The Ship - All Hands - Decorations - Remembrance
Throughout November 1941, there had been increasingly ominous signs that war with Japan was imminent.
The day after this last warning, Task Force 2 - Enterprise's task force - set sail from Oahu, first on an easterly bearing, to throw off any observers on the island. A few hours later, the Task Force turned west. Enterprise prepared to receive two air groups, including her own Fighting Six consisting of eighteen F4F "Wildcat" fighters, and Marine Fighter Squadron 211: twelve Wildcats, to be delivered to Wake Island.
Task Force 2's commander, Vice Admiral William Halsey, knew of the most recent warnings, and to a degree shared by few other officers of his stature, understood them as an immediate threat to the forces under his command. Aboard Enterprise, steaming towards an island 500 miles closer to Japan than Oahu, he was determined his force would not be found unprepared.
The pilots and airmen who came aboard Enterprise the afternoon of 28 November 1941 were under the impression they were on a weekend training mission. Some had brought little more than one might take on an overnight trip: a toothbrush, razor perhaps, and an extra change of clothes. They were surprised, then, to be ordered immediately to the ready rooms, where each man was handed a single sheet of paper.
November 28, 1941
BATTLE ORDER NUMBER ONE
1. The ENTERPRISE is now operating under war conditions.
2. At any time, day or night, we must be ready for instant
3. Hostile submarines may be encountered.
4. The importance of every officer and man being specially
alert and vigilant while on watch at his battle station
must be fully realized by all hands.
5. The failure of one man to carry out his assigned task
promptly, particularly the lookouts, those manning the
batteries, and all those on watch on the deck, might
result in great loss of life and even loss of the ship.
6. The Captain is confident all hands will prove equal to
any emergency that may develop.
7. It is part of the tradition of our Navy that, when put
to the test, all hands keep cool, keep their heads, and
8. Steady nerves and stout hearts are needed now.
G. D. MURRAY,
Captain, U.S. Navy
Approved: November 28, 1941.
W. F. HALSEY,
Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy,
Commander Aircraft, Battle Force
Furthermore, the briefing officers announced, the Marine pilots would not be returning to Hawaii that night, as many had expected. Instead, they were being transported to Wake Island, their new station.
The consternation of the men and officers was considerable. Commander William Buckner, Halsey's Operations Officer, confronted Halsey immediately after the briefing: "Goddammit, Admiral, you can't start a private war of your own!" "I'll take [responsibility]. If anything gets in the way, we'll shoot first and argue afterwards," replied Halsey.
Halsey's instructions were to get the Marine pilots and their planes to Wake Island in complete secrecy, and he was determined to take whatever steps were necessary to accomplish the mission. This included destroying any snoopers detected by the force, before they could raise alarm. Having verified that no Allied shipping was expected on his course, Halsey assumed that if any vessels were encountered, they'd probably be Japanese, and they'd probably have hostile intentions. (Though none of the American commanders were aware of this, by 28 November, a powerful Japanese striking force had been at sea for two days, steaming east towards a point well north of Pearl Harbor.) The only chance his small force would have of defending itself, or alerting Pacific Fleet headquarters, would be to seize the initiative and attack before being attacked.