"YOU'D HAVE THOUGHT WE'D WON THE WAR"
During the first few days of the siege, the Marines attached to Major Devereux's command post stole no more than two hours of sleep from every twenty-four. "It was just go, go, go," remembered Cpl. Robert Brown, the major's clerk. The night of 10-11 December 1941 brought Brown no relief from that stultifying routine. He stood beach watch until 11:00 P.M., and then returned to the cp for an hour's nap. Rising at midnight, he settled behind the switchboard for his turn at telephone watch. Sgt. Donald Malleck, the jocular radioman, sat nearby, monitoring the air-raid warning net.1
Shortly before 3:00 A.M., someone on Wilkes Island rang the switchboard. Brown plugged his headset into the connection and heard Captain Platt speaking into the other end of the J-line. Platt calmly informed Brown that Marine lookouts on Kuku Point had detected "movement" at sea far to the south.2
Though groggy from fatigue, Malleck instantly grasped the import of Platt's call. "We were kinda looking for enemy action from the sea," he later wrote, "but hopeing it didn't come." Malleck grabbed a walkie-talkie and went outside to see if he could pick up any radio signals from whatever it was Platt's sentries saw. He ran through the channels on his set until he finally heard "something that I knew wasn't ours." Then he ran back inside to report to Devereux.