson asked.

"That was the Pagoda," Dawkins said. "General Geiger decided that the Japanese were using it as an artillery aiming point. They bulldozed it, I guess."

"Why didn't they just blow it up?"

"Probably because there's a shortage of dynamite, in addition to everything else," Dawkins said.

"Where are these people, then?" Captain Davidson asked.

"Bill Dunn, Charley Galloway's exec, has been told to take them to your plane."

"You know, I've only got three functioning engines."

"That shouldn't bother the Army Air Corps."

"I feel like I'm running away, Colonel. I don't like that feeling, either."

"You'll be back," Dawkins said. He stood up and put out his hand. "Have a nice flight, Sam. It's been good knowing you."

"What's going to happen to you?"

"Who knows? Sooner or later, one side is going to run completely out of airplanes."

Davidson met his eyes for a minute. Then he brought himself to a position of attention worthy of the parade ground at West Point, and saluted.

"Serving with you has been a privilege, Sir," he said.

"Thank you, Sam," Dawkins said after a moment, as he returned the salute. "For a dog-faced soldier, you're not too bad an airplane driver."

Davidson did a precise about-face and marched out of the sandbag-walled tent that served as the headquarters of Marine Air Group 21.

Corporal Robert F. Easterbrook ran up to the B-17 as it stood, second in line, for takeoff. The prop blast from its idling engines blew his helmet off.

He glanced at the helmet, then went up to the airplane and banged on the fuselage. After a moment, the door in the fuselage opened and an Army Air Corps staff sergeant peered out.

"Major Dillon! Major Dillon!" the Easterbunny shouted over the roar of the engines.

The staff sergeant disappeared, and a moment later Major Dillon showed up in the door.

Easterbrook handed Dillon a canvas bag.

"Still and motion picture film of the Raiders last night," he shouted. "And a couple of reels of this fucking mess."

Dillon took the bag and nodded.

Easterbrook stood back and the door closed.

Easterbrook waved at the nice lieutenant who'd kept him from having to carry cots the day before.

The door opened again. Major Dillon motioned for Easterbrook to come closer. When he did, he extended his hand.

Easterbrook thought it was nice that the Major wanted to shake his hand.

Major Dillon took Corporal Easterbrook's wrist, not his hand. With a mighty jerk, he pulled Corporal Easterbrook into the airplane. The door closed.

The pilot advanced the throttles. The B-17 started to roll. He turned onto the runway and shoved the throttles to FULL MILITARY POWER. It began to accelerate very slowly, and for a moment Captain Davidson thought that with only three engines working, there was a very good chance they weren't going to make it.

But then he felt life come into the controls. He edged the wheel back very, very carefully.

The rumble of the landing gear on the battered runway died.

"Wheels up!" Captain Davidson ordered.


United States Naval Base

Espiritu Santo

1715 Hours 14 October 1942

While Rear Admiral Daniel J. Wagam, USN, of the CINCPAC Staff, was not a cowardly man, or even an unusually nervous one, he was enough of a sailor to know that the greater the speed of a hull moving through the water, the greater the stresses applied to that hull.

He could see no reason why this basic principle of marine physics should be invalidated simply because the hull belonged to a flying boat. Flying boats, moreover, were constructed not of heavily reinforced steel plate, but of thin aluminum.

Consequently, Admiral Wagam was not at all embarrassed to feel a bit uncomfortable whenever his duties required him to take off or land in a flying boat. Each required the flying boat's hull to move through the water at a speed two or three times greater than a battleship's hull would ever be subjected to, or even a destroyer's.

The twin engines of the PBM-3R "Mariner" made a deeper, louder sound, and the Admiral glanced out of the window beside him. They were moving; the water was just starting to slide by. (The PBM-3R Martin "Mariner" seaplane was a variant of the Martin PBM-series maritime reconnaissance aircraft. Powered by the same two Wright R-2600-22 1900-horsepower "Cyclone" engines, but stripped of armament, the -3R aircraft were employed as transports, capable of carrying 20 passengers or an equivalent weight of cargo.)

When the Mariner began its takeoff, he tried, of course, not to show his concern: He turned to speak to his aide, Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Chambers D. Lewis III. Lewis's father, Admiral Lewis, had been Admiral Wagam's classmate at Annapolis.

His mouth was barely open, however, when the roar of the Mariner's engines died and the seaplane lurched to a stop.

"I wonder what the hell that is?" Admiral Wagam said aloud. The seaplane now rocked side to side in the sea, reminding the Admiral that they were not in a bona fide vessel, but rather in an aircraft that happened to float.

The pilot appeared in the aisle between the two rows of seats. When he passed Admiral Wagam, the Admiral held up his hand. "Is there some problem?"

"Sir, I was told to abort the takeoff and hold for a whaleboat," the pilot replied.

Admiral Wagam nodded, and turned back to his aide.

"Probably some mail they didn't have prepared in time," he said. "Some people don't know the importance of meeting a posted schedule."

"That's true, Sir," Lieutenant Lewis agreed.

Admiral Wagam paid no attention to the activity aft, where there was a port in the hull, until Captain J.H.L. McNish, USN, of his staff, appeared by his seat, knelt, and said, "Admiral, I'm being bumped."

"What do you mean, you're being bumped?" Admiral Wagam asked, both incredulous and annoyed.

This aircraft was not part of the Naval Air Transport command. It had been assigned to Admiral Wagam, more or less personally, to take his staff to Espiritu for a very important conference: Guadalcanal was in trouble. Extraordinary measures would be necessary to keep the Marines there from being pushed off their precarious toehold. Wagam personally didn't give them much hope; the necessary logistics simply weren't available. Indeed, in his professional opinion-and he'd said so-the whole operation had been attempted prematurely. But he was going to do the very best he could with what he had to work with. And that meant flying here from Pearl to see the situation with his own eyes; and bringing his staff, to give them the absolutely essential hands-on experience.

But getting them back to Pearl quickly was just as important as bringing them here. They had to get to work. One of the reasons he had gone all the way to the top-to CINCPAC himself-to have an airplane assigned to his team was to make sure the team stayed together.

CINCPAC had agreed with his reasoning, and authorized the special flight. Admiral Wagam certainly would have no objections to carrying other personnel, or mail or cargo, if there was room, but he had no intention of standing idly by while one of his staff was bumped.

If there was a priority, he had it. From CINCPAC himself.

"I'm being bumped, Sir," Captain McNish repeated.

"I'll deal with this, Mac," Admiral Wagam said, and unfastened his seat belt and made his way aft. Standing by the pilot were a commander he remembered meeting on the island and a Marine major in a rather badly mussed uniform.

"Commander," Admiral Wagam said, "just what's going on here?"

"Sir, I'm going to have to bump one of your people. Captain McNish is junior-"

"No one's going to bump any of my people," the Admiral declared.

"This is not a Transport Command aircraft. It is, so to speak, mine. I decide who comes aboard."

"I'm sorry about this, Admiral," the Marine Major said.

"Well, Major, I don't think it's your fault. The Commander here should have known the situation."

"Admiral, I have to get to Pearl. This is the aircraft going there first," the Major said.

"A lot of people have to get to Pearl," the Admiral snapped. "But I'm sorry, you're not going on this aircraft."

"I'm sorry, Sir," the Major said. "I am."

"Did you just hear what I said, Major?" the Admiral replied. "I said you're not getting on this aircraft!"

"With respect, Sir, may I show you my priority?"

"I don't give a good goddamn about your priority," the Admiral said, his patience exhausted. "Mine came from CINCPAC."

"Yes, Sir," the Major said. "The Commander told me. Sir, may I show you my orders?"

"I'm not interested in your goddamn orders," the Admiral said.

"Sir, I suggest you take a look at them," the Commander said.

The Admiral was aware that he had lost his temper. He didn't like to do that.

"Very well," he said, and held out his hand. He expected a sheath of mimeographed paper. He was handed, instead, a document cased in plastic. On casual first glance, he noted that it was a photographically reduced copy of a letter. He took a much closer look.



Washington, D.C.

3 September 1942

By direction of the President of the United States, Brigadier General Fleming W. Pickering, USMCR, Headquarters, USMC, will proceed by military and/or civilian rail, road, sea and air transportation (Priority AAAAA-1) to such points as he deems necessary in carrying out the missions assigned to him.

United States Armed Forces commands are directed to provide him with such support as he may request. General Pickering is to be considered the personal representative of The President.

General Pickering has unrestricted TOP SECRET security clearance. Any questions regarding his mission will be directed to the undersigned.

W.D. Leahy, Admiral, USN

Chief of Staff To The President


When he saw that the Admiral had read the document, Major Edward F. Banning, USMC, said, "Sir, may I ask the Admiral to turn that over and read the other side?"

Admiral Wagam did so.



Washington, D.C. 24 September 1942

1st Endorsement

1. Major Edward F. Banning, USMC, is attached to the personal staff of Brigadier General Fleming Pickering, USMCR for the performance of such duties as may be assigned.

2. While engaged in carrying out any mission assigned, Major Banning will be accorded the same level of travel priorities, logistical support and access to classified materiel authorized for Brigadier General Pickering in the basic Presidential order.

3. Any questions regarding Major Banning's mission(s) will be referred to the undersigned.

W.D. Leahy, Admiral, USN

Chief of Staff To The President

Admiral Wagam looked at Major Banning.

"You are, I gather, Major Banning?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Well, I can only hope, Major, that whatever it is you have to do in Pearl Harbor is more valuable to the war effort than what Captain McNish would have contributed."

"I wouldn't have bumped the Captain, Admiral," Banning said, "if I didn't think it was."

The Admiral nodded, turned, and went back up the aisle to tell Mac that he was sorry, there was nothing he could do about it, he was going to have to go ashore in the whaleboat.


USN Photographic Facility Laboratory

Headquarters, CINCPAC

Pearl Harbor, T.H.

0735 Hours 15 October 1942

"Ah-ten-HUT!" a plump, balding chief photographer's mate called, and all but one man, a Marine major, popped to attention.

"As you were," Brigadier General Fleming Pickering, USMCR, said. As he spoke, he walked past one of the junior aides to CINCPAC. The aide's orders were to take very good care of General Pickering; that meant that at the moment he was holding the door open for him. "I'm looking for Major Banning," Pickering continued.

"Over here, Sir," Banning called.

Pickering was the last person in the world Banning expected to see here. But then, he thought, Pickering could almost be counted on to do the unexpected.

Pickering walked over to him, his hand extended.

"Good to see you, Ed. I heard an hour ago you were here. I had a hell of a time finding you. What are you doing here?"

"Good to see you, General," he said. He held up a roll of developed 35mm film. "Having a look at this. One of Jake Dillon's photographers shot it just before we left Guadalcanal."

Pickering took it from him and held it up to the light.

"What am I looking at?"

"That roll is what Henderson Field looked like just before we left," Banning said. "If it came out, I thought I'd try to figure some way to get it to you in Washington in time for your briefing."

Two men walked up: the chief photographer's mate, and an officer in whites wearing lieutenant commander's shoulder boards.

"Lieutenant Commander Bachman, Sir. Is there some way we may help the General, Sir?"

"Two ways, Commander," Pickering said. "I want two copies, eight-by-tens, of each frame of this, and any other film Major Banning has. And I would kill for a cup of coffee."

"Sir, the coffee's no problem. But I'm sure the General will understand we have priorities. It may be some time before we can-"

"This is your first priority, Commander," Pickering interrupted. "You can either take my word for that, or the Lieutenant here will call Admiral Nimitz for me."

"Sir," Admiral Nimitz's aide said, "my orders are that General Pickering is to have whatever CINCPAC can give him."

"You heard that, Chief," Commander Bachman said.

"Aye, aye, Sir."

"Sir," Banning said. "I've also got eight rolls of 16mm motion picture film. There was a problem getting that developed...."

"Is there still a problem with that, Commander?"

"No, Sir," Commander Bachman said.

"How about making a copy of it?"

"That's rather time consuming, Sir, but we can do it, Sir."

"Get it developed first," Pickering said, looking at his watch. "We'll see about the time."

"Where will the General be, Sir?"

"I need a secure place to talk to Major Banning. Have you got one here? Or I can go-"

"My office is secure, Sir."

"Good, then what we need is your office, and that coffee," Pickering said. He turned to Admiral Nimitz's aide. "Son, I know your orders, but I'm afraid you're going to have to let me out of your sight; Major Banning here is a stickler for security."

"Aye, aye, Sir," the aide said, smiling. Pickering had obviously heard Admiral Nimitz's order: "Don't let him out of your sight, Gerry. And be prepared to tell me who he talked to, and what was said."

A photographer's mate third class came in with a tray holding a stainless-steel pitcher of coffee, two china mugs, and a plate of doughnuts. He laid the tray on Major Bachman's desk and then left, closing a steel door after him.

"I never thought I'd have to say this to you, Ed," Pickering said with a smile, "but you need a shave, Major."

Banning smiled back. "A question of priorities, Sir. I figured I could shave once I got this stuff on its way to you."

"Did you get to see General Vandegrift? Was he cooperative?"

"Cooperative, yes. But uncomfortable. He thought it was violating the chain of command."

"Couldn't be helped," Pickering said. "All right, let's have it."

"Christ, it's worse than I thought," Pickering said after Banning finished reporting Vandegrift's assessment of his situation, along with his own and the other code-breaker's analysis of Japanese intentions and capabilities.

"It's not a pretty picture, Sir."

"Goddamn it, we can't lose Guadalcanal!"

"We may have to consider that possibility, Sir."

Pickering exhaled audibly, then looked at Banning.

"I don't suppose you had a chance to see my son?"

"Yes, Sir. I spent a good deal of time with him. He was the copilot on the R4D."

"He was in on the operation? How did that happen? I didn't know he could fly an R4D."

"I think it was a question of the best man for the job, Sir. He was picked by the pilot, Sir. Jake Dillon was a little uncomfortable when he saw him at Port Moresby."

Major Banning had learned the real story behind Lieutenant Pickering's role as the R4D copilot: that Pick Pickering had almost gone over the edge after his buddy was terribly injured, and that Galloway ordered him into the plane for what could be accurately described as psychiatric therapy. But there was no point in telling his father this.

"I'll be damned," Pickering said.

"And the day before yesterday, he shot down another two Japanese planes. A Zero and a bomber. That makes eight. He's a fine young man, General."

"In a fighter squadron which is down to three airplanes, according to what you just told me. You ever hear of the laws of probability, Ed?"

"His squadron commander, Captain Galloway-the man who flew the R4D, a very experienced pilot-told me, Sir, that Pick is that rare bird, a natural aviator. He's good at what he does, Sir. Very good."

"Jack Stecker's boy is an ace, plus one. He was obviously pretty good at what he did, too. He's over at the hospital wrapped up like a mummy. They feed him and drain him with rubber tubes."

"I heard about that, Sir. McCoy saw Colonel Stecker on the 'Canal. You heard he was promoted?"

"I heard. Getting him promoted pitted Vandegrift and me against most of the rest of the officer corps," Pickering replied bitterly, adding: "Christ, Jack ought to be wearing this star, not me."

"You wear it very well, Sir," Banning said without thinking.

Pickering looked at him but did not reply.

"Speaking of McCoy... where are the others?"

"Probably in the air by now, Sir. I came ahead. I thought that was what you wanted. I bumped a Navy captain from some admiral's private airplane."

Pickering chuckled. "Wagam. Rear Admiral. I know. I was in Nimitz's office when he reported back in. Complaining."

"I hope it wasn't awkward for you, Sir."

"Not for me. For him. He didn't know who I was. Just some Marine. When he was finished complaining about some Washington paper-pusher Marine running roughshod over CINCPAC procedures, Nimitz introduced him to me. 'Admiral,' Nimitz said, 'I don't believe you know General Pickering, do you?' "

Banning chuckled. "I didn't expect to see you here, either, General."

"I didn't expect to be here," Pickering said. "Dillon and company must be on the plane I'm waiting for."

"It's going on to Washington, Sir?"

"No. As soon as they service it, it's going to Australia."

"You're going to Australia, Sir?" Banning asked, surprised.

"Yes, I am," Pickering said, his tone making it clear that he wasn't happy about it.

"Then who's going to brief Secretary Knox?"

"You are," Pickering said. "You've got a seat on a Pan American clipper leaving here at 4:45. Which means we have to get you to the terminal by 3:45."

Banning looked uncomfortable.

"Ed, just give a repeat performance of what you did just now for me," Pickering went on. "Frank Knox puts on his pants like everybody does. Actually, I've grown to rather like him."

"Sir, my going to Washington is going to pose problems in Brisbane."

"About MAGIC, you mean? Pluto and Moore and Mrs. Feller should be able to handle it; they've been holding down the fort pretty well as it is, with all the time you've been spending in Townesville with the Coastwatchers."

Banning looked even more uncomfortable.

"All right, Ed, what is it?"

"Sir, between the three of us, we have been pretty much keeping Mrs. Feller out of things."

"You have? Obviously, you have a reason?"

"I am reluctant to get into this, Sir."

"That's pretty damned obvious. Out with it, Ed."

"General, I don't want to sound like a prude, but when we're dealing with intelligence at this level-at this level of sensitivity-people's personal lives are a factor. They have to be."

"What are you suggesting, Ed, that Ellen Feller is a secret drinker? For God's sake, she was a missionary!"

"She sleeps around, Sir."

"You know that for a fact? You have names?"

"General," Banning said, hesitated, and then plunged ahead. "I considered it my responsibility to make sure that you didn't leave any classified material in your quarters."

"I never did that!"

"Yes, Sir. You did."

"Jesus! You're serious about this, aren't you?"

"Yes, Sir. Sir, I arranged with the Army to keep Water Lily Cottage under security surveillance. They assigned agents of their Counterintelligence Corps to do so. They reported daily to me."

"What's that got to do with Mrs. Feller?"

"They were very thorough, Sir. They reported all activity within the Cottage. On a twenty-four-hour basis."

Now Pickering looked uncomfortable.

"Jesus," he said softly, and then he met Banning's eyes. "Ed, just because, in a moment of weakness, I got a little drunk and did something I'm certainly not proud of, that does not mean that Ellen Feller can't be trusted with classified information. Christ, it only happened once. Those things happen."

"It wasn't only you, General," Banning said.

"Who else?" Pickering asked.

"Moore, Sir. Before he went to Guadalcanal."

"Moore?" Pickering asked incredulously.

John Marston Moore, who was twenty-two, was raised in Japan, where his parents were missionaries. With that background, he was assigned to Pickering as a linguist, which led to his becoming a MAGIC analyst. Later, he was seriously wounded on Guadalcanal, after which Pickering arranged to have him commissioned.

"And, Sir, Mrs. Feller could have prevented Moore from going to Guadalcanal. As she should have."

"That's a pretty goddamn serious charge. Why the hell didn't you report this to me?" Pickering flared.

"And she's slept with several officers of SWPOA, Sir," Banning continued, calmly but firmly. "Two of General Willoughby's intelligence staff, and a Military Police officer."

"The answer to my question, obviously, is that you never reported this to me because it would be embarrassing."

"I didn't know what your reaction would be, Sir. And we've had the situation under control."

"Now for that, goddamn it, you owe me an apology. I may be an old fool, but not that much of a fool. You should have come to me, Ed, and you know it!"

Banning didn't reply.

"Does she know that you know?"

"Yes, Sir. When I found out she stood idly by when they sent Moore to Guadalcanal, I lost my temper and it slipped out."

"You lost your temper?"

"She was more worried about getting caught with Moore in her bed than she was about MAGIC. Yes, Sir, I was mad; I lost my temper. I told her what I thought of her."

Pickering looked at him for a moment, and then laughed.

"I can't tell you how glad I am to hear that," he said. "You have been a thorn in my side for a long time, Banning. I find it very comforting to learn that you, the perfect Marine, the perfect intelligence officer, can lose your temper and do something dumb."

"General, if an apology is in or-"

"The subject is closed, Ed," Pickering interrupted. "I will deal with Mrs. Feller when I get to Brisbane."

"I'm sorry I had to get into this-"

Pickering interrupted him again: "Looking at your face just now, I would never have guessed that." He touched Banning's shoulder. "Let's see how many photos we have, Ed. And then we'll see about getting you a shower and a shave before you catch your plane."

He went to the door and then stopped.

"Curiosity overwhelms me. Not you, too?"

"No, Sir," Banning said after hesitating. "But there were what could have been offers."

"And now you'll never know what you missed, Ed. The price of perfection is high."


Muku Muku

Oahu, Territory of Hawaii

1645 Hours 15 October 1942

Wearing a red knit polo shirt and a pair of light-blue golf pants, Brigadier General Fleming Pickering walked out onto the shaded flagstone patio of a sprawling house on the coast. Five hundred yards down the steep, lush slope, large waves crashed onto a wide white sand beach.

Major Jake Dillon, USMCR, was sitting on a stool. A glass dark with whiskey was in his hand; a barber's drape covered his body. He was having his hair cut by a silver-haired black man in a white jacket.

"You find enough hair to cut, Denny?" Pickering asked.

"He's got more than enough around the neck, Captain," the black man said to Pickering with a smile. "Excuse me, General," he corrected himself; to his mind Pickering would always be Captain of his merchant fleet. "We just won't mention the top."

"If you didn't have that razor in your hand," Dillon said, "I'd tell you to go to hell."

Denny laughed.

"Very nice, General," Jake Dillon teased. "What is this place?"

"This is Muku Muku, Major," the black man said. "Pretty famous around the Pacific."

"What the hell is it?"

"My grandfather bought this, all of it," Pickering said and made a sweeping gesture, "years ago. Now they've turned it into Beverly Hills."

Dillon laughed. "You make Beverly Hills sound like a slum, the way you said that."

"What I meant was very large houses on very small lots," Pickering said. "I can't understand why people do that."

Another elderly-looking black man in a white jacket opened one of a long line of sliding plate-glass doors onto the patio. Lieutenant Kenneth R. McCoy walked outside. He was wearing obviously brand-new khakis.

"You find everything you need, Ken?" Pickering asked.

"Yes, Sir," McCoy said. "Thank you."

"Can I offer you something to drink, Lieutenant?" the black man said. "You, Captain?"

"I'll have whatever the balding man is having," Pickering said.

"That's fine," McCoy said. "General, what is this place?"

"It's Muku Muku," Dillon said. "I got that far."

"My grandfather bought it," Pickering said. "As sort of a rest camp for our masters, and our chief engineers, when they made the Islands... the Sandwich Islands then. In the old days, the sailing days, they were at sea for months at a time."

"I sailed under the Commodore, the Captain's grandfather," the black man working on Dillon said. "The Genevieve. The last of our four-masters. Went around the Horn on her."

"That's right, isn't it?" Pickering said. "I'd forgotten that, Denny."

"And I retired off the Pacific Endeavour, " Denny said. "From sail to air-conditioning." He looked over at McCoy. "Just as soon as I'm through with this gentleman, Sir, I'll be ready for you."

"And then my father started sending masters' and chief engineers' families out here from the States, to give them a week or two-or a month's-vacation. And then he tore it down, in the late twenties..."

"Nineteen thirty-one, Captain," Denny corrected him.

"I stand corrected," Pickering said. "He tore down the original house-it was a Victorian monstrosity-and built this place. And to get the money, he sold off some of the land."

"Turning it into a slum," Dillon said.

"I didn't say 'slum,' I said 'Beverly Hills,' " Pickering answered. "He always said he was going to retire here. But then he dropped dead."

The second black man appeared with two whiskey glasses on a silver tray.

Pickering picked his up and raised it.

"Welcome home, gentlemen," he said. "Welcome to Muku Muku."

"After all I've been through," Dillon said, "I frankly expected more than this fleabag."

"Oh, Jesus," McCoy groaned. Pickering laughed delightedly.

There was the sound of aircraft engines. They looked out to sea. A white four-engine seaplane came into view. It was making a slow, climbing turn to the left.

"There goes Banning," Pickering said. "That's the Pan American flight to San Francisco."

"I wondered where he was," Dillon said as he was being brushed off by Denny.

"He's going to brief Frank Knox on Guadalcanal," Pickering said. "That film your man made was valuable, Jake."

"I'm glad to hear that," Dillon said. "So what happens to us now, Flem?"

"You'll spend tomorrow here, and maybe the day after tomorrow. I fed the four of you into the regular air transport priority system. With an AAAA priority, they say it generally takes a day or two to find a seat."

"What I meant is what happens to me? Am I still working for you?"

McCoy took Dillon's place on the stool. Denny draped the cloth around him.

"Jake, I want you to understand that I appreciate the job you did for me, but..."

"No apologies required, Flem. I was out of my depth in that whole operation. McCoy ran it. I'm ready to go back to being a simple flack."

"Don't get too comfortable doing that," Pickering said. "We may call on you again."

"General," McCoy said. "I promised Colonel Stecker and Pick that I would see Stecker while I was here...."

"My plane leaves Pearl Harbor at eight in the morning," Pickering said. "I'd like to have you around until it leaves. Then you can go to the Naval Hospital. Be prepared for it; he's really in bad shape."

"Thank you, Sir."

"I sent a message to Colonel Rickabee, primarily to warn him that Banning will need a shave and a haircut and a decent uniform when he arrives... before he goes to see Frank Knox. But I also asked him to call Ernie Sage and tell her you're here, and on your way to the States."

Colonel F. L. Rickabee, a career Marine intelligence officer, was Pickering's deputy at the Office of Management Analysis in Washington. Ernestine "Ernie" Sage was McCoy's girlfriend, the daughter of the college roommate of Pickering's wife.

"Thank you, Sir," McCoy said.

"Tell me, McCoy," Pickering asked. "What do you think of George Hart? How is he under pressure?"

McCoy laughed.

"He was the maddest one sonofabitch I ever saw in my life on the beach at Buka," McCoy said. "First, the rubber boat got turned over and he had a hell of a hard time getting ashore. And then I told him he was going to have to wait there-alone, overnight at least-while the native radio operator and I went looking for Howard and Koffler."

"But he did what he was expected to?"

"Oh, yes, Sir. He's a good Marine, General."

"I thought he might turn out to be," Pickering said.


Marine Barracks

U.S. Naval Station

Pearl Harbor, T.H.

1715 Hours 15 October 1942

Sergeant George F. Hart, USMCR, and Corporal Robert F. Easter-brook, USMCR, came out of the basement of Headquarters Company unshaved, unwashed, and wearing the utilities they had put on at Guadalcanal. Each was carrying a large, stuffed-full seabag.

"What now, Sergeant?" Sergeant Hart asked the freshly shaved, freshly bathed, and impeccably shined and uniformed staff sergeant who was their escort since the plane from Espiritu Santo landed.

"I was told to get you issued a clothing issue," the staff sergeant replied. "I done that. You been issued. I guess you wait to see what happens next."

At that moment, a corporal, who was just as impeccably turned out as the staff sergeant, pushed open the door and marched down the highly polished linoleum toward them.

"I'm looking for a Sergeant Hart and a Corporal Eastersomething," he announced.

"You found them," the staff sergeant announced. "Ain't you the Colonel's driver?"

"Yeah. You want to come with me, you two?"

"Where are we going?" Sergeant Hart asked.

The corporal ignored the question, but did hold the door open for them as they staggered through it under the weight of their seabags. Corporal Easterbrook was carrying additionally a Thompson.45 ACP caliber submachine gun, an Eyemo 16mm motion picture camera, and a Leica 35mm still camera, plus a canvas musette bag.

Parked at the curb was a glistening 1941 Plymouth sedan, painted Marine green-including its chromium-plated bumpers, grille, and other shiny parts. The corporal opened the trunk and the seabags were dropped inside.

"You taking the Thompson with you?" the corporal asked.

"Yes, I am," Easterbrook replied.

"You're not supposed to take weapons off the base," the corporal said. "But I guess this is different."

" 'Off the base'?" Sergeant Hart asked. "Where are we going?"

The corporal did not reply until they were in the car. Once they were inside, he consulted a clipboard that was attached to the dashboard.

"Some place in the hills," he said. "Muku Muku. They gave me a map."

"What the hell is Muku Muku?" Sergeant Hart asked.

"Beats the shit out of me, Sergeant. It's where I was told to take you."

"There it is," the corporal said. "There's a sign."

Sergeant Hart looked where he pointed. A bronze sign reading "Muku Muku" was set into one of the brick pillars supporting a steel gate.

The corporal drove the Plymouth five or six hundred yards down a narrow macadam road lined with exotic vegetation. The road suddenly widened and became a paved area in front of a large, sprawling house.

That's a mansion, Sergeant George Hart thought, not a house. Must be Pickering's. There's no other logical explanation.

"What the hell is this?" Easterbrook asked.

"It must be our transient barracks," Hart replied.

Fleming Pickering opened the passenger door and put out his hand.

"Welcome home, George," he said.

"Thank you, Sir," Hart said. "I didn't expect to see you here, General."

"I didn't expect to be here," Pickering replied. "Get yourself cleaned up, have a drink, and I'll explain it all to you." He leaned over the front seat and offered his hand to Easterbrook.

"I'm General Pickering," he said. "You're Easterbrook, right?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Those pictures you took, and the motion picture film you shot, were just what I needed. Come on in the house, and I'll try to show you my gratitude."

When Fleming Pickering knocked on the door, Sergeant Hart and Corporal Easterbrook were sitting in a large room furnished with two double beds. They were showered and shaved and wearing new skivvies. A moment later Pickering walked in, a freshly pressed uniform over his arm.

"This is Easterbrook's," he said, handing it to him. "Yours will be along in minute, George."

"Yes, Sir."

"You don't have a drink?" Pickering said. "I thought the refrigerator would need restocking by now."

He slid open a closet door. Behind it was a small refrigerator, full of beer and soft drinks.

"And there's whiskey in that cabinet," he said, pointing. "If you'd rather."

"I'll have a beer, please, Sir," Hart said, and walked to him.

Pickering opened a beer, then walked to Easterbrook and handed it to him.

"Son, why don't you put on a shirt and trousers, that's all you'll need, and then go down and sit with McCoy on the patio. I need a word with Sergeant Hart."

"Yes, Sir," Easterbrook replied, and hastily put on a khaki shirt and pants. Pickering made himself a drink of scotch, and waited until Easterbrook was gone before he spoke.

"You were just paid a pretty good compliment, George," Pickering said. "McCoy said of you, quote, 'He's a good Marine, General.' "

"I'm flattered," Hart said. "If only half the things they say about him are true, he's a hell of a Marine."

"I'm on my way to Australia, George. Tomorrow morning. In a day or two, they'll find you a seat on a plane to the States. Show your orders in San Francisco and tell them to route you via St. Louis on your way to Washington. Take a week to see your folks, and then go to Washington. Then pack your bags again. I don't think I'll be coming back there any time soon-that may change, of course-but I'd like to have you with me in Australia."

"Aye, aye, Sir," Hart said, and then: "May I ask a question, Sir?"


"Wouldn't it make more sense if I went to Australia from here?"

"It would, but I didn't want to ask you to do that. I mean, after a man gets tossed out of a rubber boat..."

"McCoy told you about that?"

"... in the surf off an enemy-held island, he's entitled to a leave. I can do without you for two or three weeks, George."

"Easterbrook deserves to go home. Major Dillon and McCoy have things to do in the States. I don't. I'll go with you, Sir, if that would be all right."

"Strange, I thought that would be your reaction," Pickering said. "And I can use you, George."

There was a knock at the door, and a white-jacketed black man walked in with a freshly pressed set of new khakis.

"Finish your beer," Pickering said. "And then come down to the patio."

"Aye, aye, Sir."

Corporal Robert F. Easterbrook, carrying a bottle of beer, slid open a plate-glass door and walked uneasily onto the patio.

"They take care of you all right at the Marine Barracks, Easterbrook?" Lieutenant McCoy asked.

"Yes, Sir."

"Pull up a chair, take a load off," Major Dillon said, smiling, trying to be as charming as he could.

He thought: Well, now that I've got you off Guadalcanal, what the hell am I going to do with you?



Pan American Airlines Terminal

San Francisco, California

0700 Hours 16 October 1942

Almost all the passengers on Pan American Flight 203 from Hawaii were in uniform, Army, Navy, and Marine. And all the uniforms were in far better shape than his, Major Edward Banning noted. He was sure, too, that no one on the airplane was traveling without a military priority. But it was a civilian airliner, and Pan American provided the amenities it offered before the war.

The food was first class, served by neatly uniformed stewards. It was preceded by hors d'oeuvres and a cocktail, accompanied by wine, and trailed by a cognac. Banning had three post-dinner cognacs, knowing they would put him to sleep, which was the best way he knew to pass a long flight.

For breakfast, there were ham and eggs, light, buttery rolls, along with freshly brewed coffee; he wasn't about to complain when the yolks of the eggs were cooked hard.

We all have to be prepared to make sacrifices for the war effort, he thought, smiling to himself. He was pleased with his wit-until it occurred to him he still might be feeling the effects from the night before of the pair of double bourbons, the bottle of wine, and the cognacs.

After breakfast, the steward handed him a little package containing a comb; a toothbrush and toothpaste; a safety razor; shaving cream; and even a tiny bottle of Mennen after-shave. Armed with all that, he went back to the washroom and tried to repair the havoc that days of neglect had done to his appearance.

Brushing his teeth made his mouth feel a great deal better, and a fresh shave was pleasant. But the face that looked back at him in the mirror did not show a neatly turned out Marine officer. It showed a man with bloodshot eyes-not completely due, he decided, to all the drinks he let himself have last night. His skin was an unhealthy color. And he was wearing a shirt that smelled of harsh Australian soap mixed with the chemicals of the Pearl Harbor photo lab.

I need a shower, eight hours in a bed, and then some clean uniforms. I wonder how long it will take them in San Francisco to get me a seat on an airplane. Maybe enough time to go to an officers' sales store and get at least a couple of new shirts. Maybe even enough to get some sleep.

The United States Customs Service was still functioning normally, randomly looking inside bags. And the Shore Patrol was in place, maintaining high disciplinary standards among transient Navy Department personnel. There was even an SP officer, wearing the stripes of a full lieutenant along with an SP brassard and a white pistol belt.

The Shore Patrol officer walked purposefully over to Banning.

What is this? "Major, the shape of your uniform, and the length of your hair is a disgrace to the U.S. Naval Service generally, and The Marine Corps specifically. You will have to come with me!"

"Major Banning?" the Lieutenant asked.

"My name is Banning."

"Will you come with me, please, Sir?"

"I'm not through Customs."

"I wouldn't worry about that, Sir. Would you come with me, please? Can I help you carry anything?"

"Where are we going?"

"To the airport, Sir. There's a plane waiting for you."

"I just got off an airplane!"

"Right this way, please, Major," the Shore Patrol lieutenant said, already starting to lead the way to a Navy gray Plymouth sedan with a chrome siren on the fender and SHORE PATROL lettered on its doors.

The Army Air Corps major saluted as Banning got out of the Plymouth.

"Major Banning, we're ready anytime you are," he said.

"Is there a head, a men's room, anyplace convenient?"

"Right inside, Major, I'll show you," the Major said. "Major, we have a seven-place aircraft..."

"What kind of an aircraft?"

"A B-25, Sir. General Kellso's personal aircraft. Would you have any objection if we took some people with us?"

"Wouldn't that be up to you?" Banning said. "Or General Kellso? You said it was his airplane."

"Right now, it's the Secretary of the Navy's, Major, with the mission of taking you to Washington."

"Load it up, Major. Where did you say the bathroom is?"

"Right over there."

The rest room was chrome and tile and spotless. It even smelled clean.

Banning entered a stall and closed the door and sat down.

There was a copy of Life magazine in a rack on the back of the door. A picture of Admiral William D. Leahy, in whites, was on the cover.

Banning took it from the rack.

In the shape my digestive tract is in, I may be here all day. The human body is not designed to fly halfway around the world in airplanes.

He started to flip through the magazine.

There was a picture of an Army sergeant kissing his bride, a Canadian Women's Army Corps corporal.

There was a Westinghouse advertisement, proudly announcing that it had won an Army-Navy E for Excellence award for producing four thousand carloads of war materials a month-enough to fill a freight train thirty-seven miles long.

How come none of it seems to have reached Guadalcanal?

There was a series of photographs of Army officers in an English castle. The censor had obliterated from the photographs anything that could identify the castle. The American officers all looked well fed.

And their trousers, unlike yours, Banning, are all neatly pressed.

There was an advertisement from Budweiser, announcing what they were doing for the war effort-from baby foods to peanut butter to flashlights, carpet, and twine. Beer wasn't mentioned.

There was a series of photographs recording Wendell Willkie's travels to Egypt. He was described as the "leader of President Roosevelt's Friendly Opposition."

Another series of photographs showed the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown's final moments in the Battle of Midway. Another showed the Army Air Corps in the Aleutian Islands. Another, a nice-looking woman named Love, who was married to an Air Corps light colonel. She was about to head up an organization of women pilots who would ferry airplanes from the factories. Another, a huge new British four-engine bomber called the Lancaster; the monster could carry eight tons of bombs.

I'll bet not one of them ever gets sent to New Guinea or the Solomons. Or at least not until after the Japanese have reoccupied Guadalcanal and captured all of New Guinea.

What really caught his attention was the Armour and Company full-page advertisement, showing in color what the "typical" soldier, sailor, and Marine was being fed this week: roast chicken, frankfurters, barbecued spareribs, baked corned beef, Swiss steak, baked fish, and roast beef. Servicemen could have second helpings of anything on the menus, it claimed.

Jesus H. Christ! If there 'd been ten pounds of roast chicken or roast beef on Guadalcanal, the war against the Japs would have been called off while the Marines fought over it.

Surprising him, his bowels moved. He put Life back in the rack on the door, looked again at Admiral Leahy's photograph, and had one final unkind thought: The Chief of Staff to the Commander-in-Chief needs a haircut himself; it's hanging over his collar in the back. And I have seen better pressed white uniforms on ensigns.

"Sorry to keep you waiting," Banning said as he washed his hands and saw the Air Corps Major's reflection in the mirror over the sink.

"It's your airplane, Major," the Air Corps Major said. "Take your time."


Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff G-l

Headquarters, United States Marine Corps

Eighth and I Streets, NW

Washington, D.C.

0825 Hours 16 October 1942

Colonel David M. Wilson, USMC, Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff G-l for Officer Personnel, had no idea what Brigadier General J. J. Stewart, USMC, Director, Public Affairs Office, Headquarters USMC, had in mind vis-a-vis First Lieutenant R, B. Macklin, USMC, but he suspected he wasn't going to like it.

General Stewart had requested an appointment with the Assistant Chief of Staff, Personnel, himself, but the General had regrettably been unable to fit him into his busy schedule.

"You deal with him, Dave. Find out who this Lieutenant Macklin is, and see what Stewart thinks we should do for him. I'll back you up whatever you decide. Just keep him away from me."

Colonel Wilson was a good Marine officer. Even when given an order he'd rather not receive, he said, "Aye, aye, Sir," and carried it out to the best of his ability.

He obtained Lieutenant Macklin's service record and studied it carefully. What he saw failed to impress him. Macklin was a career Marine out of Annapolis. Though Colonel Wilson was himself an Annapolis graduate, he was prepared to admit-if not proclaim-that Annapolis had delivered its fair share of mediocre to poor people into the officer corps.

He quickly came to the conclusion that Macklin was one of these.

Macklin had been with the 4th Marines in Shanghai before the war. He came out of that assignment with a truly devastating efficiency report.

One entry caught Wilson's particular notice: "Lieutenant Macklin," it said, was "prone to submit official reports that not only omitted pertinent facts that might tend to reflect adversely upon himself, but to present other material clearly designed to magnify his own contributions to the accomplishment of an assigned mission."

In other words, he was a liar.

Even worse: "Lieutenant Macklin," the report went on to say, "could not be honestly recommended for the command of a company or larger tactical unit."

Politely calling him a liar would have kept him from getting a command anyway, but his rating officer apparently wanted to drive a wooden stake through his heart by spelling it out.

And that could not be passed off as simply bad blood between Macklin and his rating officer. For the reviewing officer clearly agreed with the rating officer: "The undersigned concurs in this evaluation of this officer." And it wasn't just any reviewing officer, either. It was Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, then a major, now a lieutenant colonel on Guadalcanal.

Colonel Wilson had served several times with Chesty Puller and held him in the highest possible regard.

After Macklin came home from Shanghai, The Corps sent him to Quantico, as a training officer at the Officer Candidate School. He got out of that by volunteering to become a parachutist.

It was Colonel Wilson's considered (if more or less private) opinion that Marine parachutists ranked high on the list of The Corps' really dumb mistakes in recent years. While there might well be some merit to "The Theory of Vertical Envelopment" (as the Army called it), it made no sense at all to apply that theory to The Marine Corps.

For one thing, nothing he'd seen suggested that parachute operations would have any application at all in the war The Marine Corps was going to have to fight in the Pacific. A minimum of 120 R4D aircraft would be required to drop a single battalion of troops. In Colonel Wilson's opinion, it would be a long time before The Corps would get that many R4Ds at all, much less that many for a single battalion. In his view, it was a bit more likely that he himself would be lifted bodily into heaven to sit at the right hand of God.

For another, Colonel Wilson (along with a number of other thoughtful senior Marine officers) had serious philosophical questions about the formation of Marine parachutists: Since The Corps itself was already an elite organization, creating a parachutist elite within the elite was just short of madness.

He was not a fan of that other elite-within-the-elite, either: the Marine Raiders. But the parachutists and the Raiders were horses of different colors. For one thing, the order to form the Raiders came directly from President Roosevelt himself; and there was nothing anyone in The Corps could do about it, not even the Commandant. ,

And for another, so far the Raiders had done well. They'd staged a successful raid on Makin Island, and they'd done a splendid job on Guadalcanal.

Viewed coldly and professionally, the parachutists' record was not nearly as impressive: After their very expensive training, there were no aircraft available to transport them (surprising Colonel Wilson not at all), and so they were committed as infantry to the Guadalcanal operation, charged with making an amphibious assault on a tiny island called Gavutu. They fought courageously, if not very efficiently; and the island fell. Later, Wilson heard credible scuttlebutt that their fire discipline was practically nonexistent. And the numbers seemed to confirm this: The parachute battalion was literally decimated in the first twenty-four hours. And after the invasion, they continued to suffer disproportionate losses.

Macklin was with the parachutists in the invasion of Gavutu; but he went in as a supernumerary. Which meant that he was a spare officer; he'd be given a job only after an officer commanding a platoon, or whatever, was killed or wounded.

Macklin never reached the beach. He managed to get himself shot in the calf and face and was evacuated.

Colonel Wilson had been a Marine a long time. He'd been in France in the First War, and he'd passed the "peacetime years" in the Banana Wars in Latin America. He had enough experience with weaponry fired in anger to know that getting shot only meant that you were unlucky; there was no valor or heroism connected with it.

According to his service record, Macklin was in the Army General Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, recovering from his wounds, when he was sent to the States to participate in a war bonds tour of the West Coast. That was where he was now.

Colonel Wilson thought he remembered something about that last business. And a moment later a few details came up from the recesses of his mind: In a move that at the time didn't have Colonel Wilson's full and wholehearted approval, the Assistant Commandant of The Marine Corps arranged to have an ex-4th Marines sergeant commissioned as a major, for duty with Public Affairs. The Assistant Commandant's reasoning was that The Corps was going to need some good publicity, and that the way to do it was to bring in a professional. The man he was thinking of was then Vice President, Publicity, of Metro-Magnum Studios, Hollywood, California (who just happened to earn more money than the Commandant or, for that matter, than the President of the United States). And wasn't it fortuitous that he'd been a China Marine, and-Once a Marine, Always a Marine-was willing to come back into The Corps?

Major Jake Dillon, Colonel Wilson was willing to admit, did not turn out to be the unmitigated disaster he feared. He'd led a crew of photographers and writers in the first wave of the invasion of Tulagi, for instance, and there was no question that they'd done their job well.

Dillon was responsible for having Lieutenant Macklin sent home from Australia for the war bond tour.

Why did Dillon do that? Colonel Wilson wondered.

And then some other strange facts surfaced out of his memory: Dillon was somehow involved with the Office of Management Analysis. Colonel Wilson was not very familiar with that organization. But he knew it had nothing to do with Management Analysis, that it was directly under the Commandant, and that you were not supposed to ask questions about it, or about what it did.

It didn't take a lot of brains to see what it did do.

The Office of Management Analysis, anyhow, had a new commander, another commissioned civilian, Brigadier General Fleming Pickering. Pickering was put in over Lieutenant Colonel F. L. Rickabee, whose Marine career had been almost entirely in intelligence. And it was said that Pickering reported directly to the Secretary of the Navy. Or, depending on which scuttlebutt you heard, to Admiral Leahy, the President's Chief of Staff.

There was surprisingly little scuttlebutt about what Dillon was doing for the Office of Management Analysis.

Meanwhile, Colonel Wilson ran into newly promoted Colonel Rickabee at the Army-Navy Country Club, but carefully tactful questioning about his job and his new boss produced only the information that General Pickering shouldn't really be described as a commissioned civilian. He'd earned the Distinguished Service Cross as a Marine corporal in France about the time Sergeant (now Lieutenant Colonel) Jack (NMI) Stecker had won his Medal of Honor.

At precisely 0830, the intercom box on Colonel Wilson's desk announced the arrival of Brigadier General J. J. Stewart.

"Ask the General to come in, please," Colonel Wilson said, as he slid the Service Record of First Lieutenant R. B. Macklin into a desk drawer and stood up.

He crossed the room and was almost at the door when General Stewart walked in.

"Good morning, General," he said. "May I offer the General the General's regrets for not being able to be here. A previously scheduled conference at which his presence was mandatory..."

"Please tell the General that I understand," General Stewart said. "There are simply not enough hours in the day, are there?"

"No, Sir. There don't seem to be. May I offer the General some coffee? A piece of pastry?"

"Very kind. Coffee. Black. Belay the pastry."

"Aye, aye, Sir," Colonel Wilson said, then stepped to the door and told his sergeant to bring black coffee.

General Stewart arranged himself comfortably on a couch against the wall.

"How may I be of service, General?"

"I've got sort of an unusual personnel request, Colonel," General Stewart said. "I am certainly the last one to try to tell you how I think you should run your shop, or effect personnel allocation decisions, but this is a really unusual circumstance...."

"If the General will give me some specifics, I assure you we'll do our very best to accommodate you."

"The officer in question is a young lieutenant named Macklin, Colonel. He was wounded with the first wave landing at Gavutu."

I wonder who shot him. Our side or theirs?

"Yes, Sir?"

"Parachutist," General Stewart said. "He was evacuated to Australia. Fortunately, his wound-wounds, there were two-were not serious. He was selected-"

General Stewart interrupted himself as the coffee was delivered.

"The General was saying?"

"Oh, yes. Are you familiar, by any chance, with the name-or, for that matter, with the man-Major Homer C. Dillon?"

"By reputation, Sir. I've never actually..."

"Interesting man, Colonel. He was Vice President of Metro-Magnum Studios in Hollywood. I don't like to think of the pay cut he took to come back in The Corps. Anyway, Major Dillon was in Australia, in the hospital, and met Lieutenant Macklin. It didn't take him long to have him shipped home to participate in the war bond tour on the West Coast."

"I see."

"It was a splendid choice. Lieutenant Macklin is a splendid-looking officer. Looks like a recruiting poster. First-class public speaker. Makes The Corps look good, really good, if you understand me."

There is no reason, I suppose, why a lying asshole has to look like a lying asshole.

"I take your point, Sir."

"Well, the war bond tour, that war bond tour, is about over. We're bringing some other people back from the Pacific. This time for a national tour. Machine Gun McCoy, among others." "Excuse me, Sir?"

"Sergeant Thomas McCoy, of the 2nd Raiders. Distinguished himself on Bloody Ridge. They call him 'Machine Gun' McCoy."

"I see."

"And some of the pilots from Henderson Field, we're trying to get all the aces."

"I see, Sir. I'm sure the tour will be successful."

"A lot of that will depend on how well the tour is organized and carried out," General Stewart said, significantly.

"Yes, Sir," Colonel Wilson agreed.

"Which brings us to Lieutenant Macklin," General Stewart said. "With the exception of a slight limp, he is now fully recovered from his wounds..."

"I'm glad to hear that, General."

"... and is obviously up for reassignment."

After a moment, Colonel Wilson became aware that General Stewart was waiting for a reply from him.

"I don't believe any assignment has yet been made for Lieutenant Macklin," he said.

But I will do my best to find a rock to hide him under.

"What I was going to suggest, Colonel... what, to put a point on it, I am requesting, is that Macklin be assigned to my shop."

What's this "shop" crap? You sound like you're making dog kennels.

"I see."

"My thinking, Colonel, is that nothing succeeds like success. And Macklin, having completed a very, very successful war bond tour, is just the man to set up and run the next one. And then, of course, there is sort of a built-in bonus: Our heroes, Machine Gun McCoy and the flyboys, would be introduced to the public by a Marine officer who is himself a wounded hero."

"General, I think that's a splendid idea," Colonel Wilson said. "I'll have his orders cut by sixteen hundred hours."

I was wrong. This has been a gift from heaven. I get rid of Macklin in a job where he can't hurt The Corps; and the General here thinks I am a splendid fellow.

"Well, I frankly thought I would have to sell you more on the idea, Colonel."

"General, if I may say so, a good idea is a good idea. Is there anything else I can try to do for you?"

General Stewart looked a little uncomfortable.

"There are two things," he said, finally. "Both a little delicate."

"Please go on, Sir."

"I certainly don't mean to suggest that you're not up to the line in your operation..."


"... but, maybe a piece of paper got lost or something. Lieutenant Macklin is long overdue for promotion."

With what Chesty Puller had to say about the sonofabitch, the only reason he wasn't asked for his resignation from The Corps is that there's a war on.

"I'll look into that myself, General, and personally bring it to the attention of the G-l."

"I couldn't ask for more than that, could I? Thank you, Colonel."

"No thanks necessary, Sir," Wilson said. "You said there were two things?"

"And-to repeat-both a little delicate," General Stewart said.

"Perhaps I can help, Sir."

"I mentioned Major Dillon," General Stewart said.

"Yes, Sir?"

"I don't know if you know this or not, Colonel, but Major Dillon has been placed on temporary duty with the Office of Management Analysis."

"The Office of Management Analysis, Sir?"

"Don't be embarrassed. I had to ask a lot of questions before I found anyone who even knows it exists," General Stewart said. "But I think it can be safely said that it deals with classified matters."

"I see," Colonel Wilson said solemnly.

"The thing is, Colonel, I'm carrying Major Dillon on my manning table. So long as he is on temporary duty, I can't replace him. You understand?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Do you think you could have him transferred, taken off my man-ning table?"

"I will bring that to the attention of the G-l, Sir. And if anything can be done, I'm sure the General will see that it is."

"Splendid!" General Stewart said as he stood up and put out his hand. "Colonel, I really appreciate your cooperation."

"Anything for the good of the Corps, Sir."

"Indeed! Thank you, Colonel. And if there's ever any way in which Public Affairs can be of service..."

"That's very good of you, Sir. I almost certainly will take you up on that."


Anacostia Naval Air Station

Washington, D.C.

2055 Hours 16 October 1942

As the B-25 was taxiing from the runway to the Transient Aircraft Ramp, the pilot came out of the cockpit and walked back to Banning, who was seated in the front of the fuselage, in a surprisingly comfortable airline-type seat.

"A car's going to meet you where we park," he said.

"Thank you," Banning said.

He had a headache. His mouth was dry. He'd been sleeping fitfully until his ears popped painfully as they made their descent and approach.

They'd stopped at St. Louis for fuel. And he had a fried-egg sand-wich and a cup of coffee there. The mayonnaise and the slice of raw onion on the sandwich had given him heartburn.

He belched painfully.

It was raining, steadily, and a chilling wind was blowing across the field. And there was no car in sight. He'd just about decided that the pilot had the wrong information, or that the plane was parked in the wrong place, when a 1940 Buick convertible sedan rolled up. The Buick was preceded by a pickup truck painted in a checkerboard pattern and flying a checkered flag.

The rear door of the Buick opened.

"Will the Major please get in so the Captain will not get drowned?" a voice called.

Banning quickly stepped into the backseat and put out his hand.

"How are you, Ed?" he said. "Good to see you."

"Take us to the hotel, Jerry," Captain Edward Sessions, USMC, ordered, and then turned to Banning. "It's good to see you, Sir," he said. He was a tall, not quite handsome twenty-seven-year-old in a trench coat. A plastic rain cover was fastened over the cover of his billed cap.

"I didn't want to get my best uniform soaked," he went on. "There's a good chance I will be in the very presence of the Secretary of the Navy himself.

"We will be."

"Tonight?" Banning asked, surprised.

"Very possibly. The Colonel's at the hotel; that's where we're going. He should know by the time we get there."

"What hotel?"

"The Foster Lafayette," Sessions said. "Your hotel, Sir. By order of General Pickering. He sent a radio from Pearl Harbor." He made a gesture with his hand. "The car, too. He said we were to give you the keys."

"Jesus," Banning said.

"And this, I thought, would give you a laugh," Sessions said, and thrust a newspaper at Banning. "There's a light back here somewhere.... Ah, there it is."

A pair of lights came on, providing just enough illumination to read the newspaper. It was The Washington Star.

"What am I looking at?"

Sessions pointed at a photograph of a Marine officer in dress blues. He was standing at a microphone mounted on a lectern on a stage somewhere.

There was a headline over the photograph:




"So?" Banning asked.

"Take a good look at the hero," Session said. "Macklin! I'll be damned." "I thought that would amuse you," Sessions said. "Nauseate me is the word you're looking for," Banning said. And then something else caught his eye.



By Charles E. Whaley

Washington Oct 16 - Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, at a press conference this afternoon, responded with guarded optimism to the question, by this reporter, "Can Guadalcanal be held?"

"I certainly hope so," the Secretary said. "I expect so. I don't want to make any predictions, but every man out there, ashore or afloat, will give a good account of himself."

The response called to mind the classic phrase, "England expects every man to do his duty," but could not be interpreted as more than a hope on Knox's part.

One highly placed and knowledgeable military expert has, on condition of anonymity, told this reporter that the "odds that we can stay on Guadalcanal are no better than fifty-fifty." He cited the great difficulty of supplying the twenty-odd thousand Marines on the island, which is not only far from U.S. Bases, but very close to Japanese bases from which air and naval attacks can be launched on both the troops and on the vessels and aircraft attempting to provide them with war materiel.

"What are you reading?"

"Some expert, who doesn't want his name mentioned, told the Star it's fifty-fifty whether we can stay on Guadalcanal."

"You think he's wrong?"

"It's pretty bad over there, Ed," Banning said. "I don't even think it's fifty-fifty. The night before we left, they were shelling Henderson Field with fourteen-inch battleship cannon. Nobody can stand up under that for long."

"Is that what you're going to tell Secretary Knox?"

"I'm going to tell him what Vandegrift thinks."

"Which is?"

"That unless he gets reinforced, and unless they can somehow keep the Japs from reinforcing, we're going to get pushed back into the sea."


Captain Sessions unlocked the door, removed the key, and then handed it to Banning. After that, he pushed open the door and motioned him to go in.

"I realize that this isn't what you're accustomed to, but I understand roughing it once in a while is good for the soul."

"I just hope there's hot water," Banning said, and then, suddenly formal: "Good evening, Sir."

"Hello, Banning, how are you?" a slight, pale-skinned man in an ill-fitting suit said. He was Colonel F. L. Rickabee, of the Office of Management Analysis.

Rickabee was standing in a corridor that led to a large sitting room furnished with what looked like museum-quality antiques. Rickabee waved him toward it. Banning saw a Navy captain and wondered who he was.

"Gentlemen," Rickabee announced, "Major Edward F. Banning."

Banning nodded at the Navy captain. A stocky man in a superbly tailored blue pin-stripe suit walked up, removing his pince-nez as he did, and offered his hand.

"I'm Frank Knox, Major. How do you do?"

"Mr. Secretary."

"Do you know Captain Haughton, my assistant?" Knox asked.

No. But I've seen the name enough. "By Direction of the Secretary of the Navy. David Haughton, Captain, USN, Administrative Assistant. "

"No, Sir."

"How are you, Major?" Haughton said. "I'm glad to finally meet you."

"My name is Fowler, Major," another superbly tailored older man said. "Welcome home."

"Senator," Banning said. "How do you do, Sir?"

"Right now, not very well, and from what Fleming Pickering said on the phone, what you have to tell us isn't going to make us feel any better."

"Major, you look like you could use a drink," Frank Knox said. "What'll you have?"

"No, thank you, Sir."

"Don't argue with me, I'm the Secretary of the Navy."

"Then scotch, Sir, a weak one."

"Make him a stiff scotch, Rickabee," Knox ordered, "while your captain loads the projector."

"Yes, Sir, Mr. Secretary," Colonel Rickabee said, smiling.

"Sir, I had hoped to have a little time to organize my thoughts," Banning said.

"Fleming Pickering told me I should tell you to deliver the same briefing you gave him in Hawaii," Senator Fowler said. "And I thought the best place to do that would be here, rather than in Mr. Knox's office or mine."

Banning looked uncomfortable.

"You're worried about classified material?" Captain Haughton asked. "Specifically, about MAGIC?"

"Yes, Sir."

Haughton looked significantly at Secretary Knox, very obviously putting the question to him.

"Senator Fowler does not have a MAGIC clearance," Knox said. "That's so the President and I can look any senator in the eye and tell him that no senator has a MAGIC clearance. But I can't think of a secret this country has I wouldn't trust Senator Fowler with. Do you take my meaning, Major?"

"Yes, Sir."

Rickabee handed Banning a drink.

Banning set it down and took the photographs and the two cans of 16mm film from his bag. He handed the film cans to Sessions and the envelope of photographs to Secretary Knox.

"We brought these with us when we left Guadalcanal. The photographer handed them to Major Dillon literally at the last minute, as we were preparing to take off."

"My God!" Frank Knox said after examining the first two photographs. "This is Henderson Field?"

"Yes, Sir."

"It looks like no-man's-land in France in 1917."

"General Vandegrift believes the fire came from fourteen-inch Naval cannon. Battleships, Sir."

"I saw the After-Action Report," Knox said. It was not a reprimand.

Banning took a sip of his drink. He looked across the room to where Sessions was threading the motion picture film into a projector. A screen on a tripod was already in place.

"Anytime you're ready, Sir," Sessions reported.

"OK, Major," Frank Knox said. "Let's have it."

"Just one or two questions, Major, if I may," Frank Knox said after Banning's briefing was finished.

"Yes, Sir."

"You're pretty sure of these Japanese unit designations, I gather? And the identities of the Jap commanders?"

"Yes, Sir."

"They conform to what we've been getting from the MAGIC people in Hawaii. But there is a difference between your analyses of Japanese intercepts and theirs. Subtle sometimes, but significant, I think. Why is that?"

"Sir, I don't think two analysts ever completely agree...."

"Just who are your analysts?"

"Primarily two, Sir. Both junior officers, but rather unusual junior officers. One of them is a Korean-American from Hawaii. He holds a Ph.D. in Mathematics from MIT, and was first involved as a cryptographer-a code-breaker, not an analyst. He placed... a different interpretation... on certain intercepts than did Hawaii; and more often than not, time proved him correct. So he was made an analyst. The second spent most of his life in Japan. His parents are missionaries. He speaks the language as well as he speaks English, and studied at the University of Tokyo. You understand, Sir, the importance of understanding the Japanese culture, the Japanese mind-set..."

"Yes, yes," Knox said impatiently. "So your position is that the Hawaiian analysts are wrong more often than not, and your two are right more often than not?"

"No, Sir. There's rarely a disagreement. The relationship between Hon-"


"The Korean-American, Sir. His name is Hon. His relationship with Hawaii-and Lieutenant Moore's-is not at all competitive. When they see things differently, they talk about it, not argue."

"I wonder if we can make that contagious," Senator Fowler said. "From what I hear, most of our people in the Pacific don't even talk to each other."

"I wanted to get that straight before we go across the street," Knox said.

"Sir?" Banning asked.

"We're going across the street?" Senator Fowler asked.

"Don't you think we should?" Knox replied.

"Yes, as a matter of fact, I think we should. Can we?"

What the hell are they talking about, "going across the street"? Banning wondered. The only thing across the street from here is another hotel, an office building, and the White House.

"There's one way to find out," Knox said. He walked to one of the two telephones on the coffee table and dialed a number from memory.

"Alice, this is Frank Knox. May I speak to him, please?" There was a brief pause, and then Knox continued. "Sorry to disturb you at this hour, but there is something I think you should see, and hear. And now."

Who the hell is Alice? Who the hell is "him"?

Frank Knox put the telephone in its cradle and turned to face them.

"Gentlemen, the President will receive us in fifteen minutes," he said. "Us meaning the Senator, Major Banning, and me. Plus someone to set up and run the projector."

"Sessions," Colonel Rickabee said.

"Aye, aye, Sir," Captain Sessions said.

"Thank you very much, Major... Banning, is it?" Franklin Delano Roosevelt said.

"Yes, Sir."

"... Major Banning. That was very edifying. Or should I say alarming? In any event, thank you very much. I think that will be all... unless you have any questions for the Major, Admiral Leahy?"

"I have no questions, Sir," Admiral Leahy said.

"Frank, I'd like to see you for a moment," the President said.

"With your permission, Mr. President?" Senator Fowler said.

"Richardson, thank you for coming," Roosevelt said, flashing him a dazzling smile and dismissing him.

"Captain, you can just leave the projector and the screen," Knox ordered. "Would you like to have the film and photographs, Mr. President?"

"I don't think I have to look at it again," Roosevelt said. "I certainly don't want to. Admiral?"

Leahy shook his head, no.

Sessions took the film from the projector. Banning collected the photographs and put them back into their envelope. A very large black steward in a white jacket opened the door to the upstairs corridor and held it while Banning and Sessions passed through.

Roosevelt waited to speak until the steward was himself out of the room and the door was closed behind him.

"Well, question one," he said. "Are things as bad as Major Banning paints them?"

"It's not only the Major," Admiral Leahy said. "This came in as I was leaving my office."

He handed the President a sheet of Teletype paper.

"What is that?" Knox asked.

"A radio from Admiral Ghormley to Admiral Nimitz," Admiral Leahy said.

"I'm the Secretary of the Navy, Admiral. You can tell me what Admiral Ghormley said," Knox said, smiling, but with a perceptible sharpness in his tone.

Roosevelt looked up from the paper in his hands, and his eyes took in the two of them.

"Admiral Ghormley has learned of a Japanese aircraft carrier, and its supporting vessels, off the Santa Cruz Islands," Roosevelt said, and then dropped his eyes again to the paper. "He says, 'This appears to be all-out enemy effort against Guadalcanal. My forces totally inadequate to meet situation. Urgently request all aviation reinforcements possible.' End quote."

"That's a little redundant, isn't it?" Knox asked. 'Totally inadequate'? Is there such a thing as 'partially inadequate'?"

"I think the Admiral made his point, Frank," the President said. "Which brings us to question two, what do we do about it?"

"I'm confident, Mr. President, and I'm sure Secretary Knox agrees with me, that Admiral Nimitz is doing everything that can be done."

"And General MacArthur?" the President asked.

"And General MacArthur," Admiral Leahy said. "The loss of Guadalcanal would be catastrophic for him. The rest of New Guinea would certainly fall, and then quite possibly Australia. MacArthur knows that."

"There is always something else that can be done," Roosevelt said. "Isn't there?"

"Not by the people on Guadalcanal," Knox said. "They are doing all they can do."

"You're suggesting Nimitz can do more?" Admiral Leahy said.

"Nimitz and MacArthur," Knox said.

"For the President to suggest that... to order it... would suggest he has less than full confidence in them," Leahy said.

"Yes," Roosevelt said, thoughtfully.

"I don't agree with that," Knox said. "Not a whit of it. Mr. President, you're the Commander-in-Chief."

"I know. And I also know that the first principle of good leadership is to give your subordinates their mission, and then get out of their way."

"I'm talking about guidance, Mr. President, not an order. I myself am always pleased to know what you want of me...."

Roosevelt looked at the two of them again.

"Admiral, you're right. I can't afford to lose the good will of either Admiral Nimitz or General MacArthur; but on the other hand, the country cannot afford to lose Guadalcanal."

He spun around in his wheelchair and picked up a telephone from a chair-side table.

"Who's this?" he asked, surprised and annoyed when a strange voice answered. "Good God, is it after midnight already? Well, would you bring your pad in please, Sergeant?"

He hung up and turned back to Knox and Leahy.

"Alice has gone home. There's an Army sergeant on standby."

There was a discreet knock at an interior door, and without waiting for permission, a scholarly-looking master sergeant carrying a stenographer's pad came in.

"Yes, Mr. President?

"I want you to take a note to the Joint Chiefs of Staff," the President said. "I want it delivered tonight."

"Yes, Mr. President."

"And make an extra copy, and have that delivered to Senator Richardson Fowler. Across the street. At his hotel. Have him awakened if necessary."

"Yes, Mr. President."

The President looked at Admiral Leahy and Secretary Knox.

"I don't think Richardson liked being sent home," he said, smiling wickedly. "Maybe this will make it up to him." He turned back to the Army stenographer. "Ready, Sergeant?"

"Yes, Mr. President."

Ten minutes before, room service delivered hamburgers and two wine coolers full of iced beer.

After Banning wolfed his down, he was embarrassed to see that no one else was so ravenous. Captain Haughton, he saw, had hardly touched his.

"There's another under the cover," Senator Fowler said. "I ordered it for you. I didn't think you'd have a hell of a lot to eat on the way from San Francisco."

"I'm a little embarrassed," Banning said, but lifted the silver cover and took the extra hamburger.

"Don't be silly," Fowler said.

There was a rap at the door.

"Come in," Senator Fowler called. "It's unlocked."

The door opened. A neatly dressed man in his early thirties stepped inside.

"Senator Fowler?"


"I'm from the White House, Senator. I have a Presidential document for you."

"Let's have it," the Senator said.

"Sir, may I see some identification?"

"Christ!" Fowler said, but went to the chair where he had tossed his suit jacket and came up with an identification card.

"Thank you, Sir," the man said, and handed him a large manila envelope.

"Do I have to sign for it?"

"That won't be necessary, Sir," the courier said, nodded, and walked out.

Fowler ripped open the envelope, took out a single sheet of paper, read it, and grunted. Then he handed it to Captain Haughton, who was holding an almost untouched glass of beer.

"Pass it around when you're through," Fowler said.


Washington, D.C.

17 October 1942

To The Joint Chiefs of Staff:

My anxiety about the Southwest Pacific is to make sure that every possible weapon gets into that area to hold Guadalcanal.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

"I don't know what this means," Banning said, a little thickly, when he'd read it and passed it to Sessions.

"It means that if either Nimitz or MacArthur is holding anything back for their own agendas, if they are smart, they will now send it to Guadalcanal," Fowler said.

Banning grunted.

"Major, if you were God, what would you send to Guadalcanal?"

"Everything," Banning said.

"In what priority?"

"I don't really know," Banning said. "I suppose the most important thing would be to keep the Japanese from building up their forces on the island. And I suppose that means reinforcing the Cactus Air Force."

"I think they can do that," Fowler said. "God, I hope they can."

He poured a little more beer in his glass, then smiled. "Another question?"

"Yes, Sir?"

"What was Jake Dillon doing on that hush-hush mission Pickering set up?"

"I don't think I understand the question, Sir."

"I've known Jake a long time," Fowler said. "Don't misunderstand me. I like him. But Jake is a press agent. A two-fisted drinker. And one hell of a ladies' man. But I'm having trouble picturing him doing anything serious."

"I think you underestimate him, Senator," Banning said, aware that Fowler's question angered him. "That mission wouldn't have gone off as well as it did, if it hadn't been for Dillon. Perhaps it wouldn't have gone off at all."

"Really?" Captain Haughton asked, surprised.

"Yes, Sir," Banning said.

"You want to explain that?" Fowler asked.

How the hell did I get involved in this?

"Major Dillon can get people to do things they would rather not do," Banning said.

"With Dillon on orders signed by Admiral Leahy, it wasn't a question of whether anyone wanted to do what he asked them to do, was it?" Captain Haughton argued.

"Even though Commander Feldt of the Coastwatchers is, kindly, often difficult to deal with," Banning said quietly, "Dillon got Feldt to send his best native into Buka. Even though they were understandably reluctant to have one of their very few submarines hang around Buka a moment longer than necessary, he got the Australian Navy to let that sub lie offshore for three days in case they had to try to get our people off the beach. He got MAG-21, the Cactus Air Force, to loan the best R4D pilot around to fly the R4D that made the landing, even though he was one of their fighter squadron commanders."

"As opposed to what?" Senator Fowler asked.

"As opposed to having sacrificial lambs sent in. Nobody thought the operation was going to work. Dillon convinced them it would. There are ways to get around orders, even orders signed by Admiral Leahy."

"I'm surprised," Senator Fowler said. "I'd never thought of Jake as a heavyweight."

"He's a heavyweight, Senator," Banning said flatly. "I was going to-I got busy at Pearl, and didn't get around to it-to recommend to General Pickering that he be assigned to Management Analysis."

"We've already returned him to Public Affairs," Sessions said. "Effective on his arrival in the States."

"If something comes up, Banning," Colonel Rickabee said. "We can get him back."

Then Rickabee stood up.

"I've got some orders for you, Banning. Take a week off. At General Pickering's orders, you will stay here. That doesn't mean you can't leave town, but I don't want it to get back to General Pickering that you've moved into a BOQ. A week from tomorrow morning, not a second sooner, I'll see you in the office." He paused. "Now get some sleep. And a haircut. You look like hell."



Naval Air Transport Service Terminal

Brisbane, Australia

0815 Hours 17 October 1942

The bay was choppy. Landing was a series of more or less controlled crashes against the water. Brigadier General Fleming Pickering was almost surprised these didn't jar parts-large parts, such as engines-off the Mariner.

Maneuvering from the Mariner into the powerboat sent out to meet it was difficult, and the ride to shore was not pleasant.

The tide was out, which explained to Pickering the chop (a function of shallow water). It also made climbing from the powerboat onto the ladder up the side of the wharf a little dicey. Halfway up the ladder, behind a rear admiral who was obviously a very cautious man, it occurred to Pickering that he had failed to send a message ahead that he was arriving.

Not only would he have to find wheels someplace, but he didn't really know where to go. It was probable that Ellen Feller would be in Water Lily Cottage. And he did not want to deal with her just yet.

The admiral finally made it onto the wharf, and Pickering raised his head above it.

"Ten-hut," an Army Signal Corps lieutenant called out. "Pre-sent, H-arms!"

Two Marine lieutenants and a Marine sergeant, forming a small line, saluted. The rear admiral, looking a little confused, returned the salute.

That's not for you, you jackass.

Pickering climbed onto the wharf and returned the salute.

"How are you, Pluto?" he said to First Lieutenant Hon Song Do, Signal Corps, U.S. Army, and put out his hand.

"Welcome home, General," Pluto said, smiling broadly.

Pickering turned to a tall, thin, pale Marine second lieutenant, and touched his shoulder.

"Hello, John," he said. And then, turning to the other lieutenant and the sergeant standing beside him, he added, "And look who that is! You two all right?" Pickering asked as he shook their hands.

"They let us out of the hospital yesterday, Sir," Sergeant Stephen M. Koffler, USMCR, said. Koffler's eyes were sunken... and extraordinarily bright. His face was blotched with sores. His uniform hung loosely on a skeletal frame.

That was obviously a mistake. You look like death warmed over.

"We're fine, Sir," First Lieutenant Joseph L. Howard, USMCR, said.

Like hell you are. You look as bad as Koffler.

"I'm going to have a baby," Sergeant Koffler said.

"Damn it," Lieutenant Howard said. "I told you to wait with that!"

"Funny, you don't look pregnant," Pickering said.

"I mean, my girl. My fianc‚e," Koffler said, and blushed.

"Koffler, damn it!" Lieutenant Howard said.

Pickering looked back at Second Lieutenant John Marston Moore, USMCR, and asked, "What's that rope hanging from your shoulder, John?"

"That's what we general officer's aides wear, General," Moore said.

You don't look as bad as these two, but you look like hell, too, John. God, what have I done to these kids?

"And you will note the suitably adorned automobile," Hon said.

Not far away was a Studebaker President, with USMC lettered on the hood. A red flag with a silver star was hanging from a small pole mounted on the right fender.

"I'm impressed," Pickering said. "How'd you know I was coming?"

"McCoy sent a radio," Hon said.

"Have you got any luggage, Sir?" Koffler asked.

"Yes, I do, and you keep your hands off it. Hart'll bring it." He looked at Hon. "Where are we going, Pluto?"

"Water Lily Cottage, Sir," Hon replied, as if the question surprised him. "I thought..."

"Who's living there now?"

"Moore, Howard, and me. We found Koffler an apartment, so called, a couple of blocks away."

"And Mrs. Feller?"

"She's in a BOQ," Pluto Hon said uncomfortably. "General, when we have a minute, there's something I've got to talk to you about-"

"Major Banning already has," Pickering said, cutting him off, then changed the subject. "We're all not going to fit in the Studebaker."

"We have a little truck, Sir," Moore said, pointing.

"OK. Koffler: You wait until Sergeant Hart comes ashore with the luggage and then show him how to find the cottage."

"Aye, aye, Sir."

"I'll see you there. I want to hear all about Buka."

Pluto Hon slipped behind the wheel, and Howard moved in beside him. Moore got in the back beside Pickering-somewhat awkwardly, Pickering noticed, as if the movement were painful.

Howard turned. "General, I'm sorry about Koffler. I told him not to say anything...."

"Well, if I was going to have a baby, I think I'd want to tell people. What was that all about, anyway?"

"It'll keep, Sir," Moore said. "We have it under control."

"I want to hear about it."

"You remember the last night, Sir, in the big house? Before we went to Buka?" Howard said.

"The Elms, you mean?" Pickering asked.

When MacArthur had his headquarters in Melbourne, Pickering rented a large house, The Elms, in the Melbourne suburbs. After MacArthur moved his headquarters to Brisbane, Pickering rented a smaller house, Water Lily Cottage, near the Brisbane racetrack.

"Yes, Sir. And you remember the Australian girl, Daphne Farnsworth?"

"Yeoman Farnsworth, Royal Australian Navy Women's Reserve," Pickering said. "Yes, I do. Beautiful girl."

"Has a weakness for Marines, I'm sorry to say," Pluto said. "I can't imagine why."

"The lady is in the family way, General," Moore said, not amused. "It apparently happened that last night at The Elms."

"How do you know that?" Pickering asked, smiling.

"It was the only time they were together," Pluto said.

"Well, Pluto, after all, he is a Marine," Pickering said. "What? Is there some kind of problem?"

"Several. For one thing, they threw her out of the Navy in something like disgrace."

"Well, to judge by the look on his face, making an honest woman of her is high on Koffler's list of things to do."

"She's a widow," Moore went on. "Her husband was killed in North Africa. They had his memorial service the day before she and Koffler..."

"What are you saying? That Koffler has been sucked in by a designing woman?"

"No, Sir. Not at all. She's been disowned by her family, if that's the word."

"And meanwhile, Koffler was on Buka?"

"Yes, Sir."

"How is she living?"

"Well, she had a job. But she lost that."

"I hired her, Sir, to work for us," Moore said.

"Good idea. But what's the problem? Koffler's back. He wants to marry her..."

"We're having a problem with that, Sir. The SWPOA Command Policy is to discourage marriages between Australians and Americans. They throw all sorts of roadblocks up. For all practical purposes, marriages between Australians and lower-grade enlisted men, below staff sergeant, are forbidden." (SWPOA was the abbreviation for the South West Pacific Ocean Area., which was MacArthur's area of responsibility in the Pacific.)

"No problem. We'll make Koffler a staff sergeant."

"There's more, Sir."

"I'll deal with it," Pickering said. "Tell Koffler to relax."

How I don't know. But certainly, someone who has been flown across the world at the direct order of the President of the United States to arrange a peace between the chief of American espionage and the Supreme Commander of the South West Pacific Ocean Area should be able to deal with the problem of a Marine buck sergeant who has knocked up his girlfriend.

"Does General MacArthur know I'm back?"

"I can't see how he could, Sir."

"I thought perhaps they'd sent word from Washington."

"I don't think so, Sir. Wouldn't that have been a 'personal for General MacArthur'?"

"Probably. Almost certainly."

"I keep pretty well up on that file, Sir," Pluto Hon said. "There hasn't been anything."

"Well, that at least gives me today. I need a bath, a couple of drinks, and a long nap. I'll call over there at five o'clock or so and ask for an appointment in the morning."

"There's a couple of things I think you should see, Sir," Pluto said.

"This morning?" Pickering asked.

"Yes, Sir."

When Pickering came out of his bedroom into the living room of Water Lily Cottage, Pluto Hon and John Marston Moore were waiting for him. Pickering was wearing a terry-cloth bathrobe over nothing at all, and he was feeling-and looking-fresh from a long hot shower.

In the middle of room, they'd set up a map board-a sheet of plywood placed on an artist's tripod. Maps (and other large documents) were tacked onto the plywood. A sheet of oilcloth covered the maps and documents; it could be lifted to expose them.

An upholstered chair, obviously intended for him, had been moved from its usual place against the wall so that it squarely faced the map board.

"Very professional," Pickering said.

"We practice our briefings here," Pluto said seriously. "It's a waste of time, but General Willoughby's big on briefing the Supreme Commander with maps and charts."

"You don't work for Willoughby," Pickering said. "And you don't have time to waste."

Pluto didn't reply. Pickering knew that his silence was an answer in itself.

"How bad has it been, Pluto? Let's have it."

"I don't want to sound like I'm whining, Sir."

"Let's have it, Pluto."

"The point has been made to me, Sir, by various senior officers, that I am a first lieutenant, and that first lieutenants do what they're told."

"You're talking about MAGIC intercept briefings, right?" Pickering asked.

"Yes, Sir. I believe it is General Willoughby's rationale that since he has no one on his staff cleared for MAGIC, he can't have them prepare MAGIC briefings for the Supreme Commander. That leaves us."

"Left you. Past tense," Pickering said. "For one thing, MacArthur doesn't need kindergarten-level briefings; he has an encyclopedic memory. For another, I can't afford to have either of you wasting your time playing brass-hat games. The next time Willoughby calls, your reply is, quote, 'Sir, General Pickering doesn't believe that a formal briefing is necessary.' Unquote. If he has any questions, tell him to call me."

"General, as I said on the wharf, General, Sir, welcome home!" Pluto said.

"But since you've already gone to all this trouble, Pluto, brief me." "Yes, Sir," Pluto said. Moore walked to the map board-limped, Pickering thought; limped painfully; his legs are nowhere near healed-and flipped the oilcloth cover off, revealing a map of the Solomon Islands. There was something out of the ordinary about it. After a moment, he knew what it was.

"Don't tell me that map's not classified?"

"Sir, that's another decision I took on my own," Pluto said. "We start with MacArthur's situation map. Maps. Actually three. MacArthur had one; Willoughby had a second; and G-3 had a third. All classified TOP SECRET. For our purposes, before Willoughby started the briefing business, we used to just go to G-3 with an overlay. Nothing on the overlay but MAGIC information. No problem, in other words. We just locked the door, did our thing on the overlay with our MAGIC intelligence, and then took the overlay back to the dungeon with us. But when we started having to take a map with us to brief MacArthur..."

"What I'm looking at is a TOP SECRET situation map, to which MAGIC intelligence has been added?"

"Yes, Sir. General Willoughby said the Supreme Commander doesn't like overlays."

"And," Pickering said, "because you thought there was a possibility that this map might get out of your hands-with MAGIC intelligence on it-you decided not to stamp it TOP SECRET...."

"Yes, Sir. We don't let this map out of our hands. It's been chemically treated, so it practically explodes when you put a match to it-"

"Finish your briefing," Pickering interrupted. "Take the MAGIC data off onto an overlay, and burn the map."

"Yes, Sir," Pluto said. "Sir, how much of a briefing did you get from Major Banning in Hawaii?"

"A damned good one. I presume you know what he told me? How much of it is still valid?"

"Would you mind, Sir?"

Good for you, Son. Don't leave anything to chance.

"General Hyakutaka is ashore," Pickering summarized. "As soon as he believes he has an adequate force, he will start an attack on three fronts, counting the combined fleet as a front. I forget the names of the Japanese generals-"

"Major Generals Maruyama and Tadashu," Pluto interrupted him. "Did he have a date?"


"We have new intercepts indicating 18 October. Tomorrow."

Pickering grunted.

"Did Major Banning get into Japanese naval strength?"

"He did, but let's have it again."

"On 11 October," Moore began, "Admiral Yamamoto sent from Truk a force consisting of five battleships, five aircraft carriers, four cruisers, forty-four destroyers, and a flock of support vessels." He paused for a moment. "We don't know if Yamamoto himself is aboard; they're not quite under radio silence, but nearly."

"My God!"

"The Japanese do not commit their entire available force at one time," Pluto said. "Or so far haven't done that. It is reasonable to assume that they will commit this force piecemeal, as well."

"Even a piece of that size force is more than we have," Pickering thought aloud.

" 'My forces totally inadequate to meet situation,' " Moore said, obviously quoting.

"Who said that?" Pickering asked.

"Admiral Ghormley, in a radio yesterday to Nimitz," Pluto said.

"And there was a follow-up about an hour ago," Moore said, and started to read from a sheet of paper. "Ghormley wants all of MacArthur's submarines; all the cruisers and destroyers now in the Aleutians Islands/Alaska area; all the PT boats in the Pacific, except those at Midway; and he wants the assignment of destroyers in the Atlantic 'reviewed.' "

"They're not going to give him that," Pickering said. "And there wouldn't be time to send destroyers from the Atlantic, if they wanted to. Or cruisers from Alaska, for that matter."

Pluto shrugged, but said nothing.

"He also wants ninety heavy bombers; eighty medium bombers; sixty dive-bombers; and two fighter groups, preferably P38s."

"In other words," Hon said. "Essentially all of MacArthur's air power, plus a large chunk of what the Navy hasn't already sent to the area."

Pickering opened his mouth to speak, then changed his mind, stopping himself from saying, He sounds pretty goddamn desperate.

Why did I stop myself? Am I starting to believe that I'm really a general? And generals do not say anything derogatory about other generals or admirals in the presence of people who are not generals or admirals. Like two young lieutenants, for example.

"He sounds pretty goddamn desperate," Pickering said. "Is he justified?"

"I don't think so, Sir," Pluto said. "My thought when I read that-in particular, the phrase 'totally inadequate,' and his obviously unrealistic requests for air support (I don't think there are ninety operational B17s over here, for example)-is that it's going to raise some unpleasant questions in the minds of Admiral Nimitz and his staff."

"Yeah," Pickering said.

"That's all I have, Sir, unless you've got some questions. Would you like to take a look at the map?"

"No. I've sailed those waters," Pickering said. "And I was on the 'Canal. Burn it."

"Yes, Sir."

The telephone rang. Moore limped quickly across the room to pick it up.

Instead of "hello," he recited the number. Then he smiled. "One moment, please," he said, and covered the mouthpiece with his hand. "Colonel Huff for General Pickering," he said. "Is the General available?"

Colonel Sidney Huff was aide-de-camp to the Supreme Commander, South West Pacific Ocean Area.

Pickering pushed himself out of the chair, went to Moore, and took the telephone from him.

"Hello, Sid," he said. "How are you?"

"The Supreme Commander's compliments, General Pickering," Huff said very formally.

"My compliments to the General," Pickering said, smiling at Moore.

"General MacArthur hopes that General Pickering will be able to join him and Mrs. MacArthur at luncheon."

"What time, Sid?"

"If it would be convenient for the General, the Supreme Commander customarily takes his luncheon at one, in his quarters."

"I'll be there, Sid. Thanks."

"Thank you, General."

The phone went dead.

Pickering hung up and looked at Hon.

"Sometimes I have the feeling that Colonel Huff doesn't approve of me," he said. "He didn't welcome me back to Australia."

"I wonder how he knew you were back, and here?" Moore wondered aloud.

"I think he likes you all right," Hon said. "It's that star you're wearing that's a burr under his brass hat."

"Why, Lieutenant Hon. How cynical of you!"

"That's what I'm being paid for, to be cynical," Hon said.


Lennon's Hotel

Brisbane, Australia

1255 Hours 17 October 1942

When Pickering arrived, with Sergeant George Hart at the wheel of the Studebaker President, MacArthur's Cadillac limousine was parked in front of the hotel.

"We're putting a show on, George," Pickering said. "Stop in front and then rush around and open the door for me."

"I already got the word from Lieutenant Hon, General," Hart said, smiling at Pickering's reflection in the rearview mirror.

Colonel Sidney Huff was waiting on the veranda of the sprawling Victorian building. He watched as Hart opened the door and Pickering stepped out; then he waited for Pickering to start up the walk before moving to join him.

He saluted. Pickering returned it and put out his hand.

"Good to see you, Sid," Pickering said.

"It's good to see you again, too, Sir," Huff said. "If you'll come with me, please, General?"

He led Pickering across the lobby to a waiting elevator. When MacArthur had his headquarters in the Menzies Hotel in Melbourne, Pickering remembered, one of the elevators was reserved for his personal use; it had a sign. This one had no sign, and was presumably available to commoners.

When the elevator door opened on the third floor, a nattily dressed MP staff sergeant rose quickly and came to attention. The chair he was sitting in didn't seem substantial enough to support his bulk.

Huff led him down the corridor to the door to MacArthur's suite and pushed it open. Pickering walked through.

"Fleming, my dear fellow," said the Supreme Commander, South West Pacific Ocean Area, holding his arms wide.

He was in khakis, without a tie. He had a thin, black cigar in his hand. The corncob pipe generally disappeared in the absence of photo-graphers.

"General, it's good to see you, Sir," Pickering said, and handed him a package. "They're not Filipino. Cuban. But I thought you could make do with them."

"This is absolutely unnecessary, but deeply appreciated," MacAr-thur said, sounding genuinely pleased. "What was it the fellow said, 'a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke'?"

"I believe he said that out of the hearing of his wife," Pickering said.

"Speaking of which, Mrs. MacArthur, Jean, sends her regrets. She will be unable to join us. But she said she looks forward to seeing you at dinner. You did tell him about dinner, Sid?"

"No, Sir, I didn't have the chance."

"A small dinner, enfamille, so to speak. And then some bridge. Does that fit in with your schedule?"

He did not wait for a reply. He handed Colonel Huff the cigars. "Unpack these carefully, Sid, they're worth their weight in gold. And put them in a refrigerator. And then get yourself some lunch."

"Yes, Sir."

Huff left the room.

"What is your schedule, Fleming?" MacArthur asked.

"I gratefully accept Mrs. MacArthur's kind invitation to dinner, General."

" 'Jean,' please. She considers you, as I do, a friend. But that's not the schedule I was talking about."

"You mean, what am I doing here?"

"To put a point on it, yes," MacArthur said. "But let me offer you something to drink. What will you have?"

"I always feel depraved when I drink alone at lunch," Pickering said.

"Then we will be depraved together," MacArthur said. "Scotch whiskey, I seem to recall?"

"Yes, thank you."

Almost instantly, a Filipino in a white jacket rolled in a table with whiskey, ice, water, and glasses.

As the steward, whose actions were obviously choreographed, made the drinks, MacArthur said, "Churchill, I am reliably told, begins his day with a healthy hooker of cognac. I like a little nip before lunch. But, unless it's something like this-a close friend, no strangers-I don't like to set a bad example."

"I'm flattered to be considered a close friend, General," Pickering


"It should come as no surprise," MacArthur said, and took a squat glass from the steward and handed it to Pickering. "There we are," he said, and took a second glass and raised it. "Welcome back, Fleming. I can't tell you how glad I am to see you."

"Thank you, Sir," Pickering said.

"And to look at you, you're in splendid health. Is that the case?"

"I'm in good health, Sir."

"I had a report to the contrary from Colonel DePress..."

From who? Who the hell is Colonel DePress?

"... who told me that when he saw you in Walter Reed, you were debilitated by malaria, and in considerable pain from your wound. I was disturbed, and so was Jean."

Pickering remembered Colonel DePress now. He was one of MacArthur's officer couriers, a light colonel, wearing the insignia of the 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts. He'd delivered a letter from MacArthur congratulating him on his promotion to brigadier general.

"I like your Colonel DePress," Pickering said. "I hate to accuse him of exaggerating."

"I don't think he was. But no pain now? And the malaria is under control?"

"No pain, Sir, and the malaria is under control."

"Good, good," MacArthur said cheerfully, and then, instantly, "You were telling me what you're up to here, Fleming."

Second Principle of Interrogation, Pickering thought: Put the person being questioned at ease, and then hit him with a zinger.

"I'm here on a peacemaking expedition, General," Pickering said.

"Sent by whom?"

"The President, Sir."

"You may assure the President, General," MacArthur laughed, "that the tales of friction between myself and Admiral Nimitz, like the tales of the demise of Mark Twain, are greatly exaggerated. I hold the Admiral in the highest possible esteem, and flatter myself to think that he considers me, for a lowly soldier, to be a fairly competent fellow."

"The President had in mind Mr. Donovan, Sir," Pickering said.

"Donovan? Donovan? I don't know who you mean."

"Mr. William Donovan, Sir, of the OSS."

"I know him only by reputation. He had a distinguished record in the First War. But then, so did you and I, Fleming. Whatever gave the President the idea that we are at swords' points?"

"I believe the President is concerned about what he-or at least Mr. Donovan-perceives to be a lack of cooperation on the part of SWPOA with regard to Mr. Donovan's mission to you."

"Oh," MacArthur said, and then he laughed. "Franklin Roosevelt is truly Machiavellian, isn't he? Sending you to me, to plead Donovan's case? You've had serious trouble with Mr. Donovan, have you not, Fleming?"

How the hell does he know I can't stand the sonofabitch? Or about my trouble with him?

"And were you dispatched to see Admiral Nimitz, with the same mission?"

"No, Sir. I saw Admiral Nimitz, but not about Mr. Donovan."

"How to deal with Mr. Donovan is just one item on a long list about which Admiral Nimitz and I are in total agreement," MacArthur said. "We are agreed to ignore him, in the hope that he will go away. Neither of us can see where any possible good he or his people can do us can possibly be worth the trouble he or his people are likely to cause."

"Mr. Donovan is held in high esteem by the President, General."

"Is he? And that's why he sent you, of all people, to plead his case? The word-and certainly no disrespect to the Commander-in-Chief is intended-is Machiavellian. "

MacArthur shook his head, smiling, and took a healthy sip of his drink.

"You may report to the President, General, that you brought the matter of the OSS to my attention, and I assured you that I have every intention of offering the OSS every possible support from the limited assets available to SWPOA."

"Yes, Sir."

"As a friend, Fleming, I will tell you that I have a guerrilla operation going in the Philippines. I have high hopes for it, and a high regard for the men there who daily face death. I have no intention... no intention... of having Wild Bill Donovan get his nose under that tent!"

He looked at Pickering, as if expecting an argument. When there was none, he went on.

"I understand your people carried off the Buka operation splendidly, without a hitch," he said.

"It went well, Sir. I just saw the two men we took out."

"They should be decorated. Have you thought about that?"

"No, Sir," Pickering confessed, somewhat embarrassed. "I have not."

"Recognition of valor is important, Fleming," MacArthur said. "I have found it interesting, in my career, that I have the most difficulty convincing of that truth those men who have been highly decorated themselves. You, apparently, are a case in point."

The subject of Bill Donovan's people, obviously, is now closed.

"It may well be," MacArthur went on, "that many people who have been given high awards, myself included, feel that they were not justified."

A swinging door opened.

"General," MacArthur's Filipino steward announced, "luncheon is served."

MacArthur turned to Pickering and said, smiling broadly, "Just in time. I was about to violate my rule that one drink at lunch is enough. Shall we go in?"



Eyes Only - The Secretary of the Navy



Brisbane, Australia

Saturday 17 October 1942

Dear Frank:

I arrived here without incident from Pearl Harbor. Presumably, Major Ed Banning is by now in Washington and you have had a chance to hear what he had to say, and to have had a look at the photographs and film.

Within an hour of what I thought was my unheralded arrival, I was summoned to a private-really private, only El Supremo and me-luncheon. He also had a skewed idea why I was sent here. He thought I was supposed to make peace between him and Admiral Nimitz. He assured me that he and Nimitz are great pals, which I think, after talking with Nimitz at Pearl Harbor, is almost true.

When I brought up Donovan's OSS people, a wall came down. He tells me he has no intention of letting "Donovan get his camel's nose under the tent" and volunteered that Nimitz feels the same way. (I didn't even mention Donovan to Nimitz.) I also suspect this is true. I will keep trying, of course, both because I consider myself under orders to do so, and because I think that MacA is wrong and Donovan's people would be very useful, but I don't think I will be successful.

The best information here, which I presume you will also have seen by now, is that the Japanese will launch their attack tomorrow.

Admiral Ghormley sent two radios (16 and 17 October) saying his forces are "totally inadequate" to resist a major Japanese attack, and making what seems to me unreasonable demands on available Naval and aviation resources. I detected a certain lack of confidence in him, on MacA's part. I have no opinion, and certainly would make no recommendations vis-a-vis Ghormley if I had one, but thought I should pass this on.

A problem here, which will certainly grow, is in the junior (very junior) rank of Lieutenant Hon Song Do, the Army cryptographer/analyst, who is considered by a horde of Army and Marine colonels and Navy captains, who aren't doing anything nearly so important, as... a first lieutenant. Is there anything you can do to have the Army promote him? The same is true, to a slightly lesser degree, of Lieutenant John Moore, but Moore, at least (he is on the books as my aide-de-camp) can hide behind my skirts. As far as anyone but MacA and Willoughby know, Hon is just one more code-machine lieutenant working in the aptly named dungeon in MacA's headquarters basement.

Finally, MacA firmly suggested that I decorate Lieutenant Joe Howard and Sergeant Steven Koffler, who we took off Buka. God knows, they deserve a medal for what they did... they met me at the airplane, and they look like those photographs in Life magazine of starving Russian prisoners on the Eastern Front... but I don't know how to go about this. Please advise.

More soon.

Best regards,

Fleming Pickering, Brigadier General, USMCR



Eyes Only- Captain David Haughton, USN

Office of The Secretary of the Navy



For Colonel F. L. Rickabee

Office of Management Analysis

Brisbane, Australia

Saturday 17 October 1942

Dear Fritz:

At lunch with MacA yesterday, he justified his snubbing of Donovan's people here by saying that he has a guerrilla operation up and running in the Philippines.

At cocktails-before-dinner earlier tonight, I tried to pump General Willoughby about this, and got a very cold shoulder; he made it plain that whatever guerrilla activity going on there is insignificant. After dinner, I got with Lt Col Philip DePress-he is the officer courier you brought to Walter Reed Hospital to see me when he had a letter from MacA for me. He's a hell of a soldier who somehow got out of the Philippines before they fell.

After feeding him a lot of liquor, I got out of him this version: An Army reserve captain named Wendell Fertig refused to surrender and went into the hills of Mindanao where he gathered around him a group of others, including a number of Marines from the 4th Marines, who escaped from Luzon and Corregidor, and started to set up a guerrilla operation.

He has promoted himself to Brigadier General, and appointed himself "Commanding General, US Forces in the Philippines." I understand (and so does Phil DePress) why he did this. The Filipinos would pay absolutely no attention to a lowly captain. This has, of course, enraged the rank-conscious Palace Guard here at the Palace. But from what DePress tells me, Fertig has a lot of potential.

See what you can find out, and advise me. And tell me if I'm wrong in thinking that if there are Marines with Fertig, then it becomes our business.

Finally, with me here, Moore, who is on the books as my aide-de-camp, is going to raise questions if he spends most of his time, as he has to, in the dungeon, instead of holding doors for me and serving my canap‚s. Is there some way we can get Sergeant Hart a commission? He is, in faithful obedience to what I'm sure are your orders, never more than fifty feet away from me anyway.

I would appreciate it if you would call my wife, and tell her that I am safe on the bridge and canap‚ circuit in Water Lily Cottage in Beautiful Brisbane on the Sea.


Fleming Pickering, Brigadier General, USMCR



Office of the Brig Commander

US Naval Base, San Diego, Cal.

0815 Hours 18 October 1942

There was, of course, an established procedure to deal with those members of the Naval Service whose behavior in contravention of good order and discipline attracted the official attention of the Shore Patrol.

Malefactors were transported from the scene of the alleged violation to the Brig. Once there, commissioned officers were separated from enlisted men and provided with cells befitting their rank.

As soon as they reached a condition approaching partial sobriety, most of these gentlemen were released on their own recognizance and informed by the Shore Patrol duty officer that an official report of the incident would be transmitted via official channels to their commanding officers. They were further informed that it behooved them to return immediately and directly to their ship or shore station.

The enlisted personnel were first segregated by service: sailors in one holding cell, Marines in another, and the odd soldier or two who'd somehow wound up in San Diego, in a third.

Then a further segregation took place, dividing those sailors and Marines whose offense was simply gross intoxication from those whose offenses were considered more serious.

In the case of the minor offenders, telephone calls would be made to Camp Pendleton, or to the various ships or shore-based units to which they were assigned, informing the appropriate person of their arrest. In due course, buses or trucks would be sent to the Brig to bring them (so to speak) home, where their commanding officers would deal with them.

Those charged with more serious offenses could count on spending the night in the Brig. Such offenses ran from resisting arrest through using provoking language to a noncommissioned, or commissioned, officer in the execution of his office, to destruction of private property (most often the furnishings of a saloon or "boardinghouse"), to assault with a deadly weapon.

In the morning, when they were more or less sober and, it was hoped, repentant, they were brought, unofficially, before an officer. He would decide whether the offender's offense and attitude should see him brought before a court-martial.

A court-martial could mete out punishment ranging from a reprimand to life in a Naval prison.

Although none of the malefactors brought before-him believed this, Lieutenant Max Krinski, USNR, most often tilted his scale of justice on the side of leniency. This was not because Lieutenant Krinski believed that there was no such thing as a bad sailor (or Marine), but rather that he believed his basic responsibility was to make his decisions on the basis of what was or was not good for the service.

Lieutenant Krinski, a bald-headed, barrel-chested, formidable-appearing gentleman of thirty-eight, had himself once been a Marine. In his youth, he served as a guard at the U.S. Naval Prison at Portsmouth. He did not, however, join the Marines to be a guard. More to the point, he quickly discovered that all the horror stories were true: Prisoners at Portsmouth were treated with inhuman brutality and sadism.

Although he was offered a promotion to corporal if he reenlisted, he turned it down, left the service, and returned to his home in upstate New York. After trying and failing to gain success in any number of careers (mostly involving sales), he took and passed the civil service examination for "Correctional Officers" in the Department of Corrections of the State of New York.

His intention was to go to college at night and get the hell out of the prison business; but that didn't work out. On the other hand, as he rose through the ranks of prison guards (ultimately to captain), the work became less and less distasteful.

In 1940, a Marine Corps major approached him and asked if he was interested in a reserve commission. As he knew, Marines guarded the Portsmouth Naval Prison; but the major made that point specific. This made it quite clear to Krinski that The Marine Corps was seeking Captain Krinski of the Department of Corrections, rather than former PFC Krinski of the Marine Detachment, Portsmouth Naval Prison. He declined the Marine major's kind offer.

But if war came, he realized, he could not sit it out at Sing Sing. He approached the Army, but they were not interested in his services. (He still hadn't figured out why not.) And so when he approached the Navy, it was without much hope.... Yet they immediately responded with an offer of a commission as a lieutenant (junior grade), USNR, and an immediate call to active duty.

If war should come, the Navy explained to him, they would be assigned responsibility for guarding prisoners of war, and they had few suitably qualified officers to supervise such an operation.

But shortly after he entered active duty, it was decided that prisoners of war would be primarily an Army responsibility. Not knowing what to do with him, the Navy sent him to San Diego to work in the Brig. Three months later, he was named Officer-In-Charge. And two months after that, just as the war came, he was promoted to full lieutenant.

In Lieutenant Krinski's judgment, there were a few bad apples who deserved to be sent to the horrors of Portsmouth. But most of the kids who came before him would not be helped at all by Portsmouth discipline. And sending them there would not only fuck up their lives, but deprive the fleet or The Marine Corps of a healthy young man whose only crime against humanity was, for example, to grow wild with indignation when he discovered that the blonde with the splendid teats was not (pre-sexual union) going down the boardinghouse corridor to get a package of cigarettes (to better savor her post-sexual consummation time with him), but off in search of another Iowa farm boy... taking his four months' pay with her.

Instead of delivering them to confinement pending court-martial, Lieutenant Krinski would counsel these kids (eleven years spent counseling murderers, rapists, armed robbers, and others of this ilk had given him a certain expertise) and send them back to their units.

This morning, unhappily, he realized he had a different kind of case entirely. And that didn't please him. Handcuffed to one of the steel-plank cots in the detention facility, he had a twenty-year-old Marine whose deviation from the conduct demanded of Marines on liberty could in no way be swept (so to speak) under the rug. This was one mean sonofabitch... or at least as long as you took at face value the report of the arresting Shore Patrolmen (augmented by the reports of their fellow law enforcement officers of the San Diego Police Department). Krinski had no reason to doubt any of these.

Though the Marine was obviously drunk when the alleged incidents occurred, that was no excuse.

At any rate, according to the documents Krinski had before him, this character began the evening by offering his apparently unflattering, and certainly unwelcome, opinion of a lady of the evening. She was at the tin\e chatting with a gunnery sergeant in one of the bars favored by Marine noncommissioned officers.

The discussion moved to the alley behind the bar, where the gunnery sergeant suffered the loss of several teeth, a broken nose, and several broken ribs, the latter injury allegedly having been caused by a thrown garbage can.

That was incident one. Incident two occurred several hours later when a pair of Shore Patrolmen finally caught up with him. At that time, he took the night stick away from one of them and used it to strike both Shore Patrolmen about the head and chest, rendering them hors de combat.

Incident three took place an hour or so after that in the Ocean Shores Hotel. This was an establishment where it was alleged that money could be exchanged for sexual favors. There was apparently some misunderstanding about the price arrangement, and the Marine showed his extreme displeasure by causing severe damage to the furniture and fittings of the room he had "taken" for the night. Mr. J. D. Karnoff, an employee of the establishment, known to many (including Lieutenant Krinski) as "Big Jake," went to the room to inform the Marine that such behavior was not tolerated on the premises and that he would have to leave. When Big Jake tried to show this upstanding Marine to the door, he was thrown down the stairs, and suffered a broken arm and sundry other injuries.

Incident four occurred when six Shore Patrolmen, under the command of an ensign, came to the Ocean Shores. These men were accompanied by two officers of the San Diego Police Department. This force ultimately subdued the Marine and placed him under arrest, but not before he kicked one of the civilian law enforcement officers in the mouth, causing the loss of several teeth, and accused the ensign of having unlawful carnal knowledge of his mother.

It was Lieutenant Krinski's judgment that Marine staff sergeants should know better than to beat up gunnery sergeants; assault Shore Patrolmen with their own nightsticks; throw bouncers down stairs; kick civilian policemen in the mouth; and accuse commissioned officers of unspeakable perversions-especially while they were engaged in the execution of their office.

Having completed his unofficial review of the case, Lieutenant Krinski shifted into his official function. He called in his yeoman and told him to prepare the necessary documents to bring the staff sergeant before a General Court-Martial.

"Charge this bastard with everything," Lieutenant Krinski ordered. "And do it right. I don't want him walking because we didn't cross all the 't's or dot all the `i's."

An hour later, Lieutenant Krinski's yeoman told him that he had a call from some Marine captain in Public Affairs.