As the island lights went out, we left the club and gathered curiously at the lagoon-end of the landing strip, and watched the fleet black out – a ship here, a ship there, one or two of the big ones delaying, and then suddenly blinking out, until at last the whole lagoon was dark. Not a very successful drill, I thought; it had been far too slow. And then, astonishingly, anti-aircraft guns began to fire, and tracers sprayed up into the darkness, as though the lights that had burned across the waters of the lagoon were being hurled into the sky. I began to feel exposed, standing there on the runway while the guns fired; but no one else moved, so I didn’t.
The barrage was so intense that Jim was forced to concede the ground, and he yelled to his men that they were pulling back. The mortar fire would have to be silenced one way or another before they could move forward. The best way to get his men safely out was to order them back in pairs between salvos. After the next salvo landed, he turned to the two nearest men in the hole with him and yelled, “Go.” When they were safely away he waited for the next salvo. When it landed, he immediately pointed to the next two and yelled, “Go.”