First Lieutenant Austin Shofner woke up expecting enemy bombers to arrive overhead any second. Just after three a.m. his friend Hugh had burst into the cottage where he was sleeping on the floor and said, “Shof, Shof, wake up. I just got a message in from the CinCPAC saying that war with Japan is to be declared within the hour. I’ve gone through all the Officer of the Day’s instructions, and there isn’t a thing in there about what to do when war is declared.” With the enemy’s strike imminent, Lieutenant Shofner took the next logical step. “Go wake up the old man.”
“Oh,” Hugh replied, “I couldn’t do that.” Even groggy with sleep, Shofner understood his reluctance. The chain of command dictated that Lieutenant Hugh Nutter report to his battalion commander, not directly to the regimental commander. Speaking to a colonel in the Marine Corps was like speaking to God. The situation required it though. “You damn fool, get going, pass the buck up.” At this Hugh took off running into the darkness surrounding the navy base on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines.
Shofner followed quickly, running down to the docks, where the enlisted men were billeted in an old warehouse. He saw Hugh stumble into a hole and fall, but he didn’t stop to help. The whistle on the power station sounded. The sentry at the main gate began ringing the old ship’s bell. The men were already awake and shouting when Shofner ran into the barracks and ordered them to fall out. The bugler sounded the Call to Arms. Someone ordered the lights kept off, so as not to give the enemy’s planes a target.
His men needed a few minutes to get dressed and assembled. Shofner ran to find the cooks and get them preparing chow. Then he went to find his battalion commander. Beyond the run-down warehouse where his men bunked, away from the rows of tents pitched on the rifle range where others were billeted, stood the handsome fort built by the Spanish. Its graceful arches had long since been landscaped, so Shofner darted up the road lined by acacia trees to a pathway bordered by brilliant red hibiscus and gardenias. He found some of the senior officers of the Fourth Marine Regiment sitting together. They had received word from Admiral Hart’s headquarters sixty miles away in Manila that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. Their calmness surprised him.
Shofner should not have been taken aback. Every man in the room had been expecting war with the Empire of Japan. They had thought the war would start somewhere else, most likely in China. Up until a week ago, their regiment had been based in Shanghai. They had watched the emperor’s troops steadily advance in China over the past few years as more and more divisions of the Imperial Japanese Army landed. The Japanese government had established a puppet government to rule a vast area in northern China it had renamed Manchukuo.
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