On November 27 [Admiral Husband] Kimmel received a dispatch from the Navy Department alerting him to the imminent threat of war. The message referred to Southeast Asia, the Philippines, or Borneo as the likely avenues of advance.This is excerpted from the longer article, which is, itself, an extract from Admiral “Bull” Halsey: The Life and Wars of the Navy’s Most Controversial Commander by John Wukovits.
Kimmel took fast action. That same day he ordered Halsey to ferry twelve Marine fighters, under the command of Major Paul A. Putnam, to Wake Island in an attempt to bolster that outpost’s defenses. “We fully expected that the trip with these Marines was leading us into the lion’s mouth and that an overt act might occur and war be precipitated at any moment,” Halsey stated in his memoirs. When he asked Kimmel what action he could take should he encounter any Japanese on the way to Wake, Kimmel gave him a free hand. “Goddam [sic] it, use your common sense,” he replied.
Halsey needed little prodding. His Academy classmate had just given him orders that were tantamount to telling him to start the war should the opportunity arise. He appreciated Kimmel’s faith in him, as Halsey would be the man on the spot and could better determine the proper reaction in a crisis. “I think that was as fine an order as a subordinate ever received and there was no attempt to pass the buck,” explained Halsey.
Regards — Cliff