General Reaction to the June 1942 Attack




Corporal Jordan: When the Japanese fired on Fort Stevens that was the highlight of our career. Of course, I was over at Fort Columbia that night. I was what they call the Charge of Quarters, you always had one of the non-commissioned officers over there, and they called him in charge of quarters. He was the commanding officer's right-hand man next to the First Sergeant, the gopher. So I was on duty that night when it all happened. Quite an amusing little story, been published a few times around. It was close to midnight, somewhere in there and I was just about to close the office and go to bed, probably should have closed it two hours before that anyway. [I was] just about to close the office when the alert phone rang--just like the President has the red phone and the black phone, but they were both black--but the alert phone rang. Wow! I picked-up the alert phone and periodically, during the day, you know they came up with information, ships off the coast, this and that . . . but the alert phone rang, I picked it up and identified myself, "Fort Columbia, Corporal Jordan." Someone then said "Fort Stevens is under fire, sound your alert!" I sat there and looked and said, "What the hell did you say?" And he says, "Fort Stevens is under fire, sound your alert!" And he hung up. Well, I put down the phone and picked up the other phone, I called the First Sergeant at his quarters. "Sergeant Swaggert" I said "I just got a call from Fort Stevens and they said Fort Stevens is under fire, sound the alert." He then said, "well sound the God damn alert!" There we went. So I run out on the front porch and they had the big hand siren out there and I cranked it.


Corporal Wilson: It was complete frustration. We thought we should have been able to fire. Like I said, I was on the telephone earlier, on one of the spur telephones and the only thing I could hear was "Don't turn on those lights!" Don't do this, don't do that. But it wasn't Irwin at the time, it was another officer and I don't remember his name . . . he's in the history book someplace, but Colonel Irwin had issued this order from his bedroom, rushing to the command post. And Alden Addey, I told you just passed-away, was on that phone, part of the whole set up to us--you had to furnish your own people for these phones--and that's why I could hear him because he was on the network saying don't do this and don't do that, after we found out that we were being fired on. And my brother, and actually one of the gun crews, I talked to this one fella on the gun crew, and he lives in Albany (Oregon) . . . and they had brought up all of this ammunition and all this powder and I think that was at Canby if I remember right at that time and they had to return it all down, and there was, you know, all the soldiers were sayin' "here we're fired on, why can't we fire back!" . . . There was a lot of grumbling afterwards and "do they really know what they're doing?"

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Last updated: Jan. 8, 2000.
James C. Scott (e-mail).