Book 3 Chapter 28
I sent Eric, General Ingram, Ziva, Abra, four of the Secret Service agents and the football carriers to get clothes they could get dirty with ash. I had come prepared; I was wearing CIC camo. I sent another agent with a quarter to eliminate the members of the news group until we he was down to two.
A GEMs flight was carrying us to the command carrier off Hawaii. It would need in flight refueling to get us there. We were going in a group of four, taking medical equipment and more doctors. The pilots were from the Navy Seals group; the Secret Service group was pissed that the preferred pilots were not approved for the assignment.
The normal pilots that flew all presidents were Air Force and heavily investigated. GEMs flights carried VIPs all the time – this one had satellite connection. I worked on my laptop on MTAC and VCATS the whole flight.
I spent some time talking to the JBG security team at the South Korean embassy. James Foley was the senior JBG man at the site and also was the security team supervisor.
The team there thought the embassy was being watched a few weeks ago. I knew Vicky and Andy had dispatched a team to reinforce the men there.
I knew several of the men Andy sent were extraction specialists from the former Black Bear group. Extraction specialist was a nice name for a team that were experts at kidnapping and had the ability to cover their tracks.
They worked primarily in South America and Africa and worked mostly for the CIA.
‘’The special team completed their task last week and were to fly straight to Morton with the suspects for interrogation. Vicky or Andy should be able to give you the latest update,’’ James said.
‘’I will see both of them in a couple of days. That tells me what I need to know,’’ I said.
I called my mates to tell them to go ahead and go to Deep Water Cay without me. I would be there but arrive a day late
It was a six hour flight one way; at three hours the tempo changed, we were slowing down. Then, I remembered why; this plane did not have enough range to make the trip. It was an aerial refueling prior to the half way mark. If the refueling could not be completed because of a problem, we could turn around with enough fuel to get back to California.
We watched out the window as the plane played cat and mouse with the tanker and the refueling nozzle. A few minutes later we were back up to cruise speed. I did as I always did – leaned back and went to sleep for a three-hour nap. The gear going down was going to be my alarm.
For security reasons there had not been a general announcement that I was going to Hawaii. Only those with access to the military channels may have noticed all the unusual fighter escort. The fleet knew when the plane contacted flight control on board the USS Reagan with the call sign of ‘Navy 1’ when requesting landing instructions several miles out.
The gear operating and locking into position woke me up along with the instructions to check all seat belts and pull them tight as possible. The pilot caught the first cable on the first try.
I was the last to depart the plane – the first were the two Marine guards in dress blues who stood at attention at the door of the plane. The photographers were the next to deplane, so they could get set up to film for the news. I really didn’t want it, but Troy and the military men insisted. As I stepped out of the chopper to the deck the PA announced, ‘’Attention! All hands – CIC is now aboard.’’
There was a hastily put together welcoming committee coming my way – Admiral Petty, Rear Admiral Jenkins (commander of the Reagan Task Force), Marine General Mitchell and Army General Cummings. They had transferred their commands to the carrier by orders of the Secretary of Defense. The communications cables from the island had started to fail two days ago and now were useless.
After the row of salutes and handshakes, we were led to Admiral’s command center to get the latest updates.
‘’The Catalina Bay and the Mexican Pacific left the area four hours ago for the west coast. They had twelve thousand on them packed like sardines. The Kobayashi Maru and the Akagi Maru left an hour ago. We have gotten much better in the last 24 hours at getting people transferred to the cruise ships,’’ Admiral Petty said.
‘’The extra helicopters and landing craft from the assault ships that arrived yesterday have made a difference; that and the troops on them. Oahu is clear; the troops have knocked on every door. All the people are at staging sites and being carried to various ships awaiting transfer to a cruise ship and the trip to the west coast,’’ Admiral Petty said.
‘’Every passenger ship that is waiting are taking passengers and that is moving a lot of people every hour,’’ he added.
‘’The forecasters are saying a major storm is brewing and may be here in a week. I think that will put an end to the rescue efforts and most likely, any recovery efforts,’’ I said.
‘’The other two Japanese ships will leave for the coast before dark. They have two helicopter pads on them. Two Helicopters are landing every six minutes dropping off thirty two individuals. The crew is getting them off the helicopters and below decks faster. They also have a well in the stern that was used to transfer passengers to tour boats for all the island hopping they do. The landing craft are using them,’’ he said.
‘’The helicopters are ready to give you a fly-over of the islands,’’ General Mitchell said.
We started with Oahu; the ash with all the deep tracks looked like a picture of a mud hop. Pearl Harbor was a disaster – lots of buildings were damaged, the Arizona Memorial was damaged and broken. The dry docks looked like most of the equipment was in fair condition.
The two ships that were in the dry dock looked OK. I wondered what kind of repairs were being done on them? Was the hull still intact and able to float or had it been opened, and the internals of the ships now opened to damage?
The coming storm – without operating pumps – the dock would soon be filled with water and the acidic ash. I asked Admiral Petty to find out. I wanted those ships out of there if it was possible or at least made watertight.
All the carriers had repair crews on them. Could they be sent there to salvage those two ships? Another question to ask when we got back to the Reagan.
The Navy airfield was just as bad with hangars collapsed, dozens of planes sitting outside on the tarmac broken from the weight of the ash – wings broken, touching the ground, landing gear broken.
Hickam Field was no better; all the military installations looked the same. In some places the ash covered the equipment, masking what it actually was.
We flew as close to Molokai as the pilots dared, the volcano was back to belching gas and lave again thousands of feet into the air. Most of the island was gone. From ten thousand feet and five miles away, I could see the boiling lava. I would have to ask the experts if they thought it was building to another major eruption.
I could see the massive damage to the island of Hawaii long before we got there. I could see where the Seabees were using the equipment to follow the roads to get to the still standing buildings. It looked like in another day they would be to all of them.
There were all the houses and buildings that had collapsed from the weight of the ash. The hospitals were still standing and had paths to them. The patients and survivors had been evacuated in the last few days. With no water, sewage or electricity, the island was going to be abandoned as soon as it was determined that there was nothing living left.
We flew over the park grounds where the dead were being buried. One trench, several thousand feet long, had been completed and covered up. Another was partially filled. They were stacking bodies in rows on top of one another before being finally covered.
The historic palace was nothing but a pile of rubble. I wondered if the any of the royal family was rescued, more questions to ask. I was writing them on a pad.
We flew back to the Reagan; I had seen all I needed to see. I needed to have one more meeting with my staff and the command staff and then get headed back to California.
The first item was that more body bags were needed. The assault ships that had arrived today had ten thousand between them, but it was nowhere near enough. The cruise ships returning from California tomorrow would have fifty thousand on them.
Japan had agreed to leave the cruise ships here for as long as we needed them. More body bags would be loaded on them.
With the command staff in the Admiral’s conference room, I ordered plans to be drawn up to move all the military – ships, planes and troops assigned to Hawaii – to be moved west and assigned to Guam, Japan and the Philippines. I also wanted an immediate update on the two ships stranded in the dry dock
Before that was to be finished, a political decision would be made.
The next two hours was spent ship hopping- I was carried to each of the big carriers to see the staff and talk with survivors. The final ship was the ‘Mercy’ for an honest assessment from the doctors about the condition of the latest patients there and those not yet rescued.
Time was running out – a few more days, a week at the most – to find those living. The recovery crews were finding more and more bodies in large groups that had tried to find shelter together.
There were massive political decisions on the horizon.
The catapult launch was breathtaking; it was just getting dark. It was a six -hour flight back to California and then another seven to Andrews – and then Morton to unload those not going with me to the Cay. And then four more to East Water Cay and my family. It would be late tomorrow afternoon before sand and a beach bonfire.
I transcribed all the notes I had written, my impressions of what I saw and my thoughts going forward. Then I did my usual – went to sleep.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.