May 25, 1942
“Good morning, Jim,” said Chet Nimitz. “Welcome home.”
“Thank you,” said Lieutenant Jim Donegan.
“How was your round-the-world cruise?”
“We came back the way we started, Chet. We didn’t really go around.”
“I know, Jim. How was your time with Admiral Shaw?”
The two junior officers looked at each other. That was not a word within the acceptable range of pleasant response. Jim Donegan was “One of the Good Guys” in the Confederate Navy. He meant what he said. Chet Nimitz was, appropriately, disturbed…as the exact word had intended.
Admiral Spruance opened the door to his inner office. “Jim, good to see you,” he said.
“Yes, Sir, Admiral,” said Lieutenant Donegan. The two stepped inside the inner office.
Chet Nimitz wondered who John Shaw had become.
May 26, 1942
“So let me see if I get this. All of you are more or less imprisoned here to do research and analysis with this Petty Officer Chiang taking care of you.”
“Yes, John, that’s more or less how it is, after the last two American attacks against us,” said Vice Admiral Alden.
“My wife screwed around on me. Can I join you? What a life!”
“I need you at sea,” replied Vice Admiral Alden.
“I’m an Admiral. I’m too old for sea duty in submarines.”
“You’ll fit in just fine.”
“You don’t know how good you have it,”
“I’m not complaining,” said John Alden, smiling, leaning back in the big chair.
“So let me join you.”
“Not a chance. John, you’re too rough for this team. But besides that, you made Captain as a submariner because you were the best we had in the 1930’s. I need you—New England needs you—on our best new boat.”
“What’s its name?”
“It doesn’t have a name yet.”
“What kind of ship doesn’t have a name weeks before it’s supposed to be operational!”
“A secret submarine built at top speed. Everything is new. It’s based off of our minelayer submarines…”
“A minelayer? You’re assigning me to a minelayer? God, it’s been a good life. Take me now!”
“The entire area devoted to mines in the Sea Cow-class boats has been rededicated to diesel engines and batteries for maximum speed. The best engineers of NEIT and the best hull fabricators of New England worked together to fine-tune the hull to slide through the water silently. Intended test depth is one hundred fathoms.”
John Shaw pulled himself up in his seat. With wide eyes, he said, “I’m listening, John.”
“The propellers are a completely new design intended to avoid cavitation, particularly at high straight-line speed below the layer.”
“What can you do below the layer except to hide from depth charges?”
“Your submarine will have two features we believe to be world-leading in technology. One is the two massive passive sonar arrays, one circling the bow, and one circling the very small tower. You should be able to track U-Boats below the layer. The other advantage you’ll have is wire-guided acoustically-guided torpedoes.”
“You’ll have wire-guided torpedoes. You’ll be able to see them on your sonar easily, along with your target. Because of the challenges of depth, for the final approach the torpedoes are wake-homing. If your prey cavitates trying to get away, you can kill them with a torpedo up its wake.”
“Wire-guided torpedoes, wake-homing on final approach. No pre-set depth setting. You hunt beneath the layer, where the U-boats hide.”
“Sounds good at first. What’s the doctrine?”
“That’s your job, John.”
He rolled his eyes and fell back into his chair. “Why can’t I just sit here and do ‘models’ and look out at Narragansett Bay?”
“Because you wouldn’t get along, and because we need you on this new boat. You’re the best, John.”
“I know I’m the best! Can we pretend I’m not the best? I’ve never been an ass-kisser. Isn’t there an ass-kisser who wants this job?”
“No ass-kisser knows about this job. Unless you’re counting me.”
“You’re no motherfucking ass-kisser!”
“Give me a break!”
“So…that leaves you?”
John Shaw snorted. “I need help with doctrine.”
“You’ll have a hand-picked crew to do that with you. We here aren’t experts. We don’t want to interfere.”
“No hints? No clues?”
“Sure, I’ll give you one.”
“Keep the water out of the people tank.”
Rear Admiral Shaw hit the heels of both hands into his forehead. “Thanks,” he said.
“Don’t mention it.”
“So where can I get drunk?”
“Do you really need to?”
“You know me. What do you think?”
Vice Admiral Alden looked critically at Rear Admiral Shaw. He wasn’t handling the assignment well, he wasn’t handling his upcoming divorce well, and he was, by dossier as well as John Alden’s judgment, the best and perhaps the only guy for the job.
“I’ll get Samson, Captain Christopher, to escort you into town and to serve as a bodyguard. He’ll have a driver parked nearby to get everybody home to base.”
“The Confederate liaison? I can’t drink with him!”
“Of course not. I’ll drink with you. You’re having trouble, John. The best use of my time is helping you. But two for you, one for me.”
“I’ll kill you at that rate.”
“Maybe. But I can’t command a sub, and you can, so I’ll risk it. But we can’t talk about any of this.”
“Of course not. I’m going to go on for hours about what a @*+*! my wife is and has always been.”
“Thanks. Good to know. That’ll help me choose the right bar.”
“The night is young.”
“Are you kidding? It’s afternoon!”
“As I said, the night is young.”
“How can you say that! We’ve wasted hours already! Hell, I even came to your office sober!”
“After I die from my hangover, tell Cilla that I love her.”
“Chief McGuire!” said Vice Admiral Alden.
“Yes, Sir,” said Roberta McGuire, so fast it was clear she had been listening.
“Get Captain Christopher to arrange a driver to take the two of us down to Thames Street. We’re having a few drinks. Tell him he’ll be our bodyguard, but no sidearm, and no mace, either. Get enough of my money out of the safe to cover our bar bill.”
“Yes, Admiral. How much money?”
“Six times a respectable total for one man at a Beacon Hill hotel. Samson will hold it for me.”
“Yes, Sir, Admiral.” She smiled as she turned to carry out her orders.
May 27, 1942
“Men, good morning.”
Captain O’Brien stood in front of the irregular, but not rag-tag, group of citizen soldiers. They had gone for a three-mile run in boots before breakfast. No man or boy had dropped out. The youngest boys were about thirteen. The oldest men were around fifty. In New England, a third of new recruits at peak age for fitness failed to keep pace on their first training run. These Scots-Irish—especially the older men—were in remarkable physical condition.
The Geneva Convention demanded that even irregular military forces be in uniform. The mountain men were, indeed, in acceptable uniform. Their normal work clothes were white shirts and rough brown trousers. Dying white to light brown was easy, so the too-visible white shirts had become tan. Around each soldier’s left upper arm was a knotted deep blue kerchief. Green dyes were not available, and blue was both a color in the Confederate flag and a hue that would blend into spring foliage. Every man in formation was in uniform. Every man on roadblock was in uniform, too, even the “jumpers,” the unarmed young boys that stopped the cars and trucks. At least the women, the children, and the elderly could no longer be legally shot by the Americans.
August stood by Captain O’Brien’s side.
“Men, good morning!” said Captain O’Brien again.
August barked, once.
“When I say, ‘Good Morning,’ you reply ‘Good Morning!’ That shows two things. First, you can function as a unit. Second, you are good Christians. Men, good morning!”
“Good morning, Sir!” replied more than half of the men, with several missing the last word.
“I can’t hear you!” barked Captain O’Brien.
“Good morning, Sir!” bellowed the crowd. Reverend Welling’s cheeks were red.
“Better. Men, at ease.”
The Virginia mountain men relaxed. They were more used to cardiovascular exertion than they were to discipline.
“Thank you, men,” said Captain O’Brien. He reached down and scratched August’s ear.
“The purpose of training,” he continued, “is to teach you to fight as a unit. It’s not to make you call me ‘Sir.’ I’ve been called ‘Sir’ too much. I want you to work in unison, because you must to survive if you choose to fight. You believe that God has called you to fight. I have been your Doubting Thomas, but, if you choose to fight, I choose to train you.”
The boys and men were silent.
“Men, your weapons are slung. Hold them.”
The men and boys held their machine pistols.
“You…and you,” said Captain O’Brien, pointing, “Take your fingers away from the trigger and the trigger guard.”
The teenager and the man complied. The boy blushed.
“The M3 Roberts-Kimball submachinegun has no safety. Once a round is chambered, a touch on the trigger will initiate fire. The trigger pull is intentionally light. Do not put your finger on the trigger or trigger guard unless you mean to shoot.”
Several men nodded.
“The correct response here is, ‘Sir, yes, Sir!’ Do not put your finger on the trigger or trigger guard unless you intend to shoot!”
“Sir, yes, Sir!” shouted the men and boys.
“I can’t hear you!” barked Captain O’Brien in command voice drowning out their first attempt at response.
“Sir, yes, Sir,” bellowed the males of Three Churches.
Captain O’Brien smiled. August pounded his nose against Captain O’Brien’s thigh twice, and then he barked. The men and boys of Three Churches were beginning to speak in unison.
“Well done. Now, your weapon is the M3 Roberts-Kimball submachinegun. Its effective range is fifty yards. At ranges approaching fifty yards, fire from the shoulder is required. At very close ranges, hip fire is appropriate.”
“Sir!” said a boy, maybe sixteen, raising his hand.
“Yes, son, tell me your name,” said Captain O’Brien.
“Mike Meadows, Sir.”
“Yes, Mister Meadows. What?”
“I can hit a deer at two hundred yards using my rifle. Why shouldn’t we use our rifles at over fifty yards?”
“Well, not everybody here has a rifle.”
“No, Sir, I think we do,” said Mike Meadows.
Up and down the ranks the men nodded agreement.
Captain O’Brien shook his head, looked down, and smiled. “Very well. Enough for today. Continue watch assignments on the roadways. Reverend Welling, see me. All others, turn out for morning run before breakfast. Men, Atten-hut!”
The Scots-Irish of Three Churches, all carrying nothing but machine pistols and hand grenades, rose themselves to attention in their tan approximations of uniforms, blue kerchiefs proudly displayed.
“Dismissed,” ordered Captain O’Brien.
August barked his approval. George O’Brien scratched his head while he panted.