“Condition red” was an expression that we used to indicate the imminence of any type of engagement. Aboard the G it was a colloquialism that served to express the conviction that the next few hours or days or weeks were going to be packed with action. We first heard it soon after we arrived in the Solomons, where the term was used on Guadalcanal and Tulagi to indicate the approach of the enemy, and when our voice radio blared out the words we went to General Quarters and prepared to greet the Tokyo Express or the Zeros and Mitsubishis when they came within view.
Cdr. Frederick J. Bell in World War II Frederick J. Bell ordained as an Episcopal minister in 1971.

Frederick J. Bell (1903–1994), Grayson’s colorful commanding officer in the Solomon Islands, pictured in World war II (left) and as an ordained Episcopal minister in 1971 (right).

His book Condition Red, Destroyer Action in the South Pacific is one of the finest contemporary accounts of the destroyer war, completed only four months after he was relieved of command in 1943.

More at Tom Lane’s Purple Heart web site.

Photos courtesy of Tom Lane.

I would like to be able to call the G by her full name, but it is a happy augury that I cannot, inasmuch as I am permitted by the Navy Department to use actual names only in the cases of ships that have been sunk. There are a few exceptions—the Enterprise, Boise, Smith and South Dakota, which have received particular publicity from the Department or the White House, are still very much alive.

Little has been written of the part that our destroyers are playing in the Pacific War, where they are called upon to fulfil such a variety of missions that they have become multi-purpose ships, engaging in any form of combat. Because we lacked suitable escort ships we used destroyers to protect convoys as well as to guard our combatant Task Forces. We used them to bombard enemy shore position and to carry bombs and aviation gasoline and stores to Guadalcanal during the lean weeks early in our campaign in those far-distant seas.

By nature as well as by name, the purpose of the destroyer is wholly offensive. Bantamweights in comparison with the great battlewagons, they pack a punch out of all proportion to their size. They are triple-threat weapons, built to strike at any enemy on or over or under the sea. In the words of Rear Admiral Tisdale, “They are the fightingest thing afloat.”

Baltimore, Maryland
October 3, 1943.

Preface to Condition Red by then-Commander Frederick J. Bell, USN, Grayson’s commanding officer, 1943.