August 6th 1945
A little boy awoke to the deep thrumming sound of a heavy bomber. He was getting used to the daily flights over his home. They usually dropped little pieces of paper. He wanted to go out and grab one, but mother forbid him. Thankfully at school a couple of the leaflets were brought in by some of the older children, he caught a glimpse of one before teacher snatched it from his grasp.
He saw the words “…most destructive explosive ever devised by man…” and had nightmares for the last few days.
The boy rushed to the window and threw it open. A shiny silver plane flew high in the sky over the city. Was today the day? Or would it drop more harmless papers? He held his breath as something fell from the belly of the plane.
A parachute opened slowing the fall of the little device. It didn’t look like a bunch of papers to him.
“Momma!” the boy yelled.
In moments she was awake and at his side, “What is it?”
“Is today the day?”
“Look!” he pointed at the bomber now turning to fly to its home far away.
Momma stood stunned for a few seconds as she watched the bomb fall toward the earth. She snapped out of it grabbed him and huddled against the wall cradling him in her arms, pulling the bedding over the top of them.
“Is it the bomb?” He asked.
Tears streamed down her cheeks, “Yes.”
His tears joined hers dripping on his pajamas. “Momma?”
“Are we gonna die?”
She shushed her son gently rocking him back and forth. “I don’t know.”
They listened to the distant roar of the bomber, and the birds chirping in the branches of the nearby Mum bushes.
“If we die, will we… see daddy again?”
She couldn’t say anything as she pulled him tighter. She didn’t know, but the ache of losing her husband was still fresh, his plane had been shot down a few short weeks ago.
“Momma, I love you.”
“I love you too, my beautiful little boy.”
She knew the bomb would burst in any moment killing them where they huddled. She prayed, harder than she had ever before.
Ten minutes later the boy’s bladder was full. “Momma?”
“I have to go pee pee.”
“What about the bomb?”
“Bit it didn’t go boom.”
“It could at any moment. Stay with me.”
“Momma, pee pee now!”
She reluctantly let him go and dared a quick peek out the window. There were noises of regular everyday life. Her neighbors were making tea, and the postman making his rounds.
The little boy finished up and ran back to his mother, “Why was there no boom?”
“Daddy was protecting us.”
The boy looked up and smiled, “Are we still going to downtown Hiroshima?”
The young mother scooped up her son and smiled.
November 1st 1945
The naval guns, and B-29’s finally fell silent. Gunnery Sergeant William “Stan” Stanczak, of the 5th Marine Division and his men would be hitting the beaches in a few minutes. They weren’t nicknamed “The Spearhead” for nothing.
“Gunny, why are we landing on Studebaker beach?” A young corporal asked the sergeant.
The sergeant adjusted his M1 rifle, “Skip what’s the problem with Studebaker?”
“Why couldn’t we get something better, like Rolls-Royce or Cadillac?”
“Skip, Cadillac is an Army beach.”
“Did you join the Army?”
“That’s right, you’re a Devil-Dog, let the Army have their Caddies.”
“But I don’t want my mom to get a letter telling her I died on Studebaker beach.”
The sergeant shook his head, “Well do your job and you’ll make it off the beach. And you won’t have to worry about that. Your ma will get a letter saying you died in Hokee Chin Shi, or something like that. What do you have against Studebakers anyway?”
The corporal’s fidgeted with his Browning Automatic Rifle, “I’m just sayin’ why couldn’t we,” a quick glare shut him up. “Sorry Gunny.”
The sergeant thought about it for a moment as he looked toward the beach. “You’re just getting nervous, Skip. Intelligence says we shouldn’t hit heavy resistance, there’s too much coastline for the Japs to guard all that heavily.”
“I hope your right.”
Gunny Stan stood up straighter and turned to address his Squad. “Listen up men, once we get to the beach we’re not stopping till we get where?”
“Kagoshima.” They muttered nervously.
The Sergeant shook his head, and looked into the faces of his men. Some were veterans of Iwo, others were fresh from the states, replacements. “Where?”
“Kagoshima!” they yelled.
“That’s better. Remember boys we’re gonna take these Jap bastards by the balls and not let go until they cry uncle.” He lowered his voice, barely audible over the waves. “Well if they have any that is.”
There were a few snickers and chuckles around the boat but the mood was still thick with fear and nerves.
The landing craft next to them exploded. Ears ringing the Seargeant watched the bodies of men he’d trained with fly through the air as the boat was turned into kindling.
“Holy shit! Are they shelling us?” A replacement, PFC Rodriguez called out.
All eyes looked heavenward, ears trying to listen to falling mortar shells. For a brief moment all was peaceful, but everyone knew it couldn’t last.
“What about frogmen?” Corporal Skip asked. Seconds later another Higgins boat exploded a few hundred yards away.
Sergeant Stan grabbed a grenade, pulled the pin and tossed it into the water ahead of their craft. He just hoped he wasn’t about to punch holes into the bottom of their plywood boat.
Hiroaki was cold, wet and miserable but he wasn’t about to let personal discomfort keep him from defending the glorious Empire. He watched as the boats approached, tethered to the seafloor as he was they were fairly easy to see in the early morning light. The Americans wouldn’t know what hit them.
He gripped his pole tightly and looked up at the explosive charge affixed to the end. He had been told the bomb had a long enough timer to allow the boat to pass overhead and explode so the shockwave wouldn’t kill him, but he still wasn’t sure. Hiroaki wasn’t above dying for the Emperor but he’d much rather make it back to shore.
He felt the muffled blasts from other frogmen further out who must have been successful in placing their charges on the boats. It was time to attack.
As the boat approached his position Hiroaki disconnected his tether and began swimming toward the little ship. Something fell from above; it sank like a stone, the frogman stopped. He floated in the void a few moments watching the dark object. A blinding flash followed by a slap of pressure against his chest, and Hiroaki knew it was a grenade. He tried to kick furiously but found his legs didn’t want to obey.
Then he felt a sharp pain in his thigh. Swimming wasn’t going to be easy.
Satomi looked up at the mass of bamboo spears leaning up against the wall. She’d traded her schoolbooks for a spear and bag of grenades when she had been pressed into the Volunteer Fighting Corps. She had just turned seventeen in March and was therefore deemed fit to fight for the Empire. She hadn’t slept all last night, the shelling and bombing had been nearly constant. She had heard whispers that the Americans had landed and were making their way inland.
“Noriko, are we going to be called up tonight?”
Her schoolmate turned from where she stood in the doorway listening to the distant machinegun fire. “It looks that way.”
“Are we going to die?”
“Satomi, we may, but would you rather be shot by an American or surrender and be roasted alive?”
“You don’t really believe that do you?”
Satomi could feel her heart pounding in her chest, “Some say the Americans eat babies and young women, roasting them alive in big pots. It’s not true is it?”
“If our leaders say it is true…” Noriko hesitated.
Satomi shook her head, “The Americans may be vicious killers, but they didn’t use the Atom Bomb. Maybe they did so to show mercy?”
“They dropped two bombs and neither worked, all they are is incompetent. We can still win this war.”
The girls fell silent as a nearby artillery battery fired. Moments later a whistle blew and the girls scrambled to get their bamboo weapons, and grenades.
Satomi gripped her primitive weapon tightly as she was herded out into the street by the soldiers.
Gunny Stan and what was left of his squad had somehow made it off the beach. His once proud thirteen men were reduced to six, but they still had all three BAR’s, even if they had changed hands a few times. Once they hit the beach steel rained from the sky. Young Marines had charged into the maw of death. Their bodies lay staining the sands behind them. They found a small hill and were lying prone peeking over the top at the scarred landscape beyond.
High pitched screams were heard coming from the nearby bombed out buildings.
“Gunny, they’re charging!” Rodrigues yelled as he flipped the safety lever to full auto.
They couldn’t believe their eyes when the Marines saw girls in dirty school uniforms charging their position with bamboo spears.
“They’re girls! The Nips are sending kids to fight us! What do we do Gunny?” Skip asked.
The Sergeant hesitated, his mouth dry, he had already seen too much death. He snapped out of it when he saw a young dark haired woman go for a grenade. “Fire! Fire! FIRE!” He yelled as he pulled the trigger on his Browning.
The school girls tumbled and fell, cut down by light machinegun and rifle fire. Despite their losses they kept coming. They stacked up in front of the Americans cut down as they ran.
“Oh god, oh god, oh god!” Stan yelled as he changed magazines, hands shaking. “Why?” he asked as he pulled the charging handle.
Wave after wave of young women and boys charged the Marines wielding rifles and machineguns. With swords, bamboo, and knives.
An M1 clip pinged and bounced off of the His helmet. As the Private reloaded a Jap grenade landed between them.
“Shit!” Gunny yelled and snatched the grenade, tossing it back over their makeshift fighting position.
A deep whump deafened the Marines and Gunny felt shrapnel bounce off his helmet. He didn’t have time to worry, they were coming closer. A girl in a school uniform had made it close enough he could have almost spit on her. He drew his .45 and squeezed the trigger twice. She fell back landing in the dirt, mouth frozen wide with shock.
More and more students ran toward the Marines and fell, until those hiding in the bombed out buildings all had been expended or retreated.
Rodriguez vomited down the front of his camouflage uniform. “Please God, forgive us.”
Skips cheeks were streaked with tears, “Damn Japs, we were supposed to be fighting soldiers not children.”
“Gunny, one’s still moving!”
“Over there.” The PFC pointed her out.
The girl lifted her head, “Satsuei shinaide kudasai!”
“What’s she saying?”
Rodriguez translated, “Don’t shoot.”
“Tell her to drop her weapons and crawl over here.” He added, “And we aren’t gonna hurt her.”
“Alright, Gunny.” The Hispanic kid turned to the girl, “Daun buki. Koko ni kite kudasai. Watashi-tachi wa anata o kizutsukeru koto wa arimasen.”
The terrified young woman replied, “Hai.” She slowly removed her bag of grenades, and crawled toward the Americans.
She stopped next to the girl the Sergeant had shot with his pistol and cried. She gently covered her friends face with a hanky, and continued toward her enemy.
Gunny covered her with his 1911, “Is she wounded?”
Rodriguez asked her, she jabbered back, and he translated, “She twisted her ankle when she tripped over… a dead classmate.”
“That trip probably saved your life.” Gunny said as he looked over the poor girl, her cheeks were streaked with mud, blood and grime, and she looked like she hadn’t eaten in a week.
“Why is the Empire sending children to fight us?”
The girl responded through Rodriguez, “We are the Volunteer Fighting Corps. Volunteers who were pulled from classrooms, given grenades and pointy sticks and told to die for the Empire.”
“My god, how many of you will we have to kill before you surrender?” Gunny Stan asked the island.
He turned to Rodriguez, “Keep her talking, find out as much as you can.”
Transitioning to his broken Japanese he asked, “What’s your name?”
“Satomi.” She meekly replied.
“Satomi? That be one pretty name.” He opened the can of hard biscuits, from a C-ration and offered them to her, “Is your stomach empty?”
She hesitated but took the food; she sniffed it and took an exploratory bite. After swallowing it she ravenously began devouring the biscuits.
“Are you going to… boil and eat me?” She asked.
“What the… hell no.” Rodrigues shook his head, “Is that what they’ve been telling you?”
She nodded and took another bite of a biscuit.
“That is crazy talking.” He said as he shook his head.
“Where did you learn to speak Japanese?”
“I lived next house to a Japanese American family in Los Angeles. They took care of me when my mom sickened.”
“Marines, let’s move out, we’re going to take those buildings, that house over there looks mostly intact.” Gunny Stan said as he picked up his Browning.
The six Marines and one Japanese girl made their way through the bodies toward the buildings.
Satomi stared at the death; she was becoming numb to it, as were her captors.